Is your teenager addicted to texting?

LOS ANGELES Many teens estimate they text at least a couple hundred times a day. And they start first thing in the morning.

"It's right by my bed when I go to sleep and it is right by my bed when I wake up," said Sarah Marshall, a texting teen. "It's the first thing that I go to when I wake up."

Studies show the average teenager texts about 3,000 times a month. Eighty percent of teens and pre-teens own a cell phone. And the rate of texting has skyrocketed 600 percent in the last three years. Some admit they feel addicted to texting.

"If someone responds right away, you're like, 'Yah, they responded,'" said Sarah Matzkin, a texting teen. "But if someone responds like two to three hours later you're like, 'What's going on?'"

Doctors say texting and the instant gratification of getting a text back floods the brain's pleasure center with the mood-enchancing brain chemical dopamine.

"Neuro-imaging studies have shown that those kids who are texting have that area of the brain light up the same as an addict using heroin," said brain specialist Dr. Michael Seyffert.

Dr. Seyffert says one out of five say it also interrupts their sleep. Parents describe texting as a necessary evil.

And while this behavior can be addictive, teens like Sarah Marshall are confident they can quit cold turkey.

"Maybe I'd have some withdrawal symptoms, but once I realize that nothing bad is happening then I would be fine without my phone," said Marshall.

Some signs that texting may be getting out of hand include: falling grades and dropping out of extracurricular activities.

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