Teenagers and Technology Addiction
Technology is everywhere and it is not going away. Teenagers stare down at their cellphones, tablets, or computers rather than observing the world around them. It is normal now to see two teenagers seated together texting on their cellphones instead of talking to one another. The fact that teenagers are very dependent on technology makes sense in a world where the technology sector is growing, but it may also lead to negative consequences.
Technology addiction is an uncontrollable urge to use the internet or other electronic devices that it hinders the day-to-day life of an individual. It is a collective term for internet addiction, excessive social media use, video games, cyberporn, online gambling, and excessive use of smartphones and other devices. An over-dependence on technology can significantly impact teenagers’ lives. We need technology to survive in a modern social world, but an addiction to technology can also be socially devastating. Technology addiction can lead to teenagers consequences that span from mild annoyance when away from it to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.
Like other addictions, technology addiction becomes tolerant of the time spent on addictive behaviour and needs to constantly increase the time technology is used.
According to a study by Common Sense Media, teenagers are more connected now than ever. 50 percent of teenagers say that they feel addicted to their cell phones. 78 percent of teenagers say that they check their cell phones at least once an hour and 72 percent of teenagers feel the need to respond to text messages and other notifications immediately.
While the internet addiction is not a formal mental health diagnosis, the need to be connected can be a real struggle for teenagers and adults as well.
The average American kid uses about 9 hours of screen time a day, this includes technology used for entertainment and education. With the increase in technology, there is an increase in anxiety in young people, but it is hard to tell if the two factors are connected.
What Makes Technology Addictive?
Technology fulfills the natural human need for stimulation, interaction, and changes in the environment in an efficient way. Technology impacts the pleasure systems of the brain in ways similar to substances. It provides some reward that alcohol and drugs might – it can be a boredom buster, social lubricant, and an escape from reality.
When teenagers experience stress whether it is romantic rejection or poor grades in school, technology can be a quick and easy way to fill basic needs and becomes addictive.
- Boundaries with Technology for Teenagers:
- Create rules, when possible, before giving a device to a teenager
- Set family limits for daily use
- Keep screens away from meals and out of bedrooms
- Have a family docking station for devices at night
- Parents have to approve all app downloads before they occur
- Restrict video games on weekends
- Encourage physical exercise
- Monitor that teenagers are watching on their devices
Causes of Technology Addiction in Teenagers
A history of mental health disorders can be a reason for any type of addiction including technology addiction, especially for teenagers.
Low self-esteem is a cause for addictions. Teenagers who are shy or have poor self-esteem may find it easy to connect with others on the internet rather than in person.
Lack of support at home or poor family environment can become a reason for technology addiction.
Symptoms of Technology Addiction in Teenagers
An addict becomes tolerant to the addiction. The addict needs to give more and more time to the addictive behaviour to satisfy the urge.
Like all addictions, the addict can experience withdrawal symptoms if he/she is away from the technology of the internet for some time.
The addict is ready to sacrifice personal relationships, careers, and family in favour of the addiction.
The addict uses technology to deal with any type of negative feeling or depressive thoughts.
The addict constantly checks social media, text messages, and other notifications or applications.
Effects of Technology on Teenagers
Technology addiction in teenagers can have effects on the addict as well as their family. Teenagers with technology addiction can suffer from different physical and mental health problems such as:
- Poor eating habits
- Low attention span
- Lack of empathy
- Sleeping problems
- Poor academic performance
- Social phobia
- Increased instances of cyberbullying
- Increased instances of substance abuse
- Growth problems
- Unable to control the urge to use technology
- Feeling happy when using technology
Teenagers who spend a lot of their time on video games and the internet are vulnerable to mental health problems such as loneliness, depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of sadness. Excessive amount of screen time can also cause physical health concerns such as headaches and back pain.
Teenagers who are addicted to technology can also suffer from violent tendencies, aggression, and social isolation.
Teenagers who spend a lot of time playing video games can suffer from social phobia and poor academic performance. Studies show that the internet is a mean to fuel other addictions for teenagers. Teenagers can also get addicted to online gambling or pornography.
Access to information so quickly can also become an addiction and lead to information overload or excessive use of the internet.
How to Prevent Technology Addiction in Teenagers?
Set a strict time limit for technology use at home
Restrict the use of video games, television, and other gadgets
Have the teenagers only use the family computer for all their online needs at home
Supervise the time the teenager spends on the internet
Understand the source of the teenager’s addiction
Talk to the teenager’s teachers at school
Create a positive environment at home
Creating a Healthy Balance
Technology can indeed fulfill many human needs, but its overuse comes with risk. Being addicted to technology is similar to alcohol and drug addiction with many of the same effects on the developing brain.
Technology can be a positive factor is used properly. Adults can play a role in student technology addiction prevention by showing young people the benefits of using in a healthy and balanced way.
Goldstein, Rita Z., and Nora D. Volkow. (2011). "Dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex in addiction: neuroimaging findings and clinical implications: Abstract: Nature Reviews Neuroscience." Nature Publishing Group: science journals, jobs, and information.
Lin, Fuchun, Zhou, Yan, Du, Yasong, Qin, Lindi, Zhao, Zhimin, Xu, Jianrong and Hao Lei. (2012). "Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study." Plus One.