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Turn It In and Turn It Off. Electronic Obsession Solutions for Teenagers

by  Kevin O'Hara 

O'Hara Famliy Chiropractic/ Arlington heights Chiropractor


   A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.     ~  Irish Proverb

Teen sleep deprivation is a growing concern in society. Children need at least nine hours of sleep nightly in order to be healthy and happy, yet more and more professionals are indicating they may even need more than that. Sleep deprivation is associated with memory deficits, impaired alertness and performance. The lack of deep sleep or REM sleep can result in increased irritability, anxiety and clinical depression. It can also decrease focus, creativity and ability to adapt to life's stressors.

Now let's add the current addiction to cell phone use: texting. This is how the greatest majority of people communicate today, especially teens or younger. One in three teens sends about 3000 texts a month. Holy cats! These texters are also 42 percent more likely to sleep with their phones. So let's look at the science. Texting is an instant gratification, as well as a high anxiety-producing mechanism. That instant reply gives a buzz of elation, like a bump of self-worth. The opposite is true when the text is not returned instantly, producing an uncertainty that can intensify by the minute: "Oh my gosh? Is he mad at me??" Not to mention the use of accidental, incorrect punctuation that can send someone in a tailspin; or a text sent to the wrong party or something one instantly wished he could take back. See the point?

Being "on call" constantly to one's cell phone for extended periods of time can train the central nervous system to be continuously revved up in a "flight response". This is the body's way of protecting itself from real or perceived dangers, but the physiological mechanism is only meant to be activated for short bursts. If a person is in flight response for extended periods of time, the body and mind begin to show signs of breaking down: loss of appetite, constant fatigue, digestive issues, depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, and the list goes on. This is the same psychological mechanism that combatants returning from battle experience. Some psychologists have equated this same phenomenon to post-traumatic stress disorder. Now imagine being a 13 year old trying to deal with all that.

Neuroimaging has shown that back-and-forth texting lights up the same pleasure centers that light up when using narcotics. An emotional upheaval to a perceived or real negative response leaves us wanting to repair the mood or high and "fix" the feeling of rejection. This is where the potential for addiction may surface. This addiction causes a myriad of issues, including disruption of sleep and cognitive functioning, decrease in actual human interaction, and clinical depression. This, in turn, fuels the addiction and makes the dependence stronger and stronger.

So what does this mean? It means that these at-risk teens are isolating themselves within their own social circles where instant access 24/7 is the norm. The potential for negative repercussions is obvious: self-isolation, decrease in self-worth, the constant need to "make everything alright" in the social circle, and separation from one's parents. Some teens feel they can work out their own problems; however, this is the issue; this is where the parent(s) must step in.

So how do we, as parents, combat the teen's addiction to today's technology? Try no texting at the table and friends turn in their phones when they visit. Do your teens or their friends text each other when they're in the same room? No cell phone means- oh no! - they will have to communicate with each other the old-fashion way. You will then get a mountain of grief from your addict: "But then I won't know what's going on!" "My friends will desert me!" "What if my friend has an emergency?!" Then have them call the house phone. Have your teen make it known to friends that after 9 p.m., cell phones are turned in for the night and remain offline. Turn it off and turn it in.

Your teen will get used to it after a few days and the upside is too important to ignore: better sleep, better habits, and better communication with you, the parents. Yes, they will talk to you again.

This issue has become widely epidemic. If your child seems isolated, depressed, withdrawn, or grades begin slipping, do some research and throw out a lifeline. There is plenty of information out there, and this can be a healthy first step in the right direction.


Dr. O'Hara's office is located at 940 S. Arthur Avenue in Arlington Heights. For more information, call 847/577-3597 or visit www.oharachiro.com.