Dealing with Teen Internet Addictions

Teens Taking Self Portrait with Camera PhoneThis generation we are raising up has always known Facebook, texting, and Twitter. They have been connected online and to each other electronically to a degree that many adults do not even embrace for work. While it seems like a good thing on the surface – teens are embracing technology which is good for their work futures, this is what I am seeing.

Oh, by the way I have triplet 16 year olds, so not only do I see what three are doing, but multiply this by the number of their friends as well. I am seeing a wide strata of 15, 16, and 17 year old teens.

1. Texting is out of control, not for every teen but for some. I have one who fits the category of a hypertexter. She had 8,000 tweets in a 30 day period before we took her phone away. What is concerning is this behavior is not about socializing by borders on addiction. With the instant interaction and need to respond immediately when a text comes in, this type of behavior crosses the line into concern. Studies have shown this type of behavior actually although appearing to be socializing is at such a superficial level that it is not relationship building. Additionally these online interactions can lead to a serious amount of drama in a teen’s life that sleep patterns are affected, grades drop, and depression becomes a common problem. Studies have shown that the same type of endorphins in the brain that are released with an addiction are released with hypertexters while they interact – highly concerning!

2. Inability to read body language and emotions – which is leading to increased bullying and rudeness. By connecting nearly full time with other teens online, kids are missing out on the crucial cues that are translated via faces and body language. As a result I am seeing more correspondence that borders on rudeness, bullying, and comments like “I am just speaking my mind.”

3. The Instagram Mentality – one of my own teens mentioned how Instagram has fostered a false sense of individuality. With selfies being the rage and pics of “here I am at a party”, “look at me”, accompanied by conversations of “did I get 100 likes yet?” Instagram is not feeding confidence, but eroding confidence in our teens. Superficiality is the rage and the more outrageous the pic the better. All these things are posted without regard of others feelings or the awareness that once online, forever online.

4. Lack of socialization – which regresses self identification and slows maturity. Wow, just go to any restaurant and look around and you’ll see families all on their phone not even talking to each other. One of my teens went to a party last night and said there were many people sitting by themselves using their phone, not even enjoying the party. Some did not talk to another person all night. Those at her table interacted, but had to frequently check their phones to check the time or comment on other’s Twitter posts or Instagram posts while at the party.

I wonder what kind of legacy we are leaving for this generation by allowing, fostering, and encouraging this type of hyper-Internet behavior. I personally feel that we are hurting them more than we are helping them.

I welcome your feedback and comments on this interesting and important topic.