Anxious Teen? How Their Attention has Been Hijacked & How You Can Help

A teen using social media is often an anxious teen. This is not social media bashing, it’s a research-based reality. And it’s not slowing down.

Your teen’s attention is being hijacked and the results are not even close to positive. The good news? You can help turn this trend around.

How Your Teen’s Attention is Being Hijacked

Before breaking down some of the recent discoveries, let’s never forget that there was plenty an anxious teen long before the recent appearance of cell phone culture. Some of the factors that have distracted a teen’s attention then (and now) include:

  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Lack of activity or over-activity via sports, exercise, etc.
  • Unhealthy nutritional habits
  • General stress
  • Challenging family issues

These — and other — aspects of teen life remain issues that must be monitored and addressed. In addition, over the past decade or so, teenagers (and their parents) must deal with a rapid-fire world. This requires smartphones, social media, and an online life. Some numbers to chew on from a recent Pew Research Center study:

  • U.S. teens are very self-concerned about their own phone use. Fifty-two percent of them have now begun taking steps to cut back. Fifty-seven percent are aiming to limit social media usage. Fifty-eight percent feel the need to reduce their video game time.
  • Fifty-seven percent of parents are now setting screen time restrictions for their anxious teen. However, 36 percent of those same parents are owning up to their own high screen time. This is reflected in 51 of teens reporting that their parent or caregiver is distracted by a device — even when the teen needs their attention.
  • Seventy-two percent of teens report checking for messages or notifications as the first thing they do upon waking each morning.

The Cost of Being an Anxious Teen

Studies show that teens are increasingly attached to their phones. Also, studies show that fifty-six percent of teens associate a negative emotion to the absence of their phone. Here’s a breakdown of those reported emotions:

  • 25 percent feel lonely
  • 24 percent feel upset
  • 42 percent feel anxious without their phone nearby

Moreover, this device-related anxiety presents the same problems and symptoms of other anxiety disorders. These include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Social anxiety/Avoiding social situations
  • Nightmares
  • Digestive issues (nausea, indigestion, constipation, etc.)
  • Sweating, shaky hands, and shaky voice
  • Headaches and other body aches

4 Ways to Help an Anxious Teen

1. Self-Care

As mentioned above, teen anxiety has been around for a long time. Thus, it really helps to get your child back to basics when it comes to daily self-care, e.g.

  • Healthy eating habits
  • Regular sleep patterns
  • Daily activity and exercise
  • Relaxation techniques and stress management

2. Screen Restrictions

Generally, this becomes the main approach every single child needs a solid face-to-face life. It’s how they learn about themselves. Also, it’s how they learn to be a healthy part of a community. Initially, this could be a tug-of-war but it’s important that you and your teen negotiate some new rules for device usage.

3. Replacement Activities

As research shows, a teen may feel lost without their phone. Thus, it becomes vital to help them find new ways to enjoy their lives.

4. Healthy Communication

Commonly, getting most teens to accept the above three tips requires healthy, respectful communication. Commit to this goal as a process, not a destination. Be a compassionate and understanding listener even when setting firm boundaries.

Therapy Can Be a Time-Out for Our Attention

Finally, anxiety is more than occasional nervousness. It is a mental health disorder. Therefore, if your child is anxious — for any reason — call in a guide. Weekly therapy sessions are a “time-out” of sorts for your anxious teen. It is a judgment-free space; the present moment is honored and addressed. Concerns are openly aired, root causes are identified, and solutions are discovered together. At Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX, has experienced therapists that specialize in teen counseling and anxiety. Call us today at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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