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The Love-Hate Relationship Between Teens and Their Smartphones

It seems like teenagers would appreciate taking a break from their smartphones, if only they knew how.

A survey of 13- to 18-year-olds conducted for Screen Education, a nonprofit group focused on reducing screen time, found that teens consider more than half of their friends "addicted" to their phones.

The survey uncovered widespread anxiety about phone usage, ranging from feelings of pressure to respond immediately to notifications, to a sense of being overwhelmed by the flow of messages and information they receive.

The survey also found a mixed response when it came to limiting screen time. On the one hand, 65% said they wished they were better able to limit the amount of time they spend on phones. On the other, 69% said they had successfully reduced the amount of time they spend on phones.

Similarly, while 69% said they would like to spend more time socializing face to face rather than online, more than half said that when they do spend time together with friends, there are long stretches where they are on their phones, not talking with each other.

Of course, it's not just teens who are conflicted. A 2017 study from Deloitte, conducted by Ipsos MORI, found that most people check their device approximately 47 times per day. (Among the younger people surveyed, the frequency was almost twice as high—roughly 86 times a day.)

That study, too, found a yearning to reduce screen time. Fully 47% of those polled said they were taking actions to reduce the time they spend with their device, either by keeping it out of sight or by simply turning it off.

Efforts to limit mobile time don't appear to be working terribly well, though. According to our latest estimates, the average US adult will spend about 215 minutes per day with mobile devices. And that time is expected to increase in coming years.