News

Report: Teens feel ‘addicted’ to mobile devices

By Laura Devaney, Director of News, @eSN_Laura
May 4th, 2016

mobile addiction

A new report reveals that half of teenagers said mobile device addiction impacts their daily lives

Half of teenagers surveyed in a new poll said they “feel addicted” to their mobile devices, and 59 percent of parents participating in the survey said they agree their children are addicted.

The poll, from Common Sense Media, reveals that parents and children said they are concerned about the impact their mobile devices have on their day-to-day lives, from driving and eating meals together. One-third of participating families said they argue about mobile device use daily.

The poll, which surveyed 1,240 parents and kids from the same households, is accompanied by a white paper, Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance, in an effort to paint a complete picture about the issues surrounding technology use and addiction.

“Mobile devices are fundamentally changing how families go about day-to-day life, be it homework, driving or having dinner together,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “What we’ve discovered is that kids and parents feel addicted to their mobile devices, that it is causing daily conflict in homes, and that families are concerned about the consequences. We also know that problematic media use can negatively affect children’s development and that multi-tasking can harm learning and performance. As a society we all have a responsibility to take media use and addiction seriously and make sure parents have the information to help them make smart choices for their families.”

Around one-half of surveyed parents and one-third of surveyed kids said they very often or occasionally try to reduce the amount of time they spend on devices. Sixty-six percent of parents and teens said mobile devices are not allowed at the dinner table.

Seventy-two percent of teens and 48 percent of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social networking messages, and other notifications; 69 percent of parents and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least hourly.

The white paper reviews existing studies and research on internet use, technology and addiction, and notes that there is cause for concern around problematic media use, which in extreme cases can have very damaging consequences.

Multitasking, toggling between multiple screens or between screens and people, which is common for kids doing homework or socializing, can impair their ability to lay down memories, to learn, and to work effectively, according to the report.

Key white paper findings include:

1. Internet addiction is potentially serious and needs clarification and additional study for people to understand the impact on children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development.

2. Our digital lifestyles, which include frequent multitasking, may be harming our ability to remain focused.

3. Media and technology use is a source of tension for many families.

4. Problematic media use may be related to lower empathy and social well-being.

5. Technology may facilitate new ways of expressing typical adolescent developmental needs, such as the need for connection and validation from peer groups.

6. Embracing a balanced approach to media and technology, and supporting adult role-modeling, is recommended to prevent problematic media use.

“The numbers here are quite staggering, but they reflect a fundamental transformation in the way adults relate to one another, how kids relate to each other, and in basic communication,” Steyer said in a call with reporters.

“The amount of time kids have taken to spending on devices has gone up. That impact on behavior, attitudes, etc. are the questions we’re wrestling with now,” said Michael Robb, Common Sense’s director of research, during the call.

The issue of multi-tasking merits further research, Robb noted, because the last study took place in 2009 and much has changed since then. “We don’t have great measures of how much multi-tasking we do, the impact of it on our attention, our ability to focus, to perform–that research has to be done,” he said.

Another critical area deserving more research is that of what’s happening to conversations today.

“[This is] a really interesting one, because it’s really important for social and emotional development. We need better long-term measures of how device use is impacting people’s ability to empathize. That’s not to put down a good, healthy way of interacting online, but we should be a little bit concerned about how technology is displacing human interaction,” he said.

About the Author:

Laura Devaney

Laura Ascione Devaney is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura