Utah Family Therapy

Social Media Addiction: Recognizing &
Helping a New Age of Addicts

Is Social Media Harmful?

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Is Social Media harmful to you and your children? 
Are social networking sites safe?

Yes, of course they are! Well…on the other hand, no, not really. 

What’s the real answer? Yes or No.

Current Studies Say…

Researchers continue to learn a lot about the short- and long-term impact of social media on children, teens, and adults who frequently engage in social media.Some negative effects, and symptoms of social media addiction, like:

  • unhappiness
  • feelings of isolation
  • depression and
  • anxiety have been linked to frequent social media usage.
  • sleep problems
  • cyberbullying
  • behavioral addiction.
  • long periods of screen time.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Ignoring real life relationships.

Similarly, some studies show that taking a break from social media can help individuals experience an increase in life satisfaction and positive emotions.

How's Technology Used

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However, it has also been shown that cyber experiences can bring connection, acceptance, validation, learning, cultural understanding, healing, and better self-esteem.

What we continually find as we work closely with many youth and young adults and their families is that usage of social media and personal devices can be healthy and unhealthy.

It depends on how technology and social networking sites are used.

Experience and Choice

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Driving a car is like managing social media, it's better when you follow the rules.

Consider an analogy related to social media addiction. When your child comes of age and earns the privilege of driving a car, (social media) they can use that privilege in different ways.

They can choose to follow the laws and guidance of experienced drivers.

This usually leads to more careful driving in an effort to avoid potential dangers.

Or they could choose to ignore the laws and guidance and likely experience more problems. Both types of drivers are given significant power to do potentially great things.

Both types of drivers are also exposed to potential risks. They can’t control what’s going on around them nor can they anticipate every threat.

But the careful and guided driver is much more likely to have positive experiences, gain confidence, and establish a pattern of safe choices.

This will very likely lead to positive experiences.

Navigating Today's Connected World

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As with learning to drive a car, today’s teens and young adults live in an internet world and must learn how to drive through it as effectively and safely as possible.

They must be given the opportunity to experience “the road” and make choices – with guidance, of course.

Social media and the internet world are not inherently bad or destructive, nor are they inherently positive and uplifting.

For each of us, they are what we make them be. Social media can be a powerful tool like a car can be.

Tools of Empowerment

Technology Addiction

Parents, you have a great opportunity to provide guidance on social media usage.

Consider the points and tools below that will help you empower your teen to use social media in a way that is likely to produce healthy outcomes.

It’s Not About Control

Your teen can’t learn to “drive” if you don’t put them in the driver’s seat.

Of course, they need help, but doing it for them or dictating every detail usually leads them to feel powerless and resentful.

As they learn to use social media, be with them and provide suggestions.

For example, tell them that you want them to have a good experience so you want to help them with social media profile settings.

Connect with them on the platforms they are using.

Periodically review with them how things are going. Resist telling them exactly what to do.

Ask questions like “How can I help you?” and “Do you want to hear what I have learned?”

Keep the Destination in Mind

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When using social networks, we all need to have a purpose and a time frame and then move on to other activities.

If the goal is to check-in with friends, enjoy that opportunity but avoid directionless, limitless browsing or “zoning out.”

Be purposeful and then be done.

It feels good to take charge of your experience and “drive” with confidence rather than to be wandering on random paths.

Recognize addictive patterns when you are using social media like getting on just because you have nothing else to do.

Challenge yourself to be creative and engage in something else.

Have Guard Rails in Place

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Without guardrails, it's too easy to get caught up in the social media trap.

Like driving a car, safety measures and defensive “driving” are critical.

Typical safety measures like content filtering and accountability software are helpful, but they’re not perfect.

Add to those things mutually-agreed-upon standards for social media usage that empower your child to avoid building compulsive behaviors.

  • For example, decide which platform(s) you agree are appropriate.
  • Discuss appropriate language and content to be used (e.g., friendly, uplifting, informative, educational, etc.).
  • Talk about limiting personal information like where you live and where you go to school.
  • Establish an agreement to avoid meeting with people whom you don’t know in real life.
  • Above all, help your teen to know that they are their most effective filter and that they can design a healthy experience for themselves to avoid the danger of social media addiction.
  • Encourage them to talk to you if their experiencing any anxiety.

Enjoy the Ride Together

Healing Together

Yes, there will be obstacles and setbacks on the road, but navigating through effective social media usage together, like many other life experiences, can be a joy.

Make adjustments as you learn together. This can be a great way for teens and parents to connect with each other.

Social Media Addiction is Real


With all of that mentioned above, social media addiction is real, it is a type of addiction and social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, etc., they know it and use psychology to keep us returning, just like a drug.

