Withdrawal symptoms experienced by young people deprived of gadgets and technology is compared to those felt by drug addicts or smokers going “cold turkey”, a study has concluded.
Researchers found nearly four in five students had significant mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation when forced to unplug from technology for an entire day.
They found college students at campuses across the globe admitted being “addicted” to modern technology such as mobile phones, laptops and television as well as social networking such as Facebook and Twitter.
A “clear majority" of almost 1,000 university students, interviewed at 12 campuses in 10 countries, including Britain, America and China, were unable to voluntarily avoid their gadgets for one full day, they concluded.
The University of Maryland research described students’ thoughts in vivid detail, in which they admit to cravings, anxiety attacks and depression when forced to abstain from using media.
One unnamed American college student told of their overwhelming cravings, which they confessed was similar to “itching like a crackhead (crack cocaine addict)”.
The study concluded that “most students... failed to go the full 24 hours without media”.
The research, titled The World Unplugged, also found students used “virtually the same words to describe their reactions”. These included emotions such as fretful, confused, anxious, irritable, insecure, nervous, restless, crazy, addicted, panicked, jealous, angry, lonely, dependent, depressed, jittery and paranoid.
Prof Susan Moeller, who led the research, said technology had changed the students’ relationships.
"Students talked about how scary it was, how addicted they were,” she said.
"They expected the frustration. But they didn't expect to have the psychological effects, to be lonely, to be panicked, the anxiety, literally heart palpitations.
“Technology provides the social network for young people today and they have spent their entire lives being ‘plugged in’."