The research discussed in the featured 60 Minute segment reveals that addiction to smartphones and social media is indeed a reality, triggering the release of dopamine — a neurochemical involved in cravings and desire that promotes impulsive and compulsive behavior.

Indeed, many, both children and adults, exhibit signs of addiction to their electronic devices.

Many even sleep with their smartphones right next to them in bed, or directly under their pillow — a trend that is bound to cause severe harm to both their mental and physical health.

Screen time linked to sleep deprivation

The radiation alone is a significant hazard and is known to disrupt sleep, but the blue light from the screen, plus the beeping and pinging when messages and other notifications come in are bound to interrupt sleep as well.

This does not even factor in the influence of microwave radiation from cellphones influencing melatonin, which regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

When your melatonin production is disrupted, it can have long-term health effects, as shown in a 2013 animal study, which assessed the effects of cellphone radiation on the central nervous system.

Exposure to cellphone radiation for just one hour a day for one month caused rats to experience a period of delay before entering rapid eye movement deep sleep — a phase necessary for restorative sleep.

Another study published in 2015 found that 1.8 GHz frequencies affected rats’ circadian rhythm and decreased their daily production of melatonin. Superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase (which help prevent cellular damage) were also decreased.

Low melatonin is used as a marker for disturbed sleep. It comes as no great surprise then that sleep deprivation among teenagers rose by 57% between 1991 and 2015.

Many do not even get seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, while science reveals they need a minimum of eight and as many as 10 hours to maintain their health.

The research clearly shows that heavy computer and cellphone users are more prone to insomnia. For example, one 2008 study revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.

Smartphone use has dramatically altered social interactions

Smartphones and tablets have also had a tremendous impact on youths’ social interactions, which has significant ramifications for their psychological health.

For example, teens today are far less likely to want to get a driver’s license than previous generations, and a majority of their social life is carried out in the solitude of their bedroom, via their smartphones.

As of 2015, 12th-graders spent less time “hanging out” and socializing with friends than eighth-graders did in 2009. While this makes them physically safer than any previous generation, this kind of isolation does not bode well for mental health and the building of social skills required for work and personal relationships.

In fact, today’s teens are also far less prone to date than previous generations. In 2015, 56% of high school seniors dated, nearly 30% less than boomers and Gen Xers.

Not surprisingly, sexual activity has also declined — down by about 40% since 1991, resulting in a 67% drop in teen pregnancy rates.

Depression and suicide risk rises with increased screen time

Avoiding the drama of those early love experiences has not had a positive effect on emotional health, however.

Data from the annual Monitoring the Future survey reveals the more time teens spend online, the unhappier they are, and those who spend more time than average on in-person relations and activities that do not involve their smartphone are far more likely to report being “happy.”

Results such as these really should come as no surprise. Spending time outdoors has been scientifically shown to dramatically improve people’s moods and significantly reduce symptoms of depression.

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of screen activity is involved. They’re all equally likely to cause psychological distress.

Between 2012 and 2015, depressive symptoms among boys rose by 21%. Among girls, the rise during that same time was a whopping 50% — a truly remarkable increase in just three years’ time.

Rates of teen depression, self-harm and suicide have also dramatically risen.

Emergency room visits for self-harming behavior such as cutting have tripled among girls ages 10 to 14, and data suggest spending three hours or more each day on electronic devices raises a teen’s suicide risk by 35%.

Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for 12- to 14-year-old girls rose threefold — a gender trend that can in part be blamed on a rise in cyberbullying, which is more common among girls. The suicide rate among boys doubled in that same time frame.

The issue is not entirely black-and-white, however.

Recent polling by the Pew Research Center reveals 81% of teens say social media helps them feel more connected to their friends, 69% say it helps them interact with a more diverse group of people and 68% said they feel they have people online to whom they can turn for support during rough times.

On the other hand, 45% admit they feel overwhelmed by the drama on social media and 43% feel pressured to only post content that presents them in a good light.

Still, recent research shows that limiting social media usage has a definitive, and beneficial, impact on mental health.

The study in question recruited 143 undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania who were randomly assigned to either use social media (Facebook, Instagram and/or Snapchat) as usual for three weeks or limit their usage to 30 minutes per day.

According to the researchers:

“The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.”

How electronics trigger anxiety, depression, memory problems

Aside from purely psychological factors, one of the reasons why social media use tends to raise a child’s risk for anxiety and depression has to do with the fact that smartphones emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

Research by professor Martin Pall, Ph.D., reveals EMFs activate voltage-gated calcium channels embedded in your cell membranes. This releases a flood of calcium ions which, through a cascade of effects, result in the creation of hydroxyl free radicals — some of the most destructive free radicals known to man.

In turn, this decimates mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins, ultimately resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction.

Your brain has the highest density of voltage-gated calcium channels in your body, which is why excessive EMF exposure is associated with depression and neurological dysfunction, including dementia.

According to Nicholas Carr, author of the book, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” millennials are experiencing greater problems with forgetfulness than seniors.

This is the “dark side” of neurological plasticity that allows your brain to adapt to changes in your environment. This type of plasticity is one way your brain recovers after a stroke has permanently damaged one area.

Aside from reduced cortical thickness (found in other studies besides the ABCD study), long-term internet use has also been linked to a loss of white matter and impaired cognitive functioning.

It is impossible to ignore that these devices are changing your child’s brain structure, and the experience is also increasing exposure to microwave radiation and large amounts of blue light at night, thereby impacting his or her body’s ability to produce melatonin.

So, if your child or teen is showing signs of anxiety, depression or cognitive problems, please, do what you must to limit their exposure to wireless technology.

Teach them more responsible usage. At the bare minimum, insist on their turning off phones and tablets at night, and not sleeping with their phone beneath their pillow or directly near their head.

Really try to minimize the presence of electronic devices in their bedroom and, to protect everyone in your household and instill the concept of “off times,” shut down your Wi-Fi at night.

As noted in “60 Minutes,” what we’re dealing with is a completely uncontrolled experiment on our children, and while it’s still too early to determine all of the ramifications, preliminary findings strongly suggest precautions are necessary to protect our children’s physical health and mental well-being.

Originally published by Mercola. This article is a reprint. It was originally published on Dec. 27, 2018.