Social networking sites go as far as creating social media apps to give us a rush of dopamine (feel good chemicals) to keep us on their platform and form addictive patterns.

In this day and age, we are surrounded by addicts. It is no longer as visible as drunken strides, baggy eyes, or needle marks.

Make no mistake; addicts are everywhere; the signs of their existence and behavior is just less visible than it has been with other addictions

Though, for some, like wives, husbands, children, and friends of those addicts, the signs can be very apparent. Also, they can be and are detrimental to their relationships.

Social media addictionpornography addiction, video game addiction, are the new face of addiction today, also known as technology dependencies.

According to brain studies, pornography is more addictive than cocaine. Video games are not quite as addictive, but they are not that far away and we don’t know about social media usage yet.

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Social media addiction is a newly emerged mental health addiction that has been taking its toll on our culture and our ability to communicate with each other in a healthy way.

Social media can cause us to lose focus on our lives and lead to devastating effects.

  • reading that next post
  • adding that next comment
  • creating and gobbling up that drama
  • feeling the need to share your life with others to feel important and worthy
  • spending hours scrolling and browsing through other peoples’ lives rather than your own.
  • Avoiding meal times
  • Interrupting social life.

… many are caught up in this cycle, and there are many legitimate reasons that individuals use it to cope.

Though, it is an unhealthy way of coping and leads to disconnection and disengagement with life and people, breeding dependency, lack of fulfillment, and susceptibility to other addictions.

Fine Line Digital Distractions


Balance Digital Life

There’s a fine line to social networking addiction and balancing digital life

Social Media addiction and Technology is growing, and we can’t seem to get enough of it.

It’s fun, useful and even empowering sometimes; wonderfully convenient to have so much information and potential activity at our fingertips.

But, as with anything, there are drawbacks too. As families learn the ins and outs of raising children who don’t know life without the internet and digital devices, it’s clearly a challenge to find balance in life with these technologies.

Challenge Finding Balance

Finding Balance

A recent study on “cyber balance” by iKeepSafe shows that 36% of teens admit to experiencing challenges in finding a balance between the use of digital devices and other activities.

Many of them say that it can be a major distraction and interferes with schoolwork and other activities, including sleep.

Adults and “tweens” are not immune.

In fact, 26% of adults said they had experienced inadequate sleep due to their digital activity, and 25% have failed to complete work. This is probably not surprising to most of us.

What studies like this can’t show is that there are much more – including adults – who don’t recognize that they do experience distraction, inefficiency, relationship problems, emotional challenges, dependence, and even addiction with digital experiences.

Just try going a few hours without digital devices, and most of us will notice some interesting yearnings.

How to Defy Digital Distractions and Social Media?

Digital Distractions

What are parents, young adults, and children to do to defy the digital distractions?

How can we live in the digital age and find a balanced way to use technology that is healthy?

The specific answers are going to be different for every person and family since needs and circumstances vary so widely.

However, here are some concepts and strategies that can be helpful to many that feel like they may be suffering from technology and social media addiction.

Purposeful Encounters

Journal Trauma
Keeping a journal helps identify troubling areas.

Too much of anything – whether healthy or not – is still too much.

Define the purpose and approximate time for each use of technology and then move on to other activities.

Whether it’s work, study, communication, relaxation, or simple fun, consider your device as a tool to accomplish that and then put down the tool.

You’ll be happier.

If you notice that use of the device starts to be a way to escape from or avoid real-life experiences, relationships, and roles, see that the tool is being misused and make some adjustments.

You wouldn’t use a hammer to do brain surgery. Don’t let your phone or tablet define your life or be the cure for not knowing what else to do.

Age and Maturity Matter

Age Social Media

It seems that access to technology is viewed as both a “right” and a “rite.” In reality, it’s a privilege and can become an addictive behavior.

Kids are given devices and internet access at increasingly younger ages.

Is there an age that is too young? In our opinion, yes.

But it has more to do with maturity than age.

If a child can understand how to have purposeful encounters (see point #1) with technology and then quickly move on to other activities, then the given usage is probably appropriate for that child.

Oh, and it’s OK if your child isn’t like “all the other kids” who have free reign with technology. They’ll thank you later.

Multitasking Doesn’t Work

Multi Tasking

There’s an almost insatiable desire to check that notification you just got on your device, even though what you’re doing is important.

Whether it’s schoolwork, work, family time, or thinking time, it’s so hard to ignore that little burst of attention.

We believe that we can just quickly look at it and then get right back to the more important activity.

The truth is that those quick attention diversions affect our learning, memory, cognitive processing, and mental energy.

It takes a lot more effort and time to get refocused after a distraction than we believe.

If you need focused time, turn off devices or work from a device that is distraction-free.

You can even use software to turn off distractions if you need it.

Bottom line: do whatever you need to have focused, distraction-free time every day for the things that are important – especially learning and avoid social networking addiction problems.

Our minds work more efficiently that way.

Make a Household Plan

Create Family Plan

To avoid technology, social media addiction and other addictive behaviors, all family members benefit from clear, mutually-agreed-upon rules that govern the use of tech in the home.

Kids and parents both need accountability and may need to limit screen time to avoid potential addictive patterns.

But accountability isn’t about enforcement – there’s always a way around it.

Accountability is About Openness

Openness thrives with structure, and structure can be achieved with practices like checking-in devices at night, not using devices in bedrooms, using time restrictions, discussing content usage, and the use of accountability software.

Find what works for your family to create a culture of openness, not enforcement.

Get help if you need it.

Doesn’t “openness” sound and feel so much better than “law enforcement”?

As families work together to use digital devices properly, they will be more likely to enjoy the benefits of technology and avoid social media addiction and other technology distractions and pitfalls.

Methods for Managing
Social Media & Technology Addictions

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These things are for individuals struggling with technology addiction, and they have been used by many who have already recovered:

1. Learn How to Say, 'NO'

  • With internet addiction it’s similar to drug addiction, it’s a mental disorder and willpower alone will not enable you to recover.
  • In fact, when you say “I am never going to do that again,” what are you focusing on? You start focusing on your desire to stay away from social sites and the thoughts become all consuming and you eventually return to your favorite social site.
  • A key to recovery is becoming focused on what it is you want.
  • If you want sobriety, focus on it, not the behavior itself.
  • Write down your motivations for being clean in detail.
  • Record them in your voice and listen to them morning and night.
  • Expand these deep motivations and meanings as you have more and more time sober and refer to them.
  • Think about these motivations and meanings often during recovery. Recovered addicts still reflect on these often, even after months or years of recovery.
  • When you begin to fear urges or slips, switch your focus to the reality that you do desire, not the one you don’t.
  • Envision your desired outcome, focus on it, make it your center.
  • Engage in something productive, fulfilling, or spend time with a close friend or family member.

Social media addiction has become rampant because of the lack of management. Here are a few more techniques to learn to manage technology use.

We need the aid of other people.

2. Relationships

Family Therapy

To overcome addiction, we need the aid of other people.

A primary reason for becoming caught up in addiction in the first place is the lack of connection.

Get connected with others and have at least one good friend that you can express your pains or deep feelings to that will listen and be there for you.

Also, join enjoyable interactions and just spend time with others.

Though this may be involved in recovery, it makes a very positive difference for stability and satisfaction with life.

3. Prayer & Meditation

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Most, if not all, recovered addicts have built a very solid spiritual foundation that they depend upon every single day.

Engaging in regular, daily prayer or meditation morning and night can be crucial for recovery.

Also, there are powerful meditation methods that can teach and delve into in our sessions.

4. Physical exercise and nutrition

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Take care of your body, and it will take care of you. Having quality nutrition will fill you with clarity and motivation.

Physical exercise is an excellent outlet that will give you a rush and increase “feel good” chemicals.

Combine quality nutrition with exercise, and you have a concoction that will breed success and further your overall happiness.

In fact, some recovered addicts have found that exercise has been one of their keystones when it comes to recovery.

5. Productivity/outlets/hobbies

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As human beings, we crave creation, and we desire achievement.
  • We need to be doing things on a daily basis that we are proud of. Work, school, hobbies, passions, service…these are all the types of things we must have in our lives to feel fulfilled.
  • “Sobriety is not about quitting a drug. Sobriety is about creating a new life.”

6. Awareness of Your Thoughts

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Building new habits starts with your thoughts.

As a recovering addict, and while in recovery, you must learn how to be sensitive, aware and on top of your thoughts.

When you feel triggered, vulnerable, angry, sad, bored, etc., then you have to learn how to recognize these feelings instantly and find good sources to cope with or overcome these feelings.

It’s about building new habits, and it all starts with your thoughts.

You must learn how to channel your thoughts in positive ways, and how to work through negativity or painful thoughts effectively and take away their power.


Lets face it, who likes to talk about their crap with other people? 

If you’re like most clients, you’re used to being judged despite hearing so many people talk about non judgment and when you do open up, it seems like the more you share, the less likely you are to get compassion. 

We’ve worked our butts off to create a clinic where the unfiltered, real you, can show up and heal, so dammit give therapy a chance

We love the unfiltered real you, let’s heal together. – Utah Family Therapy Team