Do You Know the Symptoms of Teenage Internet Addiction?

The Internet is a vital part of many different industries, as well as to our everyday lives. However, the Internet can also be harmful. Internet addiction is a growing concern, and teenage Internet addiction has become more and more widespread.

Perhaps you have a teenage child, and you’ve been suspecting that he or she is showing signs of teenage Internet addiction. Here at Pacific Quest, we believe that Internet addictions are serious because of the potential consequences. It’s important to identify them as soon as possible so you can get your teen the help that he or she needs.

To help, we’ve compiled a list of symptoms of teenagers who are struggling with some sort of issue, like internet addiction, as well as some information on how wilderness therapy can provide your son or daughter with healing from these addictive behaviors.

Growing Tolerance or Obsession

Has your teen demonstrated a growing tolerance level or an obsession with the Internet? Just like any addiction, an Internet addiction is recognized by a need for the next “high.” It’s similar to the way that alcoholics continue to increase their alcohol intake, or the way that illegal drug users frequently move on to more dangerous drugs. When a half an hour spent online no longer produces the desired physical and mental effects, an addicted teen will continuously increase their Internet time.

Frustration or Anger

For someone who suffers from an Internet addiction, not being able to get your next “fix” often results in frustration. However, over time and depending on how intense the addiction is, this frustration can escalate to anger or even violence. Perhaps you have observed this behavior in your teen whenever you’ve planned a family activity that would pull him or her away from the Internet for a period of time.


Addiction is often a lonely experience. The main reason for this is because the addiction – whether it’s alcohol, drugs or the Internet – becomes more important to the addict than anything. Have you noticed your child dropping out of activities at school, or spending more time away from friends and family in order to spend time online?


It is impossible for an addict to balance his or her life for very long. Eventually, there will be negative repercussions for the addictive behavior. You might notice your teen’s grades slipping, or he or she might fall asleep in class. If you’ve tried grounding your child for these behaviors, it’s likely that your teen will go to great lengths to find some way to be online. When confronted, most teens deny that they’ve broken the rules, or they come up with a story to cover up their deception.

Wilderness Therapy – Helping Teens Find Balance

Pacific Quest wilderness group therapy

Pacific Quest’s wilderness therapy is unlike any other teenage therapeutic program. Your child will not only learn to break the chains of Internet addiction, but he or she will also re-learn how valuable honest, real-life relationships truly are. By being separated from the
addiction, your teen will learn to identify it for what it really is, while also cultivating an understanding for how harmful it was.

The wilderness therapy program at Pacific Quest is more than just another type of therapy. It is a life-changing journey of self-discovery that will produce amazing results in your teen. Not only will your child learn to embrace the necessary tools to make better decisions, but he or she will gain the understanding and knowledge that’s required to carry this new-found wisdom into adulthood as well.

If you would like more information about Pacific Quest, we would love to talk with you. Please contact us today.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Side Effects of Internet Addiction: Sedentary & Solitary

wilderness therapy for internet addictionIn recent years, newly created internet, gaming and technology addictions have forced adolescents, teens and young adults to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle than children of previous generations. With a myriad of electronic temptations indoors, today’s sedentary teens are suffering in areas of physical and mental health and well-being. The solitary existence has created a generation of youth with issues such as depression, anxiety, bullying, isolating, lack of communication skills, poor grades… the list goes on. Thanks to wilderness therapy and outdoor programs like Pacific Quest, there is a solution to this very sad situation.

Internet Addictions Side Effects

Internet and technology dependency inherently promotes a lifestyle that is not conducive to exercise and physical activity. Many teens tend to become so enthralled in games, Facebook, chats etc… that peeling them away from the phone, computer, TV or tablet can prove to be an ominous task.

Compounding the inactivity is the fact that teens who sit more, eat more …and this increased food intake isn’t usually made up of healthy food choices. More youth today are eating highly processed foods, rich in calories and often deplete in nutrition. It’s no secret that a sedentary lifestyle coupled with poor food choices is adding up to an epidemic of childhood obesity, replete with the potential for early onset of chronic health conditions, a shortened lifespan and a decline in physical fitness. Other side effects of internet addictions of all sorts can include carpal tunnel syndrome, dry eyes, migraine headaches, a decline in personal hygiene and backaches.

