Mobile phones are digital gateways of constant information to young people with no boundaries or escape, they are integrated into our lives, they are extra but feel an essential item in modern life. Scientists are finding it hard to understand whether or not excessive phone use causes mental health problems directly or whether it makes existing conditions worse. Phone use can disrupt daily activities and also disrupt socialising, therefore reducing human interaction increasing depression and anxiety. Phone use causes the same chemicals in the brain to be released as in drug use which causes addiction and chemical imbalances1, therefore this is causing many young people to become increasingly addicted to their phones. This also suggests over time a tolerance will be built meaning you are needing more time in front of a screen for the same reward1 causing more young people on missing out on real life interactions further causing them depression and anxiety.2 On the other hand mobile phones can be beneficial and help young people stay organised, improve communication and be used as a tool to provide quick information.
Melinda Smith who has a master’s degree in psychology and over 15 years of experience as a health writer, In the help guide “Smartphone Addiction”3 aims to educate those with anxiety and depression caused by mobile phone use called “nomophobia”3 it tackles the different types of mobile phone addictions. It further stresses through the use of the repetition of the conjunction “and” that mobile phone overuse is “fuelled by the internet and the social media, gaming and entertainment”1 which indicates to the reader it is the content viewed online rather than mobile phones themselves that causes depression and anxiety.
Smith shows us that phones can cause young people anxiety and depression through virtual relationships “online friends, people you have never met or seen often become more important than real life relationship’s”3 indicating people much prefer to be alone messaging people online. This is often due to people being self-conscious wanting to hide their identity because they are insecure. This making online relationships take over physical ones decreasing human interaction, causing depression and anxiety suggesting online friendship cannot outweigh real life interactions.
Smith also stresses “the constant stream of messages and information from a smartphone”3 can cause a person to stress and cause anxiety and depression because there is no escape from the “constant”3 income of information causing the brain to become overwhelmed meaning they are unable to focus causing less productivity potentially causing them to isolate for hours, neglecting other aspects of their life, causing anxiety and depression. Isolating for hours also increases loneliness further creating anxiety and depression. Smith furthers this through the use of a declarative “losing yourself online will make feelings such as loneliness”3 this suggests to the reader that using your phone may temporarily relieve you from feelings of loneliness, using the phone as a “security blanket”3 hiding the real problems. However, in the long run will only make things worse; further increasing anxiety and depression. Smith further emphasis her point that phones cause young people to have a low productivity, creating anxiety and depression through the use of a syndetic list “persistent buzz, ping or beep can distract you from important tasks”3this indicates phone use slows down productivity and creates feelings of anxiousness so when performing tasks they are done poorly. Smith also uses the intensifier “Important”3 suggesting phone use interrupts moments that are “important”3 for thinking and creativity, creating low productivity increasing anxiety and depression.
Professor Matthieu Guitton furthers Smiths point in “Computers in Human Behaviour”4 which suggests phones distract real life interactions and productivity causing depression and anxiety. “This negative loop of addiction”4 suggests people get stuck in a loop of being unable to escape their phones. This indicates young people have problems regulating their emotions and that they turn to their phones to suppress their emotions, avoiding the real issue; creating feelings of “loneliness”4 . This is revealing because young people are using their phones as a coping strategy that helps distract them from problems in the real world creating a negative pattern. The use of the plosive “Pose Problems”4 creates an abrupt sound creating a verbal reflection which generates a harsh feeling that using a phone as a “security blanket”3 is a big problem, that increases anxiety and causes depression.
Candice Odgers a professor of Psychological Science at the University of California Irvine in the article “Are Smartphones Bad for Teen Mental Health?”5 aims to educate parents so that their children can be guided online to view the right content preventing them viewing harmful content that causes anxiety and depression. This suggest that parents play a big role in guiding their children online and that it is more the content viewed on the phone rather than the phone’s themselves.
Odgers suggests it’s the content viewed on the phones that causes young people depression and anxiety. Odgers through the use of a declarative “phones don’t directly cause mental health but that it’s the way they are guided online by their parents”5 indicates it’s the way children are taught by their parents and what content they view online. This suggests parents that don’t guide their children online will find their children are more likely to play games and use the device for other entertainment. This causes them to be less intellectual and less interactive in the real world causing them depression and anxiety. Where as a parent that guides their children online and pushes them more towards learning and educating content, will find their children playing less games, doing more productive and healthy activities; reducing anxiety and depression.
