Experts warn of addictive qualities of smartphones in children

Health

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH)– We love our phones but there’s new evidence that smartphones are hurting our children.

Who doesn’t have a smartphone these days? But experts warn to think about the power and addictive qualities of this device before putting this in your child’s hands.

“I don’t think it ever leaves my side,” said Kahasia Ford, Post University student.

“I use mine as my alarm clock, it sits right next to me as I sleep,” said Derek Grzebisz, Post University Student.

“I’ll look at it but if it’s really not that important to me then I’ll just leave it be, I don’t go on it that much,” said Ford.

Text messages, tweets, posts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, it’s 24/7. With a ping, instant notification. It’s uncharted territory with unanticipated consequences, especially for kids.

Taylor Bennett felt it most in high school.

“It made me feel good if I got likes. If I didn’t get likes, I was so upset,” said Bennett.

Media ecologist Dr. Rosemarie Conforti, at Southern Connecticut State University, keeps a close eye on the overuse. She says it can lead to behavioral issues including anxiety, depression and suicide.

“They feel left out and a lot of that comes from seeing what other young people are doing online. And in FOMO – the fear of missing out of what they are missing out on so they are constantly checking their phone and when they are left out, whether it’s out of a discussion, a party, a gathering, they begin to feel lonely,” said Conforti.

“Identify what you would be willing to give up for one week to keep your phone? ” asked Marcus Stallworth.

Certified Social Worker Marcus Stallworth with “Welcome to Reality” travels the country, sounding the alarm to kids and families on the downside of the digital age.

“We’re trying to get kids to really think about thinking,” said Stallworth.

On this day, he’s talking to students at Post University about the impact of smartphones on their emotional health.

On a sticky note, one student wrote that they were willing to give up their car for a week over their phone.

“That critical thinking piece to be able to evaluate what it is that they’re seeing, what is the messages that they’re getting exposed to, what do they mean, how do they internalize them, how does that impact their decision making,” said Stallworth.

In recent teen survey, more than half admit to being hooked to mobile devices.

“Even right now, it’s buzzing and I’m trying not to touch my phone,” said Joel Guzman, Post University Student.

College student Joel Guzman was addicted early on.

“It could be three in the morning and no one is going to text me. No notifications, I’m still checking my phone every two minutes trying to see what’s going on,” said Guzman.

“This is not to say that we should stop using phones but that it is to say we need to take a look at what are they doing, how are they impacting our children, our lives. How are we using them and how are they using us,” said Conforti.

Taylor Bennett is happier after deleting apps from her phone.

“I don’t use Twitter, I don’t use Instagram, it’s not for me. I’m not myself on there so I don’t use it,” said Bennett.

The role of parents? Talk to your kids. Set limits.

“What are we doing in terms of setting guidelines, what are we doing to hold young folks accountable and what are we doing in a positive way, the good ways social media and smartphones and devices can be used,” said Stallworth.

“If a kid like has a phone, I’m hoping the parent thinks they are mature and responsible because if you’re giving them a phone, it does hold a lot of responsibility,” said Bennett. “Let’s remember that Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, they all raise their children tech free. They know the consequences. They built this stuff and they understand the addictive qualities of it.”

Experts point out that the child often knows more about the technology than a parent. They stress not to underplay the power of it and ignore the addictive qualities.

Bottom line is to know your child, and appreciate what the technology can potentially do. It comes down to this. Informed parents raise healthier children.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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