Tuesday October 17th 2017

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Understanding the Psychology Behind Social Media Addiction: How And When Should Parents Limit Online Time?

Too Much Time Online?

Teenagers love spending time online. It can be a good thing when they use the internet for positive activities, such as studying or connecting with their family members. However, it is also possible for a teen to spend too much time on social media.

Do you notice that your teen stays online excessively? It could be a signal of social media addiction. But how can you know?

We review the red flags here. Then, we outline what you can do on time to prevent your teen from slipping into social media addiction. Finally, we invite your questions at the end. In fact, we try to answer each real life issue personally and promptly!

Know the Risk Factors for Social Media Addiction

As a parent, it is important to have insight into the psychological factors that place a teen at risk for social media addiction, so that you can create limits that protect your teen’s well-being without being overly restrictive.

While some teens can handle going online in small increments of time, others can become addicted. It’s important to realize that social media addiction is similar to other mental health issues in the sense that some teens are simply more vulnerable to the allure of being online.

In fact, there are certain risk factors that put teens more at risk for developing a technology addiction especially social media addiction. One risk factor is having a mental illness. For example,. it is common for teens with a social media addiction to also experience issues with:

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  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Teens with these underlying mental health issues often find that going online serves as a distraction from their symptoms. Additional risk factors for developing a social media addition include the following:

  1. Being bullied
  2. Difficulty making friends
  3. Having trouble dealing with family issues

Understand Why Teens Spend So Much Time Online

Teenagers are drawn to social activities, and the internet allows them to access a vast social arena from the comfort of their own room during any hour of the day. For some teens, reading their friends posts and receiving comments on their photos provides an instant self-esteem boost that makes them feel better.

Teens also spend a lot of time online as a substitute for other activities. For instance, a teenager with social anxiety may prefer communicating with people online where they feel protected. While this can be good, it is also important to watch for signs that a teen’s online activities are beginning to interfere with their wel-lbeing.

Sometimes, what begins as normal online activity can quickly spiral into an addiction that is beyond your teen’s control.

Watch for Signs of Problems With Your Teen’s Online Activity

As a parent, it is common to be unsure about what constitutes ormaladolescent behavior. The internet throws a new curve ball into the parenting arena since many adults today didn’t grow up with social media when they were teens. This means that you will need to be vigilant to notice when there is a problem. Being aware of these symptoms of teen social media addiction will help you identify an issue early on so that you can get your teen professional help.

8 Signs of Social Media Addictions

SIGN 1: Obsessively checking their social media accounts during inappropriate times, such as while eating dinner with the family.

SIGN 2: Expressing anxiety about what is posted by others on their accounts.

SIGN 3: Experiencing a drop in grades or skipping class to spend time online.

SIGN 4: Quitting other favorite activities, such as sports, in favor of being in front of their smartphone or computer.

SIGN 5: Staying online well into the late hours of the night or excessive daytime sleepiness from staying awake all evening.

SIGN 6: Getting abnormally upset if their access to the internet is taken away.

SIGN 7: Hiding online activities, such as setting up a fake account or securing a phone on their own to be used when their privileges are revoked.

SIGN 8: Expressions of concern from others who witness their behavior.

Provide Ways for Your Teen to Learn Positive Coping Strategies

Many teens turn to online activities as a way to cope with negative emotions that arise during these developmental years. For instance, teenagers often post selfies to attract compliments when they are feeling down. Your teen may also attempt to make their life look happier than they really feel inside by posting images of themselves having fun instead of actually getting outside with their friends.

Arming your teen with the necessary tools to overcome adversity is important for preventing and handling social media addiction. Talk to your child about the things that are bothering them and work together to find solutions that are more effective than being online, such as talking to a counselor to work through depression.

Build Their Self-Esteem with Wholesome Activities

For a parent who grew up spending long hours outside playing sports and exploring the neighborhood, it is hard to understand why a teen would rather sit inside and state at a screen. However, teenagers today sometimes need help finding activities that bring them joy. Give your teen opportunities to explore new activities to find out what makes them happy. As you present them with activities, suggest a wide range of ideas, such as:

  • journaling
  • yoga
  • hiking

…or other activities to help them round out their daily schedule. Although they may groan about it at first, participating in new activities puts your teen in touch with other people who share the same interests. Finding an activity your teen enjoys will help to get them offline more often, and hopefully help to decrease their dependence on social media to bring them joy.

Decide How Much Screen Time Is Enough

It would be nice if there was a straight answer regarding how much screen time is too much for your kids. However, some teens can spend two hours online a day while some teens cannot handle any screen time without falling into an addictive pattern. For this reason, it is always best to refer your concerns to a professional counselor who can assess your teen’s online activities to determine their risk for addiction. If your teen does have a problem with social media, then they will benefit from having professional support to identify and address the underlying cause.

The glamour of social media is enticing to teens who love the instant gratification that comes from reading new posts and comments. Unfortunately, the same qualities that make the internet fun are also the same ones that can feed an addiction. Understanding the psychological reasons as to why your teen may need help with their social media addiction helps you make the right choices when it comes to setting limits on their online activities to encourage healthier living.

Social Media Addiction Questions

If you have any questions or concerns about your teenssocial media or internet use, please feel free to leave them in the designated section below. We value your feedback and try to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

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About Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D.

Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.

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