Technology and Screen Addictions
45% of teenagers are online ‘almost constantly’ and 50% admit to feeling addicted to their devices
Almost half of teenagers in the US are online ‘almost constantly’, a figure that has almost doubled in the last few years. It’s no surprise that technology and screen addictions are a growing concern for parents. The number of teens checking their devices hourly is ever increasing, and more worryingly, over half of all teens with smartphones openly admit to feeling addicted to their devices.
How do teens become addicted to technology?
Recent neurological research may explain why some teens feel a compulsive need to stay connected. In short, seemingly innocent actions, like receiving a text, or a ‘like’ on Facebook, have come to affect reward areas in teenagers brains. Studies show how technologies like smartphones, and in particular the use of social media, can have the same effect on the pleasure systems of the brain in the same way that addictive substances can. Like other ‘rewards’, be it sugar or heroin, technology can cause an over-release of dopamine. This can lead to habit-forming, behavioural disorders.
How much screen time is too much screen time?
Is your teen spending too much time staring at a screen? Here are some warning signs for addiction to look out for:
- Sharing everything on social media, seeking validation from friends or even strangers
- Being unable to enjoy their experiences unless they are documenting it
- Knowing everything about people they don’t know well in real life
- Constantly comparing themselves with people online, resulting in jealousy and unhappiness
- Feeling uncomfortable without access to their cell phone
- Increased feelings of euphoria when accessing their device
- Excessive craving and desire towards technological activities
- Failure at controlling time spent on devices
The consequences of technology and screen addictions
- Family conflicts
Around 35% of both teens and parents say they argue about device use on a daily basis, with parents expressing frustration at distracted and unengaged teens
- Academic performance suffers
Experts say that technology is leading to multitasking that our brains can’t handle, having a direct affect on teen academic performance. A high percentage of teens admit to doing homework while simultaneously watching TV, scrolling through social media and replying to messages
- Impact on social skills
Studies have shown how teens these days not only see their friends less, but also find it harder to have face-to-face interactions and develop social skills like empathy
- Poor mental health
Extreme use of technology can disrupt normal patterns of behaviours and mood, leading to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and loneliness. Teens overusing electronic devices are also more likely to be at risk for suicide
- Poor physical health
Eye strain, blurred vision and chronic neck and back pain are common consequences of spending too long looking at a screen for over extended periods of time
- Sleep deprivation
Young people who spend more than five hours a day on electronic devices are 52% more likely to be sleep deprived, with potential consequences for both physical and mental health
Tips to help cut down technology use
- Make rules Help your teen make rules to reduce the time they spend with their device. Work with them to designate technology free periods of time, and schedule break times where they can access their cell phones
- Tech free zones Allocate technology free zones in the family home. During mealtimes or family movie nights, have a box where everyone is encouraged to leave their cell
- Track activities To help cut down screen time, it can be helpful for your teen to track their cell phone use and review the amounts of time they are spending on specific activities. There are a number of applications available for this
- Seek help If you feel like your teen has an extreme addiction, they may benefit from external help. There are plenty of smartphone addiction therapies available, both on and off line, as well as treatment groups and help addiction centers. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help