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What's the difference between technology addiction and problematic use?

Topics: Screen Time

Technology addiction and problematic use might look similar, but they are different. For one thing, currently doctors don't agree on a single definition of technology addiction. Also, when people are addicted, their brains and bodies won't let them stop using or engaging in something even when it hurts them. Problematic media use may cause difficulties, but limits can help.

Many kids use their phones or computers all the time. They mostly use technology to connect with friends, which is important to tweens and teens. But it can become problematic when it gets in the way of other important activities, such as school and family time.

If kids are having problems keeping up with schoolwork, chores, and activities, help them get back on track with some limits. If kids truly cannot control themselves -- they sneak their phones, feel bad about their behavior, lose friends, or stop other activities including schoolwork -- they may be showing signs similar to addiction. In either case, establishing and reinforcing a balanced approach to media may help. But you may want to talk to your pediatrician for more help.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at

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