What Teen Phone Addiction Looks Like and How Parents May Help

I received my first cell phone in seventh grade, long before I understood what teen phone addiction looks like. A few years after the majority of my friends had cell phones, I immediately felt like I belonged to the conversation again. Before I received my own phone, I frequently stayed home from social parties and school issues because I lacked a reliable way to reach my parents when I was out from home. I felt helpless. When I acquired my phone, I suddenly had the opportunity to speak, and my perspective was forever altered.

There is a continuing argument regarding teen phone usage. Many believe that without production and excitement, adolescents will become listless and unable to contribute to society. However this discussion is not new: In the 1960s, society held television accountable. In the 1970s and 1980s, rock music dominated. I am aware of the benefits and drawbacks of cell phone use. Since getting a smartphone, my attention span has decreased, I have become more withdrawn from face-to-face conversations, and it has been simpler for me to spend hours absorbed in my device. Yet, cell phones also help link my generation. They provide access to modes of activism of which I was previously unaware. My phone made it easy to reconnect with relatives I hadn’t spoken to in years and helped me acquire a sense of autonomy.

Cell phones have affected nearly every aspect of human life, including how we sit, speak, and think, as well as how we communicate with one another and consume information. Numerous parents are concerned about the implications for their children’s futures. At COVID-19, our electronic devices are a larger part of our life than ever before. Nonetheless, there are significant advantages to cell phone use nowadays. During my stay-at-home orders, I had not seen anyone outside of my close family for almost two months. I believe that self-quarantine would have been intolerable if not for the support of technology, specifically our phones. I want to assist parents of teenagers comprehend what it is like to be addicted to their phones and how they may urge us to limit our phone use without resorting to conflict or punishment.

How Technology Alters Our Lives

The average teenager spends over seven hours and 22 minutes per day on their phone, while children ages 8 to 12 spend approximately 4.5 hours per day. Many people rely on their phones as an emotional crutch. Several studies indicate that social media is detrimental to ordinary adolescents, causing anxiety and low self-esteem in regular users. Some claim that it is impossible to remove technology from the culture of Generation Z and Millennials because it is so ingrained. Now, our phones allow us to remain connected during times when we must be apart. Whether they allow us to engage in Zoom lessons, FaceTime with friends who are separated or enjoy entertainment, our phones and other electronic devices serve as lifelines during this pandemic.

How Phone Addiction Really Feels

My generation, Generation Z, grew up with devices, with the release of the first iPod in 2001 and the first iPhone in 2007. We have never used payphones or printed out a map for a road trip, so we are unfamiliar with life before cell phones. Having 24-hour access to this technology prompted us to develop a dependence on our devices. When we accomplish a task in a video game or receive a text message from a buddy, the use of technology stimulates us and releases serotonin. I utilize my phone for purposes beyond the conversation. Without this crutch, performing as I would like when I experience acute anxiety is difficult.

What Occurs When Parents Take Away Our Cell Phones?

More than 65 percent of parents, according to Teenmag.com, take away phones or the internet as a form of punishment. As an adolescent, I want parents to know that while this may prevent us from using our phones in the house, it frequently has a detrimental effect on us that can be observed.

It affects our psychological wellness.

I frequently fall asleep by listening to music, watching peaceful movies, or calling a close friend. I had devised my own routine to alleviate my mental illness and anxiety during the night, a virtually awful period. When my parents would confiscate my phone, I would no longer sleep through the night. I began acting dishonestly by claiming to put my phone aside while secretly retaining it (sorry, Mom). These were my efforts to manage my own anxiety and rebuild my successful routine.

It can feel lonely.

Having my phone taken away at night made me feel like an island for a long time. I was unable to engage in my calming nighttime rituals or call my friends if necessary. I loathed waking up to texts from troubled friends and realizing I was unable to help them. Discussions continued without me, and my connection with my partner had to be modified for us to converse prior to my declared bedtime. As adolescents, when we receive punishments we do not like, we find any means required to break the norm. Some adolescents sneak out or experiment with drugs. I understand why my parents urged me to refrain from using my phone at night, but it did not help me fall asleep earlier than they had hoped.

How Parents May Assist in Combating This Addiction

Clinical psychologist Lisa Damour, Ph.D., Parenting advisor and author of Under Pressure: Facing the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, advises parents to begin monitoring their children’s phone usage as soon as their child has access to a phone. “In reality, when preteens or teenagers lobby for their first phone, parents have a great deal of sway over the rules that will apply. I advise parents to initially impose numerous restrictions, some of which can be loosened with time.”

I understand why my parents urged me to refrain from using my phone at night, but it did not help me fall asleep earlier than they had hoped.

“I would be concerned if a young person appeared unable to control their emotions or fall asleep at night without a phone,” she says. “This can be averted in advance by enforcing simple phone access restrictions, such as prohibiting phones from bedrooms, meals, and in-person family gatherings. But, if it is too late and a young child has become dependent on a phone to feel peaceful, this is a severe matter.”

Dr. Damour recommends parents emphasize the significance of not requiring any external force (such as a drug, another person, or a phone) to feel tranquil or emotionally safe. “If a kid cannot take steps toward operating independently from his or her phone, I recommend that the parent help the child develop emotional regulation skills or find a professional who can assist the teen in doing so.”

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