Teen Device and Tech Addiction

We’re quick to agree that when you are doing something that is unequivocally bad for you, being able to define addiction is one of the first steps in combatting it. Drugs, alcohol and tobacco all fit into this category – some of them may be okay in moderation but all are not good or healthy when used excessively.

When it comes to something that is not inherently bad for you, such as mobile phone use, it is both trickier and perhaps less important to define addiction. Of course, if you’re on your phone so much that your are failing your classes or have trouble keeping a job, that is bad, but may not rise to the level of addiction.

Not surprisingly, parents and teens have very different views of what constitutes device addiction, and those contrasts are laid out clearly in an infographic from Common Sense media titled Dealing With Devices: The Parent-Teen Dynamic.

teen phone addiction
Source: Common Sense Media

Some of the highlights:

  • 59% of parents say their teens are addicted to their devices vs. 50% of teens admitting this is true
  • 72% of teens feel the need to respond immediately to messages whereas 48% of parents say the same about themselves

There are lots of other great statistics in the infographic and you should check it out, but let’s talk about what is laid out above.

First, only 27% of teens feel like they’re addicted to their devices but 72% of them think it is important to respond to messages immediately. Is that addiction, or something else? My teenage boys insist on wearing shorts to school year round almost regardless of the temperature. Are they addicted to wearing shorts? Of course not.

The website psychguides.com has a helpful (albeit brief, and not a substitute for seeing a professional) guide to teen device addiction. According to that guide, principal symptoms exhibited by a teen addicted to her device include anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

You’re more of an expert on parenting your teen than we are, but perhaps if your teen isn’t exhibiting signs of anxiety or depression, her phone habit isn’t an addiction. Maybe staying in contact with her friends is important to her. We are big fans of good grades, strong relationships and teens having a balanced life. Just because a teen is on her phone more than her parents, or more than her parents think she should be, doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t perfectly normal.

A pretty telling example of this is found in the study by Common Sense Media that accompanies the infographic. Teens are big fans of multitasking, and they are even using their phones while they are doing fun leisure activities.

The number of teens who use another medium some or most of the time while:

  • Listening to music – 73%
  • Using a computer – 66%
  • Watching TV – 68%
  • Reading – 53%
  • Playing video games – 48%

Being attached to a phone is the new normal. Sure, it can cause problems but it’s not necessarily an addition. Look closely for other symptoms, especially if the rest of the pieces seem to be in place.


If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.


Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.


Leave a Reply