The average UK teen checks social media eleven times a day, and a large proportion of them -- 58% -- said they would have trouble giving up social media for a month, according to Allen Carr Addiction Clinics, which conducted the survey of 1,000 British teens ages 12-18. Similarly, 66% of teens surveyed said they couldn’t go without texting for a month; British teens send an average 17 text messages per day.
By comparison, just 6% of respondents said they couldn’t give up alcohol for a month, and 28% said the same for junk food. Indeed nearly half of all teens’ spending on various habits goes to texting, mobile phones, and data plans. More troubling, 14% of teens said they had lied to their families to get money to pay for their habits (including technology, junk food, and alcohol) and 7% said they had stolen from a relative to do so.
The study attributed social media’s addictive qualities to a number of characteristics among users, including their constant need for stimulation, desire for approval of peers, the possibility of instant gratification, and of course narcissistic impulses.
Allen Carr, Addiction Clinics global managing director and senior therapist, warned that exposing children and teens to potentially addictive behaviors like social media can set them up to develop full-blown addictions as adults: “This study indicates that huge numbers of young people are developing compulsions and behaviors 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.”
Last month I wrote about a study by researchers at University at Albany-SUNY who surveyed 292 undergraduate respondents about their usage of social media, using addiction criteria similar to those used to diagnose alcoholism. The researchers identified a cohort of around 10% of the total survey group who displayed behaviors matching the profile of “disordered social networking use,” including irritability when unable to access Facebook, cravings to use the social network, and increasing usage as time went on.
They also displayed addictive personality traits including difficulty with tasks related to psychological self-management, like emotional regulation and impulse control. Indeed, people who experienced symptoms of social media addiction were also more likely to report having trouble regulating their consumption of alcohol.