What is Adolescent Treatment for Technology Addiction?

Adolescent treatment for internet or technology addiction is far from unusual. Studies in the U.S. and Europe show that 1.5-8.2% of teens are dealing with this addiction. Because it is such a problem, many treatment centers are beginning to offer programs designed to help teenagers learn how to use technology without abusing it.

Similar to treating substance abuse, sex addiction, or any other type of addictive behavior, you will find that technology addiction treatment for adolescents includes many of the same therapy modules. The first part of treatment includes separating the teen from their source of internet.

This separation will include leaving any internet source (smartphones, tablets, laptops) at home or in the facility’s storage center. This allows the patient to focus on their recovery, limits the patient’s distractions, and helps counselors better assess each individual.

The separation of the teen from technology is just the beginning. Your teen’s treatment team will help determine the root cause of the addiction by meeting with them in one-on-one sessions. During these sessions, signs of depression, anxiety, or stress may be uncovered.

Mental illness and addiction often occur simultaneously. The term for this is co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis. While mental illness can be partially to blame for an addiction, the cause and effect can be opposites. With this said, part of adolescent treatment is to teach healthy coping mechanisms.

These healthy coping mechanisms may include:

  • Talking to a trusted relative or professional
  • Drawing
  • Taking a bath
  • Listening to  music
  • Exercising
  • Journaling

While your teen may perform some or all of these activities to help with daily stressors, they may often do so while checking their phone. They may also feel like they are ‘lost’ or ‘missing out‘ on something if they aren’t constantly connected to the internet.

In addition to teaching these coping mechanisms, facilities teach teens how to socialize (in person) with one another. This is done through recreation therapy. Recreation therapy may include team sports, games, or simply a movie night. The purpose is to show patients that life can be lived and enjoyed without the use of technology or the internet.

Other modules of treatment may include art therapy, group sessions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and even education about how/why internet addiction works in the brain. Each of these modules helps the individual reconnect to their ‘old’ self and is led by qualified counselors or instructors.

Is Adolescent Treatment Effective?

A relapse in many cases happens when the addict abuses a drug or alcohol after receiving treatment. Because the internet & technology cannot be avoided, it is important to understand what life might look like after your child comes home.

Parents need to realize that your child WILL have to use technology again. The world is more connected than ever and the use of technology happens in classrooms, colleges, the workplace, and home. With this said, it is improbable and likely impossible that your teen will avoid using a smartphone or a laptop for the rest of their life.

The key to effective adolescent treatment of technology addiction is knowing when enough is enough. For teens, this often includes setting time limits for internet use and parental monitoring of how/when time is spent.

After returning home from treatment, it is wise for your teen to avoid gaming and unnecessary use of the internet. Ideally, your family will work toward being better at communicating with one another and enjoy quality time without the constant use of internet devices.

As a parent, you may need to note your own use of technology to help set an example for your child. This will mean being present when your teenager is home from school by engaging them in discussions or even cooking a meal together.

Technology addiction is not recognized by the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM.) Therefore, there is no real way to assess a patient’s success at recovery which also means very few statistics regarding the success of treatment.

Because of this, it is up to the end-user and their parents to recognize that successfully completing treatment and recovering from internet addiction is based on the individual. At the end of the day, seeing improvements in the behavior of your child as well as less internet use can be counted as a successful treatment.

Signs of successful adolescent treatment for technology addiction include showing interest in old hobbies, reconnecting with old friends, and improved schoolwork. As a parent, you may notice less defensiveness when asked about their internet activities and fewer mood swings.

If you are asking yourself, “What do I do if my is child addicted to technology?”, you may consider contacting a specialist who understands technology addiction treatment for adolescents. This will give you, your family, and your child the best opportunity to return to normalcy without the yelling matches, constant groundings, and potentially further isolating your teen.