As we celebrate National Unplugged Day on 26th June, research published by Allen Carr Addiction Clinics emphasises that the explosion of social media, selfies and mobile devices is priming a generation of UK teenagers for a lifelong struggle with technology addiction.
The study, which questioned 1,000 UK teenagers aged 12 - 18, unveiled a worrying trend, highlighting:
• 83% of UK teenagers admit they would struggle to give up their vices for a whole month.
• The average teen checks social media 11 times a day, sends 17 text/ WhatsApp messages and takes a ‘selfie’ picture every three days.
• When asked which behaviours they could abstain from, UK teens said they would most struggle living without texting (66%), followed by social networking (58%), junk food (28%) and alcohol (6%).
• Mobile phones (79%), junk food (44%) and alcohol (9%) are the three activities teenagers were most likely to spend the most time on. One in five (20%) of teenagers admitted that they had drunk alcohol in the past seven days.
• UK teenagers spend an average of £15.81 a week funding their various vices, meaning that they have to find £62 a month before they even consider paying for other pursuits such as sport or other recreational activities.
• The average teen spends £6.64 a week on texting, mobile phones and data, junk food spending comes second with alcohol coming in as the third most expensive vice.
• Shockingly, 14% of teens have lied to their families to get money to fund this area of spending, with 7% having gone as far as stealing from a relative!
• There are obvious regional variations on the habits of UK teenagers. East Anglian teens are the most social media obsessed - 16% admit they check social media more than 30 times a day. The South East is the ‘selfie’ capital of the UK - 1 in 4 admit they take more than 20 selfies a month.
• 72% of youngsters remain oblivious to the dangers of over-use and potential addiction to social media, apps, games, and technology and don’t believe it is possible to develop an addiction to technology.
This constant pursuit of stimulation, peer approval, instant gratification, and elements of narcissism are all potential indicators of addictive behaviour. The study highlights that parents across the UK are inadvertently becoming ‘co-dependents’ enabling their child’s addictions by providing them with cash albeit with the best of intentions.
The growing number of ever-changing, ever-updating tech and gadgets available to UK teens in 2016 run alongside established potentially addictive activities such as alcohol-use and consumption of junk food - creating an environment where young people experience the compulsion to consume and engage more than they can legitimately fund, leading to desperate often risky behaviour - a hallmark of addiction.
John Dicey, Global Managing Director & Senior Therapist of Allen Carr Addiction Clinics comments;
“The findings of this report are cause for concern and highlight a generation of young people exhibiting many of the hallmarks of addictive behaviour. The explosion of technology we have seen since the late 90’s offers incredible opportunities to our youth – the constant stimulation provided by access to the internet for example can be a good or a bad thing. There’s a price to pay. This study indicates that huge numbers of young people are developing compulsions and behaviours that they’re not entirely in control of and cannot financially support. Unless we educate our young people as to the dangers of constant stimulation and consumption, we are sleepwalking towards an epidemic of adulthood addiction in the future, as well as damaging childhood.”
Dicey continues "Make no mistake - technology and social media shouldn't be demonised - they're incredibly engaging and useful in our everyday lives - the objective of our study was to establish whether youngsters were moving beyond "normal use" and might therefore become pre-disposed to move on to other addictions later in life."
John Dicey offers the following tips for teens and parents in support of National Unplugged Day:
1. Teach yourself to resist routinely checking your phone and email. Set small challenges, such as 15 minutes without checking and gradually expand before you get into a groove of being able to spend a few hours without the need to be online.
2. Set aside daily periods of self-imposed non-screen time. One of the secrets to scaling back technology use to acceptable levels is to keep aside certain times of the day technology-free (mealtimes and bedtime, for example are a good starting place. In fact, kitchens and bedrooms should be made technology-free).
3. Only respond to emails and texts at specific times of the day. Some people do have jobs where they are tied to emails all day, but if you are not one of them, why not decide to look at email, say, just three times a day (9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.) It will save lots of time in the long run and create time for constructive, proactive and progressive work. Turning off email and social media, disabling push notifications, or simply turning the volume setting to silent on electronic devices will also reduce the urge to constantly check mobile devices.
4. Don’t use your smartphone or tablet as an alarm clock. By using a standard alarm clock to wake you in the morning, you will avoid the temptation to look at email and texts just as you are about to go to sleep or just wake up. Ideally young teens won’t take their phones to bed with them.
5. Attempt a family digital detox – so the whole family study and are made aware of their technology habits.
6. Delete games and apps that can be time consuming and repetitively dumbing, such as Candy Crush, Angry Birds, etc.
7. Start to use a wrist watch again, which will stop you constantly checking your phone.
8. There is no void – just having a few moments a day where you can use your imagination or just think a few things through is wonderful. It requires some ‘space’ that only putting down technology for a while can provide.
9. Embrace tech to support change. It sounds contradictory, given that we are trying to cut down on tech, but tech lovers can download apps that tell them how much time they’re spending online. Being made aware of a problem is often the first step in enabling behavioural change.
10. Parents should lead by example – you can’t tell your kids off for constantly checking their phones if you do the same.
For further information please contact Claire Doherty on 07932 651 837 or Claire@thisisgrapevine.com
Allen Carr’s Addiction Clinics are available in 50+ countries across the globe and the method is endorsed by a wide variety of celebrities and opinion formers. recent fans include, Michael McIntyre, Richard Branson, Chrissie Hynde, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ellen DeGeneres, Lou Reed and Angelica Huston are long-term supporters of Allen Carr’s Easyway. Following on from its phenomenal success in helping smokers, Allen Carr’s approach has also successfully been applied to tackle other problems including e-cigarettes, alcohol, weight, drugs, anxiety, debt, gambling and fear of flying.
For further information visit http://www.allencarr.com or call 0800 389 2115.
• Survey conducted by One Poll
• John Dicey is available for interview
• Case studies available on request
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