According to a recent study of 688 university students, over a third of participants reported feelings of fatigue, loss of sleep quality, and increases in anxiety and depression from the overuse of smartphones. Younger people whose brains are still developing are at even more risk of negative effects from screen addiction. What signs should parents look for that their teen is suffering from anxiety? How can parents help their children overcome these problems?

Symptoms of Anxiety

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 18.1% of the adult population in this country suffers from anxiety. Even though this condition affects millions of people, it is still misunderstood by the general public. These signs may indicate that your teen is struggling with anxiety:

  • Emotional changes. When anxiety strikes, normally well-adjusted young ones can change their behavior drastically. Irritability, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, and unusual emotional outbursts are signs of anxiety.
  • Social changes. Anxiety causes the sufferer to withdraw from those they care about. Teens may stop interacting with friends, avoid extracurricular activities, or simply choose to spend more time alone than they do with others.
  • Physical changes. Headaches, stomach problems, excessive fatigue, and changes in eating habits are common side effects of this condition.

These changes don’t always mean your child has anxiety. However, if you see several of these signs, it is advised to seek professional help.

Symptoms of Screen Addiction

Even if your child isn’t showing signs of anxiety, they may still be spending too much time with screens. These signs point to a problem with screen time.

  • Feeling guilty or lying about how much time they spend online.
  • Procrastinating or avoiding duties for screen time.
  • Agitation, anxiety, and depression when confronted with their issues or unable to use screens.
  • Loss of the sense of time or forgetting about previously scheduled activities.

Researchers are still trying to understand how digital access affects brain development. However, it has been noted that exposure to violence negatively impacts mental health. Children with unfettered access to the internet can also fall victim to dangerous scammers, bullies, and people with malevolent intentions. Parents who witness these signs should take steps to reduce and control the amount of time teens spend with screens.

Overcoming Anxiety: A Parent’s Role

Use these strategies to help your teen overcome screen-induced anxiety.

  • Validate their emotions. Let them know that they are not “bad” for being anxious.
  • Make a plan to deal with anxiety attacks. Play a soothing game of cards, take a walk, or make something with your hands. These things help distract from strong, negative emotions.
  • Limit screen time. Pediatricians recommend no more than two hours each day. Parents may need to hide tablets, phones, and laptops to ensure compliance.

Technology has improved our world in countless ways. However, moderation and maturity are needed to get the most out of what it has to offer. Stay alert and establish realistic rules to keep your teen from falling victim to screen-induced anxiety.

Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.

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