Are Young People Addicted To Technology?

Do you think your son or daughter is addicted to technology?

Today, mobile phones and modern life are fused together in a way that as little as twenty years ago would have been unimaginable. Computers are part and parcel of a young person’s world, whether doing school work, chatting to friends, sharing pictures, listening or watching music or films. Young people stay connected 24/7 with social networking sites taking over where television programmes left off. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are Snapchat are an integral part of modern lives. Even infants are getting into the act, with computer games and tablets designed for tots by teams of adults determined to woo children with technology from the outset.

Are young people in danger of replacing the real world for a virtual world?

  • Where friends are those who "like" tweets and posts even though they have never met.
  • Where virtual chat rooms allow the exchange of ideas with others around the globe and "second life" takes over from real life.
Is there going to be an epidemic of "repetitive strain injury" and arthritic thumbs? After all, who wants to go outside when we can see and chat to our friends from the comfort of our bedrooms? We don't even need to get dressed!

When does a habit become an addiction?

My simple rule of thumb would be to say that when it interferes with life and begins to take over, separating the young person from the real world and responsibilities start to be neglected then there is a problem.

From a medical perspective, phone or internet addiction may be every bit as problematic as habitual drinking, gambling or drug addiction. For most, however, bringing the behaviour into a more normal and healthy level may be all that is required. In other words, setting boundaries and modifying behaviour is the goal. There may be an initial rise in anxiety but this is likely to be short lived. Once the hold has been broken there may even be a sense of relief.

How can you help a youngster with a technology addiction?

Start by introducing some rules and negotiating with the young person what they feel able to manage. Perhaps setting specific times when phone or Internet use is out of bounds, such as between 9pm and 7am. Having specific non screen times, such as mealtimes when phones, laptops and tablets are to be switched off or left in another room. Encourage the young person to have technology breaks, perhaps five minutes of down time each hour.

Time tracker apps such as "breakfree" or "moment" can help monitor the amount of time spent online. Similarly blocking apps such as "freedom" or "self control" can allow the young person to shut off certain sites that may be problematic.

Encourage the young person to learn relaxation or mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is particularly effective in helping the young person to develop the skill of learning how to detach from thoughts and obsessions.

Medication is not usually prescribed to overcome this type of problem but underlying mood related problem should not be overlooked. If you suspect the young person might be depressed contact your GP in the first instance.

Other problems such as low self-esteem, lack of confidence or loneliness might benefit from psychological help such as counselling or CBT. Likewise CBT can help with structuring a withdrawal programme. Having the space to talk in private about this problem area can be very beneficial for the young person as they make changes to their behaviour and lifestyle.

Article written by Steve Clifford
Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Previous comments

Tracey Bartlett (website Owner)
"I use technology daily, and can see its positives, but I also know its negatives. I really get angry inside when I see a family at a restaurant who are all tapping away and not looking up long enough to talk to each other. I also don't like the trend of family restaurants introducing ipads and other technology for their young visitors to use. There is a time and a place. It seems such a shame...... I was concerned about my teenage daughter last year and demanded her mobile was left downstairs after 9pm until she was ready for college the next day. Reluctantly she agreed and when the week was up, we both decided to continue and make it a permanent habit, as it worked so well!! I would highly recommend that approach."


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