Addiction. For most, thoughts of drugs, sex and other destructive habits come to mind. However, there is a much more urgent, dangerous behavior that could be plaguing your life or a loved one’s without even knowing it.

The most widespread addiction in teenagers is to their smartphones. 21st Century social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook serve as black holes for children, which sucks them in and control every aspect of their lives. In school, students cannot help nervously checking their phones or sneaking a texting moment during class as a compulsive distraction from their work. This leads to falling behind in school, and ultimately more stress on the student.

Also, smartphones are extremely detrimental to the sleep cycles of adolescents, which is crucial for proper development. After retiring to bed for the night, most kids go on their phones to “binge watch” their favorite show on Netflix under the covers, while being exposed to artificial lighting that mimics natural sunlight, instead of dozing off to sleep or, God forbid, reading a book in bed. This stimulates the brain, making it difficult to fall asleep due to the increased brain activity. The vicious cycle continues as the student is sleep deprived the entire next day, leading to mediocre performance in the classroom, mood swings and other negative effects.

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The abuse of smartphones not only physically impacts teenagers, but mentally decreases their social and problem solving skills, as well as damage their personal image. With the “help” of  smartphones, teenagers always have something to look at or play with when life around them gets boring or uncomfortable.This “cop-out” is bad because, rather than conversing with their peers, or reading a book, they always have something to stare at so they can avoid interaction with others. In addition, the overexposure to smartphones leads to immediate gratification which impairs problem solving skills.

Instead of sitting in silence to think through a problem, students simply pull out their smartphones and do a quick Google search to find their answer. This immediate gratification makes teens think they can have anything they want, anytime they want. So, when they are placed in situations that deny them this “right,” they rebel. Since smartphones create anti-social behavior, teens tend to avoid collaborating and communicating with other students to solve day to day problems, leading to decreased brain activity.

Another negative impact the addiction of smartphones can have on teens is lowering their self-esteem. Whenever they visit any social media website, they are instantly bombarded with hundreds of stimuli all sending the same underlying message: you need to be perfect. The advertising industry makes models seem like flawless figures, people of unachievable stature, caricature like. When teenagers see this, it makes them feel as if this is how they should look, and will never be able to live up to the physical requirements of society. This is yet another detriment to the psyche of a developing teenager.

Finally, the addiction to cell phones can increase opportunities for cyberbullying. Since teenagers are constantly on social media websites, they are vulnerable to others seeing snapshots of their lives, which can lead to bullying if their lifestyle is not “accepted.” Cyberbullying can be very serious and can negatively impact a child for the rest of his or her life.

Overall, through advances in technology, smartphones have made once frustrating, strenuous tasks into simple ones, but with a price. This widespread addiction found mainly in teenagers can be attributed to various social media websites that have wide-ranging, harmful effects on both the physical and mental health of an individual. This might be a case where old fashioned communication serves us better than technology.

Matt Barmakian will be a senior at Westfield High School this fall.