The convenience of doing everything from home has been known to cause some people to recoil from social situations. This trend has especially negative consequences with teenagers, for whom positive (and negative) social interaction help to form valuable personality and life lessons. In fact, replacements for real-life socializing may be resulting in higher cases of depression. (There is debate as to whether depression results from, or is a cause, or internet overuse. A study published in the “Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine” found depression, as well as ADHD and social phobia, to increase the chances of excessive Internet use in adolescents.)

There is also evidence suggesting that internet addictions & overuse can contribute to sleep disturbances… Later bed times, later waking times, less restful sleep and an overall decrease in sleep.

Obviously, parents could and should encourage their kids/teens to use the internet for school projects and some degree of entertainment, but limit the time that they are allowed to spend on the computer or with technology. They can support involvement in sports teams at an early age and make outside activities fun and interesting. (The earlier a child is introduced to the mental and physical benefits of outside activity, the more likely he or she is to avoid inside amusements such as the internet, TV, and video games.) However, what are parents to do when all else has failed and their children’s lives are dangerously getting worse?

What to do: Wilderness Therapy & Outdoor Therapy

The solution to sedentary and solitary addictions can be found in uniquely created outdoor therapy and wilderness therapeutic programs like Pacific Quest: Pacific Quest’s innovative Sustainable Growth model incorporates Whole Person Wellness, Individualized Clinical Care, Rites of Passage, Horticultural Therapy and Healthy Community Living in an outdoor, experiential environment. All of this facilitates health, awareness, healing, growth and life skills benefitting  teens and young adults with internet addictions.

“We create life-changing experiences for struggling adolescents and young adults. Our outdoor therapy programs help young people to make better choices and live healthier, more productive lives. Pacific Quest is an internationally recognized wilderness therapy program serving families from all over the world. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Pacific Quest goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy programs, cultivating change by teaching sustainable life skills in a clinically innovative and nurturing environment.”

The bottom line is that at it’s core, the newest trends in internet addictions are a community issue, not just and individual problem. Helping teens and young adults clear away the side effects of Internet Addictions takes a group effort. The programs available at Pacific Quest can jump start the change that might otherwise never happen! Young people leave the program seeing their purpose and potential more clearly, with a renewed sense of self. What better way is there to being a healthy contributing member of society?

To learn more call us at (808)937-5806 or visit: Pacific Quest

Parents, You Can Help Prevent Cyberbullying

internet-addiction-wilderness-therapyBecause of cell phones and internet, adolescents are able to communicate through means that aren’t always easily monitored. In this setting, cyberbullying has become a new and serious issue. Reports about cyberbullying, the sending of mean or hurtful comments or pictures to another person through electronic means, show that approximately 43% of kids and teens have been bullied, nearly one-quarter have bullied more than once, and cyberbullying victims are 2-9 times more likely to commit suicide.

As kids turn into teens and young adults, they tend to become more private, so it’s easy for parents to think they’re powerless in their children’s lives when much seems to be kept from them. It is not unusual to hear about parents who were not aware their child was being cyberbullied – or that he or she was the one doing the bullying. Parents do have power, though, and it all lies in being proactive, especially when only 1 in 10 kids tell a parent or trusted adult about any abuse.

Tips for

  • Know your teen’s email and social media account screen names – and possibly their passwords.
  • Monitor children’s online activity on computers and other electronic devices. Installing software can help.
  • Learn the internet terms, abbreviations, slang, and text jargon teens are using.
  • Attend school or community events concerning cyberbullying.
  • Show that you are an open source of communication that can be trusted; let your child know you’ll keep any information private as long as no one else’s safety or health is at risk.
  • Be careful of your own reaction to any cyberbullying information you hear; remain composed as you decide what to do next.

