Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Facing the Unthinkable – How Can We Address Addiction in Our Tweens and Teens?

Facing the Unthinkable – How Can We Address Addiction in Our Tweens and Teens?

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The spectre of addiction isn’t something families anticipate when gazing into the hopeful eyes of their tweens and teens. Yet, the reality is that more youngsters today are grappling with different forms of addiction. As protectors, educators, and nurturers, we must understand these afflictions and find effective ways to offer help.

In an age where digital devices reign supreme and the pressures of societal expectations continue to build, tweens and teens face challenges unseen by past generations. The very term “addiction” has expanded in its scope. Today, it encompasses substance abuse and several other compulsions that were unheard of even two decades ago. From the seemingly innocuous screen addiction to the more ominous substance abuse, the health and well-being of our youngsters are on the line. Before diving into specific addictions, it’s essential to recognise that a multi-pronged, empathetic approach is key to addressing these issues.

The digital dungeon

With the surge of smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles, screen addiction among tweens and teens is increasingly prevalent. While some may dismiss it as a benign side-effect of modern life, excessive screen time can lead to sleep deprivation, diminished physical activity, and strained family relations. Parents can help by setting screen time limits, encouraging outdoor activities, and engaging in digital detox weekends. Remember, the aim isn’t to eliminate technology but to strike a balance.

The social media mirage

The virtual realms of Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat offer youngsters an escape from reality. But they also harbor risks. The constant comparison, the chase for “likes”, and the pursuit of virtual validation can erode self-esteem. Towards the end, it’s vital to recognise these platforms’ weight on our children’s health. Encourage open conversations about the pitfalls of social media and create an environment where self-worth isn’t tethered to online approval.

The gaming grip

While gaming can be a recreational activity, excessive immersion can lead to obsession. The adrenaline rush from “winning” and the camaraderie of virtual friendships can make the real world seem bland. It’s crucial to understand that it’s not the game but the loss of control that’s the problem. Encourage your teen to set boundaries, take regular breaks, and prioritise real-life interactions.

Substance abuse issues

Substance abuse is a treacherous path, fraught with immediate and long-term consequences. From alcohol to drugs, many teens experiment out of curiosity, peer pressure, or as a coping mechanism. Most teens do better in a facility away from common triggers, so while it may seem daunting to send them off to drug rehab, it’s an investment worth making. Noteworthy states leading the way in teen treatment are California, Utah, and Hawaii, with their state-of-the-art treatment facilities and accommodations all against serene backdrops. It’s a testament to the emphasis placed on holistic healing. With therapy, counseling, and support groups, teens can reclaim their lives and look forward to a brighter future.

Shoplifting – the silent struggle

Often brushed off as a phase, shoplifting can actually be a manifestation of underlying issues like anxiety, depression, or a cry for attention. It’s not about the stolen item but the thrill or relief it provides. Delve deeper into your child’s psyche, employ counseling, and remember, understanding and support will go farther than punishment.

The pressure to be perfect – eating disorders

With the world constantly whispering in their ears about the “perfect” body, teens are vulnerable to body dysmorphia. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders among teens stemming from a distorted self-view. Fostering an environment of acceptance and love, coupled with professional help, can guide them back to health.

The thrill of the dare – risky challenges

In recent years, social media has spurred a trend of dangerous challenges. From the Tide Pod challenge to hazardous stunts for a few moments of online fame, tweens, and teens are sometimes drawn to these dares due to peer pressure or the allure of going viral. As disturbing as they may be, they are a call for us to maintain an open line of communication with our youngsters. Discuss the potential consequences of these challenges, both physically and legally. It’s not about instilling fear but fostering a sense of responsibility and discernment. By understanding the motivations behind their actions and guiding them towards safer outlets for expression, we can shield them from the detrimental lures of the internet.


Navigating the turbulent waters of tweens’ and teens’ addictions requires patience, understanding, and proactive measures. It’s not just about breaking the chains of addiction; it’s about building resilience, fostering self-worth, and reminding them of life’s endless possibilities. As guardians, we are their anchor. With unwavering support and guidance, we can usher them into a future brimming with promise.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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