Ask the Experts by Nicole Runyon
Q: Shortly after receiving her first smart phone in middle school, I began to see changes in my daughter’s behavior. She was more angry, retreated into herself and did not want to engage with the family as much. I have noticed her be more quite and withdrawn. She doesn’t seem happy. Should I be concerned?
A: Yes, you should be concerned. This generation of teens spends so much time in front of a screen that they have been named “screenagers.” They are addicted to smart phones, social media, and video games, to name a few.
Studies show 8-18 year olds spend on average six hours per day in front of a screen. That is more time than they spend doing their homework, socializing with their friends, or engaging in after school activities.
Among this age group, I have witnessed teens withdraw from family, from social lives, and from activities and hobbies that previously made them happy. The withdraw becomes a cyclical pattern in which the teen’s only happiness comes from the screen and in order to maintain that happiness they have a more difficult time putting it down.
Studies show that the same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money were activated during said social media usage.
Specifically, they found that when teens see a high number of “likes” on their own photos or the photos of peers in a social network setting that pleasure part of the brain becomes activated.
Also, depression and anxiety is rampant among teens due to their lack of ability to connect to the outside world. The screens create a detachment that does not allow them to connect to others in a healthy way. Their use of screens has made it difficult for them to develop basic interpersonal skills, empathy, and even the ability to communicate effectively.
Nicole Runyon, LMSW is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Grosse Pointe, MI. She is currently in private practice and has 15 years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults, couples and families focusing on various psychological issues. Her specialties include knowledge about child and adolescent issues plaguing today’s young people, specifically in how the use of screens is affecting child development. Nicole may be reached at (313) 209-4566 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her company, Professional Psychotherapy LLC is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.
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