Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?

October 9, 2015 /

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

By: Michelle Siebert of VoiceWaves Long Beach


When 23-year old student Natalie Tartarian does not have her smartphone on her, she gets very anxious.

“Psychologically, I go crazy because I don’t have my phone,” said Tartarian, who lives in Anaheim. “It’s weird not having my phone with me because I always have it. It’s not normal.”

Statements like that have some experts worried about rising rates of addiction among this generation of smartphone-app-social media crazed youth.

Forty-six percent of smartphone owners said they could not live without their phone, reported a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, and many people report great anxiety and poorer cognitive performance being without their wireless device.

There is a little-known term to describe this rush of anxiety people feel during smartphone withdrawal. It is called nomophobia. Some recovery centers even provide rehab for smartphone addiction now.

These smartphones are, by far, ubiquitous among the younger generation. 87 percent of millennials said that their smartphones never leave their side, according to a survey by Zogby Analytics.

Sandra Ramirez, a 20-year-old from Los Angeles, is a self-described phone addict. She thinks young people are addicted to their phones because it is an easy way to keep in touch with others.

“You feel empty without it. You feel like you’re kind of blocked from your friends and everything… I didn’t really like it, so I always have my phone with me,” Ramirez said.

She also said that psychologically, social media on the phone messes with peoples’ heads if they post something and don’t get attention or likes.

Medical experts, too, feel the pain.

Douglas Larson, a licensed psychologist who runs a private practice in Colton, Calif. said leaving his phone at home is unpleasant.

“Usually, I am searching for alternatives so I can stay in contact,” he said. “I was worrying about making sure I had the information I needed to do my job and stay in contact with my family.”

Smartphones have become a necessity in today’s world, he added.  Larson said he sees smartphones in the same category as a car.

Smartphone addiciton is more commonly found in women, and is associated with depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, according to a study of 319 university students published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions earlier this year.

Some effects of nomophobia may even include “ringxiety,” the hearing of “false mobile sounds,” researchers from the University of Genoa wrote last year in a proposal urging for the inclusion of nomophobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

A 2015 Pew Research Center report indicates that African-American teens have greater access to a smartphone than their peers, and that more of them (34 percent) go online “almost constantly” compared to 32 percent of Hispanic teens and 19 percent of white teens.

There are, of course, some millenials out there who can live without their phone.

Linda Escamilla, an 18-year-old from Norwalk, said she felt great when she forgot her phone at home.

“I felt like I was more free,” Escamilla said. “I didn’t have to depend on my phone. I didn’t have to rely on it and it was just a pretty great feeling to not use my phone for at least two hours.”

Still, she admits smartphones and time on social media have affected her relationships.  “If you post something on social media, [friends] put you on the spot,” she said.  “They ask ‘Why did you post this?’ and ‘Why are you doing this?’”  She also said when couples argue, are in a long distance relationship, or see each other move on through social media, it affects them psychologically.

There is research showing youth do better in school without the many apps and distractions that come with smartphones.
A 2015 study from the London School of Economics and Political Science found that a ban on mobile phones at school improved children’s test scores, particularly those of lower-achieving students.

“The results suggest that low-achieving students are more likely to be distracted by the presence of mobile phones,” the study’s authors wrote. “Banning mobile phones could be a low-cost way for schools to reduce educational inequality.”

Richard Freed, the author of “Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age” and a child and adolescent psychologist, said smartphones can pull young people away from family and from activities they need to prepare for adulthood.  “Sadly, I work with many young people who fail to reach the goals they set for themselves because of an overuse of technology and as a result, they become very depressed,” he said.

Freed explained that teenagers’ top online activities are online gaming, social networking, and texting.

Christopher Warren is an Associate Professor of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). He worries that screen addiction will continue to grow  and advises that people should set a boundary so they’re not checking constantly their email and other websites unnecessarily.

According to a Time Magazine article, “Here’s How to Battle your Smartphone Addiction, Larry Rosen, a California State University Psychology Professor Larry Rosen takes it a step further. In an article for Time Magazine, he suggested that people wean themselves off devices bit by bit, and that they make “a public statement that you’re going to do so” to curb the addiction.

Rosen also suggested telling family and friends to not take it personally when you don’t respond to them on the phone immediately.


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