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Growing Up Online

Digital technology - Facts for youth

Digital technology includes computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and any type of device that gets you online. Digital technology can be used for many activities, including:

  • chatting
  • texting
  • online shopping
  • reading online
  • browsing websites
  • using social media
  • streaming videos
  • gaming
  • online gambling
  • sending pictures or messages with a sexual tone (called sexting)
  • cybersex
  • watching pornography

How can digital technology be harmful?

Digital technology can become a problem when it harms your mental or physical health, or has unwanted effects on your day-to-day life.

If you’re using digital technology too much, you may have:

  • relationship problems with your family members and others
  • stress related to money problems
  • legal issues
  • problems at school, university, or other settings where you learn
  • a hard time working or keeping a job​

Using digital technology too much can also affect your mental health. It can lead to:

  • depression
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • anxiety
  • personality disorders (like antisocial personality disorder or borderline personality disorder)
  • substance use (like cannabis and alcohol)

What puts you at risk of having problems?

You’re more at risk of having problems with using digital technology if you:

  • are at a younger developmental stage (less mature than others your age)
  • have a low self-esteem
  • are being bullied
  • have relationship problems with your family
  • have easy access to technology
  • need things to be perfect before you’re happy with them
  • have trouble making friends, fitting in, or feeling connected to others
  • take a while to get back to a healthy state after something stressful or bad happens
  • have learning problems
  • are very intelligent (have a high IQ)

How do you know if you have a problem?

It’s not always easy to know when you have a problem. If you relate to any of these statements, you may be spending too much time online.

  • I’m fighting a lot with my parents because of the amount of time I spend online.
  • I spend more time on my phone than I should.
  • I’m not spending enough time on my homework, chores, or with my family or pet.
  • I cancel plans with my friends so I can stay in and play video games.
  • My grades at school are getting worse.
  • I’m so tired at work because I stayed up late online.
  • I’m missing work lately.
  • I don’t exercise anymore because I spend too much time online.
  • I’m lonely and the only way I feel connected is when I’m on social media.
  • I know I have problems, but I can’t stop spending time online.

What can help?

No one expects you to stop using technology completely. But it helps to know how much you use it.

  • Set limits and cut down on how much time you spend online.
  • Find ways to control how much you use technology. This can be setting an alarm on your device or locking your device after you’ve been on it for a set amount of time.

By doing these things, you’ll have more control of your daily life. Your parents can also help you make these changes.

Talk to your parents, a trusted adult, or a counsellor. They can help you find ways to have a better balance with digital technology.

You might be thinking:

Remember that:

"I’m lonely and I don’t know how to spend less time online."

You don’t have to stop all online activity. You might find it helps to plan 1 or 2 things each day that you enjoy and aren’t related to technology. This may be spending time with your pets, getting outside, meeting a friend, or volunteering.

"My friends will be mad at me if I don’t answer their texts."

True friends will understand if you need a restful sleep, want to create good habits, and be happier. They’ll also want you to have better relationships with your family and take care of yourself.

For help and support, contact Alberta Health Services Youth Addiction Services at 1-866-332-2322 (toll free in Alberta)

See the Resources section for more information.​​

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