Britain’s first dedicated Young Person Technology Addiction Service

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Technology Addiction Service

1st February 2010

Nightingale Hospital has responded to a surge in adolescents with a dependence or addiction to gaming and other forms of technology by launching a dedicated Young Person Technology Addiction Service. A recent survey of secondary schoolchildren revealed that 63% 11-18 year olds felt addicted to the internet, with 26% spending over 6 hours a day online. Others were found to spend up to 10 hours a day using computer and video games, with almost every waking minute spent in front of a screen of one sort or another.

Young people now spend more time online than they do watching television and from unrestricted access to inappropriate material, online bullying or stalking to excessive game-playing or time spent on social media sites, the internet is fraught with potential danger. Research has now confirmed that for adults spending excessive time online there is a marked deterioration in their physical and mental wellbeing. For young people who are developing so quickly both neurologically and physically, the risks are magnified with an increase in agitation, hyper-arousal, an inability to concentrate and, ultimately, depression.

To try and counter this worrying trend of technology addiction amongst adolescents – or ‘screenagers’ – Nightingale Hospital has developed a tri-partite programme which can be tailored to meet the patient’s needs. From intensive inpatient care to day therapy, group and individual therapy the programme is designed to increase off-screen social activities and developing strategies to cope with online problems, in particular issues around cyber bullying.

The three core elements to the service focus on:

  1. Interpersonal Therapy (looking at Interpersonal Sensitivity and encouraging face-to-face social interaction);
  2. Tech Hygiene (users explore their relationship with technology and learn to Switch Off and Disconnect) and,
  3. Life Skills and Health (addressing a lack of confidence in facing the demands of life and improving physical health following extended periods of poor nutrition and reduced physical activity).

Dr Richard Graham, Lead Young Person’s Technology Addiction Consultant at Nightingale Hospital comments: ‘Mental health services need to adapt quickly to the changing worlds that young people inhabit, and understand just how seriously their lives can be impaired by unregulated time online, on-screen or in-game. We have found that many of the existing services fail to recognise the complexity of these situations, borrowing from older models of addiction and substance misuse to very limited effect. This is why Nightingale Hospital has launched the first Young Person Technology Addiction Service, which we hope will address the underlying causes of this addiction to transform Screenagers back into Teenagers”.

How to Spot a Screenager – 10 questions to help identify technology addiction:

  1. Do you frequently find you are spending more time online than you expected?
  2. Do you ignore and avoid other work or activities to spend more time on-screen?
  3. Do you often check messages or emails before doing something else you need to do, even delaying meals?
  4. Do you frequently get annoyed or irritable if someone bothers you when you are trying to do something online or on your phone?
  5. Do you prefer to spend time with people online or through messaging to socialising with them without using technology?
  6. Do you think a lot about when you can get back to being online when you are off-line?
  7. Do you argue with, or feel criticised by friends, partners or family about the amount of time you spend online?
  8. Do you get excited by anticipating when you can next get online and thinking about what you will do?
  9. Do you now prefer on-screen activities to going out and doing other things?
  10. Do you hide or become defensive about what you do online?

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