Teen Addiction – Are Your Kids Addicted to Screens?

Brains can become dependent on and addicted to using screens

These days, you can’t go anywhere without seeing people looking down at their smartphones. And any home that has kids has video game consoles, laptops, and tablets – screens are everywhere, and our children, who have grown up with them, are becoming more and more dependent on them in their daily lives.

It used to be that kids would go outside and play, ride their bikes, and interact with other kids. Families would have game nights that consisted of board games and real conversations. Unfortunately, those activities seem to be a thing of the past. Kids and adults alike are turning to screens and away from human interaction. It’s easy to start playing video games, using social media, or binge-watch television shows, and spend much more time than doing so than you originally intended. And it often becomes more appealing to play or watch than to go do some other activity. There is far less physical interaction with other people, and it’s affecting relationships.

Teens and tweens are especially susceptible to the pull that addiction to screens has, and it’s more than just a behavioral habit. In his recent article in the New York Post, Dr. Richard Kardaras refers to screens as a “digital drug”, “electronic cocaine”, and “digital heroin”. These are scary terms, but they are supported by research that indicates that brains can become dependent on and addicted to using screens. Using them affects dopamine (the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter) levels in the brain, just as drug use does.

Research on the effects of playing video games is finding that the activity affects the pre-frontal cortex of the brain in precisely the same manner that cocaine use does. This area of the brain controls major functioning including attention, impulse control, motivation, organizing, planning, and the regulation of mood. It is also the area of the brain that is associated with the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including an inability to focus and impulsivity.

These are truly frightening findings. The fact that the use of screens can affect our children’s brains in the same way that cocaine does is cause for alarm. In addition to video games, watching television – especially binge-watching, which has become the norm, results in brain changes that mimic the same changes that addiction causes, which results in the viewer watching more and more.

In addition to the addiction issue, research shows that the overuse of screens can increase anxiety, depression, poor concentration, and even aggression in our kids. They also show that there can be significant changes in cognitive functioning and brain structure. Even those games and television shows that are considered educational can be addictive and can affect the brains of our children negatively.

How can you determine if your child is addicted to screens? You can take a look at the following list of behaviors to help you make a determination. If you are seeing more than a couple of the behaviors, then your children may be experiencing some degree of addiction to screens.

  • They are using screens every day for hours.
  • They prefer to use screens more than they want to participate in other age-appropriate activities.
  • They become angry or resistant to turning off screens when they are asked to.
  • They say they will stop, but then don’t.
  • They use screens when they should be sleeping.
  • They neglect other things like homework, chores, and friends to spend more time on screens.
  • They struggle with attention when not using screens.
  • They are uninterested and unmotivated when they are not using them.
  • They lose interest in things that they used to find enjoyable.
  • They experience depression or increased anxiety as their use of screens has increased.
  • They have difficulty staying present in reality.

Now that you understand the signs of screen addiction, you need to understand how to prevent or reduce it. The following are some steps you can take to help your children break their screen addiction.

  1. Prevent it from happening in the first place. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that children under 2 years of age not be exposed to any electronic media, children 2 to 5 years of age be limited to one hour of high-quality media a day and that parents watch or play with them, and that children over 6 years old have reasonable limits place on their screen-time and that they are encouraged to participate in other, non-screen activities. The AAP also suggests that children get adequate sleep, have planned screen-free time with family, and get some physical activity each day.
  2. Discuss your concerns, but give your kids a voice. Having a discussion about the effects of too much screen-time is important. Let your kids know about the physical and psychological aspects of digital addiction in an age-appropriate manner. Tell them what happens when the brain becomes addicted to something. Engage them in the conversation by asking what they think they can do to prevent or reduce their dependence on screens. Pulling them into the conversation and encouraging them to come up with solutions will empower them and make them more likely to follow your plans.
  3. Limit screen-time. Setting limits and enforcing boundaries is part of our job as parents. Dealing with screen-time is not exempt from this. Set reasonable limits on just how much screen-time is allowed and be consistent in enforcing it. Make sure that they complete important tasks like homework and chores before they engage with screens.
  4. Prohibit screen-time. If your kids are already in the throes of screen addiction, you may have to prohibit their usage for a period of time. Just like the drug addict must maintain abstinence to recover, the screen-addict may have to as well. The difference is that screen-addicts don’t have to abstain forever. As their addiction eases, you can begin allowing them to use screens with consistent limitations.
  5. Encourage social interaction. This may mean setting up play dates for younger children or actively encouraging your older children to spend time with friends doing things that don’t require screens. Make teens feel comfortable about asking friends over for dinner and encourage them to participate in conversations.
  6. Set a good example. You are the role model for your children, so they notice your own screen usage. If your smartphone or tablet is never out of your reach, you can’t really expect them to think that there is anything wrong with their own usage. Limiting your use of screens will help your kids limit theirs.

