The CEO of Manchester-based marketing agency Social Chain says that smartphones are as addictive as drugs.

However Steven Bartlett, whose company runs more than 400 social media accounts across multiple platforms, does not think we should fight against their influence.

“I 100 per cent believe that the smartphone has similar addictive qualities to drugs,” he told the audience during Slater Heelis' latest ‘In Conversation With’ series at HOME in Manchester.

Picking up his phone, he said: “Thinking about that from a biological perspective, you do get a chemical release – serotonin – from this little thing here. 

“People get chemical reinforcement from watching content on it which makes them laugh or cry, calling the person they love or tweeting the person they fancy.

“When they don’t have their phone, and they’re not online, they can get anxious.”

Bartlett, addressing a question from the audience from a dad whose eight-year-old has a phone, continued: “People had the same conversations in the past about whether we should let kids watch so much TV.

“It’s important to know that anything done in extreme excess is bad for you.

“People might not like the impact the phone is having on their eight-year-old child because they’re a little too much into it and not talking as much in real life, but unfortunately this is an inevitability.

“Technology as a communication medium is the future, whether we like it or not, and fighting it will never be the answer – parents must embrace it [because] those who do so will undoubtedly own the future.”

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The breakfast event was hosted by BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire and heard how Bartlett, now 24, was disinterested with schoolwork during his childhood in Plymouth and sat through just one university lecture before walking out.

His latest and biggest business venture Social Chain was founded with Dom McGregor in 2013. They realised the potential of connecting with – and influencing – millennials and younger generations through social media.

It now employs around 100 “social media addicts” in Manchester, New York and Berlin, and grew its revenue 600 per cent last year to almost $7 million.

“Our entire company is filled with these kids who are addicted to social media,” Bartlett said. “They now have amazing jobs. Because they understood it, and embraced it, their lives have changed.

“There was once an 18-year-old kid who was addicted to Twitter – he’s now the creative director of our US team.

“Although his parents had no idea what he was doing on that smartphone, he was building tremendous value, almost without knowing it.

“There are huge opportunities created by smartphones: 85 per cent of the jobs in the future for the Generation Z coming through now won’t have existed for the previous generation.”

The Social Chain has run campaigns for global brands such as Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, MTV, Spotify, Microsoft, the UFC and Huawei.