According to Pew Research Center, 73 percent of teens have or have access to a smartphone, while 15 percent just have a regular phone. That’s over 7 out of every 10 teenagers that you meet. As more cases arise, cell phone addiction in teens is beginning to be taken more seriously. Teens spend a large amount of time on their phones, so it’s hard to discern between regular phone use and cell phone addiction in teens.
A licensed Maryland psychologist and expert in healthy technology use, Ed Spector, was recently interviewed on ABC News. He emphasized why technology addictions call for more attention and seriousness than they’re currently getting.
Technology addictions are a real threat
Behaviors can become addictive, the majority professionals agree with this fact. When a teen cannot control whether they do something or not–like checking their cell phone–it has become compulsive or addictive. When it escalates to this point, the teen will do the behavior, whether it’s harmful or not to themselves and those around them.
“Their brains change in similar ways to real chemical-addicts. If you talk to the parents of my clients, they come in and they say, ‘My kid’s like a junkie.’ They feel like it’s an addiction.” –Ed Spector, Expert in Healthy Technology Use
If your teenager cannot choose whether they use their cell phone, that’s life threatening. Why? Because that includes while they’re driving. Technology addictions have not been fully recognized yet, but as evidence piles up, they probably will be in the near future.
Identifying and helping with cell phone addiction in teens
There are ways to can help your teen limit their excessive cell phone use. One way is to create limits. This can be something like a phone-free time, like locking away your phones after 8PM; or it can be a phone-free zone, like at the dinner table or in the yard. You also have to act as a role model for your child. So if you have a phone-free zone, you have to stay true to it, also. Otherwise, your child probably won’t honor the rules.
Caroline Knorr, a parenting editor for Common Sense Media, also participated in the interview. She provided some signs to look for to identify a cell phone addiction in teens:
- Slipping grades or decreased academic performance
- Highly sensitive
- Strong preoccupation with cell phone
- Extreme anger or agitation if you mention revoking phone “rights”
- Lack of interest in activities usually enjoyed
If your child is grappling with a cell phone addiction in teens, it’s imperative to seek out a professional to help your family through this hard time. It’s better to get treatment than to hope things will fix themselves.