Too much technology ‘increases bad behaviour in teens’

By Drum Digital
04 May 2017

We all know teenagers can be difficult; their dramatic mood swings mean one minute they’ll be relaxed and the next they’ll be sulking in their bedrooms.

But according to new research, teenagers who spend a lot of time using their electronic gadgets are more likely to behave badly as they struggle to focus in the real world.

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina gave 151 young people surveys to complete about their daily digital technology use on smartphones. The youngsters were also monitored three times a day for a month, followed by an assessment 18 months later for mental health symptoms.

It was found that the teens spent around 2.3 hours a day using digital technologies, over an hour of which was spent texting, and on the days they used their devices for longer they were more likely to demonstrate negative behaviour such as fighting and lying.

Experts also noted that the kids struggled with attention spans after spending hours on social media and playing video games, and that these teens showed more signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on days they used their gadgets more. However, their risk of depression and anxiety was lower.

“Our brains get a hit of dopamine when we receive a text, or other novel information on our phone,” said study co-author Professor Candice Odgers.

“Adolescents are especially sensitive to reward, and may be even more distracted by their daily technology use.

“The same-day link between higher technology use and antisocial behaviour could reflect cyber bullying or negative experiences online which then influence offline behaviours. This suggests technology use may amplify existing risks among teens already experiencing problems with behaviour.”

Findings were published in the Child Development journal. A follow-up study of over 2,000 teenagers is currently being conducted into the link between mental health and digital devices.

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