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Wouldn’t you like to better manage the time your kids spend on their tablets and smartphones? Did you know children spend an average of 40 hours a week on digital devices? Smartphones are something of a miracle technology, capable of doing a lot more than simply sharing pictures on Snapchat or Instagram. They are powerful computers and most users barely scratch the surface in terms of their capabilities, instead using them just to communicate or to game. In the intervening years, smartphones have become more important than toys in many children’s eyes. Smartphones have also found themselves at the centre of a litany of troubling issues for kids as well as adults, from bullying to suicide.

WHAT IS SCREEN TIME?

Addiction or mere dependence? It’s a fine line. However, developing a compulsive need to use your digital devices, to the extent where it interferes with your life and stops you from doing things you need to do, is the hallmark of an addiction.

There are three different types of digital addiction which include phone addiction, internet addiction and social media addiction.

How bad is our digital addiction? We’ve compiled all the latest statistics, facts and research here. As new studies are released we’ll be adding to this so come back and check regularly for the most up-to-date facts.

THE FACTS ON OUR DIGITAL ADDICTION AND THE NEED FOR DIGITAL DETOX

 SCROLLING OUR LIVES AWAY

UK adults spend an average of 8 hours 41 minutes a day on screens (more time than they are asleep).

UK children spend 6 1/2 hours a day on screens.

The average user logs 2.15 hours a day on social media alone – up from 1.5 hours in 2012.

And checks their smartphone 150 times a day (that’s every 6 and a half minutes).

Although a 2016 study estimates that we tap, swipe and click on our devices 2,617 times each day.

69% of UK children say their parents spend too much time on their mobile device at home.

UK adults now spend 25 hours a week online – up from 9 hours a week in 2005.

GROWING DEPENDENCE

34% of people have checked Facebook in the last ten minutes.

80% of smartphone users say checking their phone is the first thing they do in the morning.

66% of UK smartphone owners in a study self-reported suffering from ‘nomophobia’, the fear of losing or being without their phones at any given time – obsessively checking to make sure they have their phone with them, and constantly worrying about losing it somewhere.

The first inpatient facility for treating internet addiction in the US opened in 2013. China has opened 300 teenage bootcamps imposing a strict digital detox to deal with increasing problems of teen internet addiction.

62% of polled UK adults say they ‘hate’ how much time they spend on their phone.

A study found that just seeing the Facebook logo can spark cravings that are difficult to ignore.

27% of UK children say their parents have double standards about technology.

46% of Americans say they could not live without their mobile phones.

A recent study by Binghamton University found that women were more likely to exhibit susceptibility to smartphone addiction than men.

Dr Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at London’s Nightingale Hospital sees around 50 new cases of digital addiction each year.

MENTAL HEALTH

Almost half of 18-34 year olds said their social media feeds made them feel unattractive.

A study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that heavy social media users were twice as likely to report experiencing social isolation.

In 2017, Instagram was rated as the worst social media platform for its impact on the mental health of young people.

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time in 2018 by the World Health Organisation.

There is a strong link between heavy internet use and depression, with heavy users 5x more likely to suffer from depression than non-heavy users.

52% of school-age students said social media makes them feel less confident about their appearance and how interesting their life is.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health has found a strong and significant association between social media use and depression.

Scientists have also found a link between heavy Facebook use and depressive symptoms, including low self-esteem.

A study has shown that as mobile phone use increases, so does anxiety.

A 2016 study by the University of Pittsburgh revealed that those who use 7-10 social media platforms were 3x more likely to report depressive symptoms than those who use 2 or fewer.

A 2015 University of Derby study found higher scores of narcissism and levels of neuroticism were linked to smartphone addiction.

A study found teenagers who text compulsively have a lot in common with compulsive gamblers.

Staying off all social media for a week has been shown in a study to increase happiness.

Teens deemed addicted to their smartphones recorded significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and insomnia.

A new study published has linked too much smartphone use with higher incidences of anxiety and depression.

Social media makes 7 million Brits ‘depressed’ looking at friends’ perfect lives

New research by Nottingham Trent University finds that a third of the smartphone notifications we receive worsen our mood.

FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION

Human average attention spans have declined significantly in the 11 years since smartphones existed and are now lower than that of a goldfish.

As our tech habits deny our brains important downtime, our ability for deep-thinking and maintained focus is reducing.

Skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined as our use of technology has increased.

Many argue that a decrease in attention span is made up by our increased ability to multi-task. However, Research from (MIT) and others proved that multitasking doesn’t work – because the brain doesn’t work that way.

A link has been found between excessive social media use and poor academic performance.

The act of just receiving a notification, even if you don’t reply to it, is enough to severely distract you.

DAMAGE TO THE BRAIN

Neuroimaging research has shown that excessive screen time actually damages the brain. (Structural and functional changes have been found in brain regions involving emotional processes, executive attention, decision making and cognitive control).

According to research by University College London, media-multitasking and rapidly switching from task to task can weaken your brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in high-level information and emotion processing.

PHONE ADDICTION

WHAT IS IT?

Phone addiction is more than an obsession. It is a dependence syndrome and a clinical addiction, defined by excessive use which has the propensity to negatively impact all aspects of life, notably relationships and professional activities. It also often masks deeper, underlying health and behavioural issues.

 

WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE THAT IT EXISTS?

Research led by Professor James Roberts at Baylor University highlights that signs of addiction among smartphone users are very similar to those found among drug addicts. In the same way that gambling creates addiction by offering a monetary incentive or reward; the software and apps on our smartphones are also designed to hook us. For example, by getting a ‘match’ or receiving ‘likes’.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Do you feel very anxious and irritable without your phone? Has your smartphone caused problems in your relationships? Do you often turn to your phone when bored or in an uncomfortable social situation? Do you think your smartphone use is increasing and have struggled to cut it back? Is your smartphone glued to your pocket and distracting you from other daily activities? If these situations sound familiar, you may be suffering from phone addiction.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University, highlights that ‘excessive use is symptomatic of other underlying problems in that person’s life’ and tackling the root of these problems can reduce the excessive behavior.

For those of us who feel more obsessed than addicted, there are some actions you can take to reduce your smartphone dependency. Firstly, set time and place boundaries around your smartphone use. For example, do not take your phone to the bathroom or do not use it during mealtimes, especially when with friends or partners. It is recommended that you stop using screens an hour before you go to sleep. If this is not possible, turn your phone onto ‘sleep mode’ to reduce the impact of blue light.

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