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    HealthHow do you know if you spend too much time in front of the screen? These are the signs that you are addicted...

    How do you know if you spend too much time in front of the screen? These are the signs that you are addicted to your phone

    (CNN) — It is indisputable that many of us spend a large part of our lives in front of screens, especially our phones.

    What is also indisputable is that some of those activities can lead us down a time-sucking, spiraling rabbit hole.

    In fact, 31% of US adults and 46% of US teens say they are online “almost constantly,” according to 2021 and 2022 Pew Research surveys.

    How much screen time is too much? Sometimes it’s hard to know. But sometimes, the answer is much more obvious. Jerome Yankey was a college freshman when he noticed that his use of social media, specifically TikTok, had become problematic.

    “It just started to wear me down physically first, I think, because it was when I was on the phone for hours, not going to sleep, it was taking hours out of my day. I wasn’t really doing much else in my spare time,” she explained.

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    When the cost shifted from the physical to the mental, nullifying her creativity and distorting her sense of worth, she decided she had to quit. And she did it suddenly, not easy.

    Yankey is far from alone. The 2022 Pew Research Survey of American teens found that 67% of them use TikTok, with 16% of them using it “almost constantly.” That number is even higher among the 95% of teens who use YouTube, with 19% using it “almost constantly.”

    I am addicted?

    For now, internet addiction is not an official clinical diagnosis. There are still many questions about whether it qualifies as a mental health disorder on its own or if it should be considered part of another mental health condition. There are also questions about how to define it, measure it, test it, and treat it.

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    However, most experts agree that whether it’s a true “addiction” or something else, too much screen time can have negative effects, especially for children.

    That’s where Dr. Michael Rich comes in. A self-described “mediatrician,” Rich treats young patients with what he calls problematic media use at the Clinic for Interactive Media Disorders (which he co-directs) at Boston Children’s Hospital.

    “The problem arises when your day-to-day functions are affected in some way,” he said. “They are not getting enough sleep. They are overeating. They miss school or fall asleep at school. They’re pulling away from their friends.”

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    He likes to stay away from the addiction model.

    “We as a society use the term addiction as a pejorative. We think of addicts as weak people with weak character…and we approach addiction, frankly, still as something to be punished rather than cured,” he said.

    Rich also doesn’t believe that technology causes his patients’ problems, but rather amplifies them. And he takes a counterintuitive approach to helping his young patients, who are often dealing with other issues, such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or just plain stress. He listens as they learn to disconnect from their devices and as they embrace a healthier relationship with their electronic devices.


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