Katie Hurley a child physiotherapist in an article by Psycom that aims to educate suggests that young people that struggle with social skills, have social anxiety and tend to avoid face to face meetings benefit from social media “Teens in marginalized groups… can find support and friendship”6 This suggests young people for example in the LGBTQ community can find support and friendship which puts them into an environment where they feel more comfortable and confident; reducing depression and anxiety. Hurley on the other hand stresses through a syndetic list that many young people on social media face “cyberbullying, trolls, toxic comparisons, sleep deprivation, and less frequent face-to-face interactions”6. The syndetic list emphasis social media has many downsides which can cause young people anxiety and depression. Hurley also furthers Smith’s point that less real life interaction causes self-isolation and less productivity “It’s difficult to build empathy and compassion (our best weapons in the war on bullying) when teens spend more time “engaging” online than they do in person.”6 This Indicates real human connections and interactions are powerful skills needed to have a healthy mind, not getting stuck in a “negative loop”6 of using your phone to cope with existing issues. This further suggests that the constant use of phones causes depression and anxiety.
Alice G.Walton who has a PhD in Biopsychology and Behavioural Neuroscience in an article furthers Hurley’s point that young people “spending more and more time not talking like they used to”7 suggests its dangerous for young people to spend excessive time communicating on their phones “insta-gramming and snap-chatting”7, not communicating in ways done in the past. The repetition of the word “more” indicates to the reader that there’s a large increase in the modern way of communicating on phones, than there has been in the past. She goes as far to suggest that phone usage is linked to an increase in suicides from young people suffering from anxiety and depression “A study last month looked at the rise in depression and suicide in teenagers in recent years.”7 Walton then proceeds to use the superlative “biggest” to emphasise the impact of phone usage on young people “The biggest change in teen lives between 2010 and 2015”7 this reveals the “biggest” change in young people’s lives is the introduction of smartphones and that it’s the phone and its content causing depression and anxiety which is so great, it plays the largest role in the increase of suicides. The World Health Organisation further this in a declarative “The use of smartphones, the Internet, and other electronic devices has dramatically increased in recent decades”10. She further states “teens who spent more time doing sports, homework, socializing with friends in real life, and going to church had a lower risk”7 This again suggests less time on phones is good to avoid anxiety and depression. This suggests that social media is dangerous because it is an appearance of social interaction which is new, but cannot replace your real social life and real interactions. Another comparison between social media and real life social interaction, are that peoples online accounts are often highly ‘sugar coated’ to look a lot better than they are, meaning young people are looking at other online accounts making them feeling down creating anxiety and depression.
Further Research and Limitations
Tayana Panova and Alejandro Lleras from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology have conducted research, “high Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use is associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, and overall psychological distress” 8 This suggests it is scientifically proven that high levels of phone use causes depression and anxiety by disconnecting people from the real world. Their first study came to the conclusion that “There were strong positive relationships between lower mental health and problematic ICT use, especially when people turned to ICTs to avoid negative experiences or feelings”8 proving phone use can cause depression and anxiety. The second study concluded “that the mobile phones may offer a small security blanket effect, lowering the initial negative reaction”8 this shows young people are using their phones to avoid existing issues. It also noted that young people who turned to their phones “merely to escape boredom”8 found there was no link to depression or anxiety, indicating only young people who turn to their phones to avoid existing problems further fuels their existing anxiety and depression. Also, in a 2015 study in “Computers in Human Behaviour”4 researchers found that people “who already experience depression and anxiety often turn to their phones… as a tool for avoidance coping”4. Over a prolonged period of time, this can make a person more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Dr.Christopher Labos is a cardiologist with a degree in epidemiology. In a research article by McGill University suggests using social media for hours per day were likely to cause “phycological distress”9 leading to less real life interactions, leading to a poor quality of life creating anxiety and depression.
