Teenagers report overwhelming cravings when deprived of their laptops and cell phones.
Researchers found 79 per cent of students subjected to a complete media blackout for just one day reported adverse reactions ranging from distress to confusion and isolation.
Teenagers spoke of overwhelming cravings while others reported symptoms such as ‘itcing’ which is a familiar sensation for drug addicts fighting to break an addiction.
Some even reported bulimia like symptoms where they would deprive themselves of their phones or laptops so they could binge for hours at a time later.
The study, focused on students aged between 17 and 23 in ten countries. Researchers banned them from using phones, social networking sites, the internet and TV for 24 hours.
They were allowed to use landline phones or read books and were asked to keep a diary.
One in five reported feelings of withdrawal like an addiction while 11 per cent said they were confused or felt like a failure. Nearly one in five (19 per cent) reported feelings of distress and 11 per cent felt isolated. Just 21 per cent said they could feel the benefits of being unplugged.
Some students even reported stress from simply not being able to touch their phone.
One participant reported: “I am an addict. I don’t need alcohol, cocaine or any other derailing form of social depravity.
“Media is my drug; without it I was lost.’
Another wrote: ‘I literally didn’t know what to do with myself. Going down to the kitchen to pointlessly look in the cupboards became regular routine, as did getting a drink.”
Susan Moeller. lead researcher of the University of Maryland study, said: ‘Technology provides the social network for young people today and they have spent their entire lives being “plugged in”.
“Some said they wanted to go without technology for a while but they could not as they could be ostracised by their friends.’ Claiming that technology ‘absolutely’ changed relationships.”
Professor Moeller added: “When the students did not have their mobile phones and other gadgets they reported they did get into more in-depth conversations.”