Teen Internet Addiction – Should You be Worried?

teen internet addiction

The virtual, or online, world is replete with exciting opportunities and experiences.

The rise of social media sites, online shopping, extensive gaming opportunities, as well as easy and on-the-go access to literally every kind of information, are pushing the boundaries on the kind of influence and hold the virtual world has on different sections of populations.

This includes the vulnerable and experience-seeking teenager who is desperately trying to find their own space and identity.

Why is Internet Addiction Dangerous?

The most vulnerable sections of any society are young children and teenagers. And there is no doubt they are spending increasing amounts of time online. But can the time spent online convert into an addiction?

Consider the fact that today’s teenager has grown up on a steady dose of online content which they can easily consume over various screens. Of which, the smartphone is the most popular choice. The big question then is this – does more online screen time lead to Internet addiction?

While Internet addiction is not a cause of concern for every single teenager. The Internet can become a dangerous place for your teen, especially if the usage is largely unsupervised, for several reasons. Consider the following:

  • Easy availability of drugs online.
  • Easy access to online gaming.
  • Easy access to online porn and other adult content.
  • Easy access to provocative and polarizing online content (political, religious, violent) which are often created to influence young, unsuspecting minds.

Each of these factors can lead a teenager to pick up habits which are addictive in nature and dangerous to their mental and physical health.

Signs of Internet Addiction in Your Teen

As with any form of addiction, Internet addiction displays itself through a few common signs. Watch out for these signs in your teen:

  • Unduly obsessive about the time they spend online each day.
  • The number of hours spent online keeps increasing steadily.
  • Not missing an opportunity to go online.
  • Pushing back bed time to stay online or even staying up all night.
  • Pulls back from social engagement; withdraws from engaging with family and friends.
  • Falling grades, unable to focus on school work, lack of interest in school and learning.
  • Mood/emotional outbursts and signs – irritable, moody, or angry when asked to cut down time spent online.
  • Is convinced online connections/friends are real.
  • Over dependence on online friends and including them in all decisions.
  • Hides or refuses to divulge or share any information about online activities.
  • Becomes depressed if not online.

Who is at Risk?

Social, environmental, family, physical, and emotional factors play a vital role in the development process of a teenager. A problem in any of these areas increases the risk of the teen developing problems or picking up an addiction. Internet addiction is no different.

For example, teens who lack a strong social support system, or are battling depression, or anxiety or any other form of mental/emotional disorder fall in the vulnerable category. If the teen is already addicted to say, drugs or alcohol, again the chances of them becoming addicted to the Internet is higher.

Internet Addiction in Teens – What You Can Do About It

A simple “no” will obviously not work when it comes to dealing with teenagers. However, you can take certain steps to reduce the chance of your teen becoming addicted to the Internet by doing the following:

  • Fix a time limit for Internet usage when it comes to engaging on social sites and for consumption of other social content.
  • Be strict about fixing a time limit on gaming.
  • Make it clear that the Internet is essentially for doing school work and research.
  • Try and keep Internet access to common areas within the home such as the kitchen/dining area, the study, or the family space for easy monitoring.
  • If you notice unusual behavior, speak with your teenager about what could be triggering the behavior.
  • If you feel the time spent online is impacting your teen in other ways, address it as soon as possible – if you are unable to find a solution, consult with a professional.
  • Lastly, closely monitor all online activity – leaving your child unsupervised online can be dangerous.

Overcoming Internet Addiction is Possible – How Doorways Can Help Your Teen

A potent treatment combination of behavioral, family, group counselling, and psychiatric intervention can help your teen overcome their Internet addiction.

At Doorways, our focus is to first gain a comprehensive understanding of the triggers for the addiction, and then to address any of the mental and physical issues a teen might have developed during the course of the addiction.

Overcoming any form of addiction will only happen if the teenager can achieve an emotional, spiritual, and relational/social balance in their lives. This is our big focus area at Doorways.

If you suspect that your teenager is addicted to the Internet, or if you know of a family or friend with a teenager who is struggling with Internet addiction, please direct them to Doorways. We can also be reached at 602-997-2880.

