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What Parents Can Do Now To Prevent This Teen Addiction

Here's something that could make you reconsider handing your toddler an iPad: 50 percent of teens say they feel addicted to their devices.

It gets worse.

About mobile technology, 72 percent of teens reported the need to immediately respond to texts, social media messages and other notifications, and 78 percent of teens admit to checking their devices at least hourly.

Among other stats, teens reported on their parents, too, in the latest Common Sense Media survey of 1,200 parents and teens. More than 40 percent of teens say their parents get distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when they are together, and just over 50 percent of teens see their parents check and/or use their cells phones and iPads while driving.

The upshot: Teens feel addicted to technology and our mobile technology use isn’t helping the problem.

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Surveys like this one are eye-opening in many ways. We know that technology is blending into our day-to-day lives in ways we never could have imagined, but these statistics show us that we need to pay more attention to our how we are using this go-everywhere technology. Not only are we struggling to balance its use with our personal lives, we are actively disengaging with our family members and setting a very poor example for our kids. When half of teens surveyed admit to feeling “addicted” to technology, it’s time to wake up to our new reality and overhaul our family technology rules and regulations.

Yes, teens use technology to connect, and sometimes that connection can serve as a lifeline during tumultuous times. But teens should not feel the need to respond to every message the moment it comes in. And they certainly shouldn’t feel like their parents ignore them during so-called “quality” time.

How do we teach our teens to step away from technology addiction? We begin by engaging in open and honest communication:

1. Talk about it

Parents love to dish rules, and teens love to push boundaries. Instead of issuing blanket statements about technology use, engage with your teen. Ask which apps she uses the most and why. Find out how she prefers to communicate with her friends and what she loves about technology.

People of all ages love to brag about “multi-tasking,” but the truth is that when you do too many things at once, you aren’t doing anything very efficiently.

Discuss the potential downsides. Share your own stories and feelings about technology overload. Do you ever feel the need to completely silence your phone and disconnect? Tell your teen about it.

The best way to help teens work through technology overload is to talk about it without judgment. Be the person your teen can confide in and seek support from when it feels like too much.

2. Establish healthy boundaries

Step one: Walk the walk. If you want your teen drivers to stay away from their phones while driving, you need to do the same. If you want your teens to leave their devices in another room during dinner, you better put yours away, too.

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Helping teens establish healthy boundaries with technology is important. Declare tech-free zones in the home (as in the dinner table) and establish a “power down” time in the evening (no technology after 9 p.m.).

3. Encourage single-tasking

People of all ages love to brag about “multi-tasking,” but the truth is that when you do too many things at once, you aren’t doing anything very efficiently. If teens are texting while doing homework, for example, they constantly interrupt their thought process and have to restart each time they get back to their work. They will complete their assignments more efficiently if they put those phones on “DND” mode and focus on one thing at a time.

We can all stand to decrease our mobile technology use a bit.

This also applies to holding a conversation. Do you ever find yourself repeating the same thing over and over because the person right in front of you is only half listening? The human brain actually engages in “task switching” when people do too many things at once. If it seems like your teen isn’t listening when he has his phone in his hand, he probably isn’t.

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Resist the urge hide behind sarcasm when helping teens understand this and talk about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this. Just be prepared for your teen to give it back to you if you have a tendency to talk and text at the same time.

4. Set goals together

We can all stand to decrease our mobile technology use a bit. Ask your teen to help you come up with some healthy goals for the whole family to reconnect by disconnecting. When families work together toward shared goals, they help each other succeed.

5. Worried about technology addiction?

If you see behavioral changes related to technology in your teen and aren’t sure what to do, it’s best to get an assessment from a licensed mental health professional.

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