When technology becomes unhealthy for teens

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WATCH ABOVE: Whether it’s an email or text, a tweet on Twitter or a like on Facebook, there's no escaping electronic leashes, and as Meaghan Craig reports, it's even worse for the next generation – Aug 3, 2017

Technology has changed the way we live our lives but at what point does it become unhealthy?

Particularly for adolescents who seemingly, are constantly connected to the outside world, even from the safety of the bedroom.

COMMENTARY: How technology will change the future lives of Canadians

Nowadays, whether it be an email or text on your phone, a tweet on your Twitter or a like on Facebook – there’s no escaping our electronic leashes, and for the next generation, it’s even worse.

“Teenagers are experiencing a tsunami of social media outlet and electronic use,” said Kyle Schwartz, clinical social worker for the Saskatoon Health Region.

Malik Sundara, 14, says he’s both on Snapchat and Instagram and the struggle to disconnect from devices isn’t just difficult during the summer when he has more freedom, but all year round.

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“They just suck you in.”

His mom is a tech-cautious parent who says the family has open lines of communication about how much time her son spends online.

“We’ve talked about it and we have a set limit on how much he can do and the sites that he visits and the sites that he is on — like whether he’s a member of Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat,” said Alexandra Ridge.

Some unhealthy behaviours among teens to watch for, says Schwartz, are a decline in grades, increase in sedentary activity or avoiding spending time outdoors.

“We become concerned with people’s mental health for instance when it starts to interfere with their daily life and functioning — so if they stop going to school because they’re playing video games all day — that’s pretty concerning.”

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For some adolescences, it can become an addiction — so-called digital heroin that is everywhere you look — and it’s not going away any time soon.

Experts say there is still a lot that is unknown about how technology and social media are changing our children but here’s why unplugging from the world for a teen isn’t as simple as you may think.

“If you think about the adolescent brain — it develops from the back of the head to the front, so that last thing to develop is the lobes behind the forehead, where the decision-making is kind of lying,” said Schwartz.

“This is why we need parents to really help coach kids how to use their social media — how do you unplug?”

This means parents need to put their devices down as well, because even when you don’t think your children are watching you, they are — so healthy role-modelling is key, Schwartz added