Phone addiction affecting teens and parents alike

Addiction to tech has long been associated with teens, but the dark shadows cast by the bright light of their devices now affect parents too— findings from a recent study reveal.

Common Sense Media, a non-profit children advocacy and media rating organisation, surveyed 500 pairs of teens and a parents.

According to the study, many teenagers think that their parents need help to get over the attraction to their devices.

Whereas it is not news that parents complain about their teenage children’s addiction to devices, in this study, four in 10 children were reportedly convinced that their parents needed help to overcome the allure of devices.

The study revealed that more than a quarter of the surveyed individuals use their phones or tablets at least five minutes before they slept.

The light on devices is known to negatively affect sleep. Lack of enough sleep is associated with a host of problems, including low productivity at school or work.

People who are sleep-deprived are likely to cause accidents while driving or operating a machine compared to those who get a good dose of sleep. Inadequate sleep is also associated with obesity and low immunity to diseases.

Worse, some respondents in the study reported waking up midway in their sleep to check their phones, or use them first thing after waking up.

It is so convenient to check phones while one should be sleeping because many in this study reportedly slept with a phone in bed. This is a huge wake-up call.

As children prepare to leave the nest, their developing brains are biased for experimentation and risk-taking.


This tendency allows them to explore new facets of their identity and learn to make healthy decisions for themselves.

It’s little wonder that children find internet-connected devices as good allies on their journey to discovery — but need parental hand-holding.

One of the strangest findings from this survey is the growing level of tolerance: arguments between parents and teenagers about overuse of gadgets has reduced.

Whereas both parents and teenagers were more worried about each other’s unhealthy phone use, they argued less about it. It is also possible that the behaviour is being normalised and parents are resigning to fate.

But it’s not in all families that digital devices call the shots. About two-thirds of parents said they had family rules governing the use of mobile devices.


Tech addiction can have a number of negative effects, but the most prevalent is the loss of attention at work or at school.

It is therefore concerning when parents, who should modulate overuse of phones, are themselves in need of help.

Perhaps families should emulate Steve Jobs’s (co-founder of Apple) inviolable rule for his family that “no phones at the dinner table”, or Bill Gates’s (co-founder of Microsoft) that “no phones at all until high school”.

The author is an informatics specialist.