Associate Professor in child development and learning at the University of the Sunshine Coast Dr Michael Nagel says teenagers are addicted to smartphones.
Associate Professor in child development and learning at the University of the Sunshine Coast Dr Michael Nagel says teenagers are addicted to smartphones.

Parents can ‘rewire’ their teens addicted to phones

YOUNG people are aware of issues associated with excessive smartphone use but they're still reluctant to put them down, says a Coast expert in brain development.

Associate Professor in child development and learning at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Dr Michael Nagel, said smartphones were basically handheld computers that offered immediate access to social media, gaming, adult content and more, presented in an addictive format that equated to "brain-hacking".

"What a lot of people don't understand is that they actually hire experts in addictive behaviours to help create these products for your phone, and that makes it extremely hard to turn away from," he said.

Dr Nagel will speak to parents of Moreton Bay school students on Wednesday from 5.30pm to 8pm at Pine Rivers State High School.

The free event will focus on the effects of excessive smartphone use on young brains, how technology is linked to a rise in mental health issues and how parents can help foster healthy minds in young people.

Dr Nagel said he was going to focus on a pilot study he was involved in last year when he spoke to 1300 young people in Australia and New Zealand.

"It was really interesting how much they were already aware of the negative effects of too much screen time," he said.

"They know it contributes greatly to sleep disruption, anxiety and bad grades in school.

"But the interesting thing is that while the kids knew it was creating problems for them, they were reluctant to take action.

"It was almost to the point that they would be happy if someone told them to put their phones away so they didn't have to make the decision themselves."

Dr Nagel said while evidence did not yet exist about the long-term effects of smartphone use on young brains, there was still no evidence to suggest that devices helped children learn better.

"Parents who want to help restrict screen time need to set boundaries and parameters from a young age.

"If your kids have already grown up with screens, you can find a middle ground, like turning off devices at night," he said.

"But parents need to do it too."

Dr Nagel said it helped to promote activities that took the family away from devices, such as tech-free meal times, social occasions together, and getting outdoors and playing sports.

Tomorrow's event will also feature senior guidance officer from the Department of Education Karen McKinnon-Pane and officer-in-charge of Petrie Child Protection and Investigation Unit Joe Zitney.



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