Hooked on Devices? 10 Signs to Watch in Your Teen

Are you concerned your teen is dependent or possibly hooked on technology? Technology addiction research continues to grow as more teens become fixated on their computer, tablets and mobile devices. Some private schools are making a difference through various programs to lower stress, provide inspiring talks, and employ hands-on lessons in the classroom.

As you have probably witnessed, teens can be spotted just about everywhere looking down at their phones these days. Sometimes, they are completely unaware of their surroundings and this is a significant safety issue, especially when walking or driving a car. In addition, whether teens are hanging out with friends, in academic or elective classes at school, or even doing fun extracurricular activities, devices can distract them from enjoying life experiences.

If you’re a parent or guardian, your concerns are quite real. When a habit turns into an addiction or even an over-dependency, it can have a lasting impact on all aspects of life, including: relationships, academic achievement, and social/emotional well-being.

First, it is important to know that you are not alone, and second, it is critical to know how to detect the signs. You need to know whether your teen is facing a possible addiction versus a habit.

From there, you will need to determine whether you might need help from your school, professional help or whether your family can establish some rules and boundaries. If you have exhausted all attempts, there are a number of different approaches to combat the issue that we cover later in the frequently asked questions section in this article.

But first, let’s review a brief checklist to determine whether your teen seems to be displaying any signs of technology addiction.

9 Signs of Addiction to Technology

As a parent or guardian, look for the signs below and open up a discussion with your teenager. The process of getting hooked or overly dependent on devices often begins in childhood. For this reason, it is never too early to begin monitoring technology use.

Check for these signs often:

  1. Does your teen seem depressed, anxious, irritable, or restless when the internet is down or when their devices are removed or unavailable?
  2. Is there a preoccupation with video games, social media, or other digital activities?
  3. Is it difficult for your teen to reduce time on devices or stop using devices when asked to do so?
  4. Are you seeing a growing lack of interest in offline activities your teen may have enjoyed in the past like sports or clubs?
  5. Is your teen not being truthful about the amount of time spent on computer gaming or other online activities?
  6. Is your teen using technology to self-medicate or find relief from certain types of moods?
  7. Is your teen ignoring nutrition, hygiene, fitness and other forms of self-care as a result of technology use?
  8. Is your teen’s academic performance impacted by technology dependence?
  9. Is your teen becoming more distant or isolated from in-person experiences?
  10. Is your teen in any sort of danger, either by connecting to strangers or feeling bullied online?

Frequently Asked Questions about Technology Addiction

Is this an actual disorder? As cited by the Newport Academy, “Addiction to technology is also known as Internet Addiction Disorder, Compulsive Internet Use, Problematic Internet Use, and iDisorder. While it is not recognized as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is becoming increasingly common. Some studies suggest that as many as 38 percent of people in the United States and Europe may suffer from tech dependence.”

Are there gender differences that make boys or girls more susceptible to internet addiction? According to one study by the Lead Recovery Center, “180 students were studied for a New York study on smartphone use. Divided into the six categories listed above, (thoughtful, regular, highly engaged, fanatic, and addict) researchers identified who is more likely to engage with their technology in a harmful way.

  • ‘Addicts’ of technology came in at just 7 percent while 12 percent were ‘fanatics.’ These students experienced difficulty in their lives as a result of their excessive smartphone use including personal problems, problems at work, and problems at school.
  • Across the categories, researchers discovered that women had the highest likelihood to use technology in a fanatic or addicted manner. Many of their reported behaviors classify as criteria for addiction.”

Are boys more susceptible to video game addiction? In previous research conducted by Pew Research, 97% of boys reported using some form of video games. There are a number of blogs and YouTube videos on this subject under these types of searches: “computer dependency,” “tech addiction,” “growing up digital” and “digital madness.”

Is time spent by teens using social media associated with mental health problems? According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), here are some findings. “In this cohort study of 6595 US adolescents, increased time spent using social media per day was prospectively associated with increased odds of reporting high levels of internalizing and comorbid internalizing and externalizing problems, even after adjusting for history of mental health problems. Adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media may be at heightened risk for mental health problems, particularly internalizing problems.”

What technology intervention methods help teens?

Here is a short list of various methods cited by various online resources, including Enlightened Solutions.

  1. Work up a plan for your teen to map how many hours to spend on technology devices. As shown by the research above, avoid use over three hours per day.
  2. Show your teen how to turn off notifications to avoid looking at updates throughout the day.
  3. Be a role model by showing your teen how to choose sites for news and areas of interest.
  4. Help your teen enjoy student life by engaging in interest areas such as: art, music, theater, sports, fitness, and other activities that spark joy.
  5. Seek out a therapist for your teen if you see signs of addiction or dependency on the internet, gaming sites, or social media.
  6. Find a support group in your area for your teen. There are actually groups called “Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous” as well as groups for depression and anxiety. There are also specific
  7. Get your teen outdoors moving, exercising, and spending time in nature.

In short, you now know the signs of technology addiction, and had a chance to read over some common questions about technology dependence and addiction. In addition, we hope the intervention methods cited will help you get started in putting some rules in place. Ideally, it is always best to be proactive and focus on prevention vs. intervention. Your efforts could have a lasting impact on your child’s life. For more data and research on this topic, check out the Pew Research Center or this article by Rutgers University.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us. We are here to help you find resources to help your teen. If you are looking for a private school, we can also be of help.

In particular, our founders are very knowledgeable in areas including: private education, private schools in Houston, microschools, and how to offer a low stress, high outcomes education. We also stay current on neuroscience topics and research-based education methods.

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