Social Media: Is It Your Teen’s New Drug of Choice?

SocialMedia2When you think of drugs, most think of cocaine, marijuana, molly, crack, ecstasy, etc…

Years ago when Facebook hit the scene no one really knew what to expect from the website.

The site was exclusive to college students and allowed them to keep in touch with their friends at different colleges… and that’s it.

Fast forward to today and social media, which has grown far beyond just Facebook with the addition of websites like Twitter and YouTube, has become an addiction that doesn’t just encompass college students, it encompasses teens, parents, and grandparents alike. Even our pets have their own Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.

Don’t believe that social media is a metaphorical type of drug? Let’s compare.

1. It fills a self-imposed boredom: How many times have you heard someone say, “well I just get on to [Facebook, Twitter, etc.] when I’m bored”? People spend more time being “bored” than ever before. Instead of getting out and doing something we choose to spend our time inside on a computer checking up on other people’s lives and connecting with our friends through websites. Like a drug taking up all of our free time that could be spent doing something productive, instead we opt to fill our free time with social media.

2. It gives highs and lows: What about when you log onto a social media website and see that you have new notifications or connections? There is that instant high that someone has reached out to you publicly on a social media site. We crave social media popularity. It’s addicting. We need the gratification and we get jealous when we see other people are more popular and depressed when no one has tagged us in anything.

3. It’s used as a reward: Finish a project? Check Twitter. Write an article? Check Facebook. Check off items on a to-do list? Check blogs. We use social media as a reward for completing everyday tasks that deserve no reward, tasks that we should be doing because we are supposed to, not because it will allow us to reward ourselves with our next social media high.

4. It causes us to have withdrawals: Maybe the first time you noticed was when you sat at a stoplight and had to log onto your Facebook account from your phone… just to see if anything interesting was happening. Maybe it was when you couldn’t sit through dinner without tweeting something to your followers. Maybe it was the first time you got a pang of longing to log on because you weren’t around an internet. Whatever the cause, we suffer withdrawals from not being able to check in with our social media sites, just like drug addicts long for the next time they can get high.

5. It’s a tough addiction to break: As easy as it is to say that you aren’t addicted to social media as soon as you think about closing your accounts you’re probably met with that same fear that many people feel when faced with the thought of a life without it. How will you function since it’s become such an integral part of your life? Many of us have been addicted for so long that it would be incredibly difficult to make a clean break from the constant routine of checking our varying social media profiles.

Social media may not be illegal and it may not come with serious physical consequences, but it is an addiction that we are facing, and our teens are facing it in an even greater way because they’ve been inundated into the social media culture at a much earlier age than our generation of young and old adults were.

Contributor: Coleen Torres, blogger at phone internet, Save money on home phone, digital TV, and high-speed Internet by comparing prices from providers in your area for standalone service or phone TV Internet bundles.

Join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter for more information and educational articles on parenting today’s teenagers.

Advertisements

Cyber-Addiction and Teens: Ten Warning Signs

InternetAddictionOne of the most common concerns from parents of teens, behind drug use, is Internet addiction.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a college campus or schools that don’t have Internet. College students and teens use the Internet for research, communication, and other educational activities. Of course, students also use the Internet for social media, news, and even online gambling, activities that can be fun and even enriching, but when overused, become a real problem.

Some college students suffer from Internet addiction, unable to step away from the computer or put down mobile devices even for a day. Eighty-four percent of college counselors agree that Internet Addiction Disorder is legitimate, but at the same time, 93% of them have not been fully trained to diagnose Internet addiction, and 94% have insufficient training for Internet addiction treatment. The result? Falling grades, physical problems, and even clinical addiction.

Internet addiction is a real problem for college students and teens today, and here are several trends that are worrisome.

1. Students have feelings similar to drug and alcohol addiction: Two hundred students were asked to abstain from all media for 24 hours, and were then asked to blog about their experiences. The words the students used to describe their feelings during the restriction period were typically the same words associated with a substance abuse addiction: “withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, antsy, miserable, jittery, crazy.” It seems that these students are addicted to media, particularly in its online form. This is disturbing, but not surprising, as studies have already shown that Google can actually change your brain.

2. College students are especially susceptible to Internet Behavior Dependence:A college student case study revealed that college students are a “population of special concern” when it comes to Internet addiction, and they are disproportionately vulnerable due to psychological and environmental factors in their lives. When faced with an Internet addiction, college students have a hard time forming their identity and building intimate relationships. Online, students can “develop relationships devoid of the anxiety found in face-to-face relationships,” and they “can take on any persona they desire, without fear of judgment on appearance or personal mannerism, and can avoid racial and gender prejudice.” This type of adaptive behavior tends to diminish the social capacity of college students, leaving them unprepared for the development of real world relationships.

3. Online poker is prevalent on college campusesOnline poker joins two addictions together: gambling and online interaction, so its use on college campuses is especially worrisome. The University of Pennsylvania predicts that over 20% of college students play online poker at least once a month, and you can typically see lots of students playing online poker on a college campus. Although it can be a fun game, and many students may be able to maintain healthy lives while enjoying playing online poker, some simply can’t. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers noted that among college gamblers that played weekly, over half of them had a serious problem with the habit. In some cases, students fail out of classes or gamble their tuition away, even turning to crime to pay debts created by online poker.

