Shepherd’s Hill Academy is a long-term behavioral treatment program for troubled teenagers, and digital addiction is one of the most common behavioral issues among new residents. Broadly speaking, digital addiction is the compulsive use of digital devices to the extent that the use negatively interferes with the user’s life and harms the user’s well-being. Read below to learn about different aspects of digital addiction and what Shepherd’s Hill Academy can do for teenagers who experience digital-addiction related behaviors.
When the use of digital devices becomes an addiction
Digital devices are ubiquitous, and teenagers receive constant notifications of text messages, social media updates, and more. Additionally, large social media companies such as Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube are always competing to win more daily view time from each teenager. The more screen time these companies can get teenagers to spend on their digital service, the more ads the company can show, and the more revenue the company makes.
In an environment with digital devices and attention-grabbing applications everywhere, many teenagers develop unhealthy habits and relationships with digital devices. “Use” of a digital device can become an addiction when the amount of use begins to negatively impact sleep patterns, grades, extra-curricular commitments, and personal relationships.
With a digital addiction, the digital device or devices of choice become all-consuming. For example, the teen may constantly check their phone during conversations or other activities, or the teen may seek to play video games for most of the day and night. When a teen maximizes time in front of their digital devices despite negative impacts on their life, the teen may have a digital addiction.
Digital addictions with social media and video games
One of the primary uses for smartphones among teenagers is to access photo-centric social media applications such as Facebook and Instagram. On these applications, teenagers scroll through curated versions of their peers’ lives and of the lives of famous people. Teenagers can become envious or saddened when their own life is dissimilar to the flashy mirage of another person’s life on Instagram.
In a recent interview with Nora Gouma magazine, Elise Thrift, Shepherd’s Hill Academy’s Clinical Director, shared her experiences with the effects of social networking on teenagers. In the interview, Thrift states, “We’ve seen some of these teens be deeply affected psychologically by social platforms.” Relatedly, Thrift notes that many teens “don’t really know how to communicate without a screen.” Unfortunately, this lack of communication skills can contribute to “alienation and disconnection” among impacted teens.
Additionally, any discussion on digital addictions among teenagers must address the prevalence of video game addiction. Thrift also states that teenagers are “playing for hours and hours every day, streaming with friends and spending their off-hours researching strategy.” In the worst cases of gaming disorders, “every waking moment is consumed by the game.” Like social-media-based digital addictions, video-game-based digital addictions have the power to negatively impact multiple aspects of a teenager’s life, including their academic performance and interpersonal relationships.
How Shepherd’s Hill Academy can help teens with a digital addiction
Shepherd’s Hill Academy provides a compassionate and therapeutic environment for teens via a long-term therapeutic residential program. During the program, enrolled teenagers live at Shepherd’s Hill Academy and receive services from professional counselors and clinicians. In a short-term behavioral treatment environment, each teenager stays for just a few weeks. At Shepherd’s Hill Academy, the average length of stay is 12 to 18 months.
To help teens overcome their digital addictions, Shepherd’s Hill Academy offers a wilderness hybrid program. During their time at Shepherd’s Hill Academy, teenagers will live in a camp-like environment without electricity or the internet. This program provides teenagers with a chance to unplug from their digital devices and to form collaborative bonds with their peers. During the program, teenagers will complete engaging tasks the focus on building self-esteem, self-reliance, and teamwork skills in a positive environment.
Many enrolled teenagers end up greatly enjoying the unplugged, wilderness-living component of the program. The teenagers develop important relationships with their classmates, and they also have fun during outdoor group activities. One teen remarked that the wilderness hybrid program helped make one of the best years of his life.
Getting started with a treatment program at Shepherd’s Hill Academy
At Shepherd’s Hill Academy, we work with teenagers who have digital addiction issues. In fact, parents mention a concern about their teenager’s digital device usage in approximately 16% of the online contact forms we receive. You do not have to combat your child’s potential digital addiction alone. We can help.