Does Your Child Have a Technology Addiction?

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Many parents find themselves frustrated with pre-teens and teens who just won’t get off their phones or computers. While this may only be a minor annoyance to some, others may notice that their child has developed an unhealthy relationship with technology. How do you know if your teen has a technology addiction, and how should you respond? Read on to learn more.

About Technology Addiction

Often divided into subcategories including “internet addiction” and “video game addiction,” the umbrella of technology addiction covers any problematic relationship with tech products, including phones, computers, and gaming consoles.
Addiction itself is defined as a condition that results when someone ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable, but the continued act becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.
Potentially addictive technologies include:
  • Video games
  • Online multiplayer games (MMORPGs)
  • Social media
  • Smart phones
  • Texting
  • Chat rooms
  • Online message boards
  • The internet
  • Dating sites
  • Pornography sites
  • Online gambling 
Research shows that technology addiction is increasing in prevalence, particularly within the demographic of adolescents and young adults. In the United States, general estimates indicate that between 1.5% and 8.2% of the general population struggles with compulsive use of technologies: an issue that also may predict lower levels of happiness and health, as well as higher levels of depression.
Other studies show that while 14% of participants are normal users of various technologies, 61% mildly overused, and 24% could be considered moderate or serious over-users.

How to Tell If Your Teen is Addicted to Technology

To determine whether your child has developed an unhealthy relationship with technology, experts suggest applying DSM-5 criteria for addiction. These include:
  • Feeling a compulsion to use technology when it is unavailable
  • Becoming agitated or uncomfortable when technology use is limited
  • Continued excessive use despite negative effects on social or school life
  • Loss of interest in other hobbies or activities
  • Frequently checking devices
  • Using devices in a dangerous setting (for example, texting while driving)
  • Neglecting other obligations in favor of spending time on the device
  • Worsened work or school performance
  • Using the internet for non-essential reasons
  • Significant impairment of one’s functional and psychosocial levels due to technology use
  • Using technology as an escape from negative moods or experiences
  • Losing control over usage of devices
  • Using technology for a minimum of 6 hours a day over the course of 3+ months

Can You Treat Technology Addiction?

Yes, there is a path to recovery for technology addiction! However, it may be slightly different than what you would expect. Many people familiar with addiction treatment may remember that the suggested remedy for substance use is complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol. This may create confusion about treatment for behavioral concerns like technology addiction – how is your child expected to completely abstain from the internet or their phone? In short, they aren’t.
Technology addiction treatment involves learning to moderate and control one’s use. This takes place through a series of outpatient meetings and group sessions for teens between the ages of 13 and 17. A child psychologist facilitates, encouraging teens to share about their relationships with tech and how it has affected their lives. Through their involvement in this group, your teen will learn important skills to develop a healthy relationship with technology. In this way, they will begin to align their use with their lives and goals, instead of allowing it to take over.
In addition to pursuing professional treatment, you may employ self-corrective behaviors to encourage your teen to moderate their tech usage. These approaches may include apps that disable certain websites or programs entirely, or after a set amount of time. Teens should also be assessed for disorders that may accompany excessive internet use, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Pine Grove Adolescent Outpatient Services

With proper care, it is possible for your teen to fully recover from technology addiction. If you are in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi area, call 888-574-HOPE to speak with Pine Grove’s credentialed staff about your options today.

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