4. Students can’t go 24 hours without the Internet:When 1,000 college students took part in an international study on electronic media, they were asked to go without media for 24 hours. But many students in the study were not up to the challenge. A majority of students did not actually go without media for 24 hours, giving in and checking in with their phones or email. Students confessed, “I sat in my bed and stared blankly. I had nothing to do,” and “Media is my drug; without it I was lost. How could I survive 24 hours without it?” The study revealed a physical dependency on media, especially Facebook and mobile phones. Students recognized that typing the address for their favorite sites had become muscle memory: “It was amazing to me though how easily programmed my fingers were to instantly start typing “f-a-c-e” in the search bar. It’s now muscle memory, or instinctual, to log into Facebook as the first step of Internet browsing.” Other students recognized physical signs of withdrawal, sharing that “I would feel irritable, tense, restless and anxious when I could not use my mobile phone. When I couldn’t communicate with my friends, I felt so lonely, as if I was in a small cage in a solitary island.”

5. Students are surfing, not studying: Students who spend a lot of time online are likely to neglect their studies. In many cases, students who performed well in school before developing an Internet addiction allowed their grades to crash, only then realizing the impact of Internet dependency. Counselors across the US have identified the problems of excessive Internet use, including: lack of sleep and excess fatigue, declining grades, less investment in relationships with a boyfriend or girlfriend, withdrawal from all campus social activities and events, general apathy, edginess, or irritability when off-line, and rationalizing that what they learn on the Internet is superior to their classes. Students may not realize the problem until serious trouble happens: “They flunk out of college. Their real-life girlfriend breaks up with them because all they ever want to do is play on the Net. Their parents explode when they find out their huge investment in their child’s college education is going to support all-night Internet sessions.” By then, it may be too late to recover the damage.

6. The Internet is everywhere: Ninety-eight percent of students own a digital device. This prevalence throws gasoline on a spark: students who are already susceptible to Internet addiction have access online in computer labs, their dorm, and other places around campus, and on top of that, they have the Internet in their pocket at all times. Knowing this, it’s not surprising to find out that 38% of students say they can’t go more than 10 minutes without using a digital device, contributing to an ever-present existence of the Internet on campus.

7. Internet use can physically change your brain: In a study of Chinese college students who were online for 10 hours a day, six days a week, morphological changes in the structure of their brains were noted. Scientists found reductions in the size of the “dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area and parts of the cerebellum as high as 10-20%.” Although at the same time, there was an increase in the “density of the right parahippocampal gyrus and a spot called the left posterior limb of the internal capsule.” These changes happen to the detriment of short term memory and decision-making abilities.

8. Many students need intervention and treatment for their addiction, and it can lead to depression: We might joke about “Crackberries,” but for some, the Internet is truly a significant concern. A study published in BMC Medicine indicated that 4% of the students who participated in their survey met the criteria for having a problem with online addiction. But perhaps the more disturbing fact from this study is that there is a “significant association between pathological Internet use and depression in college students,” putting a population that is already at risk for mental instability in a precarious position.

9. Cyberbullies go to college, too:Although most of the news on cyberbullying focuses on adolescents, the fact is that cyberbullies exist on the college campus as well. It’s not surprising, considering how much time students spend online, and how much impact a college student’s online presence can have. In fact, a University of New Hampshire study reported that one in 10 students was abused online. College students have been the target of sexually violent rants, and one professor at BU had to persuade Facebook to remove his page, which he did not set up himself. Researchers believe that students are especially vulnerable to cyberstalking because “they live in a relatively closed community where class schedules, phones, and e-mails are easy to find.” And sites like Rate My Professors may be helpful for students choosing classes, but some comments may be hurtful for faculty members. Thierry Guedj, adjunct professor of psychology at Metropolitan College reports, “It really hurts faculty members badly when they read these things about themselves online. People have become quite depressed about it.”

10. Tech conditions can be dangerous to your health: College Candy’s list of tech conditions that can be dangerous to your health seems to be written as a joke, citing “Blackberry Neck,” and “Glazey Dazey Lazy Eye,” but these conditions really can be a problem. Using the Internet too much can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, a decline in physical fitness, and as a result, weight gain. Heavy users report carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, and headaches. Sleep disturbances can also stem from Internet addiction, as Internet use may lead to later bedtimes and less restful sleep. Additionally, researchers believe that the light from computer screens may affect circadian rhythms, creating a risk factor for insomnia.

Remember parents, you should always have access to these passwords. It is for your child’s safety.

Join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter for more information and educational articles on parenting today’s teenagers.

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff – Internet Addiction

Source: Connect with Kids

“You treat [Internet addiction] by improving the relationships in the person’s life, so that they have another choice of something that is more fulfilling for their heart and their soul to do.”

– Eddie Reece, M.S., L.P.C., Psychotherapist

Just ask any teen – and many will say they can’t live without the Internet.

