Seeking help for teens struggling with addiction has always been a challenge. Many would assume that, with how much more connected the world is thanks to the internet, it’s easier to find it than ever. To an extent, this is true, but the sad fact is that, in many ways, the internet and the digital revolution we’ve seen in the last twenty years has also made it easier to foster their addictions and indulgences, and make addiction recovery difficult.
Digital Peer Pressure
A classic part of teen addiction – whether it’s drugs, alcohol, smoking or more insidious addictions like sexual addiction and immoral behavior – is the idea of peer pressure. We’re all familiar with peer pressure, as children, teenagers, and adults. Once upon a time, peer pressure was associated with mixing with a bad crowd at school, something that was given a defined and identifiable location. These days, however, access to the internet gives all of us access to the entire world. As amazing as this might be, it has the unfortunate side-effect of offering many more avenues for teens to be pressured and lured into negative and damaging activity.
More and more, we see stories of cyberbullying that goes to such extremes that it leads to teens and even children taking their own lives. Imagine that power of communication applied to encouraging a lonely, struggling teenager to find solace in drugs, alcohol, or even pornography. Combine this with the fact that the internet is now in everyone’s pocket through smartphones, not just limited to desktop computers, and we see that the potential for peer pressure is now everywhere – unregulated, unmoderated, and overwhelming.
The Digital Black Market
The challenge of peer pressure isn’t the only issue presented to us when it comes to teen help and the internet. How easy is it to find something on an online marketplace or store and order it straight to your door? Music, movies, groceries, exercise equipment, clothes, pet food – anything you can think of is now available at your fingertips. Unfortunately, this applies to the illegal and illicit too.
With the ease of use of the internet, a thriving black market has developed for a wide variety of dangerous, damaging, and corrupting substances, materials, and even activities. Teenagers being tech-savvy out of necessity only makes it worse when they develop a knack for covering their digital tracks, making it that much harder to know or find out about what they may be involved in. While authorities have been tackling these burgeoning black markets for years now, those who run them and supply them are always looking for new ways to evade being caught.
Our Digital Addiction
Although it’s difficult to know exactly what your teenager is doing online, there’s a more pervasive, insidious, yet sadly accepted part of digital proliferation that can contribute to addiction issues. Many of us spend our lives in front of a screen, or with our faces buried in smartphones and tablets, often without a thought, not realizing that this in itself can be a form of addiction. Digital addiction is, along with functioning alcoholism or an addiction to prescribed, legal medication, unfortunately, one of the accepted social norms of our modern society. What we don’t see is how much more difficult this can make teen help for other, more obvious issues. If ignored, even encouraging an addictive relationship with electronics, we only serve to bolster the same habits, the same reward responses, and the same avoidance of internal, spiritual issues that teens and adult addicts seek to escape through drugs, alcohol, and other vices. Acknowledging that this is an issue, and seeking a healthier relationship with the technology that makes our lives so much easier, is a vital part of teen help.