If you suspect your child is being bullied,

  • Look for emotional changes, such as nervousness, anxiety, and fearfulness, which can develop over time or suddenly.
  • Talk to a school counselor

If you suspect your teen is taking part in cyberbullying,

  • Reassure her you don’t intend to punish her for being honest about any involvement
  • Talk to him about the repercussions of cyberbullying – perhaps carefully discussing news reports about teens who have committed suicide, plus the effects on the families
  • Discuss how she would like to be treated and whether she’d appreciate being bullied

Wilderness Therapy: A Place for Adolescents & Young Adults

Along with cyberbullying, another issue of this cyber age is internet addiction, in which excessive internet use is likely a byproduct of deeper issues. Using their smartphones and computers, adolescents have constant internet access, so there is little escape from their source of bullying or addiction. Both issues can cause adolescents to experience depression, anxiety, and a withdrawal from family and friends and from once-loved hobbies.

Parents who monitor their adolescents’ behavior and are proactive can help prevent something like cyberbullying or internet addiction from becoming a bigger problem. Sometimes, though, children need a little extra support.

A wilderness program for teens can be a great source of help. The Pacific Quest wilderness program has been helping troubled adolescents overcome many struggles using organic gardening and horticulture therapy. Through students’ engagement in nature and Pacific Quest’s gardens, they gain practical life skills in a structured but calming setting. They learn how to better cope with their emotions and life challenges. The result of wilderness therapy is that troubled adolescents transform into more confident, empowered, and balanced young adults. Pacific Quest is committed to creating lasting, sustainable growth and change, so that the adolescents who go through its wilderness therapy program, an important aspect in a world in which technology is inescapable.

Are Virtual Babysitters Creating Internet Addiction?

internet addiction wilderness therapyThe Internet has clearly replaced TV as the stand-by babysitter for parents today. My generation relied on TV shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “Little House On The Prairie”, for example, to teach us right from wrong, and to understand a little bit about life. Not that I’m saying that was the most effective formula for parenting. However, it was relatively “safe”.

Today, even my 5 year old niece is highly proficient with using an iPhone, tablets, computers, video games etc… An inordinate number of teens, adolescents and young adults have reportedly become addicted to the internet. Perhaps it has something to do with the immoderate and exorbitant amount of time kids are spending playing video games, with generalized internet surfing, apps played over smart phones or other hand held devices, as well as console gaming systems, eBooks, and the use of products offered over all types of digital interface devices- rather than with other human beings and parental or adult supervision?

Virtually There

It has come to full-blown media attention at this point that parents need to take a more proactive stance in the acceptance of modern technology becoming a part of our children’s education. Even if we are so busy struggling to make ends meet for our children and too busy to even spend time reading our youngsters a book at bed time – we should be helping them to go on-line, teaching them about exploring the internet with them and talking through what they find – in a mutual education and bonding exercise. Supervising children when they are using the web and allowing internet use only ‘in moderation’ may seem like a little extra work early on- but will save a lot of possible future problems.

Children need balance -using games and websites online can be both educational and act as a fun stimulant for younger children. There are some wonderful learning tools out there! However, when it comes down to supervising what they are doing, parents shouldn’t use the Internet as a virtual babysitter. We must make sure we are aware of what our children are looking at.

Internet Safety

Do you know what current tools for censorship exist? (Including tracking and tracing communications over peer-to-peer networks). Do you know how children get round the controls we put in place to prevent them from exploring the world of the internet? These questions highlight the challenge that some parents face in keeping up with their children when it comes to technology and in understanding what they can do to protect children.

A recent poll asking children about their use of social networking sites found that many are still chatting to strangers online, despite a number of campaigns warning of the dangers.

“Under-13’s”, many of whom are supposedly too young to sign up without parental consent, are managing to find their way on to these sites and befriending people they do not know.

The same poll found that 22 per cent of eight- to 11-year-olds have a social networking profile and have typically amassed 92 friends – but 12 per cent of these are people they have never met.

The figure rises for those in their early teens, with 80 per cent saying they have a social networking profile with an average of 286 friends. Shockingly, among 12- to 15-year-olds up to a quarter of these ‘friends’ are strangers.

The same shocking statistics exist in the world of internet gaming. There are reports warning that advances in online gaming means it is possible for children to be contacted by strangers from around the world.In fact, one in three boys in their early teens admitted playing games online with people who are not known to them. As a parent, allowing the use of the Internet to take the place of a real babysitter or caregiver may mean putting your child in significant danger.