Dr Nancy Cheever who organised research on the connection between phone use and anxiety at California State University, Dominguez Hills suggested “the more anxious they are about using their phone”11 will increase the level of anxiety they feel. Cheever’s research suggests that phone-induced anxiety operates on a positive feedback loop “phones keep us in a persistent state of anxiety and the only relief from this anxiety is to look at our phones.”11 This suggests young people feel anxious not being able to check their phone creating anxiety. This suggests young people have the need to look at their phone to relieve their anxiety. Cheever conducted a test “I’m just going to put your phones back here because they might interfere with the equipment a little bit,”11 Cheever told her subjects, moving their phones out of reach but still within hearing distance. Cheever then sent text messages and called their phones, and as they started to go off, Cheever used her equipment to measure their stress levels. Most people experienced an emotional response that floods their body with stress hormones when they hear their phone go off “His physiological arousal spikes quite a bit right after he hears the text come in”11 this indicates young people are anxious, causing anxiety when they are unable to reach and view their phones and the only way to relieve their anxiety is to look at their phones meaning they are stuck In a “positive feedback loop”11 which in the long run causes young people anxiety and depression through self-isolation and phone addiction causing a lower quality of life, with them being unable to escape their phones meaning they are unable to do other productive tasks to a high standard.
Ultimately, phones have the potential to cause and increase anxiety and depression. It’s how young people use them and how they are guided online that determines what impact it has on their lives. There are many advantages to this digital age and phone use, but allowing young people unlimited access to the sometimes toxic environment of social media and other entertainment on phones seems to be harming them psychologically. We can’t police the internet and sadly many hateful people will use the internet to say many hateful things. There is no escape from phones it’s in everyday life, but there is things that can be done to reduce harm, parents should spend less time arguing with their children about how much time they spend on their phones and spend more time guiding and discussing what they are viewing and what content they should be using, because it’s almost impossible to avoid this technology in modern life.
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 Griffin, A., 2017. Smartphone Addiction Causes An Imbalance In The Brain That Makes People Tired And Anxious, Study Finds. [online] The Independent. Available at: <https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/smartphone-internet-addiction-phone-imbalance-brain-anxiety-tiredness-study-research-a8084146.html> [Accessed 8 March 2020].
 Rosenfield, J., 2017. Is Your Mobile Phone Use Bad For Your Mental Health?. [online] Mentalfloss.com. Available at: <https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/501676/your-mobile-phone-use-bad-your-mental-health> [Accessed 8 March 2020].
 Smith, M., 2019. Smartphone Addiction. [online] HelpGuide.org. Available at: <https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/smartphone-addiction.htm> [Accessed 26 April 2020].
 Guitton, M., 2014. Artificial vs. enhanced intelligence: Computer or human behavior?. Computers in Human Behavior
 Odgers, C., 2018. Are Smartphones Bad For Teen Mental Health?. [online] GreaterGood. Available at: <https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/are_smartphones_ bad_for_teen_mental_health> [Accessed 6 March 2020].
 Hurley, K., 2019. Social Media And Teens: How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?. [online] Psycom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986. Available at: <https://www.psycom.net/social-media-teen-mental-health> [Accessed 6 March 2020].
 Walton, A., 2017. Phone Addiction Is Real — And So Are Its Mental Health Risks. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/12/11/phone-addiction-is-real-and-so-are-its-mental-health-risks/#58eac6f813df> [Accessed 6 March 2020].
 Panova, T. and Lleras, A., 2016. Avoidance Or Boredom: Negative Mental Health Outcomes Associated With Use Of Information And Communication Technologies Depend On Users’ Motivations. [online] Illinois Experts. Available at: <https://experts.illinois.edu/en/publications/avoidance-or-boredom-negative-mental-health-outcomes-associated-w> [Accessed 6 March 2020].
 Labos, C., 2019. Cell Phones, Teens And Mental Health. [online] mcGill. Available at: <https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health-technology/cell-phones-teens-and-mental-health> [Accessed 8 March 2020].
 LinLin, W., 2018. Are Our Smart Phones Affecting Our Mental Health?. World Health Organisation [online] Who.int Available at: <https://www.who.int/china/news/detail/28-03-2018-are-our-smart-phones-affecting-our-mental-health-> [Accessed 8 March 2020].
 Cheaver, N., 2017. Excessive Cellphone Use May Cause Anxiety, Experts Warn. [online] ABC News. Available at: <https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/excessive-cellphone-anxiety-experts-warn/story?id=48842476> [Accessed 8 March 2020].