What to Do About Teenage Cell Phone Addiction

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teenage cell phone addiction

Teenage cell phone addiction disrupts family time, social time, and study time.

For a teen, having a cell phone is like being a kid in a candy store. With app stores offering a never-ending array of options, it is easy to see how teens get addicted to their phones. By design, software companies have found ways to draw people into their digital products, including teens.

Social media apps, and there are many, gobble up the most time among teens. Teens are on these social apps for several hours a day. Data show that teens spend about 3 hours a day on social media. An astounding 20% of teens are on these social platforms for more than 5 hours a day. On average, teens are on their phones about 7 hours per day.

Smartphone addiction is very real. When teens use the apps, they will receive a dopamine hit that gets logged in the brain’s reward system. This leads to the teen spending ever more time on their phones, as the behavior gets continually reinforced. Keep reading to learn more about teen cell phone addiction and what can be done to curb the problem.

What is Teenage Cell Phone Addiction?

There is ample research showing how smartphone overuse, especially social media, impacts the brain. In fact, it can cause the same brain chemical responses as a drug. When a teen sees new likes, positive comments, or new followers on their feeds, they receive a burst of dopamine. Similar to a drug’s high, as social app use escalates, the more engagement they crave.

The time spent engaging on social feeds will increase more and more as this reward cycle takes hold. The teen may put off other activities they once enjoyed in exchange for spending more time on their phones. Homework is not completed, which affects the teen’s grades. Sleep is forfeited, which impacts their health in many ways. In person social time is traded off for engaging with strangers on their social media feeds.

All of these adverse effects caused by excess cell phone use can lead to mental health issues. Anxiety can result due to the time wasted on the phone. This causes stress because the teen now lacks time to complete their schoolwork or chores. Too much time online also results in depression, mainly because the teen begins to feel lonely.

What Are Signs of Teen Cell Phone Addiction Symptoms

As with other behavioral addictions, there will be certain signs the teen displays. Signs of a teenage cell phone addiction might include:

  • Teen cannot carry on a live conversation.
  • Teen is always scrolling and clicking around on their phone.
  • Teen is not able to be without their phone, even for a few minutes.
  • Teen shows signs of depression the more they are on their phone.
  • Teen becomes obsessed with selfies and their social feels.
  • Teen is having sleep problems.
  • Teen’s grades drop, due to reduced time for studying or homework.

Parents might want to think about having a digital time out, where all phones are shelved for a day or a weekend. Taking a break from the cell phones will do the whole family a lot of good.

The Impact of Teen Social Media Addiction on Mental Health

During the teen years, the brain is still under construction. The teen brain is more vulnerable to things that could lead to an addiction, like video games and social media. A recent study explains how the reward system in the teenage brain works.

It shows the same type of dopamine release in response to social media likes as one might have to a drug. The study also points out that the teen will show “withdrawal” symptoms, like irritability and anxiety. This happens when they are not allowed to use their cell phone or social media.

But anxiety and depression in themselves can be a result of too much cell phone use. Studies show that teens that spend large amounts of time on social platforms suffer from higher levels of mental health issues. This is due to the time spent on social apps, which can fuel low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and bullying.

Also, excess time on smartphones means a lack of in person contact with friends and family. Face-to-face time is traded off for huge amounts of time chatting online with strangers. These interactions are shallow and do not lead to any real human connection. Over time, this can result in feelings of loneliness and depression.

Parent Guidelines to Reduce Teenager Cell Phone Addiction

Parents can help limit their teen’s cell phone use in several ways. It is likely a waste of time to forbid them to be on their phones, but you can set rules. Remind the teen that having a phone is a privilege, not a right, and that you are paying for it. Of course, guidelines for a 13 year-old will be different from that of a 17 year-old.

Consider these tips for parents:

  • Set limits on time for phone use. Set up screen-free periods during the day, with a place for the phone to be stored during that time.
  • Tell the teen the phone will be shut off if their grades drop.
  • Have your teen shut down their cell phone at a certain time each night.
  • Keep communication open and bring up any concerns if you think they might be bullied on social media.
  • Have clear consequences should the teen break your cell phone rules.
  • Suggest your teen take breaks from their cell phone to enjoy an outdoor activity.
  • Teach the teen about online predators.
  • Limit the types of social media platforms they can use.

Because social media isn’t going anywhere, it is best for parents to take the offense and partner with their teen to help them negotiate the challenges and emotional landmines together. Learning ways to reduce the chances for teenage cell phone addiction can help your teen avoid risks to mental health.

BNI Treatment Centers Helps Teens with Mental Health Disorders

BNI Treatment Centers provides the intensive treatment and support needed for teens with depression or anxiety disorders. Teens who struggle with mental health issues related to smartphone addiction are guided toward making better use of their time. For more details about our program, call BNI today at (888) 522-1504.

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