Mental health clinics are seeing young patients for signs of technology addiction. Parents are being warned to watch out for changes in behaviour in teens.
Mental health clinics are seeing young patients for signs of technology addiction. Parents are being warned to watch out for changes in behaviour in teens.

Spike in teens being treated for tech addiction

Teens are being treated for signs of addiction to smartphones, social media and online games, prompting a warning for parents to check in with their kids.

Mental health clinics are seeing patients as young as 14 for signs of technology addiction and withdrawal from daily life. But experts say the change in behaviour could be a sign of other underlying issues.

Melbourne-based psychiatrist and director of Ramsay Health's Albert Rd Clinic, Dr Matthew Shaw, runs a program for young people and has seen a rise in numbers in recent years.

Mental health clinics are seeing patients as young as 14 for signs of technology addiction.
Mental health clinics are seeing patients as young as 14 for signs of technology addiction.

He sees a number of young people for tech-related problems, but said it was usually a sign of other issues, such as bullying, school or family issues.

"The arrival of the smartphone has had a dramatic impact on the way teenagers interact - or don't interact - with each other," Dr Shaw said.

"(But) the kinds of patients that I might see … are admitted and present with a more complex range of problems."

"In a range of areas - gaming (and other technology) has become something of an area they can retreat to and unfortunately it tends to perpetuate withdrawal."

Paris, 16, Angelique, 11 and Jamiq, 14, enjoy playing their devices. Picture: Nicki Connolly
Paris, 16, Angelique, 11 and Jamiq, 14, enjoy playing their devices. Picture: Nicki Connolly

Studies have shown up to 95 per cent of adolescents use smartphones, while the recommended screen time for Australian kids aged five to 17 is two hours per day. Many exceed that number.

Mum-of-three Irene Griffs said she trusted her kids to use technology appropriately, but it was hard to monitor as homework and textbooks were all online.

"I find once they're in high school they get a laptop - it's compulsory - and once they've got that it's very hard to monitor," she said.

"They've got all that access. And it gets hard to monitor.

"My kids are very sporty … (so) I wouldn't say it's an addiction, but everything is just online. It's just how it is."

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alanah.frost@news.com.au


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