Teens who are struggling with digital addiction will often exhibit the following signs & symptoms:
Behavioral signs of digital addiction
- Using digital technology as a form of stress relief or to escape from negative feelings.
- Cutting out other activities they previously enjoyed in favor of Internet use or digital technologies.
- Lying about their use or trying to conceal the amount of time they spend on the activity, such as wiping web history logs clean.
- Secrecy surrounding their habits or what they do online.
- Denial: They’ll often rationalize their use by saying their peers are just as obsessed or spend the same amount of time as they do. (Lopez Fernandez et al., 2014)
- They often believe themselves to be expert users, overestimating their ability to multitask or overestimating the importance of the time spent.
- Disregard for personal hygiene (typically seen in Internet and gaming addictions).
Signs of dependence
Teens struggling with digital addiction have trouble controlling their habit, as evidenced by the following:
- The presence of either physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling stress, anxiety, fear, or other negative emotions when separated from technology.
- Obsessive or ruminative thoughts when not using the technology in question (i.e., a teen constantly thinks about what’s happening there while they’re offline; a teen struggles to concentrate in school because they’re thinking about World of Warcraft; or counting down the minutes until they can get online again).
- Forfeiting sleep or consistently staying up later than they intended to focus on their technology habit.
- Getting in fights or arguments over one’s technology use.
- Abandoning and/or neglecting former friends and associates.
- Social isolation.
Is my child struggling with digital addiction?
If your child is showing many of these symptoms and you’re worried they might have a digital addiction, you can use the Young’s Internet Addiction Test (IAT) linked below, a 20-item yes or no questionnaire. A score of 50 or higher suggests problematic use, and a score of 80 or higher indicates digital addiction.
- Increasing tolerance to the habit or a need to do more to experience the same effect.
- Continuing the habit in the face of adverse consequences in other areas of their life or trying to deny and minimize those disruptions.
- An inability to stop or pare back their use despite the desire to stop or the recognition that it is taking over their life.
If after reading through this material you’re concerned that your son or daughter might have a digital addiction, then you should get our eBook, Breaking Free of Digital Addiction, which will provide the tools and resources you’ll need to help your child with this problem. It’s just $7.99, and all proceeds from your purchase go to help kids in need.