Did you know American teenagers spend an “astounding” nine hours a day with digital technology, entertaining themselves with streaming video, listening to music and playing games? And “tweens” aged 8 to 12 are spending six hours with media, according to a report by Common Sense Media.
Overuse of screen time is effecting our teen’s mental health — so how can we help young people find a healthy tech balance?
Reality is, the train has left the station, screens are here to stay and it’s time we start teaching our teens (and ourselves) about time management with technology.
Is your teen:
-Depressed, sad, withdrawn or struggling with anxiety?
-Are their grades dropping?
-Are they refusing to go to school? Skipping classes?
-Are their eating habits changing?
-Are they not sleeping well?
Are you familiar with FOMO or doom scrolling? FOMO is an anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media. Doom scrolling is the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.
Both of these trends are not considered mental disorders, however can contribute to your teen’s mental health.
The truth is, teens want help. They don’t know how to go about getting help and FEAR the anxiety of not having their phone, which takes us back to FOMO and their scrolling.
Factoid: Did you know according to a Screen Education Survey over a quarter of teens said they wished their parents imposed screen limits? Teens want boundaries. Have you created your technology agreement yet?
“Every teenager you talk to will admit that how much they use their phone is a problem, but they don’t want to do anything to fix it,” Brooks (a teenager) said. “It’s just such a strong addiction that people have normalized that they’re going to be like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ The anxiety of not being with your phone is worse than realizing that there’s a problem and that you really need time away from it.” (read the entire article).
Since the pandemic depression and anxiety has doubled in young people. One in 4 adolescents globally are “experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms, while 1 in 5 youth are experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms.” Although some of the causes were pointed at the social isolation and remote learning during the pandemic, many experts are contributing the extended screen time as part of this major teenage mental health crisis.
How can teens find a balance online?
Teenage Mental Health and Your Cell Phone
By the time students reach high school, where their world will be dominated by social media, it will be much harder to instill healthy screen habits ( but not impossible).
First it’s important to understand it’s not about removing their devices, but it’s about finding that healthy balance.
Helping your teenager recognize both emotionally and physically, how too much screen time is impacting them is the beginning.
The video below is a great start — it outlines in only 2 minutes how much time they are spending (or wasting) online — and how that’s time you/they will never get back.
1. Device free time. If you haven’t created device free time, it’s time to do this. Mentally speaking, whether it’s taking time to jog, walk, bike or do yoga — disconnecting is imperative to improve your mental wellness.
2. Limit your notifications. Do you realize every time you hear a ding, buzz, ring or alert from your phone it can send a trigger (stressor) through your entire body? Have your teen choose maybe 3 of their favorite platforms to receive notifications from. Likely texts messages and the phone calls are two, so they would be allowed one app. You would be amazed how you can decompress when the majority of your alerts are shut-off. But — feelings of FOMO may set in, so you need to add that they also have to limit their check-ins.
3. Mealtime is for eating, night-time is for sleeping. Improving mental health means a good diet and sleeping patterns. It’s time for parents to get serious at mealtime – it’s for eating, not electronics and it includes mom and dad.
Double serious at bedtime. Sleep is crucial for young people — especially kids and teenagers. The truth is, simply telling your child or teen to turn off the device is not working. It’s time to invest in a safe or lockbox. Whatever time you designate for lights-out, is when the phones get locked-up until morning. It might be difficult in the beginning – but after you start seeing grade and mood improvement, it will be worth it.
If you think your teen is experiencing signs or symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns (especially if they become destructive when you try to remove their cell phone) related to social media use, contact your health care provider. Know you’re not alone — many parents have shared their stories of their teen’s increased anger, rage and defiance due to overexposure of video gaming and screen time.
Also read: The Secrets My Teen Has Online.
Have you exhausted your local resources, your teen refuses to see a counselor? Has outpatient treatment failed? Is the school setting not working for them? Do you feel like they are falling deeper into a depression or worse? Contact us to learn about the benefits of therapeutic boarding schools for smartphone addiction.
Video courtesy of CyberCivics.