Smartphone App Addiction of Tweens & Teens

How much time are your tweens and teens spending online?



Do you wonder if your tween or teen is so closely connected to his or her smartphone that they are addicted to the apps?

Remember when cellphones were used to make phone calls?

The addiction to social media and mobile apps is no secret among today’s tweens and teens but are they so addicted that they cannot function normally and do you even know what apps they are using?

I was talking to a friend the other day and we wondered if the population rate would drop as the younger generation no longer communicates face to face, let alone has a relationship that is not online.

According to Pew Research Center, the availability of smartphones has resulted in 92% of teens (ages 13-17) saying they go online every day, and 24% of teens stating that they are online “almost constantly.” With this many teens online at such a high level of frequency, what exactly are they doing?

Did you know that more people own smartphones than they do toothbrushes?


Social media is a major part in the lives of tweens and teens and there are a number of social media apps that rise above the rest in popularity. Research reports that Facebook is still the most popular and frequently used social media app among teens, although most won’t admit to it, as a matter of fact, less than 71% will.  Instagram is second at 52%, followed by Snapchat at 41% then Twitter at 33%.


According to Common Sense Media, tweens (ages 8-12) and teens (ages 13-18) use their media differently. Teens are more likely to multi-task, using their device or computer to listen to music (76%), text (60%), watch TV (51%), or use social media (50%) while they are doing their homework.

With all of this time online, how do tweens and teens use social media? In today’s high tech world, social media acts as a place tweens and teens can go hang out and socialize outside of home and school.

When on these apps, teens and tweens are chatting, playing games, and snapping, sharing video, photos and other images that they find online.   In most cases, tweens and teens prefer to interact with others they already know, however, with the vast amount of social media apps available, it becomes increasingly easier for your child to interact with strangers as well.

The key is to know which apps your child is using. Once you have that information, you can familiarize yourself with these platforms and how they are used. Sign up for an account, discover firsthand how these platforms are being used by kids.

When you have this information, you can open a line of communication with your child and educate them on best practices when using the app. You can also discuss the possibility of not using certain apps if you feel they aren’t appropriate.

Ultimately, social media is here to stay, it’s not a fad nor the future and it has become a significant part of the social development of tweens and teens.

Is your teen or tween spending too much time on their mobile device? 

How can you tell if your child’s reliance on smartphones and other mobile devices is normal when you have no frame of reference for childhood smartphone use, and when society has completely surrounded itself around mobile devices?

Here’s some important information about children and smartphone use, and some tips on how to deal with potential smartphone addiction in your tweens and teens.

How Tweens & Teens Are Using Smartphones

It’s important not to approach the idea of smartphones and mobile devices as automatically bad. After all, they are an integral part of your tween’s and teen’s social life and an important communication device. And, if current trends continue, they’ll also be an important part of your child’s adult life. It’s likely they’ll be expected to have and use a smartphone or other mobile device in their professional life later on. Learning to handle these devices now can be a helpful thing for their future.

On the other hand, too much of a good thing can always be dangerous. Some experts believe that smartphone use may be replacing drug and alcohol experimentation and addiction in teens due to a correlation between falling rates of tweens and teens who report drug use and rising rates of internet use. And while that may sound positive, experts also caution that it affects the brain in a similar way to using drugs.

How Much is Too Much?

Smartphones may be relatively new but the signs of addiction are consistent whether the addict is using drugs or apps. According the studies, your tween may be experiencing smartphone addiction if they exhibit some of these signs:

  • Using the smartphone to alleviate anxiety, depression, or other negative feelings;
  • Preoccupation with the smartphone to the detriment of grades, friendships, and other activities;
  • Withdrawal symptoms like anger, depression, irritability, and restlessness when the phone is taken away.

Smartphone use may also cause physical symptoms of addiction:

  • Eyestrain from too much digital viewing;
  • Neck pain from hunching over the phone;
  • Sleep disturbances and fatigue thought to be caused by the light from cell phone viewing after dark.

What Should Parents Do?

Iphone parental controls

If you suspect your child is addicted to their smartphone, your first instinct may be to remove the device entirely. That is an option, and it may be appropriate for some, however, smartphones are part of modern life, and it’s unrealistic to expect your child will never use one again. Therefore, it may be advisable to treat smartphone addiction less like a chemical addiction and more like a food addiction. That means teaching your tween to moderate themselves.

Set boundaries for smartphone use. You may want to limit your child to a certain amount of time on their smartphone each day, or to designated times of the day, or both. It’s also important to keep an eye on what they’re doing and limit online activities that your kids spend an unhealthy amount of time on, like social media sites or games.

Let’s Chat > How do you control the smartphone usage of your tween or teen?

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