5 Ways to Approach Your Teen About Drug Abuse

how to approach your teen about drug abuse

Unfortunately, teen substance abuse, including abuse related to prescription drugs, is a big problem currently. Parents may approach this in a variety of ways, some of which are more effective than others. Ineffective methods may only make things worse and cause unnecessary conflict between you and your teenager. So, if you suspect there is some substance abuse issue going on, here’s some advice on how to approach this.

  1. Acknowledge the Problem

You may be reluctant to face up to the fact that your teen could have a drug abuse problem, even though the signs of it lie right before your eyes. You may tell yourself things like “They’re just experimenting a little – it’s no big deal,” or “They just tried it once, but it’s not like they’re an addict.” Instead of doing your best to ignore the situation and hoping it will just go away, you need to conduct intentional conversations with your adolescent about the very real dangers of substance abuse.

  1. Be Your Teen’s Parent, Not Their Friend

It’s very likely that your adolescent has succumbed to peer pressure and that some of their friends are encouraging them to do drugs. Right now, your teenager needs a parent, not another friend. Yes, it’s necessary to invade your teen’s privacy by searching their room, car, and belongings for drugs and to explain to them they need to get help. You need to behave like a parent because your adolescent isn’t in a position to make the best decisions for themselves right now.

  1. Discuss the Issue When Your Teen is Not High

If your teen arrives home from a party and is obviously high, it won’t be productive to confront them when they’re incapable of listening to a reasoned conversation. Be patient and wait for a more appropriate time to talk about your concerns when your adolescent can be coherent and fully present for the discussion.

  1. Talk About the Problem When You’re Calm

I’m sure your discovery of your teenager’s drug use is eliciting a varied range of emotions – anger, fear, disappointment. It’s important to try not to let these feelings guide your conversations with your teen. Letting your discussions deteriorate into yelling matches won’t help – your adolescent will only become defensive and shut down. It’s much better to remain calm and talk to them about the changes you’ve observed in them and how concerned you are. You want to come across as a source of support rather than of guilt or shame.

  1. Acknowledge Any Family History

If there is a history of drug abuse in your family, try to educate your teen about their possible genetic vulnerability toward drug dependency. If you have personal experiences with recovery from substance abuse, share them with your adolescent. Don’t conceal valuable knowledge you’ve gained from experience in an effort to maintain a perfect family image. Your teen can learn from family mistakes, but only if you share them.

Where to Get Help for Teen Substance Abuse in Phoenix

If you think your adolescent has a substance abuse problem, it’s not something to ignore. You need to take action, have conversations with your teenager about their drug use, and make it clear that it’s a big deal. If you find you can’t cope on your own, Doorways is here to offer professional support for you and your teen. Arrange an initial no-charge consultation with us so that you and your adolescent can get the help you need as soon as possible.

Where Do Teens Get Drugs?

where do teens get drugs?

The 2017 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study of drug use and attitudes among teens found that the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is at its lowest level in over two decades. The figures are as follows:

  • 8 percent among 8th graders.
  • 4 percent among 10th graders.
  • 3 percent among 12th graders.

However, just because these figures are lower than in years past is no reason for complacency. The percentages show that some adolescents are still using nonprescription and prescription drugs of one kind or another. To read the full MTF report, click here.

How Easy is it for Teens to Obtain Drugs?

As a parent, you may be surprised to learn that teenagers often find it easier to get drugs than to acquire alcohol. Of course, every parent wants to prevent their teen from getting a hold of these harmful substances, so it helps to know how teens manage to acquire drugs so easily. Below is a review of where adolescents find it possible to get drugs.

At Home

Most homes have medicine cabinets containing drugs of various kinds. It’s easy for a teen to take a few pills from a bathroom cabinet or the cabinet of a friend’s house. New drug experimenters in their early teens are more likely to try prescription drugs than any other kind of drug. They may find they can get a quick high with Xanax or OxyContin. It’s a good idea not to hang on to leftover prescription pills and to keep your medicine cabinet locked.

  • How Teens Get Addicted to Drugs – Unfortunately, if adolescents continue to use these drugs, they need higher and higher dosages to achieve the same effect, and this eventually ends up as a full-blown drug dependency. As a parent, you should pay attention if you find you are having to refill your prescriptions faster than you expect.

