Wilderness Treatment for Teens: The Dangers of Screen Overuse

smartphone 1641909 1280As a program that offers wilderness treatment for teens, we understand that technology poses a unique opportunity for learning and connection for adolescents. Through technology, teens have the ability to speak and communicate with each other thousands of miles apart. They have access to information and learning tools not previously available to their parents. We also understand that technology poses a great risk, though.
Along with the helpful information and ways to connect, there’s harmful information and predators–which many parents don’t speak to their children about. Researchers still don’t understand the full effects of such long-term and frequent use of technologies like smartphones, yet many parents allow unfettered access to them.

Sleep deprivation & technology

Parents basically expect teenagers to be dreadfully sleepy all the time–it comes with being a teenager, right? Wrong. To be healthy, teenagers should get about 8 to 9 hours of shuteye, but studies have discovered that only about 15 percent get this amount. This means that about 4 in 5 teens that you come across are sleep deprived. This can be traced to biological clocks, school starting too early, and technology.
Recently, JAMA Pediatrics released a study of 26,000 children, ages 6 to 19, concerning technology use–or more specifically, screen-time. In the study, researchers discovered a strong link between sleep deprivation and device-usage before/during bedtime. It was found that young people who kept their devices with them at bedtime were greater than twice as likely to not get 9 hours of sleep.
More alarmingly, those who had their devices (phones, game consoles, etc.) in their rooms had a 50 percent greater chance of getting bad sleep compared to those without and had a 200 percent greater chance of being very sleepy throughout the day. Researchers believe this is because going to sleep requires your brain to “calm down” but devices stimulate the brain, making it more difficult. As a program which offers wilderness treatment for teens, we understand that for technology to be helpful, teens have to understand how to use it in a healthy and productive way.

Is your child addicted to social media?

In a world where nearly everyone you know is using social media or at least a smartphone, it’s difficult to tell whether you or your child’s usage is out of hand. Internationally recognized researcher of social media use and addiction, James Roberts, Ph.D., recently gave advice on how to identify whether you’re struggling with a social media addiction or not. He used components of behavioral and substance addictions to come up with six questions based around core ideas: “euphoria, tolerance, conflict, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse.” Here are the questions:

  1. Salience: Is your social media use deeply integrated into your daily life?
  2. Euphoria: Do you depend on social media use for excitement throughout the day?
  3. Tolerance: Do you need to spend more time to get a “buzz” from social media?
  4. Withdrawal symptoms: Do you get nervous when you are not on social media?
  5. Conflict: Does your use of social media cause you trouble?
  6. Relapse: have you tried to cut-back on your use of social media but failed?

Dr. Roberts claims that if you answer yes to 3 or more questions, it may be time to evaluate your social media use and its hold on you, because it’s probably not very healthy. In our wilderness treatment for teens, we want teens to have a positive relationship with technology. We want our students to be able to reap the benefits of technological devices and not form a dependent relationship with them.

Our wilderness treatment for teens can help your child

Trails Carolina offers wilderness treatment for teens, ages 10-17. Our students commonly deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other behavioral challenges. We strive to improve the lives of young people.
For more information about our wilderness treatment for teens at Trails Carolina, please call us at 800-975-7303.

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Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: https://trailscarolina.com/common-ground-podcast/ With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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