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How Cell-Phone Addiction Impacts Health and Way of Life

Capstone Formal Research Paper
Lauren Bledig
Career Life Connections
Mr. Koshman
November 16th, 2017


Hey, have you seen my phone? I can't find it." A phrase we have all said with an intense feeling of panic. This

fear runs through our veins making our hands numb with anxiety. Why do we have this reaction? Because we

momentarily lose a small device with our contacts on it? Or is it because our phone now feels like it is a part of us

and losing it feels like weve lost a limb? In May of 2016 the non-profit organization Common Media Sense

released the findings of a study revealing over fifty percent, of the twelve hundred parents and teenagers surveyed,

admitted to being addicted to their cell phone (Wallace, 2016).

The main idea of this paper is to show that as a society we have become addicted to our cell-phones to provide

stimulation. If we do not stop this behaviour it will cause damage to our social ways and our physical and mental

health. This paper will look at the many different aspects of cell phone addiction and what specifically people can

become hooked on. One example of a specified addiction is internet addiction.

Internet addiction affects over 420 million people worldwide (Kosoff, 2014). In order to put this into perspective

371 million people worldwide are diagnosed with diabetes (Castillo, 2012). Thats only a difference of 49

million. Most of these 420 million people are unaware of their internet addiction. As technology has rapidly

advanced throughout the last century it has undoubtedly made day-to-day lives easier but, we as a society, have

become reliant on it in order to stimulate and entertain us.

In last decade technology has allowed cell phones to make positive impacts on peoples lives. Parents are now able

to communicate remotely with their children and vice versa. People are able to use their phones to work outside the

office, navigate their ways to new locations, order products, check social media and communicate to others from

remote places. However, not everything about these advancements is positive. Since people are more involved with

their phone then reality they become isolated and alone. Face to face communication is becoming obsolete. People

are constantly checking their phone for fear of missing a tweet, an Instagram post or Snapchat.
Children are now receiving phones and tablets at very a young age as a way to entertain them. Children, as they

grow older, become reliant on that screen to stimulate them. This is one of the main reasons that children are

developing an addiction to their phone in later years. They are addicted to their phone in the same way a drug

addict would be; they use their phone when they are bored or tired, or when they are feeling sad, angry or lonely.

Studies have shown that people who overuse technology may develop the same neural patterning and brain

chemistry as those who are addicted to drugs. Brain scans have shown that when people with IUD (Internet use

Disorder) play video games their brain lights up in the same way cocaine addicts would (Jaslow, 2012). With all

the good technology has brought us, we also inherited a population that has been negatively impacted by this


There are many beneficial things cell-phones have given to us but as Isaac Newton stated in 1686 every action has

it equal opposite reaction. With every upside, there is a downside. Cell-phones may have improved the way we

communicate with others in far-off and neighboring locations but at the same time, it is slowly destroying our

interpersonal conversations. Have you ever been having a discussion with somebody and they pull out their phone

or maybe they are on their phone the entire time youre talking to them? Chances are it has happened more than

once. Cell phones, along with other technological devices, are responsible for societys crumbling social skills.

People no longer look each other in the eye anymore during conversations. Their eyes are too busy concentrating

on the screen in front of them, instead of the actual person. The phones original intention was made so people

could call one another and socialize. However, as the years progressed and technology advanced the phone has

strayed farther away from its original purpose. Society no longer uses their phone to communicate with each other,

instead, it has become a form of stimulation and a way to escape from reality.

The different sections of this paper will include:

What causes cell-phone addiction

The Impact Cell-Phones Have on Mental Health

The Impact Cell-Phones Have on Physical Health

The Impact Cell-Phones have on Social Life

Dangers Cell-Phones Cause

Campaigns against Cell-Phone Abuse

Symptoms of Cell-Phone Addiction

Why This Issue Must Be Addressed

Ways to Cut Down Cell-Phone Use


What causes cell-phone addiction

Why is it that people can become addicted to smartphones? The source of cell-phone addiction is due to a

neurotransmitter in your brain called dopamine. Dopamine helps control the brain's reward and pleasure

centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see

rewards but to take action to move toward them. (Brookeshire, 2017) Since dopamine encourages you to pursue

pleasure, when you are experiencing something new, or anticipating something new, dopamine levels rise

motivating you further. Cell-phones contain easy access to the internet and social media. When on those sites we

get the instant gratification we crave. Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they reply in a few

seconds. Want to look up some information? Just put your request into google. It's easy to get in a dopamine

induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It

becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you

have a message or a new text. Interestingly brain scan research shows that the brain has more activity when people

are anticipating a reward than getting one. Although wanting and liking are related, research also shows that the

dopamine system doesn't have satiety built in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying more more

more, causing you to keep seeking even when you have found the information. (Weinschenk, 2012)
Technology addiction expert, Dr. David Greenfield, refers to smartphones as the worlds smallest slot machine.

