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Phone Addiction & Teens

Phone Addiction & Teens

I recently had a talk with a mom who is struggling with their 13year old. Lots of swearing, anger and exasperation being expressed in how “unfair and fu&$ing annoying you are Mom”. 

Sound familiar?

As a former high school teacher and a coach who has worked with tweens & teens for decades, one piece of advice/warning I give parents of this age group is—watch out! My experience has shown me that around February of their grade 8 year through until the end of grade 9, is what I will refer to as the DANGER ZONE. Locally, our high schools are grades 8-12. This time frame may be slightly different for you.

Here, in grade 8, you see children coming into high school, all nervous and wanting to please their teachers and their parents. But, about half way through, hormones kick in and social dynamics are TOP of their list. Their friends and their place in the social groups at school become their top priority. Often, NOTHING else matters!

Think back to your junior/high school years. When did you first spend all day thinking about the boy/girl you liked? Remember passing notes? Remember being consumed with thoughts about your friends and who/where you would hang out with/at lunch? Remember when you first found out someone you knew had ‘done it’? For me it was a friend in grade 8. What about your first experience with drugs? For me it was grade 8 homeroom and watching a boy next to me roll a chunk of hash. What about alcohol? For me it was seeing kids come back from lunch, drunk for last period, giggling and snickering to each other. ALL IN GRADE 8! It was a whole new world! 

Now let’s fast forward to the high school of our children. Did you know that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone? So now in addition to all the things we had to deal with as teenagers, add this INSTANT ACCESS piece to the mix! Now our teens have a way to stay in touch with their friends, and their friends in touch with them, 24hours a day! And so a new challenge faces our kids, and has enormous impact on their emotional wellbeing and us as their parents. 

So here are the facts from a 2016 study. 

  • 50% of teens “feel addicted” to their phones

  • 72% of them feel a need to immediately respond to texts, snap and Instagram messages and other notification at least HOURLY

  • 45% of teens said they use the Internet “almost constantly”

  • 44% said they go online several times a day

  • 50% of teenage girls are “near-constant” online users

  • 39% of teenage boys are “near-constant” online users 

We as parents hear that we must teach our teens the importance of balance. To do so, we must understand how our teens are actually using their phones and for what purposes. 

Cell phone addiction/behavioural disorder is a real thing! Signs your child has an issue that needs to be addressed are:

  • Knowing that texting/using their phone and driving is dangerous/illegal and feeling compelled to do it anyway.

  • Using their phone even when it causes conflict/fights with their family.

  • Not participating in family events to be on their phone.

  • An often impulsive, frequent, constant checking of phone, even in short bursts, every few minutes. 

  • Insomnia or not being able to sleep/stay asleep due to frequent checking of their phone. 

  • An excessive need to feel “connected”. 

  • Using their phone to counteract their sad mood.

  • A need to respond immediately to messages and alerts. 

  • They have Increased anxiety and/or irritability if their phone is not nearby. 

  • They continue to be excessive in its use, despite any of these negative effects

So how can you tell if they are just using it a bit more than normal or if it is daily, excessive use that is problematic? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my teen become angry, irritable, anxious, or even violent when the phone is taken away or unable to be used?

  • Does my teen skip or avoid social events or extracurricular activities to use the smartphone instead?

  • Is my teen’s personal care (hygiene), friendships, family relationships, or school work negatively affected by smartphone use?

  • Does smartphone use interfere with my teen’s normal sleep routine?

  • Are there any major changes in my teen’s eating habits that can’t otherwise be explained?

  • Are there any major changes in mood that can’t otherwise be explained? 

So now what? If it is clear that your teen has a problem, you CAN work towards fixing it.

Tomorrow I’ll share FIVE IDEAS you can use to help address this problem in your family!

Teens and Their Phones - Part 2

Teens and Their Phones - Part 2

Parenting The Strong Willed Child - Part 2

Parenting The Strong Willed Child - Part 2