Signs of possible social media addiction:

  • More social media usage than intended

  • Experiencing cravings, having frequent thoughts or urges to check social networking sites

  • Problems or conflicts in relationships because of social media use

  • Social media impairing your ability to function, work, or complete tasks

  • Use of social media as an escape from personal problems

  • Experiencing physical or emotional discomfort when you can’t check your apps

  • Negative impacts to your physical or mental health

  • Using in situations that are risky (e.g. while driving or working or when you should be sleeping)

  • Isolation or reduced real-world social interaction

  • Needing more time/likes/follows to get the same amount of pleasure or enjoyment from social media


What is social media addiction?

We enjoy staying in touch with family and friends via social networking but can it become addictive? Scientists have found that overuse of technology in general, and social media in particular (including Facebook, TikTok and even WhatsApp), creates a stimulation pattern similar to that created by other addictive behaviours. The brain responds to social media the same way it responds to real-life connections, with a release of dopamine – a pleasure neurotransmitter in the brain. Receiving “likes” on social media activates the same pleasure pathways as eating chocolate or winning money. But, constantly checking your social media can cause overstimulation that can shift the nervous system into the fight or flight mode causing a type of anxiety. For children and teens, the effect of frequent use of social media can rewire the developing brain to constantly seek out immediate gratification which can be linked to disorders such as ADHD, depression, anxiety. And social media usage can actually lower self-esteem resulting from constant comparison with others.

Tips to reduce usage (for your own health or your child’s):

  • Turn off social media notifications so you are not constantly disturbed.

  • Monitor the amount of time you spend on your device. Set a reasonable time frame and stick to it (set an alarm if needed)

  • Stick to one device at a time – don’t use your phone while watching TV, using an iPad, or computer.

  • Turn your phone to silent during meals, social events and in meetings. Do not have it on the table with you, put it out of sight.

  • Resist the urge to respond to everything immediately.

  • Try not to revert to your phone in awkward social situations. And don’t check your phone while in the middle of a conversation.

  • Switch your phone off while you are sleeping or keep your phone out of your bedroom.

  • Take up a non-technology hobby such as exercise or art.

  • Make sure you aren’t using your phone when you are driving.

  • Have an app-free break regularly, and go and do something outdoors or with others.

  • When possible, phone people or, even better, visit them in person rather than connecting via social media.

  • If you are concerned about your child’s social media usage, have a frank conversation with them about it and how its making them feel. If necessary, get help.