By Mark Salamon, April 1, 2018
Ninety-one percent of adults in America have tried heroin. Wow! Are you shocked by this statistic? You should be, because it’s not true. But here’s something that is true. Ninety-one percent of adults have something just as addictive, a mobile phone. (1) That’s right, studies are uncovering alarming behaviors that smack of full blown addiction to cell phones.
In one study out of the Boston Medical Center, researchers observing parents at restaurants found that “one-third of parents were unable to put down their phones during their meals, while a staggering 73 percent of parents checked their phones at least once...One mother kicked her child under the table, while another completely ignored her child who was trying to force her head up from the phone.” (2)
Neuroscientists who were startled by this behavior in adult parents decided that the obvious way to get to the bottom of this problem was to study the brains of teenagers, because you know these darn kids these days just can’t get their faces out of their phones. Only seventy-eight percent of teenagers have cell phones (3), but that was enough for Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, professor of neuroradiology at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea and lead author of the research that was presented on Nov 30 at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago. (4)
These scientists used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to show that teens with internet addiction (defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “an excessive use of the internet that leads to impairment of everyday life, sleep and relationships”) had increased brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down brain signals and is associated with anxiety, depression and addiction. (5)
The good news is that this imbalance is completely reversible with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy that does not require the adults to do anything. The other good news is that the literature is full of helpful suggestions for parents on how to limit their teenager’s cell phone use. My personal favorites are cell phone monitoring systems (6) that can be downloaded AS AN APP FOR YOUR PHONE, which allows you to track and limit your irresponsible teenager’s phone use without having to look up from your own phone for even a second.
These kids today.