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Social Media Addiction Treatment for Teens

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
Meet The Team >

What is Social Media Addiction?

Social media addiction in teens is a topic that gets plenty of media coverage and sparks a great deal of concern — with good reason. The effects of social media addiction among teenagers are far-reaching, with a reported 76% of teens engaging with social media platforms and a reported 70% of teens and young adults having some form of technology addiction. 

When seeking help for teenagers who are dealing with the effects of social media addiction, it’s important to first know what social media addiction is and what its causes are. Below are a few key social media addiction facts, as well as how to find support for families and teens affected by social media addiction. 

In a nutshell, social media addiction is excessive and compulsive use of social media. There are multiple types of social media addiction, including excessive Instagram or TikTok use, compulsively checking phone notifications, and more. 

Social Media Addiction Statistics

Below are a few key stats on social media addiction for students and their families:

  • 84% of the overall population of social media users are in the 18-29 age range.
  • Over a third of the world’s total population uses social media.
  • The average user spends an hour and 40 minutes on social media each day.
  • About 68% percent of teens report anxiety when they aren’t able to access their mobile phones.
  • There’s a significant correlation between social media use in teens and anxiety and depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Technology Addiction

There are several telltale signs and symptoms of social media addiction in teens. The biggest red flags to watch for are:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in emotion
  • Fewer social interactions in real life

Changes in Behavior

Social media addiction in teens often manifests in the form of dramatic behavioral changes. For example, a teenager addicted to social media might:

  • Avoid spending time with friends and family, whereas they previously were outgoing and socially active
  • Spend more time in their room or another private space
  • Increase their use of digital devices at mealtimes, during conversations, etc.
  • Acting noticeably more distractible, getting sidetracked while talking or performing daily tasks

Any of these behavior changes can be signs of social media addiction in teens. While every teenager gets distracted and may be prone to spending more time in their room, you’ll notice a clear difference in a teen addicted to social media. When social media addiction is a factor, the isolation and distractibility can become extreme.

Changes in Emotion

Emotional changes are another hallmark of social media addiction in teens. These changes can include:

  • Increased anxiety, especially when social media use isn’t an option
  • Signs of depression and increased feelings of inferiority
  • Lack of interest in day-to-day activities 
  • Mood swings and unpredictable emotions

All of these emotional changes are potential indicators that your teen is dealing with social media addiction.

Fewer Social Interactions Outside of Social Media

Teens who are addicted to social media also often neglect their real-life relationships. You may see a teen withdraw from family, friends, and peers to spend time alone online. If your teen is spending the overwhelming majority of their time alone on their devices, it may be a sign that they’re addicted to social media.

Social Media Treatment and Prevention Strategies for Teens

Don’t be discouraged if you’ve spotted the signs of social media addiction in your teenager — there are effective treatment and prevention strategies to turn to.

Below is a rundown of some of the most well-trusted treatment and prevention options for social media addiction in teens.

Set Boundaries on Social Media Use

Setting boundaries for social media use helps you build up a sense of trust and accountability with your teen. You can use apps like Apple’s Screen Time feature, Disney Circle, or Bark to limit the amount of time your teen can spend using certain apps.

Encourage Hobbies and In-Person Activities

Once you’ve set up some boundaries for your teen’s social media use, the next step is to encourage them to pursue their hobbies outside of social media. In-person activities, whether they be independent or in a group, can help your teen rediscover life offline. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Teens

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used treatment for teens dealing with social media addiction. This mental health treatment is designed to help teens identify, address, and change the behaviors that lead to their addiction. CBT is often used alongside dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), another therapeutic technique that focuses on changing mindsets and behaviors.

Visit our site to find out more about Teen CBT and Teen DBT Help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Different Social Media Addiction Therapy Options for Teens?

There are several different social media addiction therapy options for teens, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Wilderness Therapy
  • Group counseling sessions

How Can You Teach Teens to Better Manage Their Social Media Use?

One of the best ways to support your teen’s recovery is to teach them to manage their social media use. Below are a few tips for parents seeking to help their teens:

  • Start with a parental control app. These indispensable resources get you directly involved in your teen’s recovery.
  • Practice what you preach. If you’re modeling addictive behavior to your teen, they’re far less likely to listen to your advice and pursue recovery themselves.
  • Facilitate open discussions with your teen about social media and its effects on your teen’s life. These conversations can promote self-awareness and help your teenager discover and address the root causes of their addiction.

What are Some Effective Alternative Forms of Communication for Teens?

Social media isn’t the only communication option for teens. Others include:

  • Texting
  • Calling
  • Video Calls
  • Face-to-face communication

Is Social Media Addiction Curable?

Social media addiction is curable with the right support and resources. While watching your teen deal with addiction can be disheartening, rest assured that there’s hope. 

Is Social Media Addiction a Real Disorder?

Social media addiction isn’t currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, vol. 5 (also known as the DSM-V). However, the tide is shifting among mental health professionals, with many aiming to have social media addiction included in the next addition of the manual. 

How Can Parents or Caregivers Seek Help

For parents and caregivers, social media addiction in teens is a real struggle. As a parent, you need all the help and support you can get to better equip your teen for an addiction-free life. 

That’s where we come in. The team at Evolve Treatment is here to help you take the right steps to support your teen’s recovery. Contact us today to learn more!

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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