Teens 'Sleepwalking' Toward Adulthood Addiction, Study Finds

By Brent McCluskey 01/13/15

Researchers say that obsessively checking texts and emails can open the doors to other addictions later in life.

Teen with Cell Phone Addiction

Today’s youth are inundated with technology and have constant access to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While checking for status updates or a new text may seem harmless enough, these simple behaviors are paving the way for future addictions, a new study found.

The study, conducted by the Allen Carr Addiction Clinics in England, surveyed 1,000 young people between the ages of 12-18 and discovered a majority of the participants would feel great distress if they were not permitted to check their texts or social media.

The study found that 66% of the participants would not be able to give up texting, while 58% reported they could not go without social media. In comparison, only 28% said they would have difficulty sacrificing junk food and 6% said they would struggle without alcohol.

These behaviors have been shown to not only be addictive, but quite costly as well. According to the research, nearly all of the participants spent approximately $100 per month on texting fees and mobile data plans.

“We’re talking about addictive behaviors. If you’re capable of addictive behaviors at 12, our argument is you’re more likely to develop further problems with addiction,” said John Dicey, managing director of Allen Carr Addiction Clinics. “That behavior has been normalized for you and when you are older you are earning your own money, you’re more likely to fritter it away.”

Many of the participants admitted to resorting to any means necessary in order to pay for their cellphone fees. Of the 1,000 polled, 14% got the money they needed by lying to their parents, while 7% had stolen it from a close relative.

“The central thrust of what we’re saying is that these habits – the social media and technology – are getting young people to display the hallmarks of addictions at a young age. They can’t legitimately afford it,” said Dicey.

But only 28% of the participants understood that their actions posed a risk to developing other addictive behaviors. According to Dicey, education may be key to waking up those young people who are “sleepwalking” towards adulthood addictions.

“Unless we educate young people as to the dangers of constant stimulation and consumption, we are sleepwalking towards an epidemic of adulthood addiction in the future,” said Dicey.

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.