Other Internet Problems & Solutions

Cyber-bullying remains a problem with one in ten Internet users aged 12 to 15 saying they have experienced it in the past year.

Around 13 per cent of girls this age have personal experience of being bullied online, compared to five per cent of boys.

Internet addictions in adolescents can be particularly serious because it can interfere with the essential emotional, intellectual, and social developments that occur during adolescence.

Parents frequently lament that their children know more about the internet then they do, and that lack of confidence in using the Internet is an issue for a number of parents.

There is a solution.  Get involved. Take a more active role in the prevention of future issues. If Internet addiction of some sort is already a problem parents of adolescents have the opportunity to take a more active role in the treatment, by providing a high level of support. The motivation to heal can only come from the child addict, but parents can help by giving their kids access to:

  •     Boundaries and expectations at home
  •     Rewards for positive behavior at home
  •     Group therapy
  •     Individual therapy
  •     Family therapy
  •     In-patient treatment
  •     Wilderness therapy

Wilderness therapy has been shown to be a particularly effective method for treating internet addiction in adolescents. At Pacific Quest, we have seen great success treating Internet addiction using our Sustainable Growth™ model, which focuses on the mind-body connection, the importance of nature, and the individual’s place within the community, as well as the essential aspects of clinical care.

If you’d like to learn more about internet addiction and how Pacific Quest’s Wilderness Therapy Program can help, please download “A Parent’s Guide to Internet Addiction in Teens and Young Adults” or contact us at 808-937-5806 today.

Parents, Is Your Child Dealing with Internet Addiction?

internet addicion wildreness therapyIf you’ve noticed that your child or teen is troubled and seems to be exhibiting signs of internet addiction, you may be wondering what you should do. Becoming proactive is important.

How You Can Help Your Teen’s Internet Addiction

Talk to Your Teen

Before talking with a child, both parents need to agree that a problem exists, then it is possible to discuss how to approach him, what to say and do, and what goals should be set. Should one parent think no problem exists, a teen could appeal to the more doubtful parent, which could undermine efforts to help.

Plan ahead before approaching your teenager, and that includes being prepared for emotional responses or outbursts as your child may feel threatened by both cutting down on internet time and being confronted about it. Refrain from responding in the same manner and lecturing on other topics. Stay calm, and keep the focus on the internet use while also acknowledging his/her feelings.

Show You Care

When approaching anyone about a perceived problem, you should expect some denial. Also, kids and teens can interpret your concern as criticism or blame. Reassure them by saying you’re concerned about certain changes you’ve noticed – fatigue, lower grades, social withdrawal, etc.

Often with internet addiction, underlying issues are the true problem and reason for excessive internet use. Troubled teens turn to the internet and gaming as sources of distraction, comfort, or friendship. You may be able to begin a dialogue about what is bothering your teen.

Be Computer Smart

Part of internet addiction is lying about online activities. Going through internet logs, searching histories, or installing monitoring software can help you as a parent determine your child’s online behaviors, but doing so can take some know-how. Also, the internet has its own language, so learning both technical and popular terms will also provide insight into what your teen is doing online – what they’re saying and to whom.

Set Boundaries

A natural response may be to restrict computer use completely, but this isn’t the best idea for several reasons. Firstly, children may resent you and interpret the action as, “I’m a bad kid.” Secondly, studies have shown that internet addiction has withdrawal symptoms similar to those of substance addictions; people can experience feelings of nervousness, anger, and irritability. Thirdly, it is unrealistic. Computers and the internet are everyday tools in today’s modern society.

At first, try having them to log their online time and activities for a short time. This way you can learn how they spend time online, and if they refuse, you are perhaps dealing with denial of internet addiction. Reasonable internet rules could include an extra hour on school nights with more time allowed on weekends.

Remember the ultimate goal is not control over your teen but rather help him be less psychologically dependent on the internet.

Wilderness Therapy for Internet Addicted Teens

As much as parents want to help their children and try to do all they can, sometimes it isn’t enough. Seeking outside help is OK. A growing alternative to traditional therapy sessions is wilderness therapy for teens. Wilderness therapy programs have been able to help troubled adolescents deal with a variety of issues – from internet or substance addictions to mood behavior problems or poor social skills.

