Smartphones: 'Bottomless pits of content' damaging kids, research shows

LSU professor talks about efffects of smartphones on kids

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Smartphones make simple tasks much easier, there's no denying that, but could they be causing some potential problems for your children?

"Smartphones are really altering the way we communicate with each other and relate to the world around us in ways that we really haven't thought about," said  Dr. Lance Porter, Associate Professor at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. "The research shows that it's really altering the way that kids talk to each other and the way they talk to us."

A kid might seem to be calm as they sit silently tapping away on a device, the mental stimulation is causing a real physical impact.

"Some researchers have looked at it similar to attention deficit disorder. One researcher has called it attention deficit trait because every time we check a social media platform we get a hit of dopamine, so it's easy when you think about you're involved in a conversation or situation that maybe is not stimulating you constantly, you might immediately go to the phone to get that hit of dopamine," Dr. Porter explained. "They're seductive devices. They're really made to be addictive. They're made to be bottomless pits of content that we can dive into at any point in the day. It's almost like being tapped on the shoulder constantly."

A poll conducted by Common Sense Media shows that nearly 80 percent of teens said they check their phones hourly and 72 percent feel an immediate need to respond to texts and social networking messages.

The battle for screen time is one many parents feel they are losing. The poll shows that 77 percent of parents feel their children are distracted by devices and they are not paying attention when they are together.

"It's important for us to really start to give our kids boundaries on how they use devices," said Dr. Porter. "That's why I advocate things like phone free rooms in the house, getting rid of the phones at the dinner table, making sure that they don't take phones into their rooms or other screens because they need that break from the constant barrage of media and the constant barrage of someone tapping them on the shoulder."

Promoting family time away from devices is a first step parents can take to help kids unplug and stay connected with the real world. Although the world of technology will not go away completely, it, like all things in life, is best when experienced in moderation.

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