You want your kids to enjoy the benefits of today’s technology (who doesn’t love their iPhone?!), but you worry they will be living in your basement playing video games when they’re 40 years-old. Two major Apple investors agree, and are expressing concern about whether iPhone addiction could be a problem for your child. You’ve always suspected this, but wonder what an iPhone addiction looks like. And, in today’s technological world, what can you do about it?
What is Addiction?
First, let’s start with the definition of “addiction.” In simplified terms, the criteria for addiction is:
1. Tolerance: needing to use a substance (or process, in this case), more and more to experience the same euphoric effect, and;
2. Withdrawal: experiencing uncomfortable physical and/or emotional symptoms when the addictive substance is no longer available.
When you think of addictions, you probably think of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. These are called substance addictions, all of which involve objects that are ingested, and are known to cause health problems when consumed in excess.
There is another category of addiction called process addictions. These develop when someone develops a behavioral addiction without a substance involved. Process addictions include gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, and technology addiction.
Some consider food a substance addiction, and others believe it’s a process addiction.
When an addictive substance or process is used, the reward centers of the brain are activated by the release of neurotransmitters, or “feel-good” chemicals. When you experience the initial rush, you want to recapture the feeling, so you do it again. Each time you artificially stimulate the neurotransmitters, it becomes more difficult for your brain to make them on its own. You start to experience withdrawal, and need to keep using just to feel normal again.
Since Apple is not solely responsible for creating the problem, I will refer to technology, rather than a specific product, in the rest of this post.
What Does iPhone Addiction Look Like?
Your kids may turn to technology when they feel bored, lonely, or stressed. If they suffer from social anxiety or shyness, online interaction with others can help them feel connected and liked. However, too much time spent using technology has many consequences for your child or teen. These include:
- Physical problems, such as weight gain or obesity and poor eating habits
- Isolating from family
- Substituting virtual relationships for genuine interaction
- Short attention span
- Depression or anxiety
- Declining academic performance
- Aggressive behavior or cyberbullying
- Tiredness and waking difficulties (from staying up too late to use social media or play online games)
- Risk of other developing other addictions, including online gambling and pornography
- Anger, anxiety, or depression when technology is not available, and happiness only when it is restored
- Increased risk of suicide
According to a CDC study, teens who use electronic devices for more than five hours per day are 70% more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Girls are particularly vulnerable to social media bullying, sexual harassment, and stalking,
Breaking the Addiction Cycle
There is help for your family. Our counselors at the Couples and Family Wellness Center have extensive training and experience in treating addictions and the impact on the family.
We will teach you how to set age-appropriate limits with your child or teen and learn to spend time as a family again.
There is help for your child to break the addiction cycle, develop relapse tools, and address underlying mood, anxiety, or social problems.
Plus, we work with you or your partner if you’re struggling with addictions of your own.