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The Effects of Cell-Phones on Adolescents

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 1772 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Smart-phones are affecting adolescents negatively. Statistics noted that 56 percent of adolescents own a smartphone between the ages of 10 to 13. While 25 percent of children between the ages of 2 to 5 own a smartphone (Williams, 2016).  The smartphone has become the adolescent’s device of choice because of what the device can offer. This includes making calls, text messaging, displaying photos, games, videos, cameras, emails, social media, as well as the ability to do homework. According to Wilmer, Sherman, and Chein (2017), smart devices such as cell-phones are affecting children’s ability to think, sleep, and focus on their cognitive performance. Parents and adolescents need to learn how to limit the time allowed for cell-phone usage. For this to happen, the amount of cell-phone usage must be recognized as a problem and reported by people and families who have witnessed this issue or are victims experiencing this issue. This research paper will discuss steps on how cell-phone usage affects the brain, causes sleep disturbance, increased anxiety, and cause social communication conflicts.

  Literature Review

Cell phone usage is only a problem and affects adolescents if you perceive it to be a problem. Lemoa, Perkinson-Gloor, Brand, Dewald-Kaufmann and Grob (2015) examined that sleep disturbance is a determining factor from excessive use of smartphones.  More than half of adolescents consume electronics and smartphones during the evening, one hour before bedtime. Two surveys conducted in Japan examined the relationship on smartphones after bed time hours. Both texting and calling or communication after hours were found to be related with sleep disturbance (Lemola, Perkinson-Gloor, Brand, Dewald-Kaufmann, & Grob, 2014). The sleep duration negatively affects the younger adolescents ages 13-15 where as adolescents 16-18 years old showed no relation of sleep disturbance. Three out of twenty studies found that increased cell phone usage was associated with a greater daytime tiredness and sleepiness (Lemola, Perkinson-Gloor, Brand, Dewald-Kaufmann, & Grob, 2014). However, there was no relationship found with sleep difficulties or sleep latency. There are three mechanisms that explain the possible role smartphones usage affects adolescents. Out of the three, only two explain the harm too much-allotted screen time can affect adolescents. The first mechanism is media use before sleep could increase mental, emotional, or physiological arousal. The second suggests that the light emission of the screens could affect their sleep (Lemola, Perkinson-Gloor, Brand, Dewald-Kaufmann, & Grob, 2014). The light from the smart devices could be from notifications, alarms, messages or phone calls. All these factors contribute to sleep disturbance which leads and affects adolescent’s cognition performance. 

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The technology from smart devices is the leading reason for attention difficulties in adolescents. Adolescents ability to concentrates becomes difficult when there are multiple tasks done at hand at once. Demirci, Akgonul, and Akpinar (2015) conducted a study of three hundred and nineteen students to prove if excessive use of smartphones causes mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Divided into three groups: low smartphone usage, a non-user smartphone use group, and a high smart usage group. The participants enrolled in the study resulted in 121 (37.9%) in the low smartphone usage, 71 (22.3%) of non-users and 127(39.8%) of high smartphone users (Demirci, Akgonul, & Akpinar, 2015). The studied showed depression, anxiety and daytime dysfunction in the high usage group of smartphone users. The depression and anxiety were related to sleep. The three repeated factors of smartphone users are electronic devices may displace sleep, smartphones could cause mental health problems, and the light emission from the phones may affect sleep.

Social communication conflicts have two contributing factors on how smartphones affect adolescents. The first factor is adolescents use smartphone devices to entertain themselves without interacting with others to escape from reality or use it as tips to interact with peers. The second opposing factor is adolescents use electronic devices to interact with others because of insecurities or shy characteristics one may have (Sugarman, 2017). The aspect of smartphone devices can be facilitated by the internalization adolescents move through their developmental stage. A study of 312 participants revealed that extroverts reported the greater importance in texting than calling. Alan Sugarman believes that smartphone usage correlates with the transitional phenomena functions. Transitional phenomena are another way of describing the area of human experience between inner reality and the outside world (Sugarman, 2017). The correlation between smarts phones and the transitional phenomena functions are Erik Erickson’s five-stage regulatory functions: narcissistic regulation, drive and affect regulation, superego integration, facilitation of ego functioning and self and object representation enhancement and stabilization (Sugarman, 2017). 


