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Digital addiction during childhood and adolescence may cause functional damage to the brain. The damage will be permanent and irreversible if not diagnosed and treated in such critical periods.

  • Digital devices play a significant role in the learning and living of children and adolescents, whose overuse or addiction has become a global concern. 

Ding K., Li. H. (2023) Digital Addiction Intervention for Children and Adolescents: A Scoping Review Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Mar; 20(6): 4777

  • Addiction studies have looked at the ways in which nerve cells send signals to each other and regulate their own activity. Such changes in genes can be passed down from one generation to the next leading scientists to estimate that a person’s genetics account for 40-60 percent of their risk. This means that different people have different thresholds and genetic tolerances and why some kids can put a device down or stop scrolling while others can’t.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, July). Drugs, brains, and behavior: the science of addiction.

  • Brain imaging studies of people with addiction show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, July). Drugs, brains, and behavior: the science of addiction.

  • Excessive internet gaming is associated with abnormal resting-state activity in the frontal lobe, the brain region responsible for advanced cognitive process, such as inhibitory control, critical thinking, and social development.

Han X., Wang Y., Jiang W., Bao X., Sun Y., Ding W., Cao M., Wu X., Du Y., Zhou Y. Resting-state activity of prefrontal-striatalcircuits in internet gaming disorder: Changes with cognitive behavior therapy and predictors of treatment response. Front. Psychiatry.2018;9:341. 

  • “You can try having self-control, but there are a thousand engineers on the other side of the screen working against you.” Tristan Harris–Senate hearing 1/22/20



  • The National Institute of Health funded study of more than 10,000 adolescents found that nine percent of the young adolescents (average age 12) reported being a target of cyberbullying. Those who experienced cyberbullying were more than four times as likely to report thoughts of suicide and attempts as those who didn’t.

  • Adolescents with problematic social media behavior are more involved in aggressive behaviors among their peers.

  • Internet access via a smartphone has been linked to greater involvement in the role of aggressor and in the role of victimization by cyberbullying regarding those not involved.

Méndez I, Jorquera Hernández AB and Ruiz-Esteban C (2020) Profiles of Mobile Phone Problem Use in Bullying and Cyberbullying Among Adolescents.Front. Psychol.11:596961.


Exposure to Pornography

  • Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media
    is an important driver of that crisis–one that we must urgently address.” - US Surgeon General May 22, 2023.

  • 15% of children said they first saw online pornography at age 10 or younger. The average
    age reported is 12.

  • 75% of parents in the survey thought their child hadn’t seen pornography online, but in reality,
    53% of their children reported that they had in fact seen it. Common Sense Media 2022 Study
    – Teens and Pornography. 

  • Majority of young people's first time watching pornography was accidental, with over 60% of children 11-13 who had seen pornography saying their viewing of pornography was unintentional. Some reported viewing pornography for the first time as young as 7.

  • More than half (51%) of 11 to 13 year olds reported that they had seen pornography at some point, rising to 66% of14-15 year olds. British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) 2019 Study


Depression, Anxiety and Suicide

  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among individuals aged 10 to 24 years.

  • Researchers have linked several aspects of social media use to depression and higher suicide risk.

  • Teens of both genders who report using social media platforms more than two hours a day experience poor mental health outcomes, including suicidal thoughts. Jamie Zelazny, PhD. RN, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

  • Problematic Smartphone Use (PSU) amongst adolescents has been associated with drug use, poor academic performance, low self-esteem, poor social relations, impulsivity, anxiety, stress, greater emotional mismatch, and low family cohesion.

  • Young teenagers show an inability to disconnect or turn off smartphones that, consequently, reduces sleep, increases worry and anxiety, and is associated with a greater fear of missing out (or FOMO) on sharing experiences with others–which in turn increases the desire to use smartphones more often (to feel connected) associated with psychological reasons leading to increases and problematic smartphone use.

Méndez I, Jorquera Hernández AB and Ruiz-Esteban C (2020) Profiles of Mobile Phone Problem Use in Bullying and Cyberbullying Among Adolescents. Front. Psychol.11:596961

  • Nomophobia“ a fear of being technologically disconnected, detached from mobile phone connectivity or disconnected from the web. Individuals who suffer from nomophobia exhibit an irrational fear of leaving the house without their smartphones, becoming anxious when they lose it or run out of battery or have no coverage.

  • The prevalence of some degree of nomophobia’s risk in teenagers exceeds 90%, demonstrating the high degree of vulnerability of this age group to the excessive use of smartphones.

  • “There is evidence of the need to design, develop and implement educational, family and social protection strategies that advocate for a more rational and adequate use of digital technology, especially of the smartphone”.


Ramos-Soler, I., López-Sánchez, E. & Quiles-Soler, C. (2021). Nomophobia in teenagers: digital lifestyle, social networking and smartphone abuse. Communication & Society 34

Brain Development

Brain Development

  • The human brain undergoes a long period of development and doesn’t fully mature until around 25 years old. One of the last parts of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, located above the eyebrows. This area of the brain helps us think before we act and is involved in a number of executive functioning skills, including impulse control, emotional reactions, focus and decision-making. Studies have found that increased time spent on smartphones is not just bad for
    the brain but can affect thinking patterns, sleep cycles, behavior, and shorten attention span.
    Engaging in activities such as scrolling on social media or online gaming switch on the brain’s reward pathway, flooding the brain with the feel good chemical messenger dopamine. The adolescent brain is particularly susceptible to the effects of these dopamine surges and research suggests excessive smartphone use and over exposure to this technology can hinder
    healthy brain development.

  • Research suggests that even when engaging with others over digital media, youth are spending less time developing social skills and learning to read nonverbal cues and that, besides presenting a roadblock to developing these essential social skills, social media presents other problems. Lighthouse Network lists:

    • Impatience in relationships because of the instantaneousness of social media.

    • Interference with relationship skill acquisition and implementation.

    • Having so many casual acquaintances, but then no time to really have deeper relationships.

    • Mistaking social media relationships for real ones.

    • Using social media to engage in more in depth and complicated relationship activities, like dating, breaking up, managing conflict, apologizing, forgiving, offering a job, explain a misunderstanding, taking ownership of a problem, accountability and disciplining activities to name a few.

    • Inability to articulate or explain anything with depth of thought and feeling and requires back and forth connection.

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