At School

Most parents are unaware that many drug transactions take place on school premises where teenagers sell drugs they have acquired to others. At school, teens may be able to access a large pool of different drugs provided by teen distributors operating under the radar of school authorities.

Online

It should come as no surprise that a number of drug vendors take advantage of the internet.

  • The Dark Web – The dark web is the encrypted “underworld” of the internet that cannot be accessed without special software or authorization. Despite the takedown in 2013 of a very active online drug marketplace called Silk Road, similar shady websites remain alive. Today’s teenagers are tech-savvy, and many understand how to access the dark web in order to purchase drugs online.
  • Online Pharmacies – Outside of the dark web, the internet is full of pharmacies that offer drugs for sale illegally, many of them based outside of the U.S. Adolescents can go online and order a wide choice of prescription medications that are shipped in discreet packaging.

The Dangers of Online Drugs

A teen can have no idea whether the drug they have purchased is what they intended to acquire. Moreover, many of these businesses are not selling what they claim to be selling. If they are only selling sugar pills, this is just harmless fraud. However, they could be selling potentially deadly medications – there is no way that an adolescent can know the actual dosage strength of a medication purchased online, making overdosing a real possibility.

Where Can I get Help in Arizona for my Teen with a Drug Addiction

If you suspect your adolescent has a drug abuse problem, talk to Doorways. We  can recommend resources to help you and your teen. Adolescent drug abuse is a serious problem, and you need the help of trained professionals. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.

What Parents Need to Know About Teen Vaping

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) is an annual review of teen drug use carried out by the University of Michigan. The survey looks at drug use among approximately 43,000 teens. The study found that nearly one in three 12th-grade students reported using some type of vaping device.

What is Vaping?

Vaping refers to the act of inhaling and exhaling vapor produced by an aerosol via an electronic cigarette or some other vaping device. The substances that teens are vaping range from liquids containing various flavorings to fluids containing nicotine and THC (the chemical component of marijuana that produces the high).

Vaping is Marketed to Appeal to Teens

Vaping liquids are made with lots of flavors designed to appeal to teens. Vaping devices that teens can charge just like their cell phones are readily available. Marketers know that teens like “cool” jargon. An example is one slang word for vaping, JUULing (pronounced “jeweling”) that refers to the JUUL brand device made to look like a flash drive rather than an e-cigarette.

The Risks of Vaping are Downplayed

Vaping is marketed as a “safer” alternative to traditional cigarettes, and many teens falsely assume that an e-cigarette that doesn’t contain tobacco is safe. However, here are the reasons why vaping is not safe.

No One Knows Exactly What Chemicals are Being Vaped

Vaping is new and there are hundreds of brands, so there’s not much information about exactly what chemicals might be in what vape liquids. Synthetic chemicals in these liquids may include “herbal incense” like spice (also known as K2 or synthetic marijuana). K2 is marketed with names designed to appeal to teens – Black Mamba, Bliss, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, Joker, Kush, Kronic, Zohai.

Teen Lungs are Exposed to a Variety of Chemicals

Vaping exposes the lungs to carcinogens in the vaping liquid and also toxic metal nanoparticles from vaping devices. These chemicals can cause irritation to young lungs, “smoker’s cough,” and mouth sores.

Vaping May Cause Transition to Traditional Cigarette Smoking

Reuters Health summed up the results of studies on teen vaping that found the following.

  • The risk of smoking traditional cigarettes increases four times for a teen that vapes versus one that does not.
  • In a study of more than 2,000 10th-graders, it was found that one in five teens with a regular vaping habit at the beginning of the study had moved on to smoking traditional cigarettes at least three times monthly by the close of the study period.
  • An additional 12% of regular vapers smoked cigarettes at least one day each month.
  • Less than 1% of never-vaping students smoked one day a month.

What Can I Do to Prevent my Teen from Vaping?

You need to make it clear to your teen that you don’t want them to engage in vaping. However, you want to have a conversation as opposed to a confrontation. Keep reminding yourself to speak and listen from a place of support, love, and concern. Explain to your teen that teens who vape are at risk for long-lasting effects. They should be made aware that vaping substances affect the development of a teen’s brain reward system, and continued use can eventually lead to health problems and addiction.