Hawaii’s Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program was set up with a belief in whole person wellness and sustainable growth. An important factor in that growth and change is family, an invaluable source of support. Pacific Quest offers the opportunity for parents to discuss their concerns and identify areas of struggle. So your teen is learning to become her best self, you can learn new parenting skills and strategies and how to better communication with her when she returns home.

For more information about Pacific Quests program, you can call or email and find out if Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program is right for your troubled teen.

A Link Found Between Drug Use & Internet Addiction in Teens

In 2012 researchers surveyed over 1,200 teens ages 14-19 on the Greek island of Kos about their internet use, personality, and substance abuse. The study included a portion that served as an “internet addiction test.” Some questions revolved around the consequences of their internet use. For example:

  • Did they spend more time online than intended?
  • Did they see a drop in their grades because of their online activities?
  • Did they ever feel annoyed if/when they were interrupted while online?

The study, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found approximately 15% of the teens qualified as heavy internet users with 5% showing signs of internet addiction. Past substance abuse was reported by 13% of respondents, including 7% reporting use within the last month.

Researchers found that the teens who reported using drugs also had notably higher average scores on the internet addiction test. In other words, as excessive internet use becomes a bigger problem for a teen, there is a greater likelihood of past or present substance abuse.

Researchers concluded these higher internet addiction scores could serve as valuable indicators of past or present substance use.

Signs of Internet Addiction

The Greek researchers cautioned that the findings were links between internet use and drug use and not a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the information can still be helpful. “Targeting the adolescent population that engages in increased internet use may be of benefit for drug abuse prevention programs,” the researchers wrote.

Noticing how often your teen is online and being aware of their online activities are important.

Some signs of internet addiction in adolescents and young adults include

  • Preoccupation with internet and online activities
  • Losing track of time spent on line
  • Lying about online activities
  • Lowered grades or school performance
  • Feeling irritable when not at a computer
  • Physical aches and pains

If an adolescent or young adult you know exhibits signs of internet addiction or substance abuse, there are programs that can help, such as wilderness therapy.

Where to Go for Help: Wilderness Therapy

At this point, many understand the difficulties of dealing with substance abuse and addiction. For troubled adolescents struggling with internet addiction, it, too, can be a difficult issue to overcome because the internet is so accessible. And just as with substance problems, internet addiction is often about deeper emotional and mental struggles; the internet becomes a type of coping mechanism.

Wilderness therapy aimed at troubled adolescents can be a chance to get away from the source of their struggles. More importantly, wilderness therapy doesn’t have to be a last resort when other things have failed to help a troubled adolescent or young adult. Pacific Quest’s outdoor program differs because it focuses on whole person wellness by integrating physical fitness, nutrition, and self-awareness with clinical and horticulture therapies. The amazing clinical team helps students understand their issues in individual and group therapy sessions. The entire wilderness therapy program is set up around providing troubled adolescents with life skills and tools that will serve them in any situation and for years to come.

The Toll of Internet Addiction on Families

Blogging, social media, gaming, shopping, TV, movies, virtual worlds. With so much to do and read on the Web, spending hours online isn’t difficult Because of this, internet addiction a real issue of modern life, and there are differences between being online a lot and having an internet usage problem.

Compulsive internet behavior can interfere with daily functioning. Excessive hours spent online lead to sleep loss and neglect of personal hygiene. People may also lie about their online behavior, think about being online during time when they aren’t online, have unsuccessfully tried to curb their internet habits, lose interest in other hobbies and activities he once enjoyed, and withdraw from family and friends.

Internet Addiction Affects the Whole Family

The internet provides endless entertainment, and some young adults and teenagers may see using the internet for social media or gaming as a way to connect with their friends and other people. But as these digital relationships and activities gain importance, they replace face-to-face interaction, and real-life relationships suffer.

Family members can see and feel this withdrawal when they notice a son or daughter neglecting to shower, ignoring homework, no longer caring to play sports, and failing to keep up with household responsibilities. Internet addiction research suggests this can create strain that affects relationships and overall household functioning. What is a parent to do?

