Teenagers may be facing a lifelong struggle with addiction because of their perpetual use of modern technology, with parents ironically helping to sustain the habit.
Up to 83 per cent of UK teenagers would struggle to give up vices such as texting, using social media and drinking alcohol for one month, according to a report by Allen Carr Addiction Clinics.
The study questioned 1,000 UK teenagers aged between 12 and 18. It highlighted a trend of thrill-seeking in a growing number of young people, mostly carried out through technology and social media.
Asked which behaviours they could abstain from, young people said they would most struggle to live without texting (66 per cent) followed by social networking (58 per cent), junk food (28 per cent) and drinking alcohol (6 per cent).
The average teenager checks social media 11 times a days and sends 17 text messages, equating to one for every 1.5 hours they are awake, the report said. Teenagers also take an average of 7.4 selfies a month, approximately one every four days.
The report suggests that several elements involved in this habit – the constant pursuit of stimulation, peer approval, instant gratification and elements of narcissism – are all potential indicators of addictive behaviour.
However it seems parents are inadvertently becoming "co-dependents" enabling their child's addictions by funding them, despite not necessarily knowing where the money is being spent.
Teenagers spend an average of £15.81 a week on vices such as alcohol, junk food, gambling and technology, totalling approximately £62 each month. Almost half of this weekly outlay (£6.64) goes on texting, mobile phones and data. Junk food spending and alcohol ranked as the second and third most expensive habits respectively.
To fund this spending, 14 per cent of teens said they lied to their families to get money, while 7 per cent said they had stolen from a relative at one point to finance their habits. The report suggested this was a particular problem in London, with 29 per cent of the capital's teenagers having either lied to or stolen from their parents in order to fund their vices.
The constant search for the next big thing is highlighted in how teenagers use apps. The average teen has 13 apps on their device and a quarter have more than 20 on their smartphones. Yet 46 per cent admitted they stopped using or deleted an app after less than a week.
The report also said that the constant evolution of technology and the new advances anticipated in 2015 and beyond runs alongside established potentially addictive activities such as alcohol-use and eating junk food. It suggested this creates an environment where young people experience the compulsion to consume and engage more than they can legitimately fund, leading to desperate, often risky behaviour – a hallmark of addiction.
Despite this danger, the report suggested 72 per cent of youngsters remain oblivious to the risk of addiction to social media, apps, games, and other technology. John Dicey, global managing director and senior therapist at Allen Carr Addiction Clinics, said: "These habits – the social media and technology – are getting young people to display the hallmarks of addictions at a young age. They can't legitimately afford it. We're talking about addictive behaviours: if you're capable of addictive behaviours at 12, our argument is you're more likely to develop further problems with addiction. That behaviour has been normalised for you and when you are older you are earning your own money so you're more likely to fritter it away.
"Unless we educate our young people as to the dangers of constant stimulation and consumption, we are sleepwalking towards an epidemic of adulthood addiction in the future."