Almost a quarter of young people is so dependent on their smart phones that they feel panicky or upset when the phone is unavailable, according to a global study.
By analysing literature published since 2011 when smart phones first became widespread, the range of studies showed that 10-30 per cent of children and young people used their smart phones in a dysfunctional way.
This means an average of 23 per cent of them were showing problematic smart phone usage (PSU), according to the researchers from King's College, London. PSU was defined as any behaviour linked to smart phones that have the features of an addiction, such as feeling panicky or upset when the phone is unavailable, they said.
The behaviour is also characterised by people finding it difficult to control the amount of time spent on the phone, and using the phone to the detriment of other enjoyable activities. The study, published in BMC Psychiatry, is the first to investigate the prevalence of PSU in children and young people at this scale, summarising findings from 41 studies that researched a total of 41,871 teenagers.
The 41 studies included 30 from Asia, nine from Europe and two America. As many as 55 per cent of the participants were female, and young women in the 17 to 19-year-old age group.
The researchers also investigated the links of this type of smart phone usage and mental health, and found a consistent association between PSU and poor measures of mental health in terms of depressed mood, anxiety, stress, poor sleep quality and educational attainment.
'In order to determine whether PSU should be classified as a behavioural addiction we need longitudinal data looking at PSU in relation to more objective health outcomes, as well as evidence that people with PSU struggle to moderate their use,' said first author Samantha Sohn from the King's College.