“Drug addiction may result from several factors, some of which include outside influences the user may not have control over,” says Edward Lake, attorney and co-founder of Gacovino Lake law firm. “It can begin as a helpful or necessary tool and quickly snowball into an uncontrollable urge.”
Pause one moment. Remove the word “drug” from that quote and replace it with “cell phone.” Eerily, the sentence still rings with truth. Of course, Lake was discussing prescription drug addiction, but the statement is all-too-familiar if we apply it to the phone-obsessed generations that now make up most of the population. After all, it’s estimated that Millennials check their phone 150 times a day.
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Considering that almost half of 10-12 year-old children also possess smartphones, we are seeing the upcoming generations grow more and more glued to the small screen and less and less interested in anything else occurring around them. This effect isn’t limited to children; the increase in cell-induced car accidents proves that denizens are more occupied with what’s on their device than what they might be driving into.
Let’s face it: when we have students video-recording during a school shooting, we have a problem.
Nomophobia, the recently-coined term for the fear of not being able to use a phone, is real, and studies are finding a startling number of detrimental effects. New research indicates that obsessive cell phone use even harms the brain by inhibiting neurons that are vital for staying focused. Furthermore, cell phone addiction is having significant impacts on user’s mental health.
In investigating the 65 percent increase in teenage suicides from 2010 to 2015, the CDC discovered a recurring trend: the more time cell phone owners spent on the phone, the higher the risk for suicide and depression. Further explorations have only added to this speculation; a 2014 study found that the rate of cell phone addiction reduced as mental health statuses improved. There is also a correlation between constant use and shyness, anxiety, depression, unhealthy sleep patterns, moodiness, and loneliness.
At the end of the day, however, we must remember that the device itself isn’t the problem. Tayana Panova, a senior undergraduate who studied and co-authored research regarding use with her professor, states, “Handheld devices, with their countless applications and entertainment options and their constant presence at our fingertips, make it easier than ever before to disconnect with the problems [and] stresses of reality, and avoid actively engaging with them.” Done correctly, this can be a healthy escape and a means of social interaction, which certainly explains why teens would want to turn to their cells during a school shooting. However, when it becomes a constant go-to, users become disengaged with reality, more vulnerable to stress, and less able to process and exercise emotions, resulting in emotional desensitization.