Wilderness Therapy for Troubled Teens

Internet addiction can be difficult to deal with because the internet is easily accessible, and people have legitimate reasons to use it on a regular basis. Parents need to realize that internet addiction is not always resolved by controlling time spent online, etc. For troubled adolescents and young adults, the internet can be an escape or outlet, so it is important to discover, learn about, and deal with the underlying reasons as to why they turned to the internet in the first place. A variety of treatment options have been developed for dealing with internet addiction. Though no one option is better than another, parents should consider wilderness or outdoor therapy.

The Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program can help troubled teens dealing with a variety of issues. For those with an internet addiction, Pacific Quest’s home in Hawaii gets them away from the source of their addiction – computers, smartphones, gaming systems – and puts them in an environment that provides whole-person wellness. More than a place that focuses on outdoor activity, Pacific Quest is an outdoor therapeutic program that teaches young people life skills along with providing mental and emotional healing. Because there are often underlying issues that lead to internet addiction, individual and group therapy help students identify the sources of their problem and talk about their feelings. Making lifestyle changes is not easy, but students learn how nutrition, sleep, and exercise are all part of living a balanced life. And when internet addiction is an issue, it is important to keep active in non-internet activities.

How Families Can Heal and Help

As with substance addiction, families that have members dealing with behavior addiction need support in their own way. Parents and siblings need to be able to express their own feelings and frustrations, learn how to deal with the situation, and get advice for how to help their family member get better. Family therapists and addiction support groups can offer much needed support and guidance.

Pacific Quest offers some therapy service and support for families. Parents can discuss their personal concerns, learn and develop new parenting skills and strategies, and learn how set boundaries and expectations. Siblings also play an important role, so Pacific Quest doctors and therapists are committed to involving them when possible and helping them manage their own concerns and feelings. Pacific Quest strives to give students the tools for long-term wellness, and that kind of sustainable growth and change occurs when families are involved and are a part of the treatment process.

The Dark Side of Facebook

There is a dark side to social media, within which adolescents and teens are spending more and more time, resulting in what is being called “Facebook Depression” a new term popping up all over the news. Parents and pediatricians have begun to report “Facebook Depression,” in which a teen becomes anxious and moody after spending a lot of time on the popular social networking site. According to a clinical study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in April, teens who participate in social media and networking for prolonged periods of time are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

Even though studies show that there is clearly evidence to be an association between the use of social networking and depression, just exactly what the correlation is and what can be done about it is up for continued debate.

For example, there is no bottom line proof that if a teen is using more and more Facebook, that they are going to get more and more depressed. In addition, depressed teens and adolescents use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking websites. Perhaps because they are already feeling down or depressed they might even be going online to talk to their friends, in an effort to be cheered up. However, many online risks are often just an extension of a teens real- world interactions, and teens with Facebook Depression are often having trouble with social interactions in general.

Why Depression?

As adults on Facebook, we know what it is like to be “friended” and “unfriended” or to not have anyone to respond to a post on your wall. The silence can be maddening for us, but, to a teen, the silence can propel them into a Facebook hell, a realm of cyber space where all silence is interpreted as “no one cares, no one likes me, no one knows I exist,” a repetitive mantra leading to obsessive compulsive logins subsiding only with a healthy dose of wall posts and at least five new friend requests.facebook-addiction-wilderness-therapy

As adolescents and teens, children are vulnerable to any number of emotional responses — and, in some cases even psychological or physical responses to conflict. Facebook itself gives teens a platform upon which to speak which can be healthy. Unfortunately, that privilege is abused by some teens with bullying, sexting, harassment or exposure to inappropriate content. In fact, this past January, a 14-year-old from Orange County, New York, took his own life because of Facebook taunts about his perceived sexualorientation, according to sources.

When a teen or adolescent posts a message on Facebook it becomes “Facebook Official” so, even if it is not true, the fact that it is posted gives it credibility. When something that is “Facebook Official” goes viral, the potential for humiliation is devastating for a teen. It is not the same kind of humiliation that parents experienced in their own adolescence, because the reminder of it is permanently embedded in either text or photos on the internet for anyone to see – potential colleges, employers, friends, relatives boyfriends.

