Do teens with smartphones have a junkie mentality? President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. A partial move to help clean up the epidemic of drug dependence in the United States. Meanwhile, experts warn that the youth of America perpetuate addiction…through the use of electronic devices.
An Addiction to Technology
When parents give their children cell phone privileges, specifically smartphones with connections to various social media apps, what they are really doing is providing them with a key into the mad world of addiction. So says treatment specialist Mandy Saligari. Basically, teens with smartphones have a junkie mentality.
“When you’re giving your kid a tablet or a phone, you’re really giving them a bottle of wine or a gram of coke,” she said during an interview with the Independent.
It sounds ridiculous. But reportedly, some American children are entering rehab facilities to get a handle on a hardcore smartphone addiction. Some of these teenagers are as young as 13 and are going through what is called “digital technology treatment”. An attempt to give them a chance at life outside the realm of swiping and scrolling.
The Restart Life Centre, which is located outside Seattle, is one of the facilities offering this kind of rehab for kids who have lost control trying to balance their day-to-day responsibilities and time with electronic devices. The program treats teens for “Internet Use Disorder” and smartphones addiction. Dr. Hilarie Cash developed it after a number of parents asked for help.
“When you start handing these devices to young children and they’re distracted by the movement, the color and sound coming from this device, that is mesmerizing enough that it will override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction,” Dr. Cash told Sky News.
Addiction is Addiction
Saligari has more than two-decades experience in addiction counseling. And in 1990, she herself entered into a drug treatment program. She believes society needs to put as much emphasis on addiction as a whole. She believes that we need to stop labeling it as something that can only happen with drugs and alcohol.
“When people tend to look at addiction, their eyes tend to be on the substance or thing—but really it’s a pattern of behavior that can manifest itself in a number of different ways,” she said.
But considering that opioids are killing tens of thousands of people every year, and, as far as we can tell, no one has ever died because they simply couldn’t control their urge to post a photo on Instagram, is this so-called addiction to digital technology really a valid concern? Is it too strong a statement that teens with smartphones have a junkie mentality?
Richard Graham, an adolescent consultant psychiatrist with London’s Nightingale Hospital says the concern is valid.
He told the Independent that if a child’s habits with electronic devices are “stopping them from going to school, or engaging in other activities such as having dinner with the family… they’re losing control.”
However, smartphones could actually be saving young lives.
Final Hit: Teens With Smartphones Have A Junkie Mentality
Over the summer, the New York Times published a piece indicating that smartphones and other electronic devices may actually be preventing children from getting wrapped up in illegal drugs. The story referenced data from the latest “Monitoring the Future” survey. It found that fewer teenagers than ever before are using illegal drugs. It also suggested that many kids are simply too preoccupied with digital technology to have an interest in drugs.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the study. In March, Nora Volkow, the director of the Institute, said she was blown away by the results.
“Something is going on,” she said, adding that smartphones seem to have become a substitute for teen drug use.
Nevertheless, addiction experts, like Saligari, say it is important to teach kids, at an early age, how to “self-regulate” their use of electronic devices. She says establishing digital curfews is a healthy approach to getting a leash on the dog before it tears up the neighbor’s lawn.