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Technology Addiction in Teens: Online and Social Media Reliance

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 Technology Addiction?

Technology addiction is extremely prevalent among teenagers. The technology addiction teens deal with today has only increased in prevalence in the last several years. Around half of teens self-report being addicted to their smartphones, and some studies even show that teens spend around nine hours online per day. With stats like that, it’s easy to see that the answer to the question, “Is technology addictive for teenagers?” is a resounding “Yes.”

Technology addiction in youth is worth knowing about and understanding, whether you’re a parent, a caregiver, or a teenager yourself. If you’re seeking help for teenagers with screen addiction, we have the information you need.

Signs and Symptoms of Technology Addiction

Technology addiction symptoms can include:

  • Loss of self-control with tech 
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Social isolation 
  • Physical pain

Loss of Self-Control with Technological Devices

Are teens too reliant on technology? The technology addiction teens often deal with seems to indicate that the answer is yes. The overreliance on technology that many teens display often indicates loss of self-control with digital devices like phones, tablets, and laptops.

These devices offer instant gratification and entertainment for teens, which can be hard to resist. With infinitely novel content available to teens online, breaking away from screens can feel nearly impossible. As a result, many teenagers feel compelled to look at their phones whenever they feel the slightest twinge of boredom or negative emotion.

Neglecting Responsibilities

The technology addiction teens experience often manifest itself in the form of neglecting important responsibilities. You might notice your teen forgetting about homework or their grades slipping due to compulsive use of tech. Furthermore, if your teen works, they might be more prone to showing up late or forgetting their schedule because of digital distractions. 

Social Isolation from Loved Ones

Compulsive use of technology can quickly shut a teen out from opportunities to connect in the real world. You may notice your teen spending less time with family and friends if technology addiction worsens. One of the most common signs of screen addiction is a lack of interest in real-world relationships in favor of the parasocial “connection” offered by social media and the internet.

Physical Pain like Back Pain or Eye Strain

While often overlooked, screen addiction can often cause or worsen physical symptoms like eye strain or back pain. Sitting and staring at a screen for excessive periods of tim isn’t healthy for a teen’s body or mind, and it can cause posture problems, headaches, insomnia, and more.

How Does Technology Addiction Affect the Brain?

Research suggests that tech addiction can significantly alter a teen’s brain. 

There are several ways that we see the neurological effects of technology addiction on teens:

  • Teens with technology addiction often have shorter attention spans and have trouble focusing on tasks for sustained periods of time. Reading a textbook, writing an essay, or carrying on a conversation without checking phone notifications can feel next to impossible due to the constant pull of technology.
  • Teens with technology addiction often experience increased anxiety and depression. There are several tech-related factors that may contribute to these mental health issues, including use of social media, lack of sunlight and time outdoors, and reduced connection with others in the real world. 
  • Teens with technology addiction often develop coexisting unhealthy behaviors. These bad habits may include healthy eating, rarely exercising, and poor personal hygiene. 

Key Statistics of Technology Addiction

Below are some of the most shocking stats about technology addiction:

  • The average person checks their phone nearly 100 times per day.
  • 12% of teenage boys are addicted to video games.
  • Teens spend an average of 7-9 hours on screens each day.
  • The average gamer plays for at least eight hours per week.
  • The young adult users of Facebook and Instagram have significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression.

Tips for Limiting Teen’s Technology Intake

We offer support for families and teens to help you find the resources you need to conquer technology addiction. Below are some essential tips to follow to limit your teen’s technology intake and promote healthy habits.

Limits on Screen Time

Setting limits on daily screen time is key for fostering a healthy relationship with technology. You can use an app like Apple’s Screen Time, Disney Circle, or Bark to enforce time limits, content restrictions, and mandatory downtimes on your teen’s devices.

Communication with Teens

One of the most important steps in your teen’s screen addiction recovery process is open communication with their parents. As a parent, you can provide invaluable help and support to your teen as they navigate their recovery journey. Try to initiate open conversations with your teens about their tech use and be an active participant in their recovery.

Reward Positive Behavior

Another simple way to help your teen break free from tech addiction is providing incentives for positive off-screen habits. Your teenager has other interests, motivations, and desires other than time on a screen; find out what those key motivators are and use them to help your teen break the habit of compulsive technology use.

Encourage Alternative Hobbies

Finally, it’s crucial that you encourage your teen to nurture their skills, talents, and interests that don’t involve screens. For example, if your teenager is drawn to songwriting and music production, consider offering to pay for guitar lessons or helping them find their first guitar or keyboard.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Consequences of Technology Addiction in Teens?

Technology addiction can have serious consequences for teens. It can lead to increased anxiety, depression, isolation, and insecurity, and can also be a gateway into other addictive behaviors. Ultimately, technology addiction can hinder your teen’s ability to live an empowered, fulfilling life.

How Common Is Screen Addiction in Teens?

As previously mentioned, around half of teens report being addicted to their phones. However, it’s speculated that screen addiction affects far more than 50% of teenagers to varying degrees of severity. 

How Can Parents Keep Their Teens Away From Gaming Addiction?

Mental health therapy is one of the best ways to help teens break the cycle of gaming addiction or general screen addiction. Therapeutic techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are tools that are often used to help teens identify and counter the mindsets and habits that lead to their addiction. 

Working with an experienced counselor, your teen can gain the resources they need to live addiction-free. In addition, Evolve offers different types of aftercare for teens to keep your teenager on the right path after their screen addiction treatment is complete.

Is Virtual Addiction Avoidable for Teens?

The best way to help your teen avoid virtual addiction is to monitor their use of tech from a young age. Taking proactive steps to curb your kids’ technology use can make a major difference in terms of how dependent on technology they are as they grow up.

What Are the Best Solutions for Technology Addiction?

Some of the best solutions for technology addiction are mental health therapy and intentionally disconnecting from social media, video games, and other digital addictions for a prolonged period of time. After a digital reset and therapy, your teen can approach technology with self-control, restraint, and balance.

Final Thoughts on Technology Addiction for Teens

Technology addiction is a serious issue that affects countless teenagers. However, there’s hope for any teen stuck in the grip of tech addiction. If you’re seeking help for a screen-addicted teen, we have the resources you need. Contact us today to find out how we can support your family on the screen addiction recovery journey.

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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