Happy New Year everyone! One of my resolutions for this year is to create a regular, ongoing digest of what happens behind the scenes in a day in the life of a therapist. I will share my personal thoughts about sessions, mental health subjects or experiences that I encounter. I hope you will enjoy this private access and in the process learn and grow just as I do with every kid, family and mom that I work with.

Is My Kid Self-Absorbed and Addicted to Her Screen?

Melissa and Dean came in for their first session with typical concerns that I hear about daily. And though I know they are typical I also know it doesn’t make it any easier for parents. They shared that they had a 14-year-old daughter in her freshman year of high school who was feeling uncertain of her place in her social circle, who was having anxiety around going to school most days and took over three hours getting her homework done. Any free time that she had after school, in clubs and sports she spent in her room, lights off, laying in bed on Snapchat, Instagram, Musical.ly, TBH and watching YouTube videos.

Melissa and Dean’s attempts to get her to come downstairs were met with, “all my friends are on here, leave me alone, and five more minutes.” They didn’t know what to do or think, “Is this normal for kids these days?” was their opening question for me.

My thoughts on this topic are complex. I understand that today’s generation of kids are being raised on iPads and smartphones. However, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it okay. Melissa and Dean, much like other parents, felt powerless. If they threatened to take away their daughter’s phone she would cry and tell them that she will have no friends. Teens will also often say that they have a friend who is cutting or is suicidal and that they are their lifeline, so taking the phone away would be a safety issue. I see on a weekly basis that these types of pleas work on parents.

Excessive social media use, and taking dozens of pictures of your self on a daily basis does make children more prone to being self-absorbed, less aware of how others are feeling around them (aka empathy) and can lead to addictive type of qualities like we see in gambling, substance use and gaming.

So, parents you have pretty good motivation to set clear limits and boundaries around your kid’s use of technology. Keep them engaged in the family, talking eye to eye, and handing that phone in before bedtime- no exceptions. They can use an actual alarm clock to get up (common excuse teens use), nothing good happens online after 10:00 pm.

About the author

Sheryl Gonzalez Ziegler, Psy.D. holds a Doctorate of Psychology, is an Author, Speaker, National Media Contributor, Non-Profit Board Member, Girl Scouts Leader, Girls on the Run Coach and Advocate for children. She has been treating children and families for over twenty years with areas of expertise in anxiety, trauma, divorce, stress management and depression. Dr. Ziegler is the author of the best selling book, Mommy Burnout: how to reclaim your life and raise healthier children in the process, the winner of Best Parenting Book of 2018 as awarded by International Latino Book Awards.

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