If your teen is like many others his age, there is a good chance that he spends a lot of time using electronics. Whether your teen seems practically glued to his iPhone, or he’s spending hours using his Xbox or tablet, there are some things that you should know about the use of electronics and the still developing adolescent brain.
Technology continues to advance and integrate more into our daily lives for social reasons, for work, and for school. Most of us could confess to spending hours online each day. Facing an increasingly digital world has altered the way we think, behave, and live.
What do electronics do to teenage brains?
If it were up to your teenager, he’d likely spend the majority of his day glued to a screen. He may even argue that there’s nothing wrong with using his phone, his tablet, or his gaming consoles as much as he does. After all, almost all of us are spending increasing amounts of time using the electronics we have access to, but that does not mean there aren’t some potentially serious consequences.
What does this mean for the teen brain that’s still developing?
Are there any positives to using technology?
Or is it all potentially harmful?
Several studies have started to show that there are some concerns parents should be aware of if their teens are spending a fair amount of time using electronics.
We are all at risk of developing problems with our sleep. Things like stress at work, mental illness, and family concerns can keep us up at night. Teenagers are at an exceptionally high risk of seeing a disruption in their sleeping habits if they spend a significant amount of time using electronics.
Studies show that the use of screens can cause sleep disruptions. This can, in turn, lead to troubles with behavior and cognition. For a child or teenager, this can lead to significant concerns at school and at home. Whether he’s staying up all night to watch things on YouTube or he’s playing in epic battles on his gaming console, those nighttime hours can zip by until he can’t keep his eyes open.
Remedying this can often mean removing the electronics from his room or stopping screen time at a certain hour each night so that he has time to unwind before getting to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Isolation from family and friends
An ironic part of an increasingly connected world is that it can result in social isolation. As teens spend more time using electronics, they tend to spend less time in person with their family and friends.
Teens, in general, tend to withdraw from family. This can be a normal development phase, but it can be made just that much worse when teens spend more time withdrawing into a digital world.
Mental health struggles
There is a link between increased use of social media platforms and electronics with social isolation that impacts mental health. This is quite alarming as teens are generally at an increased risk of developing depression and other associated mental illnesses.
There could be an increase in depression, anxiety, and even panic disorders—all stemming from the overuse of electronics.
Increased concerns with ADHD
It is important to note that the use of electronic devices itself has not been shown to cause ADHD in children or teenagers. However, excessive screen time can be a significant contributing factor in compounding the concerns that someone with ADHD is facing.
This could look like the following:
- Not completing school assignments
- Not paying attention during lessons at school
- Forgetting about assignments, chores and losing things easily
- Struggling to get and stay organized
- Impatience, particularly when it comes to needing to wait their turn
- Fidgeting and other restless behavior
- Being chatty and constantly interrupting others
- Impulse control
You don’t need to ban the use of electronics completely. You can add some restrictions, however. The use of electronics (i.e., phones, video games, tablets, etc.) should be privileges earned by your teen. Once he has focused on his homework or other chores, he can then earn some screen time. Ensure that the electronics are not around when he’s trying to do his homework, as this can prove to be more of a distraction than he needs.
Moderate use can be okay
Electronic use can be enjoyable, educational, and acceptable when used in moderation.
The way your teenager uses his devices can positively impact him. Online searches, as an example, could be a type of brain neural exercise. The use of gadgets can also help with memory retention, mastering multitasking skills, and often also help with problem-solving abilities.
Limiting screen time is an important part of protecting the health of a child and a teen and can encourage healthy use of screens.
How to establish and encourage moderate electronic use:
- Establish clear boundaries
- Use appropriate consequences when boundaries aren’t respected
- Model healthy electronic use habits
- Designate set hours for everyone where they need to be unplugged
- Plan family activities that are electronic-free
- Get into nature and spend time outdoors with the family
If your teen is struggling with letting go of electronics or is struggling with other issues in his life, it’s important to reach out for professional help.
Family therapy can prove beneficial, as can individual counseling. Call us at Help Your Teen Now to learn how to connect your family with the resources needed. Residential treatment centers offer individualized treatment programs for teens in a stable environment.
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