 An overview of the public health concerns on smartphones affects a growing number of adolescents. The over use of mobile devices shows an indicator of addictive smartphone behavior. Technological therapeutic approaches will help reduce the excessive use of smartphones (Velthoven, Powell, & Powell, 2017). A behavioral approach such as giving up the smart phone or using it in moderation is a start. Smartphone usage can be moderated in terms of the number of times one uses it and how much time is spent on the electronic device (Velthoven, Powell, & Powell, 2017). Not answering the phone all the time, finding alternative activities to do or going through a digital detox is a choice as well. “An experiment found that taking time off from the devices showed an increase efficacy and collaboration, heightened job satisfaction as well as a better work life” (Velthoven, Powell, & Powell, 2017).  

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 Changing the behavior towards excessive smartphones includes five stages: pre-contemplation, maintenance, preparation. and termination. The first stage is breaking down the denial of the adolescent’s obsession with their electronic device. Next, there is the acknowledgement of a change that needs to happen. During the preparation stage the individual makes a plan to follow in hopes to change the addictive behavior (Velthoven, Powell, & Powell, 2017). Once the plan is in effect the next stage of maintenance is begins which gives the control back to the adolescent. The last stage termination is to prevent the relapse of overuse.

 Motivational interviewing is another approach that is directive and patient centered. This approach emphasizes responsibility and the adolescent’s personal choice. Mindfulness would also be a tool to use because adolescents are not aware of the impact the mobile device has on them (Velthoven, Powell, & Powell, 2017). Creating a space of awareness will bring attention to when the devices are most used and what are they doing on the devices to identify a pattern.

 The positive effects of regulating excessive smartphone usage using digital interventions has not been widely studied. Although there is a lack of empirical data on these interventions, many digital interventions and apps has helped people regulate their smartphone usage (Barr, Pennycook, Srolz, & Fugelsang, 2015). By regulating cell phone usage in adolescents, academic performance can increase, and depression and anxiety will decrease. Mindfulness will be key to reducing depression and anxiety in adolescents because self-awareness and identifying the trigger with or without the phone will help decrease the smartphone usage at a healthy state of mind.


Based on the literature, smartphone overuse can cause, depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and cognitive difficulties. The behavioral dependency of the mobile device mimics smartphone addiction that is rising in adolescents’ lives. Young people are susceptible to high usage of smartphones. Parents and Guardians need to be aware of the damage electronic devices have on adolescents. This information can serve as the first step of change. Smartphones has become a serious issue. Limiting the time allotted for smartphone devices and other electronic devices will help adolescents not become obsessive and be present in the moment than in a digital world.


  • Barr, N., Pennycook, G., Srolz, J. A., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2015). The brain in your pocket: Evidence that Smartphones are used to supplant thinking. Elsevier, 473-480.
  • Demirci, K., Akgonul, M., & Akpinar, A. (2015). Relationship of Smartphones use severity with sleep quality, depression and anxiety in university students. Journal of Behaviroal Addictions, 85-92.
  • Lemola, S., Perkinson-Gloor, N., Brand, S., Dewald-Kaufmann, J. F., & Grob, A. (2014). Adolescents’ Electronic Media Use at Night, Sleep Disturbance, and Depressive Symptoms in Smart Phone Age. Youth Adolescene, 405-418.
  • Sugarman, A. (2017). The Tranitional Phenomena Functions of Smartphones for Adolescents. The Psychoanalyitic study of the Child, 135-150.
  • Van Deursen, A. J., Bolle, C. L., Hegner, S. M., & Kommer, P. A. (2015). Modeling habitual and addictive smartphone behavior The role of smartphone usuage types, emotional intelligence, social stress, self regulation, age, and gender. Elsevier, 411-420.
  • Velthoven, M. H., Powell, J., & Powell, G. (2017). Problematic smartphone use: Digital Approaches to an Emerging Public Health Problem. SAGE, 1-9.
  • Williams, A. (2016). How do Smartphones Affect Childhood Psychology? PsychCentral, 1-6.
  • Wilmer, H. H., Sherman, L. E., & Chein, J. M. (2017). Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning. Frontiers in Psychology, 1-16.


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