Teens say they’re addicted to technology. Here’s how parents can help.

May 3 at 6:01 AM

Original article on The Washington Post


Half of all teens say they feel addicted to their mobile devices.

That’s right, 50 percent of teens actually admitted that they feel addicted. Just imagine what the real number is.

Not only do teens feel they can’t put their devices down, but their parents know it (59 percent) and many parents themselves can’t put their own devices down (27 percent).

This according to a new report by Common Sense Media, which also found that teens feel their parents are addicted as well.

“Digital devices have transformed people’s lives. They are changing everything from parent-child relationships, to human interaction, to our ability to focus on the task at hand,” said James Steyer, founder and chief executive of Common Sense, an organization that studies and rates media and technology for kids and families. “And particularly for young people who are growing up as digital natives. It has public health concerns.”

With technology blending into our lives in ways that we never could have imagined just a decade ago, it’s tricky to decide what’s okay and what is just the way we live now. It’s difficult to find a balance and to set boundaries, for our children and ourselves. For instance, 48 percent of parents feel they have to answer emails and texts immediately, and 72 percent of teens say they need to; 69 percent of parents say they check devices hourly while 78 percent of teens do.

What impact does all of this have on our lives? According to the report, it’s led to multitasking that our brains, and certainly our children’s brains, can’t handle. In fact, high percentages of teens admitted that they watched TV, used social media and texted while doing homework. (And yet most teens said they didn’t think their multitasking harmed the quality of their work.)

The report also found that devices are impacting our relationships. Of the parents surveyed, 77 percent feel teens get distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when they are together and 41 percent of teens say the same about their parents. Screens are also impacting our health and safety: 56 percent of parents admit to using devices while driving — with kids in the car — and 51 percent of teens see their parents checking mobile devices while driving.

The report, which surveyed more than 1,200 teens and parents, also pulled together recent reports and research on technology use and suggests the constant attention to devices is making it difficult for our children to have face-to-face conversations or learn to be empathetic. In case you still think teens aren’t in front of screens all that much, November’s Common Sense Census: Media Use by Teens and Tweens, found that teens in the U.S. spend an average of nine hours daily on media.

As a true sign that both parents and teens recognize this is a problem, about half of parents and one-third of teens surveyed said they very often or occasionally try to cut down on the amount of time they spend on their devices, and 52 percent of teens said they agree that they spend too much time on their mobile devices. Yes, that’s more than half of teens saying they are on their devices too much.

So why not just turn all technology off and go back to pioneer days? Very funny. We all know that’s not possible, but it also wouldn’t be smart. Parents who have a balanced approach to media, and who allow their teens access to it, can guide the usage and conversation around it better, and help them find a healthy balance, Steyer said.

Need some help figuring out how to develop better balance?