Get Help

You want your teen to be as healthy as possible and so do the teen counselors at Doorways. We will work to find out why vaping is attractive to your teen and help them to replace vaping with healthier behavior. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Pot

Currently, recreational use of marijuana is legal in eight states plus the District of Columbia, with California the latest state to pass these changes. Teens will tell you that pot is easy to obtain and that “everybody” uses it. And, a National Institute on Drug Abuse study did conclude that marijuana usage is popular among adolescents and young adults. There is a general opinion that marijuana use by young people is not harmful. However, this is very far from the truth and here’s why.

1. Marijuana Slows Adolescent Brain Development

Apart from what happens to the brain before birth, there is more significant brain development during adolescence than at any other developmental stage. The brain has a natural endocannabinoid system that has a significant part to play in brain development. This system is adversely affected by marijuana use.

2. Kids Get Really High

Adolescents have a higher ratio of cannabinoid receptors (known as CB1) in their brains than adults. The chemical component in marijuana that causes most of its psychological effects is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC binds to the CB1 receptors in a teenager’s brain and stays there longer than in an adult. While THC remains in the receptor, it blocks the processes of memory and learning. Dr. Frances Jensen is a Neuroscientist and author of The Teenage Brain. She was interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air and stated that prolonged use of marijuana between the ages of thirteen and seventeen could result in permanent brain changes.

3. Pot Today is More Potent

Studies of the average THC concentration in cannabis show that levels have been steadily rising from about four percent in 1995 to approximately 12 percent in 2014. Biological Psychiatry found that strains of marijuana are currently being grown with 17-33 percent THC, on the principle that higher THC concentration means a more profitable product. What also makes today’s pot more potent is that twenty years ago marijuana had higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) which is non-psychoactive and responsible for the medical benefits of marijuana. But, growers are breeding it out of recreational marijuana because it prevents users from getting as high as they would without the CBD. The end result is that these higher THC levels are much more harmful to the developing adolescent brain.

4. Marijuana Can Have Long-Lasting Effects

Exposing the brain to marijuana during adolescence can slow down brain maturation and eventually cause neurobiological changes that will affect brain function in adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the results of a 2014 study that looked at the long-term effects of the use of marijuana during adolescence. The study concluded that early marijuana use causes adverse effects on intelligence, cognitive functioning, and emotional behavior, and increases the risk of the development of psychotic disorders. What’s more, the damage may be irreversible.

Parents, Talk to Your Kids

Based on survey results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seventy-one percent of high school seniors do not view “regular marijuana usage” as harmful. Many kids see (and smell) adults getting stoned at concerts, and now, just walking down the street. It’s easy to see how they might assume that pot use is just harmless fun. Even though it’s reassuring to know that most teens don’t smoke cigarettes because they understand the health dangers, it’s time to make clear to them that marijuana use is also risky. Talk with your kids regularly about the risks that marijuana poses.

Are you are worried that your teen is using marijuana regularly and don’t know what to do about it? Our specialty lies in helping families with teens and young adults, so contact us to find out how we can help.

Is Your Teen Using Drugs? Learn the Early Warning Signs

Many parents ask us how to tell if their teen has begun drinking or doing drugs. By taking careful note of your teen’s behavior and paying attention to a few key red flags, you can spot issues with drug use sooner rather than later. While you may not find drug paraphernalia in their room or catch them drinking when they think no one is home, you should always trust your instincts. If you start to take note of some of the warning signs we’ve listed below, we encourage you to take action. Talk to your teen and get help from a professional if needed.

How to Spot Early Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Use in Teens

Utilize your sense of smell.

Have a conversation when your teenage child comes home after spending time out with friends. Address them face-to-face and ask if they had a nice time, what they did, or who they were with. If they’ve been using drugs or alcohol, the smell could be lingering on their clothes, hair, or breath.

Make eye contact.

Similar to the tip above, when your teen gets home, be sure to pay attention to their eyes during that face-to-face conversation. If your child has used marijuana – their eyes will be bloodshot, the lids may look droopy, and their pupils small. Drinking leaves pupils dilated and leads to trouble focusing. And, there may be other clues nearby. Is your teen’s face or cheeks flushed? This can also be a sign of drug or alcohol use.

