Can you really become addicted to your smartphone?

Updated
An unidentified 11-year-old girl logs into Facebook on her iPhone at her home in Palo Alto, Calif. in 2012.
An unidentified 11-year-old girl logs into Facebook on her iPhone at her home in Palo Alto, Calif. in 2012.
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

With non-stop texting, email updates, and social media notifications, many users can’t imagine leaving the house without their smartphone. As it gets harder to put down the device, doctors worry that teens have become increasingly inseparable from their smartphones.

In a recent University of Maryland study, students around the world were asked to go without their cell phones for 24 hours. 70% of students quit the experiment, saying they couldn’t make it through a full day without their phones; less than a third of study participants were able to complete the day without checking their phones.

“I was itching, like a crackhead,” one American student told the researchers.

But does unplugging mean withdrawal for young cell phone users?

“Absolutely,” said Dr. Nancy Snyderman on Monday’s Morning Joe. “You watch these kids trying to pull them away from the devices—blood pressure goes up, anxiety levels go up, stress hormones go up. It’s not just psychological ‘I miss my phone’, there is a real physiological response”

MIT psychologist Sherry Turkley was hesitant to describe it as an addiction. “It looks a lot like addiction, but it’s more helpful to think of us as very vulnerable to this new technology and needing to find new ways to use it and make more healthy choices.”

Although users don’t need to quit cold turkey, both Turkley and Synderman agreed that constant smartphone use hurts our ability to interact and form relationships.

“We’re not in the moment enough,” said Snyderman.

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Can you really become addicted to your smartphone?

Updated