Parents of Teens Alert: Social Media More Addictive Than Cocaine


teens social media addictionBad habits are hard to break, and experts say teen smartphone addictions are harder to treat than cocaine and alcohol addictions. Put it in the hands of teens and the mix of social media and smartphones is proving to have adverse effects.

Signs of Social Binging

I find it shocking what social media and smartphones are doing to the culture of teens today. Snapchat streaks. Instagram like competitions. Texting wars. Immediate response required because let’s face it; we live in a real time world. It’s an era where there is no such thing as a pause button.

Two of the most surefire reasons to think a teen is addicted:

  1. Time spent on social media  – is it excessive and dominating?
  2. Reasons why they are on social media – is it having a negative impact on academics, friends, family or causing physical and emotional distress?

Studies show teens are more stressed, anxious and depressed than ever thanks to social media. Today’s teens also have less friends, sex and happiness. Instead they have nomophobia (fear of being without a smartphone.)

Raising Teens Addicted to Social Media?

Yes, being a marketer is challenging thanks to social media, but not as tough as parenting teens on social media.

How hard could it really be?  I felt fairly confident I could navigate my teenager through the social media danger zones and pitfalls. After all I wrote a book on social media, teach a class on it @UF and make a living thanks to social media.

Keyword is [felt]. Ummmm, wishful thinking.

The reality: I lost in a teen’s social media world. It’s uncharted territory, never explored or even available until the last decade. Sure I did stupid things as a teenager, but thankfully my life was not documented like a reality show. The first thing I did was start reading books like Secret Life of Teenage Girls by Nancy Jo Sales.
More reality: my social media “expertise” was not relevant to teens and social media. Action was needed. I took my 20 years of digital media experience to figure a few things out so I could help myself, my teen, other parents and our culture.

The social media and smartphone struggle is real, and everyone needs help. We all seem to recognize the problem, but the path to solutions is not easy.

After researching, I started writing on Medium about my experiences and how I was handling my teen’s social media and smartphone obsessions. As the first generation of parents with teens who have grown up with social media, there’s not any historical data or advice to help guide us. Is this the new normal? What was once “so cute” to see our kids handle an iPad like a pro is now “so annoying” they won’t look up from their smartphone.

Who’s the Dealer? Meet the Brain Hacker

So is social media really more addictive and harder to treat than a cocaine addict? Experts such as Georgia Dow say yes! The obsessive compulsive social media behavior is no accident either. App addiction is actually by design, and you can thank Silicon Valley developers and programmers for it. It’s called brain hacking. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram are all competing for eyeballs and engagement. The goal is to figure out how to train the brain into thinking it can’t live without using an app. Dow says in the interview below that social media addiction is harder to cure than cocaine and alcohol. Now that’s scary.

There is also data proving social media and smartphone addiction changes the pattern in our brains, said Dow. What happens? The gamification impact of social media and video games increases the need for immediate gratification and decreases the tolerance for delayed gratification.

It takes a village, a community to pull back the layers and create structure for this generation of teens.

Hopefully,  other parents can benefit from my experiences and actionable takeaways in my articles below, and we can help each other.

A Parent’s Guide to Social Media Secrets and Smartphone Addiction

7 Surefire Ways You Won’t Get into College, Thanks to Social Media

Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone? Check out the full interview with Georgia Dow discussing my article in this interview with Megan Morrone on Tech News Today.


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