Updated: Sep 5, 2021
We have been in and out of lockdowns around the world for over eighteen months. Many of our teens have taken well to online learning. Yes, they miss their friends, but the time saved getting themselves to and from school is a positive and they can still meet and maintain their relationships using their trusty tech. Is there a downside to your teen’s increasingly tech filled world though? A downside, that if it was looked at now could save them a bundle of future pain?
How about Internet Addiction Disorder or IDA? Where your teen just can’t get enough of their technology.
Whether your teen's tech behaviour is classified as IDA all depends on them as an individual and their response to stimuli. They may show signs of addiction that their friends or siblings don’t, even though they spend the same number of hours online.
So how can IDA present itself?
Your teen may be overly preoccupied with social media or internet games. Their time management skills can begin to slip along with their academic grades. They are no longer that A grade student or rarely spend time with the family without a phone in hand. Hours slip by and you find that they are still online. Maybe they get anxious, depressed, frustrated or blow up when you ask them to put their tech down and do something else. In that moment they find your request unreasonable and unfair, even ridiculous. You may be getting into arguments with your teen over it. They may complain that there is nothing else to do apart from internet stuff.
For a quick assessment of your teen’s tech habits. Take note of, or ask them:
How often they check their phone per hour.
If their phone is constantly attached to them.
How many times they check their social media during the day.
How many hours they spend online each day.
Now, objectively ask yourself if your teen’s use of tech is balanced? Or could be classed as IAD?
Once IAD begins to take hold it’s not the easiest thing to stop. In no small part because our tech plays into our pleasure-reward cycle. For example, we receive a like or a positive comment and it affirms us. Makes us feel fantastic and we crave more, and more. Even criticism can trigger a need to check back. Being away from our tech can lead to increasing restlessness, anxiety and depression. Returning to it provides a sense of relief. So, we become progressively hooked and unable to free ourselves from our tech habit. We can develop less time for friends, a shorter attention span or resist going outdoors which feed back into the addictive loop.
The good news is that knowledge is power, and although tricky, it is possible for your teen to put IAD behind them or ward off its development?
A few simple ways your teen can start to take back control:
Turn off notifications to stop them glancing at their phone so frequently.
Keep their devices out of the bedroom at night to cut into the cycle of addiction.
Limit the amount of personal information they divulge online to reduce them being profiled and advertised to.
Install an App that lets them know when a self-allotted tech time is up and it’s time to move on to something else. Some find a way of locking the phone at this point.
Spend more time outdoors in nature to balance the mind and body.
Seek out hobbies that don’t involve the internet such as surfing, camping, baking, playing music.
Remember when breaking an addiction, unwanted emotions can surface. Warn your teen about this in advance, encourage them to be kind to themselves and seek support if need be.
The best, most healthy and rewarding way for your teen to enjoy their tech is when they are in control of it and it’s not out-smarting them.
To find out more on Teen wellbeing visit the teen section of our website at CH TEEN WELL BEING.
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