While a smartphone, tablet, or computer can be a hugely productive tool, compulsive use of these devices can interfere with work, school, and relationships. When you spend more time on social media or playing games than you do interacting with real people, or you can’t stop yourself from repeatedly checking texts, emails, or apps—even when it has negative consequences in your life—it may be time to reassess your technology use.
Identifying the Symptoms of Cell Phone and Internet Addiction
Using this model, potential symptoms might include the following:
- Knowing the consequence and still working on the same (e.g. texting while driving)
- Excessive use that causes dispute with family; withdrawing from family or shared events in favor of smartphone use
- Negative impact on school, family, social, or emotional functioning
- Continued excessive use despite negative effects
- Constant checking of phone, even in short bursts (feels strong need to check every few minutes)
- Sleep disturbances related to frequent checking
- Excessive urgency or need to be connected
- Increase in use to achieve satisfaction (sad) mood
- Need to respond immediately to messages and alerts
- Increased anxiety and/or irritability if phone is not accessible
How to Help Teens Overcome a Smartphone Addiction
It’s important to motivate teens to take control of their own use of smartphones and create and maintain a healthy balance. This isn’t a one-time conversation. A few things you can do help provide guidance and support include the following:
- Educate: Talk openly about the benefits and potential pitfalls of screen time scolding rarely brings positive results, but asking your teens for input about the pros and cons can spark lively conversations. How does excessive use of phone affect us physically, emotionally, academically, and socially? What can we obtain from using our smartphones responsibly?
- Make a plan:Talk about setting healthy limits and boundaries for the family and what checks and balances you can use to stick to them, like not allowing phone use during dinner. Remember, teens aren’t the only ones prone to overuse. What happens if parents are forcing the family screen time limits?
- Family used as a monitor :Teens look for workarounds when they feel like they’re being watched. Make supervising a family goal so that teens own up to their usage and behavior online. There are several apps available to supervise how and when your teens use their phones. The iPhone now has a “screentime” setting. You can use this to track usage and set healthy limits for specific apps (e.g. xx hours per day for social media) and to close apps at a certain time. Talk with your teens about healthy and practical limits
- Check-in policy: Phones, tablets, and laptops should be removed from the bedroom at night to curb sleep disturbance and insomnia. Create a plan to check devices in at a certain time in the evening and out in the morning.
- Establish screen-free zones:Meals, family outings, and social gatherings are examples of times when frequent checking negatively affects relationships. Set boundaries for screen use in these settings and stick to them.
- Model healthy boundaries:When parents are constantly on their phones, teens learn that this is appropriate behavior. Stick to the limits and boundaries you set.