Mindfully balance your kid’s screen time, so it hovers on the healthy side of the spectrum.
Gaming for hours on end, texting into the night, the inability to hold a conversation without checking Instagram or TikTok. Is it normal teen behavior or cause for parental concern?
What is “normal,” anyway? What’s harmful? And where’s the line between more screen time than you’d like and so-called digital addiction?
What Is Digital Addiction?
The terms digital addiction or technology addiction have been buzzing around headlines in recent years. Examples include media addiction, smartphone addiction, Internet addiction, and online gaming addiction. They all refer to similar issues: regularly spending an unhealthy amount of time on devices, especially when you’re unable to stop.
Yet researchers and doctors are still grappling with whether these behaviors count as an actual disorder. Digital addiction isn’t in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the official guidebook recognized by most experts. But if technology disrupts your child’s life, it’s still cause for concern.
“I like to think our use of digital media operates, like most things, along a spectrum,” says Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
That spectrum ranges from healthy usage, which has its benefits, to compulsive, which can be problematic, to addiction. The final phase leaves kids feeling disengaged from other activities and unable to control themselves when it comes to their devices.
In fact, research shows that certain types of digital media—like video games or the notifications from social networking—release dopamine similar to online gambling or substance use. And adolescents and young adults have a higher chance of developing a digital addiction due to their age, access to media, and other risk factors.