Why is Your Teen Glued to Their Phone?
When your child was small, they might have needed their favorite “blanky” or stuffed animal to feel safe. Well, just because your child is “all grown up” doesn’t mean teenagers don’t still seek comfort items. For most teens today, their phone has become their security blanket. They can’t seem to go to bed, or anywhere else for that matter, without their precious smart phone by their side.
Why is This Phone Dependency a Problem?
The University of Maryland conducted a study as part of The World Unplugged project where researchers evaluated students from 10 different countries to see what would happen when the students had to forgo their phones for 24 hours. Their results were eye-opening, as they found that the majority of students experienced distress during this time without their phones.
Another large-scale study involving more than 2,500 college students found that 60% of them admitted to being addicted to their phone.
The danger is that this addiction can sometimes be linked to unhealthy mental behaviors. For instance, researchers at the Catholic University of Daegu in South Korea found that teens who used their smartphones the most showed troubling psychological issues such as aggression, depression, anxiety, and tended to withdrawal more.
Also, adolescents need a high level of peer interaction, but now even though they still go out in groups, they all have their heads down with their eyes glued to their phones. So, are they really getting the peer support and interaction that they need to help them through this difficult developmental stage?
While more research is needed, and cellphone addiction is not yet categorized as a real disorder, it is clear that teens are having trouble putting their phones down even for their own good.
What Are Some Signs That Your Teen May be Addicted to Their Phone?
How do you prevent your own kid from experiencing the aggression, depression, or anxiety associated with overuse of a smart phone? First, you must recognize signs that there may be a problem:
– Does your child feel the need to respond to everything immediately? Do they seem unable to resist that urge?
– Does your child constantly check their phone, even when it isn’t ringing or vibrating? This behavior actually called ‘phantom vibration’. This is a definite sign that your teen may have an addiction.
– Does your child seem disconnected from the real world and ignore what is happening right in front of them?
– Does your child express or show symptoms that feel anxious or angry when they are away from their phone?
What Can You Do To Help?
First, try speaking with your teen about their phone use and your concerns. Changing this behavior is easiest if you can get your child to understand that making rules about phone use is to protect them. They may or may not be receptive to the talk, but it’s a good idea to invite your adolescent to be part of making the rules and regulations.
Next, set some rules, preferably with your teen. Understand that changing this behavior will be difficult, so try to start slow. You may want to start by saying phones are not allowed at the dinner table. Of course, you as a parent must follow your own rules if you want your teen to.
Next, you might want to enforce a “no bedtime” rule. Studies have found electronic equipment like laptops and cellphones hinder sleep. Try and encourage your teen to leave their phone out of their room and try some quiet time before bed by reading or listening to music. Some families find a charging station in the kitchen or living room is a good way to get everyone to unplug before bed.
Once the new pattern is established, encourage your teen to start regulating their own behaviors. That’s what growing up is all about, but know that your job as a parent is to enforce healthy rules until your child is ready to take over. Check in and help them as needed to stay on the right path to cell phone use, not dependence!
If you are worried that your teen is getting into trouble, a trained therapist can help you get on the right track. I work with adolescents and adults to help you figure out how to find balance in this fast paced world.