New addictions for the computer age

The majority of the time when people say or think of the word “addiction,” people either think of drugs, gambling, or sex; however, a wave of new addictions is rising in today’s society. The debate continues as to whether or not these new age addictions are just overindulgence, true clinical addiction, or mere obsessive habits. However, some of the new addictions that are rising in today’s society include addictions to tanning beds, cell phones, internet, and video games.

New addictions for the computer age

Tanning Bed Addiction

According to the American Psychological Association (2010), “Students who used tanning facilities frequently had slightly higher levels of anxiety symptoms, as well as higher rates of alcohol and marijuana use, according to the study by researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the State University of New York, Albany”. Tanning beds have become such a “much needed” item that they can be found in rural communities and in convenience stores. Are tanning beds such a necessity that they have to be so accessible, especially knowing that tanning beds can raise a person’s chance of melanoma and other skin diseases. However, cell phones are also becoming something that is considered an addiction.

Cell Phone Addiction

According to the APtA, teenagers send over a hundred texts a day on their cell phone. Additionally, on any given day a person can walk down the street and see the majority of adults and teenagers on their cell phone. Many people say they could not exist without their cell phone. In Spain, people are even being admitted to mental hospitals for addictions to cell phones. What would people, especially teenagers, do without their cell phones?

Internet Addiction

Another new addiction is the internet. The internet is a valuable tool in which people can find information, join social groups, get education, and many other things; however, the internet is taking over some people’s lives. The Computer Addiction Study Center at Harvard University’s McLean Hospital has found that 5-10% of the population has internet dependency. Many people forget all other aspects of his or her life for time on the internet, which has included valuable family time or other responsibilities. Fall City, Washington as even opened up a detox center for internet addicts. Additionally, video games, especially among children and teenagers, have become another new computer age addiction.

Video and Computer Game Addiction

According to the APA (2010), “Gamers who played 24 hours per week were more likely to have trouble paying attention in school, poorer grades and more health problems than those who played fewer hours” (para. 7). There are so many children, teenagers, and adults that come in from school or work and the first thing they do is get on video or computer games and stay playing games for many hours. Some children never go outside, which does not promote social, communication, or learning skills that are much needed. Additionally, if a child or teenager sits in front of a game all day and night, there is no physical activity involved, which can lead to obesity and other health problems. Many people are becoming addicted to games such as The Sims, where they play socially with other players.

New addictions

Society is now moving into an era of different types of addictions. It is hard for a person to think of tanning beds, cell phones, internet, or video games as leading to addiction; however, these items are taking over lives and interrupting a valuable item, the family structure. The typical family evening now involves children playing video games, using the computer, or on their cell phones. These items can definitely take over and disrupt a person’s responsibilities or a family’s valuable time.

Tweens and Screen Addiction

There are several different theories currently being popularized when referring to “screen addiction.” While “screen addiction” has previously been classified into either one of two categories, computer/Internet addiction or television addiction, more recent ideas (such as those proposed by Nancy Levant in her series on “Manipulating America”) combine the two forms of addiction into a single category. The term therefore applies to unhealthy and often compulsive behaviors which appear in either a computer/Internet addict or a television addict.

Just because your child has difficulty separating himself from either the computer screen or the television screen does not automatically make him an “addict.” The term addiction refers to the obsessive/compulsive use of any substance (or non substance) without regard to the consequences of such use. A tween who enjoys watching television for a couple of hours in the evening, is not the same as one who seems literally unable to turn off the television to the detriment of social relationships, family, school or other important factors in their lives.

How Can I Tell if My Child is Screen Addicted?

Some warning signs that may signify your child has a problem include:

Preoccupation with the Internet/television

You may notice that even when your child is not watching television or engaging in internet activities, he/she is talking or thinking about the last TV/Internet experience, or is focused on the next one.

Spending more and more time on the addiction

Just as a drug addict eventually builds a tolerance to the substance of choice, a screen addict will also begin to need more and more time in front of the TV or online to achieve the same amount of satisfaction. If your tween seems to be getting to the point where he is either watching television, or using the Internet for longer and longer times each day, this can indicate a problem.

Attempts to stop “using”

computer age

The screen addict may resolve to “cut back” on the amount of time spent watching TV or using the Internet, but never seems to be able to follow through. They may experience feelings of restlessness, moodiness, anxiety, or depression, when attempting to limit their use of the TV/Internet.

Risks serious losses because of the addiction

The screen addict may lose friendships or other social relationships because of their problem. Family, school, and extracurricular activities may suffer as a result of the addiction.

How Can I Help My Tween Beat Screen Addiction?

If you believe your child has a problem with screen addiction there are steps you can take to help them overcome their addiction.

Learn as much as you can about your child’s addiction. Knowledge is power. Some helpful websites you can visit to gain more information include:
Turn Off Your TV
Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery
Escape Your Television
Talk with your child about your concerns. Point out the behaviors which you have noticed, and give your child the chance to share with you what they are going through.
Share with your child what you have learned and read about screen addiction, and give him resources where he can learn more.
Limit your child’s exposure to TV/Internet, and role model the behaviors you would like your tween to have.
Involve your tween in extracurricular activities that get her away from the screen, and help her form new social relationships.