Students Tech Addiction Similar To Smoking
Tech addiction is a modern phenomenon that has been worrying parents for decades, and it seems that their anxiety is understandable. New research has found that around half of year 10 students experience symptoms of withdrawal when forced to stay offline, suggesting that the internet is addictive.
A recent poll conducted by 'Tablets for Schools' claims that "the peak age for feelings of addiction was year 10, where pupils are aged 14 or 15, with 49% of those pupils reporting this [addiction]. The greatest use of devices in bed comes a year later, with 77% of year-11 pupils. Aside from email the most commonly used sites at home were social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat."
Tablets for Schools is a charity which aims to supply, as the name suggests, tablets to school children. They have carried out this research to advice parents and children of the adverse effects of internet overuse, and to better understand the psychological dependence on technology that many children appear to exhibit.
Tech addiction is a relatively under-researched issue, mainly because the internet and, more specifically, social media, has only recently become such an important part of modern life. Most worrying of all are the similarities tech addiction can share with drug addiction, as Tablets for Schools found that "four in five students had significant mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation when forced to unplug from technology for an entire day."
Another piece of recent research, named ‘Unplugged’, has found that tech addiction knows no cultural boundaries, as a clear majority of ‘almost 1,000 university students, interviewed at 12 campuses in 10 countries, including Britain, America and China, were unable to voluntarily avoid their gadgets for one full day.’ Participants were allowed to maintain their use of books and had access to a landline, so they were able to experience traditional forms of information and contact with the outside world.
Sufferers essentially go through a kind of 'cold turkey', similar to drug withdrawal, when forced to refrain from using smart phones, tablets, laptops and computers. Some volunteers reported feeling as if they were on a diet. The condition of tech addiction is being termed 'Information Deprivation Disorder,' and could have an impact on how parents and children interact in the future.
Dr Roman Gerodimos, a lecturer in communication who led the UK contingent of the international study, said: "We were not just seeing psychological symptoms, but also physical symptoms." These physical symptoms include fidgeting, restlessness, and even heart palpitations, and students reported that they keep trying to reach for their phones, and finding that they weren't there.’ This section of the study featured 150 students from Bournemouth University, aged between 17 to 23, and they found that one in five reported feelings of withdrawal akin to addiction while more than one in 10 admitted being left confused and feeling like a failure. Just 21 per cent said they could feel the benefits of being unplugged.
There are some positives, however, as many students developed new coping mechanisms, such as going for walks and visiting friends. Although we use technology mainly for socialising, it was the loss of music that many students found most difficult to cope with. The majority of participants developed coping mechanisms to distract themselves and even found some enjoyment in being ‘unplugged’.