Cell phones have become a staple in American households. While their beginning was humbler with only eleven million users during the 1990s, today’s numbers show that almost 2.5 billion people own a cell phone.
These small devices have become capable of providing endless information and have vast capabilities but provide any form of entertainment at the push of a button. These features are especially enticing to younger adults, and with social platforms like Instagram and Tik-Tok, trying to put it down has become increasingly harder.
In fact, studies have shown that 50% of teens feel addicted to their phones for socializing or online games.
What Happens to an Adolescent When Overstimulated by Their Smartphones
Smartphone addiction runs parallel to internet addiction, both are considered impulse-control addictions. Over time, negative behaviors start surfacing and lack of real-life emotions take a back seat. Examples include the following:
- Desensitizes their emotions – By consistently observing the behaviors of online interactions, an adolescent can become out of touch with their own passions or concerns by focusing solely on the stimulation of their phones.
- Increased likelihood to misuse adult habits – Adolescents are easily tempted to participate in drinking by other peers or social online pressures.
- Lack of healthy diet – Though the concept of the smartphone was to bring the freedom to take it anywhere, adolescents find that they cannot put down the phone to eat a proper meal for fear they may lose out on the latest information. To subsidize these hunger pains, fast food is often on the table, leading to an unbalanced diet.
- Social loneliness – Though it may sound strange that a person could feel lonely when constantly spending time on their phones, for adolescents, these emotions are easily felt and experienced. In fact, loneliness can be most prevalent during these formative years than any other time of their life, with 70% reporting social isolation.
How to Help Your Teenager Live a More Balanced Tech Life
While it might not be an easy task to lay down ground rules around their screen time, sticking to these boundaries will not only benefit your adolescent but the mental health of the family as a unit:
- Bedtime is a phone-free zone – Common Sense Media reported that almost 29% of teens sleep with smartphones or tablets in their beds. By allowing this behavior, adolescents are more prone to sleep less soundly and often feel the need to check their phones throughout the night. Instead, set a period to put the phones away before bed, preferably an hour before to assure a smoother mental transition when getting tired.
- One device at a time – Smart devices are not limited to the phone in today’s tech world. From smartwatches to laptops, the internet is readily available at any time. While it is often necessary to use multiple devices when completing homework or participating in online courses, the need is limited when the job is done. Instead, allow your adolescent to choose one screen to engage with during their downtime. This keeps them more focused on the information they are seeking and less chance of being overexposed to multiple platforms.
- Take back family meals – Recent reports show that only about 30% of families regularly eat dinner together at home. With endless busy work and school schedules, families find that sitting down to a family dinner is not on their radar. This limits the quality in-person conversations that adolescents need to express their thoughts and feelings about the day, much like an adult. Instead, if dinner is not possible, share a small meal like a snack with your teen so they feel recognized and included in their family dynamic.
- Limiting online platforms – Social platforms began appearing in the early 2000s. Companies like Facebook and Instagram have grabbed the attention of millions of young users. Recent studies have found that 75% of adolescents report having at least one social media profile, with 51% reporting daily use. Instead, encourage teens to only check their profiles twice a day. This gives back the time they need to learn from real-life experiences and interactions.
- Phone-free day – Once a week have your adolescent put away the phone for the day. Engage them in offline activities such as gardening or sports to offset the stimulation they are looking for. This encourages them to exercise and interact with their community and peers in a healthy setting. Over time, they will come to appreciate the internet break and are more eager to participate in more positive outlets.
- Turn off the notifications – Today’s smartphones have a wide range of music, sound bites, and vibration modes to alert the user to current information. For an adolescent, this can mean multiple notifications per day. Instead, have your teen turn off these sounds so they are not triggered to constantly check their phones. This allows them to stay more focused on the task at hand.
- Be the example they need – Adults can be just as guilty as an adolescent when it comes to using their phone for pleasure. In fact, recent studies have found that smartphone usage suggests that an average user spends almost three hours per day on their mobile device. Furthermore, over 50% claim to check their devices a few times per hour. Adolescents are consistently looking to others to verify their habits. If you are just as entranced with the phone, imagine what your teen believes. Instead, put down the phone when having in-person conversations and limit use in the evening hours when adolescents need more positive attention.
How Solstice East Can Help Your Teenager Today
Solstice East is a residential treatment center caring for adolescents ages 14-17. Our 25-acre campus, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains just outside of Asheville, NC, offers on-site equine therapy, an accredited academic schedule, plus world-class therapeutic programming to treat a wide range of trauma and mental disorders. Our clients receive a unique combination of therapeutic techniques stemming from both traditional and holistic mental health treatments. We strive to empower our students with the ability to believe in themselves by providing the tools, support, and motivation necessary to instill these beliefs for life.
The Solstice mission is to support adolescents and their families in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff.
We are a privately owned residential treatment center incorporating innovative therapeutic techniques to help our clients address a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues. At Solstice East, your teen will be supported by a passionate team of therapeutic experts who have extensive training and experience working with trauma, loss, anxiety, addiction, and unhealthy behaviors. We are a proven leader in successfully treating adolescent students struggling with a variety of challenges.
For more information, please call us today at 828-484-9946.