About Serenity at Summit

Serenity begins with a comprehensive assessment that is an exchange of information designed to provide the client with a better understanding of the processes and tools available.

After such encounter, we begin the delicate task of designing a customized program tailored with a holistic approach.

By completing the right detox and substance abuse program created specifically for you it is possible to permanently overcome teen drug and alcohol addiction and go on to live a balanced life free from substance abuse.

The Role Of D2 Receptors In Psychopharmacology And Addiction

Researchers closely associate substance dependency with the trait of impulsivity. Impulsivity is the desire to choose an immediate, but lesser, reward over a longer but more valuable one. Impulsivity is a known precursor to drug addictions, as the abuser prefers the short but immediate effects of drugs and alcohol to the lengthy process of recovery and long-lasting healing. Studies show that D2 receptor levels in the brain directly impact impulsivity and may hold the key to facilitating addiction recovery.

The Brain And Addictive Behaviors

Behavioral and biological factors can exacerbate the risk of developing a substance addiction. On the list of behaviors closely related to addiction are reward-driven behaviors and the inability to sustain goal-directed behaviors. A person with deficits in his or her inhibitory control system cannot control the thoughts or actions that generate impulsive behaviors – thus leading to substance abuse.

D2 receptors in the brain are a class of dopamine receptors. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that decides physiological functions in the nervous system. Dopamine receptors like D2 are the targets of action for many drugs, including prescription drugs used to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s diseases and schizophrenia. Studies connect a significant decrease in striatal dopamine transmission with addiction, as well as a connection between impulsivity and a decrease in dopamine transmission.

People with substance abuse problems experience a decrease in the D2 receptors by about 20% compared to other people. The use of alcohol, cigarettes, and a variety of drugs (except, notably, marijuana) leads to this decrease in D2 receptor binding. The length of the decrease in D2 receptor availability varies depending on the drug, but typically lasts a few months. The fact that dopamine release and D2 receptors are consistently common factors likely makes this a biomarker for underlying behaviors common to addictions, such as impulsivity and reward-based reasoning.

D2 Receptor Studies And Addiction Treatment

Interestingly, the same low D2 receptor binding exhibited in substance use is also reported in several disorders. Obesity, for example, is associated with high impulsivity measured with similar tasks to those used in addiction. Attention deficit disorder (ADD), bulimia, and other psychiatric and addiction disorders are also associated with D2 receptor binding and low dopamine release in the striatum. These findings suggest that these two things directly increase impulsivity – ultimately impacting the odds of addiction.

Multiple studies show that drug use consistently increases impulsivity in test subjects, which in turn influences the development of a drug dependency. In animal studies, higher levels of impulsivity led to increased vulnerability to relapse and escalated drug self-administration. Studying D2 receptors and psychopharmacology help researchers understand which cognitive functions addiction impairs, such as motivation and behavioral flexibility, to better know how to treat this problem.

Just as low D2 receptor levels and dopamine release in the striatum lend themselves to addiction, increased levels may have the power to do the opposite. Studies show that an increased level of these things in the brain facilitates motivation or the subject’s willingness to reach a goal. Increases in dopamine release decrease the instances of reward-seeking behaviors, instead boosting goal-oriented behaviors. This in turn triggers a person’s willingness to work for a reward instead of falling prey to instant gratification.

The Future Of Addiction Treatment

All the studies regarding D2 receptors in the brain point toward a possible addiction treatment therapy that includes increased D2 receptor signaling in the striatum. This treatment could potentially enhance an addict’s motivation to respond to treatment and reduce choice impulsivity that led to and facilitated addiction. The psychopharmacologic increase in dopamine appears to be the most effective when combined with motivation-based treatment plans.

For this form of treatment to be feasible, scientists need to develop a functionally selective compound that alters the D2 receptors correctly. So far, this compound does not exist; however, its development is feasible and does promise a potential strategy for addiction treatment in the future. As scientists learn more about the consequences D2 receptor levels have on behaviors, it’s likely that a treatment will eventually become available to increase levels and successfully change the addictive precursors within an addict’s brain.

