Teenagers may face a lifelong struggle with addiction because of their constant use of modern technology and, even more disturbing, parents are, in many cases unknowingly, helping to maintain the habit. Such a depressing introduction. Apologies! But, I really didn’t know how else to introduce this story.
So here are the facts; the average UK teen checks social media eleven times a day. And, a large percentage of those teens — 58% — said they would have trouble giving up social media for a month, according to Allen Carr Addiction Clinics, which conducted the survey of 1,000 British teens ages 12-18. Similarly, 66% of teens surveyed said they couldn’t go without texting for a month; British teens send an average 17 text messages per day.
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t go without texting for a month. Horrors! How would I communicate? And, going without social media for a month would be rough. I’m not a realistic example as I have to use social media in my work on a daily basis, but personally it would still be very difficult for me to go cold turkey for that long.
The study highlighted a trend of thrill-seeking in an increasing number of young people, primarily carried out through technology and social media.
The report suggested that several elements involved in this habit – the constant pursuit of stimulation, peer approval, instant gratification, and elements of narcissism – are all potential indicators of addictive behavior. OK, so this is disturbing, but I don’t think these are elements that are exclusive to teens involved in social media. I mean, how many of your friends do you know (including me) who are sometimes engaged in these behaviors?
Unfortunately, it also seems parents are inadvertently becoming “co-dependents” enabling their child’s addictions by funding them – despite not necessarily knowing where the money is being spent.
UK teenagers spend an average of £15.81 (approx. $24.00) a week funding their various vices, meaning that they have to find £62 (approx. $94.00) a month before they even consider paying for other pursuits such as sports or other recreational activities. Nearly half of all teens’ spending on various habits goes to texting, mobile phones, and data plans. Depressingly, 14% of teens have lied to their families to get money to fund this area of spending, with 7% having gone as far as stealing from a relative. Regionally the report shows that a staggering 29% of teenagers in London have either lied to or stolen from their parents to fund their vices.
The growing number of ever-changing, ever-updating tech and gadgets available to UK teens in 2015 run alongside established potentially addictive activities such as alcohol-use and consumption of junk food – creating an environment where young people experience the compulsion to consume and engage more than they can legitimately fund, leading to desperate often risky behaviour – a hallmark of addiction.
Interestingly enough, by comparison to social media, just 6% of respondents said they couldn’t give up alcohol for a month, and 28% said the same for junk food. I can tell you for sure, I’d have a really hard time giving up my M&M’s and Sour Skittles. That may even be harder than giving up texting.
John Dicey, Global Managing Director & Senior Therapist of Allen Carr Addiction Clinics comments; “The findings of this report are cause for concern and highlight a generation of young people exhibiting many of the hallmarks of addictive behaviour. The explosion of technology we have seen since the late 90’s offers incredible opportunities to our youth – the constant stimulation provided by access to the Internet for example can be a good or a bad thing. There’s a price to pay. This study indicates that huge numbers of young people are developing compulsions and behaviors that they’re not entirely in control of and cannot financially support. Unless we educate our young people as to the dangers of constant stimulation and consumption, we are sleepwalking towards an epidemic of adulthood addiction in the future.”
Dicey continues “Make no mistake – technology and social media shouldn’t be demonized – they’re incredibly engaging and useful in our everyday lives – the objective of our study was to establish whether youngsters were moving beyond “normal use” and might therefore become pre-disposed to move on to other addictions later in life.”
So, listen to Mr. Dicey, social media shouldn’t be demonized! Let’s do what we can to ensure teens don’t move beyond “normal use.” This can take place in schools and certainly at home. Put down those phones!
For more on the survey check out this post from The Social Graf.