Our teens live in a world that is full of screens. It can sometimes be difficult to know what is normal for digital addiction, video game addiction, social media addiction, internet addiction and what is not screen addiction?

Signs of Internet Addiction

The Center for Internet Addiction published the following:

Meeting 5 of the criteria of the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) means you are addicted.

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
  8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

Unlike alcohol and drug addiction counseling or custody evaluations, the field of internet addiction is still fairly new.

Teens and Screens What Every Parent Needs to Know

Parents and children fight, this has happened for generations. But these fights have changed over time. CNN reported that the average teen is on a device for 9 hours per day! This can lead to:

  • Failed attempts to control behavior
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Neglecting sleep to stay online
  • Being dishonest with others
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior
  • Weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

Pew Research also found that 68% of teens witness peers “stirring up drama” online and that 94% of parents underestimated the fighting online.

Trends in Digital Addiction

An October 2016 study by Piper Jaffray Group surveyed 140,000 teens and looked at 37 million data points. What they found is really interesting in looking at a shift in our culture:

  • Youtube outpaced cable
  • 58% of homes had Amazon Prime
  • Food and clothing are the only things that teens spend more on than video games
  • 80% of teens use Snapchat monthly

Thus for our kids, that feeling that “Everyone is there” is true. In fact, 61% of teens said they want to go online to see likes and comments from their friends. 36% wanted to see what their friends were doing without them. 21% wanted to make sure that no one was being mean to them online.

What Parents Should Do About Screen Addiction

There are three effective steps that every parent can do.

  1. Get informed about platforms. Understand where your kids are and what they are doing. Read about Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to be able to accurately discuss them. Don’t like and comment on your teen’s activities, it embarrasses them, it’s like giving them a big kiss in front of the school.
  2. Respect social code for teens. Don’t be overly involved with their online activity, but don’t turn a blind eye.
  3. Practice nonjudgemental conversation where you say, “Tell me more about…” Instead of “You should” or “You shouldn’t”

Many parents and teens need a mediator or counselor to help through this process. Tech can be a way to help your child find independence and growth. It can be where they appropriately begin thinking like an adult, but they need you as a guide!

Meet Traverse City Counselor Joe Sanok

digital addiction private practice consultant joe sanok headshot on stairsJoe Sanok is a licensed counselor and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling, a Traverse City counseling practice. He specializes in helping teens and couples to navigate how to find more peace in their home.