TEENS are becoming so addicted to texting and surfing the net that they behave like recovering drug addicts when forced to switch their gadgets off, research has found.
Researchers have discovered that the ‘Net Generation’ of teenagers and young adults are so hooked on their mobiles and computers that they display withdrawal symptoms similar to those seen in drug users trying to go “cold turkey”.
A leading Irish parents’ organisation last night said the findings prove how over-reliant many youngsters have become on modern technology.
For the study, an international team of researchers asked volunteers to stay away from all emails, text messages, Facebook and Twitter updates for 24 hours. They found that the participants began to develop symptoms typically seen in smokers attempting to give up.
Some of the subjects taking part said they felt like they were undergoing “cold turkey” to break a hard drug habit, while others said it felt like going on a diet. The condition is being described as Information Deprivation Disorder.
In the experiment, called Unplugged, volunteers at 12 universities around the world spent 24 hours without access to computers, mobiles, iPods, TV, radio and even newspapers. However, they were allowed to use landline phones or read books.
The study, led by the University of Maryland’s International Centre for Media and the Public Agenda, encouraged participants to keep diaries about their experiences. Entries in the diaries showed that many recorded feeling fidgety, anxious or isolated.
Last night the National Parents’ Council (post primary) director Catherine Riordan said she was sure the average teenager would struggle if forced to live without their technology.
And she said that she recognised the symptoms displayed by participants in real-life situations when parents had tried to limit the time their kids spent online.
“I have had many conversations with friends and fellow parents comparing modern childhood with what we old fogeys experienced with our two-channel TV and no internet or mobile phones.
“We had to entertain ourselves rather than constantly rely on someone or something else to do it for us. I wonder how the average teenager today would feel if suddenly transported back 20 or 30 years. I think they would find it quite a challenge.
“Some of my friends who have tried to limit the amount of time their kids spend online or playing video games have found that they can become quite aggressive and moody. For some social network enthusiasts, it is as though being unable to communicate online brings a sense of panic and anxiety.”
However, Ms Riordan said online addiction is not limited to teenagers.
She said: “Whole families can be at home together, each in separate rooms on separate devices and barely interact with each other. I know of mothers who find that the best way to get a response from their kids is to send a text or Facebook message.”
Last November another disturbing US study found that teens who spend the most texts and spend longer online are most likely to have sex, take drugs and even take their own lives.
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