The Bottom Line

As with all of the burgeoning internet related addictions, Facebook obsession and the alternate reality it produces combined with depression could become an addiction of sorts.

There are many complications with communicating over the Internet. Aside from the inability to accurately judge the tone, intention or meaning of another person’s post, there is a certain degree of responsibility that is negated in posting a message via the Internet as opposed to reality. The medium lends itself to making rash, spontaneous or impulsive comments. Also, the immediate response of peers isn’t always available and so the cues to correct unaccepted social behaviors aren’t performing their normal duties of enforcing accountability.

Facebook and other forms of social media do provide outlets for teens yet they do not always guarantee validation or even problem solving venues. The devastating result: co-rumination among peers, and an obsessive tendency to over-examine the negative, which could lead to depression. Adolescent girls are especially at risk because they are more likely to discuss problems – problems with boys, problems with friendships, problems with body image and problems with emotions in general.

What To Do

As I so often find my self saying, “knowledge is power”… workshops, counseling or any venue or format where it is explained to teens what is the reality of Facebook usage and it’s potential for damage can help. Some experts say the responsibility should rest upon the parents who allow teens prolonged usage of mobile phones, iPads, blackberries and computers etc… without providing supervised access at a time in adolescence when teens have not yet fully developed the protective skills of discipline, self-regulation or boundaries. It seems clear that for modern teens and adolescents, technology usage needs to be monitored as the dark side of Facebook and social media provides a gaping entrance for vulnerable teens.


Video Games: Teen Health & Wellness

Ask teens and young adults what they like to do in their spare time, and one of the most popular answers is usually, “video games.” It can be frustrating for teachers, parents & youth counselors, who want to see teens out in the real world, interacting with real, positive peers and adults.

But what if we could use video games to actually help teens motivate and facilitate a multitude of necessary behavior changes using a wide range of digital platforms? Or  what if we could perhaps engage them in addiction awareness and treatment- through the use of video games?! That time may not be far off.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio was an early investor in the health games space in 2004 with its grant to the Health Games Research and has invested more than $9 million in recent years. Pioneer saw video games as a promising but unconventional area for exploration, with the potential to lower costs of patient care and drive significant improvements in people’s health and health care. Pioneer focused on two areas where it could make the most impact: providing the health care industry with research and evidence on gaming effectiveness and connecting the fields of video games and health care issues.

Grantees have discovered that well-designed and well-implemented games can motivate and support prevention, lifestyle behavior change, self-care, clinical care, adherence to treatment plans, and self-management of chronic conditions.

Health Games Research is now a national program that advances the research, design, and effectiveness of interactive games used to improve health, wellness and addiction issues. It has funded 21 research projects nationwide, with many findings released in 2012 that may contribute to the increasing perception of digital games as an evidence-based consideration in many areas of health care treatment. Researchers are evaluating questions of efficacy as well as principles of game design to determine not only if a game works, but also why it works- to inform effective innovation in the next generation of games to improve the health of our next generation of adults.

The Games for Health Project

The Games for Health project supports a range of convening and field-building efforts that help forge connections between the worlds of games and health/addiction issues. Regional conferences bring together game designers and developers, researchers, medical professionals, educators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and others to share information about games technology and its application to health.

More than $2 million in grants will enable research teams to help strengthen the evidence base that supports the development and use of digital interactive games to improve players’ health behaviors and outcomes. Funded studies explore topics ranging from the “Effectiveness of Social Mobile Networked Games in Promoting Active Lifestyles for Wellness”  to how people in substance abuse treatment can practice skills and behaviors in the virtual world of a game to prevent real-world relapses.

Previous studies and clinical trials have shown that well-designed interactive games can significantly improve the players’ health-related knowledge, skills, behaviors and outcomes and there is tremendous opportunity to advance in the growing field of games and health, and to maximize its potential to improve the health of teens and young adults.

Examples Of A Few Grant Recipients

1)Indiana University, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (Bloomington, Ind.)—BloomingLife: The Skeleton Chase is an alternative reality game designed to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles among college freshmen. It involves an interactive fictional story—a mystery that takes eight weeks to solve—unfolding across a variety of media (e-mail, Web sites, phone calls from fictional characters, physiological monitoring) and real-world physical and mental challenges that players must surmount to gather clues. The study will compare the impacts of competitive versus collaborative game versions.”

