How Parents Can Deal With Their Teenage Kids’ Addiction To Smartphones And Internet
According to Common Sense Media, teenage kids these days spend an average of six and a half hours every day busy with their mobile devices. Furthermore, teens apparently spend nearly nine hours daily devouring all types of media (internet, movies, music, and video games), and that does not account for media consumption related to school or for homework.
There is more unpleasant news for parents with teenage kids -- according to Kristin Wilson, the national director of Newport Academy, teenagers are not likely to reduce their time spent on smartphones or the Internet any time soon. For those not familiar with Newport Academy, it actually treats teenages for depresson, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health problems. Wilson further points out that about two out of ten teenagers that are getting treated at Newport Academy have issues related to addiction to tech.
Why are people so drawn to mobile devices? Well, it has something to do with a chemical called dopamine. When people are engaged with their smartphones, their brain produces dopamine, which basically causes us to satisfy our food cravings, our sexual desires, and even pursue drugs. Often, this kind of behavior leads to addiction, and teenagers are vulnerable because their brains are wired to produce lots of dopamine whenever they are stimulated.
And this can have consequences. A couple of years ago, Common Sense Media asked around 2,600 American kids (from 8 years old to 18 years old) regarding their Internet activities. About 50 percent of those who participated in the survey claimed they are also busy with social media while doing homework; 60 percent were busy text messaging, and 76 percent were busy listening to music. Most of them claimed that doing all that media related stuff does not affect their homework. But according to dozens of recent polls and surveys, the constant switching between mobile devices can take a toll on a kid’s attention span, comprehension skills, retention, and even productivity.
So what’s a concerned parent to do? Is completely switching off their teenager kid’s mobile device the right thing to do? Not necessarily. Remember that teens are wired to absorb lots of things, and if you cut of their supply for acquiring new experiences, they can get moody. And because they have high dopamine levels already, they might just explode. Also, studies have shown that those frequently denied online time are most likely to be cyberbullies.
But many agree that giving teenagers total freedom is not the answer either.
Many experts agree that the trick is in balancing things. And it goes without saying that this is easier said than done. And every teenager’s habits are not the same -- what works for one may not work for the other. Still, a parent who tries to balance stuff will certainly get some results. According to experts, it may be a good idea also to set zero device times and zones. For example, the family can agree not to be engaged in any device or Internet activity while at the dining table during dinner time. For sure, it will mostly be trial and error af first, but once parents can develop a rhythm, their teen kids should be able to attune to that rhythm. Not too much and not too little -- that is the key.