“I’d say out of any given week it probably takes up more than half of my time,” says Adam Schindler, a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“It’s a big part of my life,” says 21-year-old Chris Skinner. “And even when we have problems at home, with an internet connection. It’s like the whole world has crumbled, sadly enough.”

Internet addiction. It’s become so common the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto has started a new treatment program for teens.

Experts say signs that your child might be in trouble include isolation, giving up activities he or she used to enjoy and irritability.

”You come in and you are just asking what do you want for dinner, and you get snapped at because you have interrupted their virtual world,” explains psychotherapist Eddie Reece, M.S., L.P.C.

So what should parents do if their child is substituting a virtual world for the real one?

“How about working on the relationship that you have with your children, so that it would be more interesting to them to talk to you, than it would be to be on the computer,” suggests Reece.

He says along with setting limits on screen time, tell them why you’re concerned. “And then you can bring up the conversation of, ‘you know I noticed you haven’t been playing with Billy very much lately, you know what happened there? And then listen.”

“You have to go outside and make that initial approach sometimes,” says 21-year-old Jessica Criss. “And sometimes it’s hard, but it ends up being more fun than getting no new messages for the day.”

Tips for Parents

For many parents, video games are likely to be low on the list of addiction risks for their children. But as the video industry continues to grow, video game addiction is a problem being faced by more and more parents. This is especially true as the landscape of the video-game industry continues to change. Gone are the days of Super Mario and Donkey Kong. In their places are dark, adult-themed games like Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat.

Why has the landscape of the video-game industry undergone such drastic change? According to the Entertainment Software Association, players 18 and older now make up more than 50 percent of the market. And although more games with fast cars and gun-toting villains are being created for a mature audience, these same games also appeal to younger teens. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission found that out of 118 electronic games with a mature rating for violence, 70 percent of them actually targeted children under 17. In addition, the marketing plans for 51 percent of these games expressly included children under 17 in the target audience.

One of the reasons addiction to video games is a reality is because it isn’t viewed as a serious addiction risk by parents. And while video games in and of themselves are not bad, excessive and unobserved game playing can lead to problems. According to experts at the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF), there are steps you can take to lessen the likelihood of your child getting addicted to video games. Consider the following:

Limit game playing time. (Recommended: No more than one hour per day.)
Play with your child to become familiar with the games.
Provide alternative ways for your child to spend time.
Require that homework and jobs be done first; use video game playing as a reward.
Do not put video game set in a child’s room where he/she can shut the door and isolate himself/herself.
Talk about the content of the games.
Ask your video store to require parental approval before a violently rated video game can be rented by children.
When buying video games for your child, it is important to purchase games targeted at his/her audience. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates every video and computer game for age appropriateness (located on the front of the packaging) and, when appropriate, labels games with content descriptions. The ESRB’s current rating standard is as follows:

EC – Early Childhood (3 and older)
E – Everyone (6 and older)
E10+ – Everyone (10 and older)
T – Teens (13 and older)
M – Mature audiences (17 and older)
AO – Adults Only
RP – Ratings Pending

There are also other considerations besides the rating to take into account when deciding whether to purchase a video game for your child. Children Now, a research and action organization, offers these additional tips for helping you to choose the right video games for your child:

Know your child. Different children handle situations differently. Regardless of age, if your child becomes aggressive or unsettled after playing violent video games, don’t buy games with violence in them. Likewise, if your child likes playing games with characters that look like him/her, purchase games with characters that fit the bill.

Read more than the ratings. While the ESRB ratings can be helpful, they do not tell the whole story. Some features that you may consider violent or sexual may not be labeled as such by the ESRB. In addition, the ESRB does not rate games for the positive inclusion of females. The language on the packaging may give you a better idea of the amount and significance of violence and sexuality and the presence of gender and racial diversity or stereotypes in the game.

Go online. The ESRB website provides game ratings as well as definitions of the rating system. In addition, you can visit game maker and distributor websites to learn more about the contents of a game. Some have reviews that will provide even more information about the game.

Rent before you buy. Many video rental stores also rent video games and consoles. Take a trial run before you purchase a game.

Talk to other parents. Find out which games other parents like and dislike, as well as which games they let your child play when he/she visits their house. This is a good way to learn about the games that your child enjoys and those that other parents approve of, and to let other parents know which games you do not want your child playing.

Play the games with your child. Know what your child is being exposed to and how he/she reacts to different features in the games.

Talk about what you see. If your child discovers material that he/she finds disturbing or that you find inappropriate, talk about it. This is a great opportunity to let your child know what your values are as well as to help him/her deal with images that may be troubling.

Set limits. If you are worried that your child spends too much time playing video games, limit the amount of time or specify the times of day that video games can be played.

Put the games in a public space. Just as with the Internet, keep your game consoles and computers in public family space so that you can be aware of the material your child is viewing.

Contact the game makers. If you find material that you think is offensive or inappropriate, let the people who make and sell the games know about it. Likewise, let game makers know if you think that a game provides healthy messages or images. They do care what you think!

References
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Children Now
Entertainment Software Association
Entertainment Software Rating Board
Federal Trade Commission
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute on Media and the Family