Teen Technology Addiction Treatment Program

Residential Treatment Centers Address Technology Overuse

Social media is almost a universal feature of adolescence for teens today. This increased connectivity has changed the way teens socialize, but it’s unclear whether they are actually more connected to others. As part of the Pew Research Center’s research into Americans’ digital lives, they found roughly two-thirds of parents of teens (65%) say they worry at least some about their teen spending too much time in front of screens, including a third who worry a lot about this. Around the same number claim that they have tried to take steps to monitor for signs of their teen’s technology overuse, especially if their technology use has lead to increased mental health issues or social struggles.

The guide is meant to be comprehensive, but as such, not every section will be applicable to everyone. Instead, we invite you to click on the links in the table of contents to jump to the sections that most interest you.

Table of Contents

How Does Elevations RTC Help Teens Struggling with Technology Overuse?

Elevations RTC offers a variety of evidence-based techniques in individual, group, and family therapy, to help teens struggling with technology use address why they spend so much time online and develop healthier habits and social skills.

Our residential treatment center blends psychoeducation with milieu therapy and recreation activities. We believe that a one-sided approach does not effectively treat issues related to technology overuse. Rather than just limiting screen time to resolve these issues, our holistic approach focuses on the bigger picture: how to help teens succeed in multiple areas of their lives.

Signs of Technology Overuse in Teens

  • Impaired control over technology use (frequency, intensity, duration)
  • Increased priority given to technology over other interests
  • Continuation or escalation of technology use despite negative consequences
  • Increased interpersonal conflict or social withdrawal
  • Distress when access to technology is limited

Types of Technology Addictions

Video Game Addiction. One of the biggest concerns parents have about technology is the amount of time their teen spends playing video games, often instead of doing homework or going to bed at a reasonable time. For many teens, they may turn to video games to distract from feelings of loneliness or depression, but in the long run, these feelings may become more persistent as their life revolves around a game.
Social Media Addiction. When people point out the potential harm associated with social media, like chasing validation through likes, comparing your lifestyle and accomplishments to others, and presenting your best self online, people may believe that is exactly why they find social media attractive. This can make it hard for people to accept the effect social media can have on self-esteem.
Smartphone Addiction. The problem isn’t that teens can’t leave home without their phones, it is that using their phone while doing other things prevents them from being present in other activities or may lead to avoiding other activities overall. Between texting people during other conversations, filming every moment for Snapchat, or scrolling through social media during any “down time,” teens become anxious at the idea of time away from screens and struggle to separate their online from their offline lives.

When Might Your Teen Need Treatment for Technology Overuse?

Younger generations are considered “digital natives,” who have grown up relying on technology to meet their everyday needs. This can make it harder to differentiate between normal teen technology use and technology addiction. It may seem like every teen is addicted to screens, however, technology use affects all teens differently. The reasons that teens become glued to their personal devices is a better predictor of their vulnerability to technology addiction than how they spend their time online. For example, teens with existing mental health issues are more prone to technology overuse.

Spending excessive time online can lead to academic issues, sleep difficulties, and family conflict if your teen is having a hard time respecting limits that you’ve set around technology use. Many teens who struggle with technology use have lost interest in other activities due to depression or struggle with social anxiety and prefer socializing online. Often, the more time teens spend online, scrolling through other people’s online lives, the more disconnected from others and isolated they may feel. Others who curate a certain online identity that they want others to see struggle with understanding who they want to be offline.

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How are residential treatment centers like Elevations a good place to form healthier coping techniques for teen’s underlying issues?

While there are many treatment options available for technology overuse, we believe that residential treatment centers are the most effective in helping teens make lasting changes in their lives. Both outpatient therapy and inpatient hospitalization offer short-term benefits, as it can be difficult to transfer skills learned in a contained environment to teen’s everyday lives.

As a all gender residential treatment center that offers accredited academics, our supportive environment mimics the real world which makes transitioning back home a smoother process. Throughout their individualized treatment process, students make lasting connections with their peers going through similar struggles and staff members who genuinely care about their successes. Our supportive environment encourages teens to dig below the surface of their behavioral issues and focus on their deeper struggles with relationships and self-esteem.

Clinical Model at Elevations RTC

Every person’s individual treatment plan depends on a variety of factors. Technology overuse is often a symptom of other issues. Some of the therapeutic approaches we use to help teens struggling with video game abuse include:

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) focuses on changing unhealthy behaviors through developing skills related to mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (DBT) focuses on changing belief systems that reinforce continued video game abuse, often related to self-esteem and goals.
Motivational Interviewing is used to increase student’s motivation and help them make a commitment to change unhealthy behaviors by identifying personal values and setting personal goals.
Narrative Therapy helps students separate their view of themselves from their problems by allowing students to get some distance from their issues to see how it is either helping or hurting them. Instead of viewing themselves as video game addicts, they begin to understand how abusing video games has affected them.

Our Philosophy Around Technology Use

We integrate technology into our program and allow students to earn additional privileges. Like with drugs, going cold turkey may increase anxiety around using technology and increase their impulses to play video games or catch up on social media when they go home. There are ways to monitor the amount of time they spend playing games without taking it away altogether. In our classrooms, students use Chromebooks to do homework and are taught how to take advantage of technology’s benefits. Students are encouraged to watch appropriate movies and listen to appropriate music and have the opportunity to play video games once they have been there for a while.

We encourage social use of technology. Elevations RTC is based on relationships. Many people claim that the opposite of technology addiction is not restricting technology use, but rather building connections. Teens who used to spend time playing games or binge-watching TV alone learn to use it as a social activity rather than an obsession.

We encourage mindful technology use. Therapists talk to students about how they use technology, as well as why they use it. They encourage them to explore how technology has impacted their life and what makes it meaningful to them, as well as recognizing red flags for video game abuse. Students are encouraged to use technology, but to consider their online footprint and how they cultivate their online identity. This may include censoring personal information online or unfollowing unhealthy friends on social media.

We role model how to help students unplug. While technology is part of our program, we also encourage students to use their free time to explore other passions and develop stronger relationships with their peers. The adventure therapy program at Elevations RTC is based on introducing students to new healthy activities that build their confidence and encourage them to leave their comfort zone. From biking and kayaking to snowboarding and rock climbing, students learn how to have fun in other ways that don’t require technology.