All in all, these studies suggest that future addiction treatments must address D2 receptors, increasing their levels to decrease impulsivity and boost motivation. If scientists can achieve this, it could be a groundbreaking step toward addiction recovery. Further investigation is required into dopamine release, D2 receptors, and substance addiction to fully understand this relationship and achieve a solution that fights addiction at its source.


Summit Behavioral health believes that co-occurring disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and personality disorders must be treated in conjunction with the addiction. Our treatment for co-occurring disorders provides a different approach to the addiction recovery by tailoring our treatment process to the individual and the disorder they are suffering from. Click the button below to find out more.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Does Childhood Abuse Or Neglect Increase Risk For Alcoholism?

A recent study has revealed the link between child abuse and teen alcoholism. While there are many factors that contribute to addiction and alcoholism, the study shows a strong correlation between certain types of childhood abuse and neglect and alcoholism in teens.

Types Of Abuse And Neglect

When many people think of child abuse, they picture physical abuse such as beatings. There are many types of abuse and neglect ranging from physical and sexual to mental and emotional. Each type of abuse carries its own risks for future drug and alcohol addiction. Many children are unable to work through the effects of abuse on their own and often turn to substances that help them temporarily numb the pain of the abuse.Abuse And Neglect’s Impact On Addiction - Summit

Abuse And Neglect’s Impact On Addiction

The impact each type of abuse or neglect has varies greatly. Children who are physically abused may struggle with depression and anxiety. If these symptoms are not treated properly, they may turn to alcohol in their young adult lives. Children who are mentally or emotionally neglected may drink as a way to cope with feeling down or depressed. Children who were physically neglected may drink alcohol to increase feelings of pleasure. Those who turn to alcohol as a way to cope with their history of abuse are more likely to suffer from alcoholism in their teen and young adult years.

Teen Alcoholism Treatment

When treating teen alcoholism, we here at Treatment Dynamics at Summit first work to discover the type and severity of the abuse experienced in childhood. Once we have this information, we will be able to develop a treatment plan for the teen’s specific needs. The first goal is to get the adolescent to open up about abuses through individual and group therapy sessions. Once we know the cause of their alcohol addiction, we can teach the teen healthy and alternative coping mechanisms.

Early intervention in teen alcoholism can offer the support your teen needs to overcome their addiction and return to a normal, healthy lifestyle. Lovingly talking to your teen will help you to understand what they are going through and get them the help they need to recover.

Our teen alcoholism treatment focuses on discovering the underlying cause of addiction to treat all aspects of your teen’s addiction.

Call Us Now To Find Out How We Can Help Your Teen!

What Are Behavioral Addictions And How Are They Similar To Substance Addictions?

Dealing with any kind of addiction can be a harrowing experience. Substance addictions are usually easy to recognize and it’s more apparent to see when that addiction has become out of hand. However, behavioral addictions are a little bit harder to deal with. Some destructive behavior happens while under the influence of substances, but what about those that have become habit even when you are sober?

Behavioral Addictions

Substance Abuse Treatment | Behavioral Addiction TreatmentWhat are behavioral addictions and how do they affect your substance addiction treatment? Behavioral addictions can vary widely ranging from shopping compulsively, gambling compulsively, or even promiscuity. How do you know that you have a behavioral addiction? The answer is much like that of substance addiction. A behavioral addiction is something that you do over and over again even if the behavior is destructive to your well-being.

If you are in a destructive cycle, you may need to seek behavioral addiction treatment. If you have a behavioral addiction which constitutes a mental illness, along with a substance addiction, you have what is considered a dual diagnosis. Our treatment center is equipped to take care of both of these issues simultaneously with our customized treatment.

Making The Decision To Seek Substance Abuse Treatment

The first thing that you have to do to get yourself clean is to admit that you need help. By this point, you have probably tried to quit more times that you can count. If you really want to make the changes needed to get clean, you have to be ready to face the fact that your methods are not working for you. Looking at your present situation and a pattern of destructive living should be enough evidence of that.

Once you have made the decision to get help, you have to find a place that can not only help you detox, but that will also assist you in getting clean, for the long-term. Summit Behavioral Health is the perfect place to help you start a new life of sobriety.

Yesterday is in the past. All that matters is getting clean today. You should be proud that you are ready to take the first step. Follow through by giving us a call now!…You can do it!