Reduce Smartphone Addiction and Improve Stress Coping in Adolescents with Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“over a third of us check our phones in the middle of the night. And a further third check our phones within five minutes of waking up. The same survey also revealed that about a third of us have argued with our partners about using their phones too much.” – Neil Tranter
Over the last few decades, the internet has gone from a rare curiosity to the dominant mode of electronic communications. In fact, it has become a dominant force in daily life, occupying large amounts of time and attention. The dominant mode of accessing the internet is through smartphones creating smartphone addictions. Individuals with smartphone addiction develop greater levels of “tolerance” and experience “withdrawal” and distress when deprived. This phenomenon is so new that there is little understanding of its nature, causes, and consequences and how to treat it.
Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges and stresses. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and stressed and unable to cope with all that is required.
Mindfulness training has been shown to be helpful with addictions, decreasing cravings, impulsiveness, and psychological and physiological responses to stress, and increasing emotion regulation. Mindfulness has also been shown to be effective for the treatment of a variety of addictions. Meditation, a core mindfulness training technique, has been shown to be effective in treating addictions. Hence, there is a need to further explore the ability of meditation training to treat smartphone addiction in adolescents.
In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Mind Subtraction Meditation Intervention on Smartphone Addiction and the Psychological Wellbeing among Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246924/), Choi and colleagues recruited High School sophomores at two different schools and provided one group with school based meditation training for 20 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks while the second group received no treatment. They were measured before and after training and 4 weeks later for smartphone addiction, self-control, perceived stress, and stress coping skills.
They found that after treatment the meditation but not the control group had a significant reduction in perceived stress and smartphone addiction, including decreases in daily life disturbance, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms. They also found significant increases in self-control and stress coping strategies including problem focusing coping and social support navigation coping. They also found that theses effects were still present and significant 4 weeks after the end of training.
These are interesting results that would have been stronger is an active control condition such as exercise was used. Nevertheless, the results suggest that school-based meditation practice can reduce stress, improve stress coping and self-control and decrease addiction to smartphones in adolescents. This should help these young people to better deal with their school stress and be better able to perform academically and socially.
So, reduce smartphone addiction and improve stress coping in adolescents with meditation.
“These devices and capabilities do bring incredible benefits and possibilities for sharing information and creating global interaction than ever before. We simply (and yet with great difficulty) need to learn to hold our technology more lightly—with more awareness.” – Mitch Abblett
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Choi, E. H., Chun, M. Y., Lee, I., Yoo, Y. G., & Kim, M. J. (2020). The Effect of Mind Subtraction Meditation Intervention on Smartphone Addiction and the Psychological Wellbeing among Adolescents. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(9), 3263. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17093263
As the smartphone has become an indispensable device in modern lives, consequential psychosocial problems such as smartphone addiction have been getting attention worldwide, especially regarding adolescents. Based on its positive effect on young individuals’ mental health, mind subtraction meditation has been widely applied to many school-based programs in South Korea. This study aims to identify the effects of a school program based on mind subtraction on the smartphone addiction of adolescents. A total of 49 high school sophomores, 24 from the experimental group (mean age = 16), and 25 from the control group (mean age = 16) are included in this case-control study. The experimental group is given the meditation program sessions in the morning, two times a week for 20 min per session, for a total of 12 weeks. The experimental group shows improvements regarding the ‘smartphone addiction’ section (p < 0.001), for instant satisfaction (p < 0.001) and long-term satisfaction (p < 0.001). Concerning the ‘self-control’ section and decreasing stress (p < 0.001), problem focusing (p < 0.001), and social support navigation (p = 0.018), there are improvements in these ‘stress coping strategies’ sections. This study directly shows the positive effect of mind subtraction meditation on smartphone addiction in adolescents and, thus, provides guidance to the future development of smartphone addiction prevention programs for young individuals.