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HealthWatch: Teen Texting Addiction

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Texting has become the preferred mode of communication for teens, but is it really an addiction?
CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reports.

"I think that it's just like a drug. Once you get hooked onto it you cannot go. It's like whenever I open my eyes, the first thing I look at is my phone," said teen Hermine Vardanian.

The average teen sends 3,000 texts a month. "What they like to do is text rather than talk, so if you call them, they go 'Mom, why don't you just text me? Why'd you have to call me?" said mother Cara Steinberg.

Eighty-percent of all kids own a cell phone and the rate of texting has skyrocketed 600-percent in three years.

"It clearly fits the criteria of an addiction," said Dr. Gary Small.

Psychiatrist Dr. Gary Small, author of "iBrain: Surviving The Technological Alteration Of The Modern Mind," said neuroimaging studies have shown teens who text light up the same area of the brain as an addict who uses heroin.

"In a very primitive part of the brain, the dopamine system gets triggered. That's the general reward system in our brain," he said.

What about teens and sleep disorders, because it seems that most teens are sleep deprived? Some of it is because school schedules for teens just don't match up with their normal bio-rhythms.

In fact some education experts say we should move high-school start times later in the morning, but Dr. Gomez visited one sleep clinic that found many teens are sleep-deprived because they're texting when mom and dad think they're sleeping.

So if your teen is always tired, check to see if they're texting under the covers or when you're asleep.

Solution? Take the phone away at night.

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