Sarah Berjan

Amongst high school culture, the usage of drugs is prevalent. The addiction of placing a joint in your mouth has become widespread. However, this addiction has been slowly decreasing and the rise of a new one is at stake. The nicotine from a cigarette is beginning to equate to the touch screen of a smartphone device.

According to Psychology Today, addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable. The continuation of this becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities.

A Baylor University study found that the usage of smartphones can be just as addicting as drugs and alcohol. Cell phone usage can be damaging and can lead to problems in an individual’s health. Prolonged use of the cellphone can take form as an addiction, as it allows one to escape a particular situation. This creates a need for usage, rather than a desire.

In “Monitoring the Future,” an annual government-funded report measuring the drug use of teenagers, it was found that the past use of illicit drugs, other than marijuana, was at its lowest within the 40 year history of the study. In fact, there has been a statistically significant decrease in cocaine use by youths ages 12 to 17-year-olds. The usage of marijuana was nearly identical in 2015 to 2005 at seven percent from the same age group.

Coincidentally, cellphone use has grown steadily as statistics of drug use decreases. A Children’s and Advocacy and Media ratings group in San Francisco conducted a survey in 2015,  published by Common Sense Media, found that American teenagers ages 13 to 18-years-old averaged six and a half hours of screen media time per day on social media and other activities like video games.

Cell phones have addictive properties that affects an individual’s behavior much like substance abuse. A poll conducted nationally by CNN indicated that 50 percent of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices.

Our society has fallen into a world filled with addicts, where our daily fix comes from our social media activity and notifications that appear on the screens of our phones. New technologies and communication applications inspired new pathologies such as “Nomophobia” (No-Mobile-Phobia), the “Fear Of Missing Out” which is a fear of being without a cellphone, disconnect or off the internet. “Textaphrenia” and “Ringxiety” are the false sensations of having received a text message or call that leads to constantly checking the device. “Textiety” is the anxiety of receiving and responding immediately to text messages.

According to an article published by The Telegraph, “Student ‘addiction’ to technology ‘similar to drug cravings,” researchers find that nearly four in five students had significant mental and physical distress when forced to unplug from technology for an entire day. Their research findings from the report “The World Unplugged,” showed that the participants who were withdrawn from their smartphones reported emotions such as “fretful, confused, anxious, irritable, nervous, restless, addicted, panicked, angry, lonely, dependent, depressed, paranoid, etc.”

Though smartphones seem ubiquitous in daily life, they are still relatively new. Researchers are just beginning to understand what the devices may do to the brain. Studies indicate phones and social media not only serve a primitive need for connection but can also create powerful feedback loops.

According to the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, cell phones are capable for stimulating dopamine through usage. According to a poll conducted by the Crusader, about 47.5 percent of a sample of 243 Bonita Vista High School students reported feeling addicted to their cellphones and about 13 percent claimed to withdraw from cell phone usage for as little as one hour.

Having access to a smartphone or any internet access is meant to provide a means of communication to one another and to keep society informed about daily happenings, not to undergo a transformation into a world of teenagers addicted to staring at the screen. Instead of turning our devices on to shut the world out, we should look up from our screens and put our devices down in order to actually interact with society.

At this rate, cellphone usage should be viewed as a general concern. We are being exposed to technology that can impair not only our social abilities, but affect cognitive functions. We should begin to acknowledge the destructive properties of these devices, log off and put the phone down.