2)University of Central Florida, College of Medicine (Orlando, Fla.)—Practicing Relapse Prevention in Artificial-Reality Environments [PREPARE]: A Game-Based Therapy Maintenance Tool will investigate role-playing games designed to enable people, 18 to 65 years old, that are diagnosed with alcohol abuse or dependence to practice skills that can help them prevent real-world relapses. The relapse prevention games are embedded as minigames within an extensive multiplayer online game. The study will compare behavioral and health impacts of treatment, plus access to the game versus treatment without access to the game.

3)University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Public Health (Chapel Hill, N.C.)—Presence: Predicting Sensory and Control Effects of Console Video Games in Young Adults will investigate motivations to expend energy during video game play for 18- to 35-year-olds. The study will compare physiological measures of energy expenditure while people play traditional video games (those that involve pushing buttons on a standard game controller or on a Wii motion-sensing controller) versus active video games (those that require physical movement using inputs such as a dance pad, balance board or guitar). It also will explore players’ sense of being present in the game and their intrinsic motivation to play, two factors that are known to increase the amount of time people will spend playing a game. This is the first time that research will identify the impact of these factors on players’ energy expenditure; study results may lead to recommendations for making traditional games more active and active games more compelling.

4)University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts (Los Angeles, Calif.)—Effectiveness of Social Mobile Networked Games in Promoting Active Lifestyles for Wellness will use cell phones and the Web to deliver “Wellness Partners,” a character-driven social mobile networked game, to children and adults ages 12 to 44. The game is designed to motivate real-world wellness through a player support system that involves family members and friends, and by incorporating elements from virtual pets, role-playing games and online social networking. A single-player version provides a fictional game character that offers encouragement, reminders, progress checking and communication with others. The multiplayer version allows players to enlist members of their social network to be partners or helpers. The study will examine how various components of the game may motivate healthy behaviors.

It is extremely exciting that we live in a time when innovative projects like these may lead to breakthrough improvements in the future of our children’s health care. For more information about Pioneer’s Health Games Research national program and the research projects it supports you can visit:

The Real World Leads To Real Happiness

On a lowly Saturday night, many of us have been guilty of being sucked down the Facebook black hole. Hours later you may find yourself in the same position on the couch without an ounce of productivity. For an activity or behavior that seemingly draws us in as social media does it can also leave us disoriented, hollow, and unfulfilled.

In our Internet laced world, we are constantly looking for a source of stimulation, whether through our smart phone or our friends’ own activities. Social media sites are an exciting avenue to discover new interests. Our News Feeds are constantly updated with new content and additions to engage with and other’s personal lives to inspect. However, this is where depression can find its way into our lives.

One of the many inaccuracies that teen depression, young adult depression, adolescent depression, wilderness therapy programsocial media attempts to display is that it presents the truth to viewers. Websites such as Facebook and MySpace are specifically designed to have their members put their best foot forward to the world. Members intentionally choose what aspects of their lives they want the rest of the world to witness. From profile images, to photos, to what they post and like, all content is shared for a specific purpose and through a specific filter.

Hidden behind the superficial facades of self imagery, and constant check-ins are struggles and battles we never witness. Instead, things are shown to us deemed appropriate to share: smiles, exotic vacations, and wild nights out on the town with friends.

While in photos life seems carelessly happy, fun, and harmless; they can lead individuals to some dark places. Why would such jovial evidence lead to this? Competition and comparison lead to depression.  With social media there is a sense of social comparison. Comparing your life to the facade of your friend’s page can leave you feeling disconnected, inferior, and even exhausted. A rule of thumb to follow is, “Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.”

A positive way to combat these feelings of insecurity and depression is by limiting your time on social media websites. Research has found that people who spend their time with friends in the “real” world and less time socializing online felt happier and more fulfilled than those that spent the majority of their time forming relationships in cyberspace. Whether you set limits on the time you’ve allotted for yourself or, make a routine excursion with a friend for a couple hours; take necessary measures to limit your time on social media. Engage with the “real” world to make “real” connections.