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Can Technology Addiction Lead to Substance Abuse

Using the Internet, social networks, and new technologies, in general, interfere in our daily lives more and more. In children and adolescents, there can be consequences in all important areas of their life, from social relationships to school performance, health or the erception they have of themselves.

If this use is abusive it can have drastic consequences on the health of your child. They can start to act out with a loss of control, leading to addiction. These addictions are called non-toxic addictions.

Non-toxic addictions, such as addictions to mobile phones, videogames, or the Internet,  create the same diagnostic criteria as substance dependence in our brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Addictive disorders cause psychological or physical dependence. Addiction is characterized by the inability to consistently abstain, and impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.

How to know if there is Internet addiction?

See if any of the following symptoms occur that may indicate that your child has an addiction to the technology:

  • Changes in attitude or mood when you are not connected, when you do not have a mobile phone nearby or when a usage limit is set. Does this present anxiety, agitation, nervousness and / or mood disorders.

  • Communication at home or with friends has diminished, and it is no longer as before.

  • A radical change in their behavior. Loss of self-control and impulse control.

  • Stop doing the activities and hobbies that they used to do.

  • Neglecting their obligations. Are they permanently connected to the Internet or looking at the smartphone or tablet?

  • Lying about the actual time you spend connected or on the devices

  • Low self-esteem and poor empathy.

While we tend to think of addiction as chemical dependency, the reward circuitry in the brain can be distorted and abused by any number of compulsive behaviors that become pathologies. As parents e need to protect our children and help them replace and reconstruct (healthy) habits that existed before the addiction to technology. Break and replace the habits and look for ways to prevent relapses.

Orientations for parents

Talk openly with your child about the use of the Internet: enter into a sincere dialogue to find out what motivates them, and help them to understand the risks of being addicted. You can install parental control apps, and let them know that it is a great tool that will help you in your role as a parent and protector in the use of the Internet. Make using the Internet a reason to share family experiences; let it be a tool and not an end in itself.

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