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Understanding Screen Addiction: How to Spot the Differences in Young Children vs. Teenagers

As a parent, it can be difficult to navigate the world of screen time and understand the signs of screen addiction in young children vs. teenagers. With the proliferation of digital devices and the increasing amount of time spent on screens, it's important to be aware of the different ways screen addiction can present itself in these two age groups.

Young Children:

For younger children, screen addiction may present itself in a few key ways. One of the most common signs is a lack of interest in other activities. If your child used to love playing outside or engaging in creative play, but now only wants to spend time on their tablet or smartphone, it could be a red flag. Additionally, young children may become irritable or agitated when screen time is limited or taken away, showing signs of withdrawal similar to other addictions.

Another sign of screen addiction in younger children is a lack of interest in social interaction. If your child would rather spend time on their device than engage in conversation or play with friends, it may be a cause for concern. Finally, excessive screen time can also lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, eye strain, and disrupted sleep patterns in young children.


In teenagers, screen addiction may manifest in different ways. One common sign is a decline in academic performance. If your teenager is spending excessive amounts of time on screens and neglecting their schoolwork, it could be a sign of addiction. Additionally, teenagers may become socially isolated, preferring the company of their devices over spending time with friends and family.

Another sign of screen addiction in teenagers is a lack of self-regulation. If your teenager is unable to set limits on their screen time and becomes agitated or distressed when it's restricted, it may be a sign of addiction. Finally, teenagers may experience mood swings and irritability when they are unable to access their devices, showing signs of dependence similar to other addictive behaviors.

Understanding the signs of screen addiction in young children vs. teenagers is an important step in addressing and preventing this issue. By being aware of the different ways screen addiction can present itself in these two age groups, parents can take proactive steps to limit screen time and promote healthier habits for their children.


Dr. Muhammad Zeshan Headshot Dr. Muhammad Zeshan My name is Muhammad Zeshan, MD, and I am a Harvard trained infant, child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist at Inside Out, a private practice based in Princeton, New Jersey. I am currently working as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School-Newark, New Jersey. Through Inside Out CURE, my focus is to help individuals become more Compassionate, Understanding, and aware of their inner strength and vulnerabilities, while developing Resilience and Empathy. I offer a variety of mental health care services to all age groups (infancy through adulthood) by applying principals of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, positive psychology, family therapy, parent-child intervention therapy, pharmacology, and neuroscience.

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