Pay attention to sudden changes in behavior.

If your teen acts one way after school and completely different after a night out with friends, this could be a red flag. Upon their return: Does their volume or vocal register change? Do they crack up for no reason at all? Or, maybe they appear abnormally uncoordinated and you notice they’re bumping into things and knocking things over. Are they acting surly and introverted when they’re usually a chatterbox? Are they sleepy even though it’s early in the evening? Are they complaining of nausea? These could all be clues that they were drinking or using drugs before they came home.

Do they drive?

If your teen drives or has a car make sure to observe this aspect as well. Are they driving less carefully when they come home than when they left? Does their car have dents and dings with no explanation? Check the inside of the car, too. Does it smell? Are there items on the floorboard or in the glovebox that might provide hints that drug or alcohol use is taking place?

Take note of deception and secrets.

Are your teen’s plans starting to sound a little far-fetched? Are they vague about the who, what, when, where, and why? If they went out to a restaurant or to see a band, can they tell you what they ordered or what songs were their favorite? Do they insist a chaperone will be present but can’t produce a contact number? Are they showing up past curfew with a never-ending series of excuses? If you press them on these excuses, do they become erratic and angry? If these scenarios sound familiar, it could be time to act.

If you believe your teen is using drugs, contact our team at Doorways for additional support. We specialize in helping families with teens and young adults ages 13-25. We teach families how to deal with conflict, demonstrate love, improve communication and more. There is help for your family!

Are Smartphones the New Drug for Teens?

Across the country, we are seeing an increase in the number of states legalizing marijuana, a growing number of people abusing opioids, and an increase in the use of synthetic drugs. But, as a recent New York Times article states, drug use among teens has been on the decline. Apparently, this decrease has been growing for over the last 10 years, but no one has really come to understand why.

Some researchers have begun to theorize that the decline is due to the increase in the usage of smartphones among teens. They believe that teens are avoiding drugs and alcohol because of the stimulation that they are receiving from their smartphones.

One of the researchers mentioned by the New York times is Dr. Nora Volkov, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A team of researchers has been studying the topic and will meet this month to discuss the possible correlation between the decline in drug use and smartphone usage. Are researchers implying that teens might actually be getting “high” on their smartphones? Dr. Volkov says that is just the question that has been posed once the most recent survey, Monitoring the Future results came out which clearly show the decline in drug and alcohol abuse among teens. According to Dr. Volkov, she calls the stimulus that teens are getting from using social media, playing games, etc. as “an alternative enforcer,” the alternative being drugs, saying “teens can literally get high when playing these games.”

A substance abuse expert at Columbia University, Dr. Silvia Martens, states” playing video games, using social media, that fulfills the necessity of sensation seeking, their need to seek novel activity,” but is quick to mention that this still has not yet been proven.

How many teens have a smartphone? According to a recent Google survey, titled It’s Lit: A Guide to What Teens Think is Cool, only 9.6 percent of teens surveyed did not have a smartphone. Another study referenced by the New York Times revealed that the average age for getting a smartphone is 10. What’s even more surprising is that teens spend about six hours a day on their smartphone according to a Common Sense Media survey referenced by Today. According to the recent Google survey, the top social media platforms used by teens are Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. Additionally, teens use their phones for gaming as well as streaming on sites like YouTube and Netflix. Based on these statistics, it does seem that teens are highly engaged in smartphone usage.

We will have to wait and see if these theories are proven or not, we do know that some teens have found solace in their phones while at parties where drugs and alcohol are present. The teens interviewed in the New York Times article shared their accounts of being at parties and being able to stay away from substances because they were busy on their phones. Other teens mentioned that they replaced boredom with being on their phones unlike some of their peers that replaced their boredom with drugs.

While smartphone usage and research on its effects are still somewhat new, we can see that there is a positive side to teen smartphone usage if it is replacing drug and alcohol use among teens.

Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on 13-25-year old’s and their families specializing in treatment for eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety/OCD, substance abuse, depression, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide prevention, and family counseling.