Tech Addiction in Kids and Teens

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Published on

01.25.2022

These days, the amount of time kids spend in front of a screen is a common concern for parents.

Before too long, parents might see their kids act out, fight when they turn off the T.V., or complain when asked to turn in their phones. With the stress of every day life, it’s easy to let fifteen to thirty minutes of designated technology time slowly increase, just to keep the peace.  If parents aren’t careful with kid’s screen time, it can turn into what many parents fear – kids developing a technology addiction. 

With this anxiety for our kids, many questions arise: what does tech addiction mean? What are the effects of it? How can I tell if my kid is tech-addicted? And most importantly, how can I help my child? 

Continue reading for answers to these questions, additional helpful resources, and reliable solutions.  

What is Technology Addiction?

Technology addiction is not included in the DSM-5, despite the existence of other substance-related and addictive disorders. “Technology Addiction” is an informal reference to compulsive and repetitive use of technology, often due to its distractive, or stimulating nature. It involves the obsessive use of mobile devices, the internet, or video games, despite negative consequences to the user of the technology. Tech addiction may also be referred to as digital addiction or internet addiction, but “addiction” and impulse control disorders are still being studied.

“If something is a tool, it genuinely is just sitting there, waiting patiently. If something is not a tool, it’s demanding things from you. It’s seducing you, it’s manipulating you, it wants things from you. We’ve moved away from a tools-based technology environment, to an addiction and manipulation used technology environment.”

(Exposure Labs Denver Film Society, 2020)

There is a fine line between using tech as a tool and tech dependency. And while tech addiction may look slightly different in every child, like pornography or addiction to alcohol, there are some common questions you can ask yourself to help you see the signs: 

  • Is your child spending less time outside-or doing things they used to enjoy-to allow more time with their tech? 
  • Are they less physically active than they used to be? 
  • Has their academic performance declined? 
  • Do they seem highly moody, reactive, or disconnected from the family? 
  • Are they distracted and anxious anytime they spend even just a few minutes away from their tech? 

These are behavioral manifestations of tech addiction.

“Screen time leads to dopamine release. This means that the more screen time, the more addicted to screen time your child will become.

(Vinopal, 2019)

Technology Addiction Statistics

The numbers don’t lie. Tech addiction is a rising epidemic in the rising generation. However, addiction to technology is only a fraction of the problem. Excessive tech use and time online can be dangerous for kids:

  • The average age of first exposure to pornography is now only 11 years old. As many as 93.2% of boys and 62.1% of girls first see porn before turning 18. Early exposure to porn is correlated with increased porn use and addiction later in life (Hull, 2021). 
  • In 2017, 42% of youth between 10-14 spend 20-50 hours a week on the internet. In 2007, only 25.4% of 10–14-year-old kids spent that much time on the internet (Li, S.-M., & Chung, T.-M. 2006).
  • Kids aged 8-11 spend at least four hours every day on their phones.
  • Kids aged 12-18 spend at least seven hours every day on their phones.
  • 50% of teens regularly witness/experience cyberbullying.
  • 25% of youth receive sexual solicitation online.
  • 82% of sex crimes start on social media.
child being bullied

Tech Addiction: Some Facts

  • Screen addiction causes anxiety, depression, and poor scholastic performance (Jiang, 2020). 
  • Research shows that smartphones are powerful mind-and mood-altering devices that can be as addictive as gambling (Lee, 2021).
  • Recent neuroimaging research suggests heavy use of certain video games may cause brain changes linked to addictive behaviors (Richtel, 2021). 
  • Teens who spend more than seven hours per day on devices are two times as likely to be diagnosed with depression.
  • Children are first exposed to pornography at the average age of eleven. 
  • One in three kids is a victim of cyberbullying.
  • Children’s brains are still developing and may be more sensitive to the effects of technology and its overuse than adult brains.
  • Overuse can lead to issues like decreased physical activity, lower academic performance, lack of attention, delays in social and emotional development, and addiction to technology (Johnson, 2020).

Kids Addicted to Tech: What Now?

When children are exposed to technology too early and given access to the internet and social media, the long-term effects can be detrimental. Without balanced screen time regulations in the home, over time, kids run the risk of falling victim to cyberbullying, online predators, pornography addiction, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and the list goes on. But there is still hope.

“The cost will be borne by families-because increased online use is associated with anxiety, depression, obesity, and aggression…”

(Richtel, 2021)

Like any other unhealthy dependency, tech addiction can drive a wedge between families and affect children’s physical, emotional, and mental health. But parents can make all the difference as they learn how to help them.

It’s clear: young kids need less tech time. Healthy and balanced tech habits are crucial for a child’s well-being. Parents carry the critical responsibility of protecting kids and teaching them how to maintain a healthy relationship with technology. This means setting healthy boundaries around tech usage and getting proper parental controls and filters installed on kids’ devices.

Parents aren’t alone! Resources and support are readily available for families in need of a tech readjustment. For some families, a one to two-week tech fast is the only necessary measure to realign the family’s focus. Others implement daily habits like a tech curfew, regular tech-free family dinners/activities, and turning in phones at the front door. So long as these practices remain consistent, it is very possible to see change and maintain these reacquired healthy tech habits.

Gabb Wireless: The Safe Tech Solution

So, in this digital age, with families needing to stay connected throughout their busy schedules, how do we give our children access to technology without risking overexposure in the first place, and how do we keep them safe from the dangerous aspects of tech? 

Gabb Wireless provides devices made especially for kids. All Gabb devices-from simple GPS trackers to smartwatches to smartphones -come free of internet browsers, social media, excessive apps, or addictive games. Gabb is an advocate for introducing tech in steps, according to each child’s level of tech readiness. 

By providing the connection they need and essential tools without excess, Gabb provides kids with the opportunity to seek enjoyment beyond the screen and enjoy their childhoods by staying active and cherishing relationships with family and friends. 

With Gabb, parents have peace of mind for the safety of their kids. By connecting families, keeping kids safe from online dangers, and giving parents the tools to raise their children responsibly with their tech, Gabb could very well be the solution to child technology addiction.

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Gabb Wireless is dedicated to helping families build and maintain healthy tech habits and rearing tech-responsible kids into adulthood. Find Gabb products, read about the Gabb mission, and access additional Gabb resources here.

Gabb Staff Writer

More than a cellular company—Gabb Wireless is a movement to connect kids to what matters most with safe technology solutions.

Find more by Gabb Staff Writer

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