He explains that smartphones, just like slot machines, operate on a variable reinforcement schedule. Every once in

a while you get a reward a piece of information, a text, an email, an update something comes through that you

find salient or pleasurable, but you dont know when youre going to get it, what its going to be and how good its

going to be. This is exactly the same reinforcement schedule as a slot machine." (Firestone, understanding Cell-

Phone Addiction)

As people become more dependent on their phone it can start to cause them mental and physical harm. There are

various studying linking cell-phone overuse and mental and physical issues.

The Impact Cell-Phones Have on Mental Health

In order to truly comprehend the devastating effect cell-phones can have on someones mental health research must

be done to prove these statements.

One study, that focused on the impact phones have on mental health is from the University of Illinois. They find

that high engagement with mobile technology is linked to anxiety and depression in students. Psychology

professor Alejandro Lleras, conducted this study with undergraduate honors student Tayana Panova. Lleras and

Panova surveyed over 300 university students with questionnaires that addressed the students mental health, level

and manner of cellphone and Internet use, and motivations for turning to their electronic devices. Questions

included: Do you think that your academic or work performance has been negatively affected by your cell phone

use? and Do you think that life without the Internet is boring, empty and sad? The goal of the study was to see

whether high engagement with the Internet and mobile phones affects psychological well-being and, if so, the

manner in which this influence occurs, Panova said. More specifically, we wanted to explore whether using

devices for emotional escapism is problematic to mental health. People who self-described as having really

addictive-style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales,

Lleras said. (Banducci, 2016)

Another group of researchers also conducted a similar experiment. To examine this, psychologist Dr. Jon Elhai

and his colleagues conducted a systematic review of the literature of smartphone behaviors. The researchers

identified 23 peer-reviewed articles that investigated the relationship between problematic smartphone use and

symptoms of anxiety and depression. They used these studies to develop a broader picture of how these factors

were related. (Hunley, 2017)

The researchers found that smartphone use was in fact associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression, as

well as the increased experience of stress. The more participants used their smartphones, the more likely they were

to experience symptoms associated with these disorders and report being stressed. Why might this relationship

exist? It is possible that problematic smartphone use represents a form of addiction similar to internet addiction.

Most people find it rewarding to check their apps and notifications. But some can become addicted to this positive

feeling, compulsively checking their phones for updates. Such behavior could become stressful, leading to

worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression. The fear of missing out could partially drive this cycle, leading

smartphone users to anxiously check their phones for fear of missing out on important social events or interactions.

With smartphones so central to society, is mental health doomed because of technology? (Hunley, 2017)

Researchers at Binghamton University- State University of New York conducted an experiment to study the effect

the feeling of isolation in which cell-phones cause. Vaghefi, assistant professor of management information

systems at Binghamton University-State University, and his colleagues recently surveyed 182 college students and

asked them to report their daily routine of smartphone usage. Based on the analysis of the responses, they classified

the user as one of the following types: Thoughtful, Regular, Highly Engaged, Fanatic and Addict. Seven percent

identified as addicts and 12 percent identified as fanatics. Both groups experience personal, social and

workplace problems due to a compulsive need to be on their smartphones. Overall, these users exhibited signs that

could indicate depression, social isolation, social anxiety, shyness, impulsivity and low self-esteem. Females were

most likely to exhibit susceptibility to addiction.(News Medical Life Science, 2017)

Our smartphones have turned into a tool that provides short, quick, immediate satisfaction, which is very

triggering, said Isaac Vaghefi, Our neurons get fired and dopamine is being released, and over time this makes us

acquire a desire for quick feedback and immediate satisfaction. This process also has contributed to developing

shorter attention spans and being more and more prone to boredom.(News Medical Life Science, 2017)

Cell-phones may have caused people more trouble than they originally thought. People buy cell-phones in order to

stay connected with each other but in reality, it has caused them to become isolated and more alone than ever.

