Social Media Use and Addiction

The reality is that teens are going to use Social Media.  They are probably going to use it every single day–whether it be Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or playing video games.  Teens aren’t the only ones using it either–parents use it, businesses use it, schools use it, even political candidates use it.  Social Media is part of our culture and there is no escaping it.  Social Media Addiction takes the every day use of social media to another level though.  It is a behavioral disorder in which teens become so preoccupied with and obsessed with social media that it distracts them from everyday life and results in negative consequences.

When a teen is struggling with social media addiction, the level of use is so extreme that it negatively affects their daily responsibilities and their interpersonal and familial relationships.  In an article published by Clear Recovery Center they list 7 signs your teen is addicted to social media:

1. They Check Their Phone First Thing in the Morning

If the very thing your teen reaches for in the morning is their phone, they may be struggling with social media addiction. Especially if the reason they reach for their phone is to check various social media platforms. Teens that experience social media addiction become consumed with checking how many likes a photo received, if a comment they posted on Twitter was re-tweeted, or to check what other friends have posted. If your teen seems unable to get out of bed before checking their social media platforms, this may be a sign of addiction.

2. Frequent and Recurrent Page Visits Throughout the Day

While it isn’t abnormal for a teen to have several accounts on various social media platforms, it is abnormal if they check the platforms obsessively. You can learn a lot about someone’s social media habits by determining how frequently and recurrently they visit each page. Someone who checks their social media many times throughout the day may be struggling with social media addiction. If your teen seems preoccupied by their phone and seem to be checking it obsessively, this may be a sign of addiction.

3. Unable to Enjoy Activities Without “Sharing It”

If your teen seems unable to enjoy meals and times spent with friends and family without “sharing it” on various social media platforms, they may be struggling with social media addiction. Teens that seem to post their whereabouts and daily activities obsessively may have an unhealthy relationship with social media. Normal users are able to enjoy everyday life activities without sharing every moment over the Internet. Teens with social media addiction often “check-in” to various locations over Facebook and other social media platforms, this is again abnormal behavior. While there is nothing wrong with sharing your life with others on social media, it becomes a problem when it is constant. Parents should have access to viewing their teen’s social media accounts to see how frequently their child is engaging with the internet word.

4. Friends Use it as Primary Way to Reach Your Teen

One of the ways parents are able to identify that their teen is addicted to social media is when their child’s friends use social media as a primary way to reach them. If your child’s friends know that the best way to get in contact with them is through their social media accounts, this a sign of possible social media addiction. Normal use of social media should be minimal use throughout the day. If a teen is using social media minimally, then it wouldn’t be the primary way to be reached.

5. First Choice in How Your Teen Spends Their Free Time

Teens generally have highly structured schedules, especially during the school year. Most teachers don’t allow cell phones to be used during class, and most teens participate in extracurricular activities and complete homework assignments in the afternoons and evening. Downtime should be spent with friends, family and engaging in healthy and positive activities. If your child chooses to spend all their free time on their social media accounts, this may be a sign of teen social media addiction. When trying to determine whether or not someone is struggling with addiction, the frequency and duration of time spent on social media accounts should be considered.

6. Losing Interest in Regular Activities and Neglecting Responsibilities

As previously stated, most teens have highly structured daily lives. Most teens are active in school, sports and other extracurricular activities. If your teen has lost interest in regular activities and is neglecting daily responsibilities, but still makes time for social media interactions, they may be addicted to social media addiction. One of the main determining factors regarding whether or not someone is suffering from an addiction is if daily responsibilities are being neglected. Addictions are often all consuming. If a teen is addicted to social media, they may display a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, exhibit poor academic performance, and neglect daily responsibilities. It is important for parents to be able to identify any significant changes in their child’s behavior and determine how their child is spending their time. If most of their time is spent on various social media platforms, they may be suffering from social media addiction.

7. Strained Interpersonal and Familial Relationships

Similar to all other addictions, teen social media addiction is significantly correlated with strained interpersonal and familial relationships. The original purpose of social media was to connect people. Social media has become one of the most popular ways for people to keep in touch. While this seems like a positive thing, there is a dark side associated with personal relationships and social media use. Social media addictions have been found to a have a profoundly negative impact on real-life personal relationships. Teens with social media addiction become so obsessed with their online presence that they neglect real-life relationships. It is imperative that parents establish rules, time-limits and boundaries for time spent online is the main way to keep personal relationships intact.


Fortunately,  Ana Homayoun shared in an article published in the New York Times in January 2018, there are ways to manage use and help kids develop better tendencies, and much of it requires a delicate balance of parental modeling and involvement.

Make a Plan:  Taking the time to discuss appropriate use, establish guidelines and come up with a family agreement before kids get a phone is ideal, because it can be harder to put rules in place afterward. Family agreements can include rules about when and how the phone may be used, and potential consequences for broken rules. Agreements are more likely to be successful if they are followed consistently and revisited frequently as kids grow older and new apps become available.

Monitor Use:  For parents of teens who have smartphones, making the effort to understand how, where and why kids are spending time on their phone is critical.  It can be helpful to think about imbalances over a span of time rather than on a single evening or weekend. After all, binge-watching a television series on a smartphone while feeling sick or heartbroken isn’t the same as lying about phone use over an extended period of time. An app like Moment can help track usage and display the time spent in each app.

Take a Time Out:  Apple’s Family Sharing and Google Play have settings to help parents monitor use, and most phone carriers have their own parental control options. Devices like Circle and apps like OurPact give parents the ability to automate access, disable access to certain apps after a certain hour and build in structured time off to promote rest. The psychologist Larry Rosen, who has researched technology and the brain and is a co-author of “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World,” said one of the most important steps is to remove the phone from the bedroom at night.

Be a Role Model:  Of course, parents trying to set healthy guidelines for smartphone use may themselves be struggling with similar issues: The 2015 Pew survey found that 46 percent of American adults believed they could not live without their smartphones. Teens aren’t the only ones we need to worry about when it comes to smartphone addiction — adults should consider their habits as well.