Digital Separation Anxiety – When Adolescents Just Can’t Disconnect and Log Off

It’s no news that today’s teens are attached to their iPhones, iPads, and social media. For some, literally holding onto their digital devices and feeling “connected” 24/7 can become a compulsion that allows them to feel safe in the short-term at the expense of serious, long-term negative consequences. Over time, the thought of disconnecting from the device and logging-off becomes unbearable. At this point, many adolescents dread being separated from their digital devices, and can’t tolerate being without their screens to repeatedly check Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or any of the dozens of social media apps that exist in today’s overly digitized world. Technology ends up feeding the vicious cycle of anxiety and even OCD, as the need to feel “connected” becomes a pernicious form of avoidance. The digital connection leads to a restriction of real-life activities and isolation, as the pixels and “likes” come to replace actual human interactions. All the while, self-esteem and worth are only garnered through external means, such as social media “followers” and “likes” rather than internal means, such as achievements and real-life successes.
Families often become unwilling participants and enablers by allowing unlimited usage of the devices, paying the bill for data usage, and primarily communicating with their teens through texting rather than face-to-face communication. Yet to simply take the devices away can leave the adolescent angry, resentful, and even more isolated. Clinicians must use a more gradual, measured approach to wean the teen off of cyberspace, reintroduce him/her to real-life meaningful experiences, and engage both adolescent and parents in treatment for anxiety to fully detox digitally.
Using real-life case vignettes of 3 families dealing with tech addiction and digital separation anxiety, this round table will illustrate the interventions and exposures used, and discuss obstacles that hinder treatment motivation and commitment.
Objectives:

  1. Attendees will be able to define tech addiction and digital separation anxiety to differentiate between normal versus compulsive tech use.
    2. Attendees will be able to describe the negative vicious cycle of digital attachments to an adolescent’s learning, social development, self-esteem/worth, and personal growth.
    3. Attendees will be able to facilitate at least 3 specific interventions for digital detox exposures and adopt behavioral plans to gradually separate from screens and/or social media.

Chair:
Dr. Jenny Yip, PsyD, ABPP, Renewed Freedom Center for Rapid Anxiety Relief
Presenter(s):
Jake Knapik, PsyD, Renewed Freedom Center for Rapid Anxiety Relief
Noah Laracy, MA, Renewed Freedom Center for Rapid Anxiety Relief
Dr. Jenny Yip, PsyD, ABPP, Renewed Freedom Center for Rapid Anxiety Relief
Conference Information:

The ADAA 2017 Annual Conference (April 6-9, San Francisco, Hilton San Francisco Union Square)

Saturday, April 8: 11:30 AM  – 1:00 PM
Room: 142C