According to estimates, about 73 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have a smartphone, with 92 percent of them admitting to spending a good deal of their free time online every day. And as far as the problem of smartphone addiction is concerned, it is the children who seem to suffer the most.
Health risk of radiation
With children spending more time on smartphones, they have also become the most vulnerable demographic for contracting cancer. Since kids are still growing, their bodies are smaller and their brains are thinner. This makes them absorb radiation from smartphones more easily than adolescents.
In an article that looked into the consequences of smartphone radiation on children, a clear warning was given to girls to never place cell phones in their bras so as to avoid incidences of breast cancer. Pregnant women were also asked to use their smartphone as little as possible to avoid exposing their fetuses to microwave radiation.
A bigger threat to children is how smartphones literally turn them into addicts, the same way as drugs. “Smartphone screens light up the same area of the brain as opioids and cannabis. The rewards pathways mediated by dopamine respond to screens in a very similar way to opioids”, The Daily Beast quotes an expert.
Young girls who are addicted to smartphones have also been observed to have higher rates of suicide and incidents of self-harm.
Depression and behavioral problems
Addiction to smartphones is also thought to induce depression and other emotional problems in children. A study conducted on teenagers found that constant smartphone and internet usage were creating chemical imbalances in their brains.
It was found that the teenagers had a higher level of GABA neurotransmitters in their brains and lower levels of glutamate and glutamine. These are known to regulate the emotional well-being of human beings. The report states that smartphone addiction contributed to this chemical imbalance in the brain, which made these addicted teenagers more susceptible to mental issues like anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. The children were also found to have more impulsive behavior and suffer from sleeplessness.
The potential negative effects of smartphone addiction on children have raised so much concern that even Apple’s major investors have urged the smartphone company to tackle the issue. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System and Jana Partners LLC from New York, both of whom control US$2 billion worth of Apple stock, raised this concern in a letter.
“There is a developing consensus around the world, including Silicon Valley, that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies need to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility. Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do,” The Star quotes from the letter.
The fact that people who have a stake in the business are worried about the impact of the technology on children should give us a good idea of the magnitude of the problem we face today. And we owe it to our children and future generations to quickly put in place a system that will ensure that they never get addicted to smartphones.