Monday, January 31, 2011

Adolescent Addiction to Facebook

Dear Dr. Naidich,

I am very concerned about my 16 year old son who spends all of his spare time on Facebook.  He would rather facebook or play on-line video games, then actually talk with friends and our family in real life. I am starting to worry that he may be obsessed or addicted to facebook.  Any advice about helping my son? 


Facebook is the top social networking site in the world. Some people log onto their facebook accounts everyday without failing. If your son is thinking about f.b. often throughout the day to the point where it is consuming his thoughts and/or checking his sight multiple times per day to the point that it is impacting his daily functioning, then these may be signs of obsessive compulsive behavior. While facebook may help people stay in touch with friends, re-connect with old friends, make new friends, and offer ways to interact with friends like on-line games such as mafia wars, some people may forget that they have an actual life to live. If your son forgets this fact, he may start neglecting himslef and the people around him like you. This may be a sign that he is suffering from a facebook obsession. Possible triggers to facebook obsessions include: social anxiety (shyness), social isolation or loneliness, social skills deficits, desire to staying connected to local gossip, voyeurism (wandering around facebook aimlessly to see what friends of friends are up to), avoiding/procrastinating responsibilities like chores and homework. Possible signs that facebook has become a problem for him include: spending more than one hour per day on facebook, his grades are suffering or he is missing deadlines, staying up too late and having difficulty getting up for school, decreasing face to face interactions with friends and family, revealing intimate information to strangers, developing a goal to increase the number of friends with people he doesn't really know, complaints from friends and family, and the idea of going a day without checking facebook causes him stress and anxiety.

The first step in dealing with a facebook obsession is for one to recognize and admit that one has a problem that is affecting one's life. Treatment recommendations include increasing incompatible and alternative behaviors to getting on facebook such as: committing to a maximum amount of time on facebook per day knowing that the least amount of time is better (i.e. 30 minutes per day), trying to give up facebook for other events and activities such as spending more time with friends and family, exercising, and participating in after school clubs and activities. If one is unable to make progress on his own, then one should seriously consider contacting a mental health expert like a psychologist or social worker for assistance.

Children as young as 8 to 10 years old get involved with social networking today due to increased accessibility of computers and hand held game systems with wi-fi accessibility. For these younger children, social networking may serve as a way to combat loneliness and isolation, to side step social anxiety (shyness), and to practice social skills in a less awkward and non-real time environment.

It is a vicious cycle. Adolescents who are depressed may find facebook an easier way to socialize given their lethargy, fatigue, low energy, and low motivation to have face to face interactions with peers. Real world isolation probably does not cause depression, but will more than likely make it worse. Research indicates that adolescents are happier, more socially adjusted, and perform better in school when they participate in extra-curricular activities and clubs, and engage in face to face contact with peers in comparison to those adolescents that spend excessive amounts of time on the computer “socializing” and playing games.   It sounds like you are right on target with assessing the situation and trying to help your son get back to the real word!

Good Luck!

Keep me posted.

Dr. Naidich

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Naidich,

    I'm in a bind and I need your help desperately. I have been reading your blog since 2010 and I value your advice as it is always sound and thoughtful. My current problem is that I am concerned about a friend of mine. She is seeing her therapist every single day and has lost her entire life. She doesn't talk to her family any more and she doesn't bother to try and relate to anyone. When she talks about her therapist it sounds as if he is God---almost as if she (my friend) is part of a cult. Is it possible for someone in the helping profession to do more damage than good?

    Also, if he is overstepping his boundaries as a therapist, what is my friend supposed to do? What advice can I give her about breaking free?

    Worried about a Friend (Becca)