Many of us are wondering if we are addicted to technology: searches for “addiction to the phone” have increased steadily over the last five years, according to Google Trends, and “addiction to social media”. Of course, phone addiction and social networking are intertwined, especially among young people, who do not really play chess on their smartphones, and do not even discuss it; no, they are on social networks. And according to more and more studies, this hobby would be addictive. More worrying is that this addiction is linked to serious mental health risks.
Last month, Sloan Management Review, MIT, published the results of an interesting experiment: teachers in two business schools in Italy and France forced their students to do without their phones for a day. Most of them, who could predict what day they would give up their precious smartphone, felt a little anxiety. They did not know what to do with this extra free time, from their breakfast to their time on public transport. They also noticed how often the people around them were looking at their phones (one of the students explained that his friend had taken out his phone 4 times in 10 minutes), and that was probably what they same looked like during a normal day.
An older study in the United States, in which young people also had no telephone, showed that they were less effective in mental tasks when they were “weaning”, and experienced physiological symptoms, such as greater heart rate and higher blood pressure. They also felt a sense of loss or diminishment of their extension of themselves, namely their phone.
But the reality is that the use of the phone, the very frequent use in particular, and especially among young people, is not so harmless as that. A study last month found the increase in suicides and depression among teenagers in recent years. The CDC, the US health authority, had noticed these increases from 2010 to 2015, and had discovered that girls were particularly concerned. Their suicide rate has increased by 65% over these five years, and they are 58% more likely to suffer from severe depression.
The authors of this new study wanted to determine the causes of this worrying trend. Although this is only a correlation at this stage, and not a proven cause, the team of researchers has discovered a close relationship between mental health problems and the increase in “activities on new screens”. About 48% of those who spent 5 or more hours a day on their phones (which in itself is a lot) had already thought about suicide or expected it, compared to 28% of those who spent only an hour a day to their smartphone. No other variables (household finances, homework, school pressure, etc.) could explain this increase in mental health problems over this period.
While we can not categorically say that the increase in smartphone use has caused this rise in mental health problems, it was by far the biggest change in teenagers’ lives between 2010 and 2015. ” said Jean Twenge, author of this study. She also wrote iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Rebellious Less, More Tolerant, Less Happy-and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood-and What That Means for the Rest of Us (Untranslated, About the Consequences of Screens on the growth of children). She has been studying this subject for years.
Interestingly, teens who spent more time playing sports, homework, socializing with friends in real life and going to church were less likely to experience depression or depression. suicide.
Unfortunately, teenagers are spending more and more time hanging on their phones, not talking as they were a few decades ago, but browsing Instagram and Snapchat. These hobbies are dangerous because they may have all the appearances of social interactions, they could not move further away. The comparison is always implicit when we look at the lives of others online, and they are often very neat, staged (and misleading): this is what would make social networks so depressing. “This increase in adolescent mental health problems is very alarming,” Twenge warns. Teens tell us that they have difficulties, and we need to take this seriously. “
Another study of less than a month, presented at the Radiological Society of North America Conference, observed the brains of teenagers suffering from telephone or internet addiction. The researchers then found some differences in the reward circuits of the brain, particularly in the proportion of the neurotransmitter GABA compared to other neurotransmitters. Best of all, when these adolescents undergo cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to overcome their addiction, their brain chemistry changes and returns more or less to a normal state.
Previous studies have also investigated the activity of brain circuits related to adolescent addiction during their interactions with social networks. They revealed that the cells in one of the addiction-related areas, the accumbens cores, were activated when subjects saw Instagram photos with more “likes”.