Technology and cell phone addiction is on the rise, as well as the negative impact such use can have on teens’ attentionmemorymulti-tasking, anxietydepression and an inability to communicate face to face compounded by the excessive use of texting.

The more time you spend on your phone, the more your brain struggles to recall information, indicates research from Columbia University. If you know your phone or computer can find a friend’s birthdate or an actor’s name for you, your brain’s ability to remember those bits of info seems to suffer, the study authors say. In addition to memory recall, the kind of light that the phone emits is shown to disrupt the brain’s sleep rhythms according to a study at Southern Methodist University.

When children and teens practice voluntary attention in their use of technology, they are building the neural pathways for attention and focus. When they allow digital devices to “snatch” their attention, they are building the neural pathways for involuntary attention. Voluntary attention is intentional, requires effort, is hard to sustain, and builds the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. The center of memory, focus and comprehension, among other strengths needed for success. Involuntary attention is effortless, is hard to stop, and builds the sensory cortex of the brain creating more reactivity, among other qualities that inhibit focus. Helping teens understand that the mindless use of technology stimulates their sympathetic nervous system, whereas mindfulness and meditation stimulate their parasympathetic nervous system.

Multiple brain scans have shown atrophy (shrinkage) in gray matter areas where processing occurs in excessive screen time. The scans also showed compromised water matter integrity, impaired cognitive functioning, reduced cortical thickness, and impaired dopamine function.