These days, it’s difficult to escape from the pull of smartphones, tablets and other technology. Devices can be helpful and fun – but they’re always with us, and they’re always on. Kids and teens feel the constant lure to post personal updates, check their “likes,” respond to a constant influx of messages and scroll infinitely through social media apps. What effect can this endless stream of images and information have on young people?
Not surprisingly, being “plugged in” has a dramatic effect on the young mind. Teens, in particular, feel a certain pressure to engage in their social lives all day, every day, which can be overwhelming and can magnify the emotions that are already intensified during rough teenage years.
Tech-related depression is spiking in teens, which is something parents should take very seriously as addiction-related depression can have very dangerous implications. Medical Xpress cites a study that links smartphone usage with hopelessness, suicidal tendencies and suicide in teens.
So what can parents do? Ask your teen if they feel addicted to alerts, or if they can take a break from the smartphone for a few hours. Find some activities that your teen can relate to that can help you establish intimacy and closeness without documenting every moment on social media. Be gentle in asserting boundaries between your teen and their devices – and be mindful that as far as they know, digital interactions may feel very real. Finally, as is often the case with mood disorders, model positive behavior. Try to avoid long silences in which both of you are on your phones. Keep your device usage to a minimum when you’re with your teen.
When mood disorders and tech addiction become serious, there is a very real danger that teens might withdraw socially or express suicidal tendencies. When other treatment options aren’t giving your family the results you need, you might want to consider residential treatment. Our START program provides the inpatient support teens need to manage severe depression and addictive behavior.