Teenage smartphone addiction: causes, consequences and treatment

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Teenage smartphone addiction: causes, consequences and treatment

Jan 24, 2023

Today's teenagers face a lot of social pressure, so they often use their phones to have fun and relieve stress, but other times, teenagers use their phones to keep up to date. However, such a distraction from the outside world leads to strong addiction.

Although there is no universally accepted diagnosis of “smartphone addiction”, parents are asking a logical question – can a teenager’s obsession with a smartphone be considered an addiction? In this article, we will explain what addiction is, how it manifests itself and how to deal with it.

Teen phone addiction statistics

A 2016 Common Sense Media report found that 50% of teens “feel addicted” to mobile devices, and 59% of parents surveyed believe their children have a smartphone addiction.

The survey also found that 72% of teens and 48% of parents found it necessary to immediately respond to messages and other notifications, while 69% of parents and 78% of teens checked their devices at least once an hour.

A 2018 Pew Research report found that 45% of teens use the Internet "almost all the time" and another 44% go online several times a day. Also, girls “sit” in social networks much more than boys (50% vs. 39%)

The most recent data from Pew Research Reports showed:

  • 46% of teenagers use the Internet "almost all the time";
  • 48% of teenagers go online several times a day;
  • 48% of girls are online "almost all the time". Boys - 43%.

Given that teens use their smartphones for a variety of reasons, both personal and educational (often simultaneously), it helps to focus less on counting minutes of use and more on how they use their smartphones.

Parents have heard a lot about the importance of learning to balance, but part of assessing healthy balance is understanding how and what teens use their phones for. YouTube, for example, can be both entertaining and educational.

Symptoms of smartphone addiction

A 2016 report suggests using the DSM-5 guidelines for compulsive gambling and substance abuse to overcome smartphone addiction. Although problematic smartphone use is not defined as an addiction, it can be considered a conduct disorder.

When using this model, potential symptoms may include the following:

  • Conscious use of a smartphone in potentially dangerous situations (for example, while driving);
  • Refusal of family activities in favor of the use of a smartphone;
  • Negative impact on school performance and emotional state;
  • Frequent checking of the phone (there is a need to check the phone every few minutes);
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbance;
  • Using the phone to achieve satisfaction or counteract a sad mood;
  • The need to immediately respond to messages and other notifications;
  • Increased anxiety and irritability when it is impossible to use the phone.

It can be difficult to distinguish between normal daily use and excessive use. Therefore, parents need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Does my child become angry, irritable, restless, or even aggressive when their phone is taken away or not used?
  • Is your teen skipping extracurricular activities to use a smartphone instead?
  • Does smartphone use affect a teenager's privacy and sleep patterns?
  • Are there major changes in a teenager's diet that can't be explained otherwise?
  • Are there mood changes?

How to help your child?

Despite all the negative aspects, using a smartphone can be beneficial for teenagers. They use smartphones to communicate with peers, ask for help with schoolwork, and even use learning apps. Many children use their devices within reasonable limits.

It is important to give teens the ability to control smartphone use. Here are a few things you can do to help your child:

  • Educate: Talk openly about the benefits and dangers of using a smartphone. Ask a few probing questions for your teen to answer for themselves, such as: How does frequent phone use affect them physically, emotionally, or academically? How can you use your smartphone to your advantage?
  • Set boundaries: Discuss restrictions on use, such as not allowing phone use during dinner.
  • Monitor Smartphone Use: Make online monitoring a family goal so that teens acknowledge their online use and behavior. There are apps to track teen activity on the phone, such as the Screen Time feature on the iPhone.
  • Develop a usage plan: Remove all devices from the bedroom at night to prevent sleep disturbance and insomnia.
  • Model the right behavior: When parents themselves are chained to their phones, teens understand that this is normal. Stick to the limits you set yourself.

How to treat smartphone addiction?

If you suspect that your teen is addicted or that smartphone use is affecting their daily activities, seek help.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help a teenager change negative thoughts and behaviors into healthy and positive ones;
  • Individual therapy can help recognize and overcome the feelings and experiences that contribute to problematic smartphone use;
  • Download applications designed to limit consumption;
  • Develop awareness to control your desires;
  • Practice adaptive strategies such as exercise, breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation.

It's a good idea for parents to keep track of their teens' smartphone usage, as mindlessly scrolling and browsing the feed can take hours and affect daily activities. By sticking to restrictions and conversations, families can establish "digital diets" that will help not only the child, but the whole family.

Anurag Deep

Logical by Mind, Creative by Heart