Guest post by Amy Williams
Is your teen spending too much time online? GFK–an industry leader in market information—has found that teens are using electronic devices more than ever before. So much so, in fact, that they’ve passed other demographic groups and now spend an average of more than four hours a day connected.
Of course, that’s just the average, because some teens spend far more time each day on the web. These teens are known as “app addicted”, and for parents, this is a real concern.
What is App Addiction?
We usually think of addiction in terms of drugs and alcohol, but people can become hooked on nearly anything. In today’s world, that ‘something’ tends to be a smartphone that will be by their side from morning to night. Smartphones are often the first thing teens check when they wake up and the last thing they look at before bed. What they see during these times can have a huge impact on how they spend their day.
Staying connected with friends isn’t a bad thing. In fact, most of what teens are doing tends to be social. If they’re not speaking with someone face to face, then at least they’re working on building relationships. Problems arise when teens spend too much time interfacing with their apps and stop paying attention to the rest of the world.
The worst indicator of app addiction is something you may have found yourself doing–picking up your phone every time it beeps at you, just because each message might be important. Think about how frustrating it can be when your teen starts to ignore you just so they can catch up on the latest gossip or see a picture their friend sent. You feel ignored and unimportant; they don’t understand why you’re mad; and it just cycles into a spiral of negativity that feels like a huge and unnecessary hindrance.
How Can You Get Teens Away From Apps?
Despite some parents’ behavior, yelling at teens probably won’t make them stop–in fact, this will probably make things worse. Teens are incredibly possessive of their phones, often seeing it as the only thing that lets them “stay connected” with their friends.
Banning a phone outright won’t help in anything but the most extreme cases. Instead, focus on narrowing down the times when teens are allowed to use their phones. For example, barring it at the dinner table can encourage them to talk instead of text, while requiring them to hand it over while they’re doing homework can help keep them focused on their assignments.
It won’t be easy to pull kids away from their phones, but then again, nobody ever promised that being a parent was easy. The important thing is doing what’s best for your child, even when they don’t like it. On a fundamental level, teens’ brains are in a point of development limbo to the point that they genuinely don’t realize just how dangerous their actions are. Protecting them from such problems is one of your most important roles as a parent, so keep tabs on what they’re doing and make sure you’re ready to intervene if they’re showing the signs of app addiction.
This is an unpaid guest post. Expect a few more over the upcoming weeks as we work on our move from India! I hope you enjoy hearing from more writers and bloggers!