What Are the Signs of Screen Addiction?

Throughout the country, we use more cell phones and digital devices on a daily basis now more than ever before. During the COVID-19 pandemic, video chatting programs have helped many people connect with their families and have allowed businesses to continue operating with employees working from home. No matter what we may think about cell phones and other “screens,” they will most likely continue to play a large role in shaping the world in the future. Many of our kids depended upon screens to supplement their schooling since virtual classrooms have been set up all across the nation to keep kids safe from contracting and spreading COVID-19. As parents, we might have some reservations and concerns regarding the widespread use of screens. We might worry that our kids will not only become dependent upon their devices but that they may become addicted to them. 

The Signs of Addiction

Cell phones, video games, and other screens can be addictive. Feedback from social media posts can trigger rushes of good feelings that are fleeting, creating a cycle of endless scrolling and posting. Video games are incredibly entertaining and can trigger similar feelings to their real-world counterparts. We cannot stop the movement and integration of screens in our lives; at what point are the screens “too much” for our kids? 

During the podcast “Screenagers – Screen Addiction and Brain Chemistry,” Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey discusses screen addiction with researchers Tracy Markle and Dr. Brett Kennedy. During the conversation, they outline four signs of unhealthy screen usage:

  1. Being isolated. 
    • They have very few “face-to-face” interactions with friends.
    • They might have little interest in socializing with people outside of using a cell phone or other device.
  2. Having poorer performance in school. 
    • They might have difficulty paying attention during school.
    • Compared to the “highs” of playing a video game, a school setting might seem boring or mundane.
  3. Having a low tolerance for frustration. 
    • Video games, social media, and other aspects of screens provide instant gratification.
    • During a video game, the level of control a child has in manipulating the environment and actions on screen is much higher than in real life.
    • Instant gratification can set our kids up for unrealistic expectations about how quickly they can have their needs met in the real world.
    • Kids may be quick to anger and easily frustrated while navigating the difference in control between screens and real life.
  4. No longer prioritizing self-care. 
    • Addiction is often characterized just as much by what you do as it is by what you do not do.
    • When kids are addicted to screens, they might not be keeping up with daily hygiene or sleeping regularly.
    • Kids addicted to screens want to spend most of their time on their devices and are not interested in anything that takes them away from that time.

The Modern Conundrum of Screens

With the world emerging and further embracing the use of screens in everyday life, how can we help our kids learn healthy ways of handling their devices? We cannot stop the influence of cell phones, social media, and technology; however, we can teach our kids safe and healthy ways to engage with their devices. We need to consider that we might not understand the interactions our children have through video games and social media. A generation gap may exist where we see something as a problem only because we do not understand it. In the same way that our parents’ lives looked much different than ours, we might see our kids’ generation shaping the world in ways we never expected. Here are a few tips for parents:

  • Engage in the activity and connect with your child.
    • If your child spends time playing video games, ask to play along with them.
    • Ask your kids what videos they enjoy watching or what some of the latest social media trends are.
    • Ultimately, become familiar with what they like and understand why they are engaged in these activities.
  • Try setting limits with screen times.
    • Setting limits could be a way of testing whether or not your child is addicted.
    • If they have an adverse reaction or a meltdown when you impose a reasonable time limit on their screens, you might better understand whether or not there is an issue.
    • When setting limits, plan for what the expectations are without the screens. Are you trying to help your child make more time for schoolwork? Do you want your kids to interact at the dinner table without distraction?
  • Set the example.
    • We could become addicted to screens just as easily as our kids!
    • We can set an example by limiting our time on devices within the home.

Screens and cell phones can be highly addictive to the teenage mind. They might experience “rushes” while playing video games or using social media that they do not feel in real life. Kids will be using devices and screens much more as the world shifts further in this direction. We cannot stop technology from advancing and influencing our world. However, we can monitor our children’s usage of screens to develop a healthy relationship with technology. If your child is addicted to screens, they might be easily frustrated, bored with mundane tasks, isolated, and no longer caring for their basic hygiene and health needs. If your child is struggling with screen addiction, they might be dealing with underlying issues. Social media, cell phones, and video games can be a distraction for children suffering on the inside. They might feel very little control over their environment and escape to a world on their screens that is in their control. If your child is struggling, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment is here to help your family’s fire burn brightest. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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