A 2012 Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project survey of 802 teenagers 12-17 years old (and 802 parents) revealed
- 78% of the teens had a cellphone, with 47% of those having smartphones.
- Smartphone usage rose to 44% among 14-17 year olds, which nearly matched the 45% for the adults.
- About 74% of the teens accessed the internet at least occasionally via cellphone, tablet, or other mobile device.
- 93% had a home computer or access to one.
- 23% mainly used their phones to surf the web versus desktop or laptop computers, as compared to 15% of adults.
Based on these results, Pew estimated 37% of America’s youth ages 12-17 have smartphones, a 23% increase from 2011, and are using them to surf the web generally higher rates than adults.
Teens, Smartphones, & the Internet
Because computers, cell and smart phones are still relatively new additions to our lives, it is tough to gauge any negative consequences of using them. Still, research has already begun to validate the concept of internet addition as a type of behavioral addiction, which has similar effects on the brain as substance addictions. Other studies show internet use can “rewire” the brain affecting how it works and processes information. Because their bodies and brains are still developing, it may not be a bad idea to think twice before giving children and teens their own smartphone.
Also, giving a child his own smartphone means you give him 24-hour access to the internet. It is this constant stream that leads to excessive internet use, which is one aspect of internet addiction.
With this growing trend of kids and adolescents with their own smartphones and computers, is there cause for concern?
Internet Addiction among Today’s Adolescents
Internet addiction is a growing concern for both adults and children. Troubled adolescents or young adults the internet may become a source of comfort or distraction as they build online personas in video or role-playing games or just get lost in the vastness that is the World Wide Web.
Signs an adolescent may have trouble with excessive internet usage include a preoccupation with the internet even when he’s not using it, lying about online activities, withdrawal from family and friends, declining grades, and possibly suffering of physical side effects like headaches and eye strain.
For an adolescent with an internet usage problem, having a smartphone enables the situation to progress, so seeking outside help to intervene may be necessary.
A Wilderness Program for Troubled Teens
Troubled teens with a variety of issues, such as depression, mood issues, ADD, and poor social skills, have benefitted from Pacific Quest’s wilderness program for adolescents. Outdoor therapy is a well-recognized treatment option, and Pacific Quest’s adolescent and young adult wilderness program is run by a full-time staff that includes both medical and clinical doctors.
If your teen has been dealing with internet addiction issues, a wilderness therapy for troubled adolescents may be a means to help him or her overcome her struggles. The Pacific Quest wilderness program centers around organic gardening and horticulture therapy to aid troubled adolescents achieve balance and healing. Troubled adolescents who enter the program gain life skills – from problem solving, planning, and responsibility to how to be part of a community and relationship building. These skills will help teens deal with their internet usage issues once they leave Pacific Quest, and they can go on to lead happy, productive lives.