Smartphone Addiction

Published by Internet Addiction Center on

Smartphone addiction is becoming more prevalent as we rely more and more on our phones. It makes sense. Smartphones are a cultural staple now. In a 2018 Pew Research report, it was revealed that 77% of Americans own a smartphone compared to just 35% in 2011. They’ve taken the world by storm and with that widespread use means overuse is common.

When does Smartphone Overuse Become Addiction?

Some smartphone usage is normal, but when does it cross the line from normal to too much, healthy to unhealthy? Some professionals liken smartphone addiction to gambling addiction and both activities may have similar criterion for what constitutes addiction. Some commonly recognized symptoms of smartphone addiction by psychologists include:

  • Hearing or feeling the phone when it didn’t actually ring (phantom sensations)
  • Frequent phone checking
  • Compulsion to respond instantly to cell phone notifications
  • Feelings of anxiety when phone is out of reach
  • Being inattentive during in-person social situations due to phone use
  • Slipping grades or work performance
  • Willingness to go to great lengths to maintain smartphone use
  • Anger when phone is taken away
  • Keeping the phone on you at all times
  • Losing sleep due to phone use
  • Losing interest in other activities due to phone use
  • Not taking care of other responsibilities due to phone use

How Many Kids are Hooked on Phones?

One study estimates that nearly 17% of teens show signs of smartphone addiction. That’s nearly 1 in 5 kids, which indicates it’s a serious issue.

Are Some Kids at Higher Risk?

The studies indicate that there are certain risk factors that may result in a higher likelihood of smartphone addiction. Girls, younger kids, kids under a lot of stress, and those who get less exercise are at higher risk of being addicted to cell phones. Kids who say that they use their phones for pleasure or social media are also at higher risk of smartphone addiction than kids who say they mainly use their phones for school or learning purposes.

The Issue with Smartphone Addiction

There are a lot of issues that can come along with smartphone addiction. One study indicates that kids who meet criterion for addiction to their phones are more likely to be involved in accidents due to phone use (i.e., falls, traffic accidents, etc). There are also indications that addicted kids may suffer physical problems like ‘tech neck’, hand problems, sleep issues, and social deficiencies. Grades and relationships also can suffer.

What Can Parents Do to Combat This?

One of the most important things that parents can do to reduce their children’s smartphone usage and mitigate the risks that come with over usage is setting boundaries. Some examples of boundaries that may help kids maintain a balance are:

  • Absolutely no phone use while driving
  • Set screen time limits
  • Keep cell phones out of bedroom after bed time
  • Encourage kids to prioritize in-person interactions over social media interactions
  • Insist that kids use common courtesy (i.e., not using phone while ordering at a restaurant or in the doctor’s office)

The Final Word

Smartphone addiction is becoming more of an issue as their use becomes more and more common and more of our lives revolve around our phones. It’s up to parents to be aware and address the issue head on. Seek professional help if the above strategies are not working, Dr. Paul is a board certified psychiatrist and is an expert on screen, video game, and internet addiction. Click here to seek his help.