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How to Fight Teen Tech Addiction

Today’s teenagers are glued to their tech devices. They have tablets, laptops, and especially cell phones that suck them in and demand their full energy and attention, often to the exclusion of other important things in life—including sleeping, live interaction with family members and peers, and schoolwork. Completely eliminating teen tech addiction might be impossible, but parental involvement is critical in lessening it in many teenagers. Underlying many of society’s most pressing challenges today is a lack of paternal involvement in the lives of their children.


Start With Awareness

Teenagers often don’t even realize just how much time they’re spending glued to their phones and other devices. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to help teach them how to engage in conscious, mindful use. Teens need to disconnect sometimes. They want to be connected constantly to their friends through their social media accounts and texting, but often, teens aren’t aware of the negative consequences of this connection. Constant social media pings and notifications can interrupt focus and attention, making it impossible to truly pay attention to the task at hand. Homework can stretch out hours longer than it would have with a little bit of focused attention, while the positive effects of studying disappear altogether when they’re paying more attention to their friends’ comments on a Facebook post than on their books.

For many teens, it’s helpful to understand the difference between times when it’s acceptable to zone out and times when it’s important to be focused on what’s actually going on around them. One primary and dangerous example, is when they get behind the wheel of a car, but don’t fully disconnect from their smart phone or other device. Have a discussion and define those times together. Try to get your teenager to define those parameters themselves so that they’ll be better able to identify the times when they truly need to concentrate.


Choose People Over Technology

For many teens, the phone provides a sense of security. They’re terrified of missing out on something that “everyone else at school” knows about and worried that they won’t fit in if they don’t stay constantly glued to their phones, reading every message in an endless group text and obsessively checking social media accounts. Unfortunately, this focus on technology can also cause teens to miss out on other important things. Not only are they losing out on vital social skills by texting and interacting on social media instead of having face-to-face conversations with their friends, they’re missing out on vital experiences right in front of them. Just a decade ago, “hanging out with friends” didn’t involve technology unless it was a shared device like a television or video game system. Now, teens are so attached to their devices that they’ll even text someone in the same room.


Encourage your teenager to buck this tendency. Remind them of the importance of spending real, quality time with people. True interaction with another individual will never be replaced by anything that can happen over a screen, and your teenager recognizes that—even if it’s hard to remember sometimes. Help your teen look for opportunities to interact with their friends, and turn the tech off for family events. People are always more important than technology, and your teen needs you to enforce that rule until they’re able to see it for themselves.


Temporarily Disconnect From Technology

Technology is addictive. The ever-changing array of information available on social media appeals to many teens in a way that normal, everyday interactions simply can’t. Disconnecting from that addiction is hard. To stop it in its tracks, encourage your teenager to choose regular times to step away from their technology, whether it’s for a few hours or a few days. Encourage them to ask questions of their parents instead of constantly googling the answer. They may be surprised by some of the conversations that may spring up from such questions and the opportunity for a bonding experience they could have missed out on. Create opportunities to interact with friends face to face. Discuss other ways in which they could spend time usually dedicated to technology, including reading a paper book, developing friendships with others who aren’t bound by technology, or even enjoying creative pursuits. Help teach your child to enjoy the moment without needing to view it through the lens of technology.


Ultimately, one of the most important things you can do to help your teen avoid technology addiction is to practice what you preach. If you’re constantly chained to your smart phone or spend more time in front of your computer than with your family, nothing you can say will help your teenager learn to moderate their technology use. You need to set clear boundaries and communicate well, but ultimately, your actions will speak louder than your words. In the end, that’s what your tech-addicted teen will hear.


2 thoughts on “How to Fight Teen Tech Addiction

  1. Scott Hoopes

    I’ve not only seen this issue in the youth I mentor, but have gone through it myself and defeated the addiction. As a sound/video engineer for church and a computer programmer as my day job, I get to see a unique picture of what life is like around tech devices to the extreme. It got to the point where all of us on the “lunch bunch” at work who go out to eat on Fridays realized we were on our smart phones too much and created a challenge for all of us that we had to go through the whole lunch break without looking at our phones and the first one to look at their phone has to pay for everyone’s lunch bill.

    While the article above does give some general or academic ideas on this addiction, I don’t think doing the ideas in the above article alone will be enough. You will need to get to know your kid on a personal level and enter their world to understand them better than they know themselves before you can really help. My dad accomplished this by playing my video games with me. Even though he wasn’t that good at the games, I knew he was willing to come down to my level. Once this happened, we then had some deep chats while playing games. Through this time, we realized that I was a “future tech guy” and dad started to take me on computer fix jobs with him. It was during this time together that my dad had the most influence on me. The basic rule of mentoring applies here, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

    Here’s what I had to do to combat this addiction..

    1. Have the kid come to their senses and realize the problem exists on their terms. Enter their world to see what they see and what logic they use (if any) and understand why they make these decisions (Knowing is half the battle)
    • Kids need to realize how awesome life can be without their phone and also the negative side of things where the end results of what this addictive nature can bring to their lives. In my case, I was too late in responding to this addiction to video/computer games and experienced social skill atrophy. Because of this, I am still a single guy at age 33. There were many girls I could have asked out on a date, but didn’t because I was so far underdeveloped socially. It was only when I had this desire to find a future Mrs. Hoopes and realized that this addiction was getting in the way of that goal that I started to go into battle against this addiction.

    2. Set up a battle plan and guards to keep you on the right track
    • Once the kid realizes the problem exists, then you can proceed to this step. Each kid is going to be different and will have different quirks that you will need to deal with. No two kids are the same. Some of them will need a gentle nudge and others will need a harder shove to get going and keep going. Once you understand you kid, you will then create a battle plan with them that both of you agree to. If you make a plan for the kid without their input, they will probably reject it before it even begins. In my case, this battle plan only helped when I went to my mom and dad and asked for help. They were trying to do things for years previous to this, but it didn’t work because I wasn’t on the same page as them.

    3. Have real (and if necessary severe) consequences if you do get back into the addictive world of tech
    • This will depend on the kid. Some kids are like my sister where my dad could have an unhappy look on his face and she would realize she needed to change her behavior. I on the other hand was the knuckle head who needed dad to remove the power supply from my computer until I snapped back into shape. The better you know your kid, the more effective the consequence will be. Also, both you and your kid will need to agree on said terms, kind of like a business contract.

    • Fay Niselbaum

      Great points, Scott! I congratulate you on sharing your touching story about your dad and your own social struggles! The point you made that; “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is at the core of everything you so correctly point out.

      Thanks for your insight!


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How to Fight Teen Tech Addiction

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