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How Teenagers Have Become Dependent on Their Cell Phones

author image Kristine Tucker
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.
How Teenagers Have Become Dependent on Their Cell Phones
Cell phones are the favorite vehicle for communication for most teens. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Many teenagers have cell phones so they can keep in touch with friends through calls, text messages and social media. Cell phones have made it possible to connect with peers frequently, but it comes with disadvantages. Some teens can't concentrate on other tasks, struggle with face-to-face conversations and experience anxiety when they can't send or receive messages as quickly as they want.

Constant Availability

Many teenagers sleep with their cell phones beside their bed or under their pillows. Teens often conform to peer pressure by ensuring they are available to answer calls and texts at all hours of the day, including times when they should be sleeping, according to psychologist Suzanne Phillips on PBS.org. Teens often are criticized by peers when they don't respond to calls or text messages promptly, so many strive to maintain a high level of peer acceptance by responding to all messages -- even in the middle of the night.

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Immediate Rewards

Cell phone use excites the reward center of the brain, so the brain craves more text messages and calls with repeated and continual use, according to health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, writing at "Total Health Magazine." Teens often have trouble turning off their cell phone to eat dinner, do homework or help with household chores. They feel good when they send and receive text messages and don't want to give up the brain-induced high. Gittleman says that 30 percent of teenagers report feeling depressed when they can't use their cell phone.

Social Lifestyle

Teen socialization is centered on text-messaging and social networking through cell phones and computers. They often spend free time on cell phones, rather than meeting in person to hang out. They no longer use cell phones just to make plans or give directions. Teens spend hours on cell phones texting the latest gossip, discussing pop culture and flirting. Teenagers have become dependent because cell phones provide a lifeline for socialization and communication. Without mobile phones, many teens feel disconnected, left out and isolated.


Text-messaging is directly related to impulsiveness, and impulsiveness is a predictor of technological addiction, according to psychologist Jeremy Spiegel, writing at PsychologyToday.com. Teenagers are addicted to cell phones because they crave checking their phone dozens of times a day for possible messages. They aren't dependent on the actual content of their messages as much as the continual checking, sending and receiving of information. In fact, most teens use abbreviations, such as "lol," "l8tr," and "omg" because they don't want to dwell on one message or one person too long. It's about quick conversations, so deep thought, spelling and well-organized ideas aren't important.

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