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Technology addiction in teens is a growing problem. Image courtesy of Ambro /

Technology addiction in teens is a growing problem.
Image courtesy of Ambro /

12 signs your teenager might be a technology addict:

1.  Cannot part with the smart phone: If you are at the dinner table, your teenager has their phone sitting beside their dinner plate.  You cannot get them to give it to you at night and you have caught them texting at 2 or 3 in the morning on more than one occasion.

2.  Is missing sleep to play games/check Snapchat/text:  Teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep to function at their optimum level.  If your teenager is getting fewer than that and yet spends multiple hours doing useless online tasks, they are losing sleep for online time.

3.  Has more online friendships than offline:  Teenagers who constantly text, Snapchat, Instagram, talk through Xbox Live, and other forms of online socializing might have this problem.  This is particularly true when you never actually see any friends in person, and when your teenager never seems to go out.

4.  Spends more than 3 hours a day in front of a screen:  They do need some screen time to complete homework.  That’s just the way it goes these days.  However, checking messages hundreds of times per day takes a lot of time, and is addictive.

5.  Is unhealthy in other areas of life as a direct result of screen time:  If your adolescent is not taking care of their spiritual, emotional, academic, family, social and physical health it’s because those things all require a little bit of time and effort.  When all available energy goes into online activity, there often isn’t much left over for the real world.

6.  You are fighting about technology use all the time:  Do you find yourself constantly irritated by how much time your teen is spending on their phone/computer/gaming console?  Are you asking them to stop all the time, or threatening to take away their electronics?  Maybe you wish you could have a conversation about something else for a change, or even a conversation at all.  This can be a sign of electronics addiction.

7.  Sneaks it when you say no:  You’ve turned off the wifi and told your teen they cannot use the internet for the rest of the day.  You catch them using their data plan on their phone, or sneaking to turn the internet back on.

8.  Won’t engage with family on account of using an electronic:  The family is getting together to go out to dinner, watch a movie, or play a game.  Your teenager has no interest in joining you because they’d rather watch Netflix or play video games.

9.  Is better at video gaming than anything else in life:  Your teen’s primary skill is video gaming.  They are extremely talented at playing video games, but cannot cook an egg, hammer in a nail or write an essay.  We are good at skills we spend time working to improve.  If your teenager only develops skills with a gaming remote, then they won’t have much to market to the real world later in life.

10.  Only requests technology related gifts for birthdays and holidays:  Your teenager isn’t asking for new clothes, to be taken to a certain restaurant, or for movie theater gift cards.  The only thing they want you to get for them is the new version of a game they like to play, the most recent version of the iPhone, a new tablet, etc.

11.  Is only motivated by access to electronics:  The only way you seem to be able to get your adolescent to complete tasks is to either bribe them with a new electronic gadget, or threaten to take away their current gadget.  They don’t want to work for money, pride of doing a good job, or to learn useful skills for their future.

12.  Chooses screen time over personal hygiene:  Your teenager really should shower more than they do.  However, shower time is procrastinated because they are watching Netflix, playing a game or can’t put down the phone.  Sometimes it gets so late they end up missing days of personal care.  You now feel like you’re on their back all the time like when they were 3 years old and didn’t like to take a bath.


Technology addiction in adolescents is a serious growing problem.  It is difficult for parents to understand because we didn’t grow up with nearly as many distractions.  There was one phone in the house and it was attached to the wall with a cord.  The family might have had a single computer and splurged for 10 hours per month of dial up internet access.  As a teen if we were bored we had to call a friend, read a book, go for a walk, etc.  Now there is an instant way to be entertained and feel good.  Once this turns into addiction, it becomes a huge battle in the home.  It is frustrating and overwhelming for parents.  Getting help to get life back on track is essential to everyone’s well being.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT