The Family Project: electronics addiction
Q. Our 19-year-old son has failed out of two separate colleges. Since he came home, we have noticed that he is constantly on his phone or laptop, which he admits interfered with his college success. He is an adult, and we want him to be responsible for himself, but he thinks he may be addicted to electronics. Are there any resources available for him?
The overuse of or addiction to electronics and video is a new, but a real issue facing society today, according to the panel.
“If the use of electronics is interfering with school, sleep and social life, it needs to be addressed,” panelist Denise Continenza said.
Panelist Erin Stalsitz said the son’s age might be a factor: “Nineteen-year-olds are susceptible to immediate gratification impulses. Electronics stimulate the pleasure zones in their brains, and they keep looking for more stimulation.
“They usually grow out of it,” but Stalsitz noted, “School work is often electronic-based, and that poses a huge challenge for anybody. The problem here is that the son is using electronics as an escape, and he is at a point where he has nothing else going on.”
“Unlike substance abuse, abstinence from electronics is impossible,” according to panelist Mike Daniels. “He [the son] needs to learn to use electronics responsibly.”
Suggestions from panelist Pam Wallace for immediate help included shutting off and putting the electronic devices away when not in use, taking apps off the phone, and asking for family support. Parents can help by asking themselves if they are being good role models with their own use of phones.
Continenza asked if there was underlying depression or anxiety. If so, the panel agreed that an assessment by a mental health professional might be in order. They suggested contacting MARSatp.com. The professionals there specialize in gaming and electronics addictions, and they can do the assessment or refer the parents to appropriate services.
The parents’ health insurance company also could be contacted for referrals to cover behavioral addiction services.
“It is important for the parents to understand why their son may be doing this,” Wallace said.
“Is there a history of any kind of addiction, including behavioral, that could be significant?” Daniels asked. “It could be hereditary, a gene, or a learned behavior.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS, and Erin Stalsitz, casework supervisor, Lehigh County Children and Youth.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.