The Impact Cell-Phones Have on Physical Health

There are many risks that come with using cell-phones. Risk of a persons health is one of the most significant.

Both the mental and physical. After reviewing the mental impact cell-phone can have on a person, it is time to look

at the physical effect.

A study done by Dr. Nora Volkow and her associates created an experiment to see what the energy cell-phones

emit do to our brain. They enlisted 47 volunteers to have their brain chemistry measured. The volunteers had two

PET scans and both times volunteers had two cell phones fastened to their ears. In the first scan, both of the cell

phones were powered off. However, the second time, only one of the two phones was turned one but the

participant did not know which one. The sessions lasted about an hour. The scans showed a small increase in the

brains use of glucose (blood sugar) when the phone was on, but only in parts of the brain close to the antenna.

(Skerrett, 2016)

It was an elegant study, wrote Patrick Skerrett, writer of Harvard Health Publishing. The researchers took pains

to anticipate sources of error. They used a control (both phones off) against which to compare the effect of a live

cell phone. They used cell phones on each ear, one on and one off, to see if the effect was localized. They muted

the phone that was on to eliminate the possibility that any brain activation was due to listening to the sound of a

voice coming through the phones speaker. So the result is probably a real one, not an artifact or measurement

error. (Skerrett, 2016)

The big worry, of course, is brain cancer, not brain activation. Its a controversial and hotly debated topic.

(Skerrett, 2016)

However, in the end, Patrick Skerrett agrees with Dr. Nora Volkow who sees this study as an opportunity at taking

a closer look at how the energy radiated by a cell phone, or any other energy-emitting device, we hold next to our

heads affects the brain.

For many years now researchers have been looking into the electromagnetic waves cell-phones produce and how it

affects human health. CNN news anchor, Carina Storrs, wrote an article in 2016 titled Cell phone radiation

increases cancers in rats, but should we worry? In the article, she notes high-dose exposure to cell phone

radiation increased brain tumors in male rats, (Storrs, 2016) Findings from the study showed that when mice or

rats were exposed to doses of radiation that are equivalent to what people get from their cell phones they can

develop brain tumors. Based on the latest research released by National Institute of Environmental Health

Sciences, the scientists found that 2% to 3% of irradiated male rats developed brain tumors, and 2% to 7% of

irradiated rats developed heart tumor. (Storrs, 2016)

Cell-phones are known emitters of blue light. Blue light has a very short wavelength, and so produces a higher

amount of energy. (Heiting, 2017) This light produced from the screen of a cell-phone can cause your eyes

serious long-term damage. Blue light can help elevate your mood and boost awareness, but chronic exposure to

blue light at night can lower the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, and disrupts your daily

rhythm. Harvard researchers have linked working the night shift and exposure to blue light at night to several types

of cancer (breast, prostate) diabetes, heart disease, obesity and an increased risk for depression. (Heiting, 2017)

Staring at your mobile device can also cause problems in your vision later in life. Screens on mobile devices tend

to be smaller than computer screens, which means you are more likely to squint and strain your eyes while reading

messages. According to The Vision Council, more than 70 percent of Americans don't know or are in denial that

they are susceptible to digital eye strain. (Borreli, 2013)

The Impact Cell-Phones have on Social Life

A persons smartphone holds complete power over someones social life whether they know it or not. The

smartphone has become a constant companion. We carry it throughout the day and keep it by our bedside at night.

We allow ourselves to be interrupted by messages from social media, emails, and texts. We answer phone calls at

times when it is not socially acceptable Just like an addiction to gambling and the alluring sounds of slot machines,

we addictively react to the sounds our smartphone makes. (Itzkovitch, The Real Reason Youre Addicted to

Your Phone)

When people are children, all they want to do is go outside, talk to their friends and play. As they grow older, those

face-to-face interactions with friends start to become obsolete. Cell-phones have allowed us to be able to stay

locked in a room alone for hours and feel as if there is someone there. Social gathering is becoming a rare

occurrence in present societies. As the mobile communication has developed largely with extreme reliability,

people tend to finish their social communications over the phone. Moreover, smartphones with other inbuilt apps

like Facebook and Twitter has made the communication so easy that people can spend their whole day by sitting at

home without caring about the social gathering. As a result, people become unsocial and less communicative which

is not good for a society. (Adnan, 2015)

Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says technology is

distracting us from our real-world relationships. Keith N. Hampton, who holds the Professorship in

Communication and Public Policy at Rutgers Universitys School of Communication and Information, argues that

technology is enriching those relationships and the rest of our social lives.(Wall Street Journal, 2015)

In one study done by Dr. Rosen, he monitored anxiety levels of smartphone users when we wouldnt let them use

their phones, and found that the heavy smartphone users showed increased anxiety after only 10 minutes and that

anxiety continued to increase across the hourlong study. Moderate users showed some anxiety, while light users

showed none. (Wall Street Journal, 2015)

Dangers Cell-Phones Cause

A cell-phone holds all of a persons social life in it. Users feel that if they are not on their phone 24/7, they will

miss out. People are willing to even go as far as to put their own safety at risk while driving only to reply to a text.

