Has Texting Become An Addiction for Teenagers?

You don't have to look far to see a teenager's nose stuck in a cell phone texting back and forth with a seemingly unlimited number of contacts, inviting the onset of carpal tunnel at a young age. Text messaging continues to increase and doctors are referring to excessive texting as a new addiction. Extreme texting causes a range of problems, from isolation and lack of sleep, to skipping meals and ignoring important daily tasks.

And, while the problem may have started as a teen addiction, it is no longer relegated to this demographic. A recent search by Google found that thousands of websites are now live and thriving as they serve adults who are struggling with excessive texting.

The risk associated with texting has spurred a number of states to make texting while driving an illegal activity. Researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center reported that in 2002-2007 there were more than 16,000 deaths because of accidents that were related to texting and driving. That number only continues to rise.

Dr. Dale Archer, a clinical psychologist, commented that anything that becomes an obsession, consuming so much time that you don't do things you should be doing with family, friends, jobs, or school can be considered an addiction. Texting can be included in this category and is quickly becoming one of the newest addictions afflicting American culture.

Psychiatrist and author of "iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind", Dr. Gary Small believes that the staggering rise in texting meets the criteria of a full-blown addiction for many individuals. He refers to one statistic showing a 600 percent increase in texting among teens over the last three years.

Dr. Small refers to the involvement of dopamine in the system and its relation to the development of an addiction to texting. This general reward system can easily be activated by the texting activity. In fact, according to Dr. Small, teens who are consistently texting are reacting to the activity in much the same way a heroin addict responds to a hit – the same area of the brain reacts in the same way.

In many areas of psychiatry, addiction is described as a condition that not only generates a certain response in the brain, it also demonstrates periods of withdrawal when the substance – or activity – is removed. Does the same ring true for the text addicted teenager? The cell phone may need to be removed and the individual studied to determine the overall effect.

The one thing known for sure is that texting is an increasing problem for parents, educators, leaders and others who demand the face time with these individuals. Many an educator is embracing the channel and offering updates, assignments and other communications through text messaging. While this method may be effective – is it also dangerous?

Posted on July 12th, 2011
Posted in Teens

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