One of the topics garnering a lot of attention in the mental health world is social media. Because 97% of all teenagers will use social media daily now, it is creating discussion as to whether we are seeing a growing addiction in this area. A study done by Dr. Popova, Dr. Lange et al in 2013 shows that a disproportionate number of individuals with FASD will also develop an addiction of some type. While it is not clear how susceptible people with FASD are to addictions, it is a very real possibility. One of the questions that gets raised is how do you tell if someone has a social media addiction or not? Just because someone uses social media a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have an addiction.
A social media addiction needs to be diagnosed by a professional, but to determine if you should be seeking help, ask yourself these six questions from Dr. Griffiths in Psychology Today 2018.
1. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
2. Do you feel urges to use social media more and more?
3. Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
4. Do you often try to reduce your use of social media without success?
5. Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?
6. Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job or studies?
In Lanark County, addiction counseling is part of mental health rather than a separate entity. It is a speciality that a neuropsychologist or psychotherapist can support. If you are seeking help, make sure you are looking for a counselor who specializes in addictions. I can remember 10 years ago the advice was we should not be spending more than an hour watching TV per day. The rule remains the same for screen time in general. Yet, when you look at how much technology is a part of our life now, it is not surprising that over 69% of our teenagers are spending over 2 hours a day watching screens according to StatsCan 2015.
It is also not surprising that when you consider how social media works, that it can lead to addictions. Social media works in the same type of way as addictive substances. We know that alcohol is considered a gateway drug to other drugs. When we look at which substances addicted drug users start with, 54% began with underage drinking. Social media starts the same way. It encourages usage with Pavlov’s theories of action/reward. The number of children I see playing Candy Crush or Slither.io is substantial. Because they are rated for children and are free, they have become very popular. These games create no thought and simply have the child follow movement developing muscle memory for their eyes. However, they provide use points or pictures of gold stars, coins or other items as rewards. The children become very focused gathering points. Fortnite is the game of choice now with 61% of all gamers and it can be very challenging maintaining mental health while playing. The game is basically The Hunger Games in video. You spend your entire time trying to not get killed. Your brain stays stressed throughout with high chemical release and really has no healthy way of releasing such as the feeling and celebration of accomplishment. Studies are showing desensitizing children to violence has adverse outcomes. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/sax-sex/201805/fortnite-boys-and-self-control
In the business sector, celebrating accomplishments is known to be a vital part of success. Celebrating accomplishments give an end goal, increases motivation and productivity, improves physiology and strengthens mental health, tightens and strengthens our network, and positions you as a winner leading to greater success. When we are consistently denied the opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, we become much more vulnerable to depression and exhaustion.
This is why in the Rural FASD Support Network, we make sure we always have sharing time in our support meetings and celebrate accomplishments. It is this positive energy that brings us together and enables us to overcome the bad times.
In my opinion, social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram and worst of all, TikTok do the opposite. They never allow celebration and constantly encourage our teenagers and young adults through a barrage of notifications to keep gathering more likes. In fact, they are now providing tutorials on how to legally create soft porn videos to get the most likes. The old rule of knowing what your children are doing and who they are hanging with still applies. There is still nothing wrong with telling our children to get off the devices and go outside and play. We have found using parental control apps like Family Link for Google/Android or Circle by Disney can be very effective at controlling device usage. I can also tell you as a Spec Ed educator of several years, the children will rumble for two days about having devices taken away. If you remain firm and give them an alternative, you just need to hang tough for two days to get on the right path to self-control. And as Dr. Sax says, self-control is the number one predictor to lifetime success.