Driver distraction is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year. 10% of fatal

crashes, 18% of injury crashes, and 16% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were distraction-

affected crashes. (CAA, Distracted Driving) People feel this uncontrollable urge to check their phone at all

times, even if it means putting all the people in the cars life in danger.

Campaigns against Cell-Phone Abuse

Many organizations are rallying against cell-phone overuse and are urging people to put the phone down and talk

to one another. One organization is calling for a Device-Free Dinner. Common Sense Media has begun to air

commercials of a family having dinner. The children at the table are discussing how much they miss their father.

At the end of the table, the father is there on his smartphone. He tells the family to be quite as he is on his phone

looking at pictures of cats. The commercial, while simple and elegant, very effectively gets the point across. When

someone is on their phone it is like they are not even there. The message of the commercial is the put the phone

down and interact with the family even if just for a short while.

There are commercials that are frequently on television warning us against distracted driving. ICBC has been

airing commercials warning people against distracted driving since early 2015. While the commercials change

quite often, the messages are all the same; put down the phone. It may seem like an easy concept, but the reality is

that people are so emotionally attached to their phone that they physically cannot be without it. Therefore, branding

these commercial necessary.


Symptoms of Cell-Phone Addiction

Although cell phone addiction is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,

research has compared it to gambling addiction, which has clearer diagnostic criteria and is included in the DSM-5.

At least 4 of the following signs and symptoms are thought to comprise criteria for cell phone addiction, and the

problematic cell phone overuse must cause significant harm in the individuals life:(PhyschGuide, Signs and

Symptoms of Cell Phone Addiction)

A need to use the cell phone more and more often in order to achieve the same desired effect.

Persistent failed attempts to use cell phone less often.

Preoccupation with smartphone use.

Turns to a cell phone when experiencing unwanted feelings such as anxiety or depression.

Excessive use characterized by loss of sense of time.

Has put a relationship or job at risk due to excessive cell phone use.


Need for newest cell phone, more applications, or increased use.

Withdrawal, when cell-phone or network is unreachable.





Why This Issue Must Be Addressed

Cell-phone addiction is an affliction that affects millions of people worldwide. Every day people are struggling

with this obsession and yet, most people still do not know about cell-phone addiction. As proven, this addiction can
cause people lasting harm to their bodies and cause them to develop mental illness. This addiction needs to become

more familiar with people and talked about. This is something that everyone should be aware of and have the tools

to deal with if they need to. People need to know that how much time they spend on their phone could potentially

be changing their life.

Ways to Cut Down Cell-Phone Use

Once someone has been identified as having a cell-phone addiction, there are various things one can do in

order to help solve the problem. Some of the following tips help will remove the temptation from constantly

looking at a smartphone and help to limit usage:

Track your cell-phone use

Slowly start weaning off of cell-phone usage

Turn off the phone and store it away during times it is not needed

When sleeping, keep phone in another room

Delete unnecessary apps

Set a time limit on smartphones

Turn off notifications


Cell-phones have undoubtedly made our lives easier. It has improved communication and our overall way of life,

but no longer use phones for just communication. Smartphones have become entertainment and a form of

stimulation. People can become so emotionally attached to their phone that they may put their health at risk. Cell-

Phone addiction can cause the brain to over produce certain chemicals, which will alter its chemistry. Smartphones

can have an effect on a persons mental and physical health. It can also change a persons whole social life and

cause them to become isolated from the rest of the world. Some people may feel a connection so strong with their

phone that they are willing to put their life at risk by being on their phone and driving. Some people will suffer
panic attacks if they are not allowed on their phones. Cell-phone addiction is a very pressing and important issue

facing the world and yet, most people are not aware of this affliction. If this topic continues to go on unaddressed

and unaware it may cause people irreversible harm and leave permanent damage to our communities.


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