Device Dependency: The Digital Pacifier


So, your kid is telling you that without their phone they will be overwhelmed with anxiety and depression? You probably know this isn’t true, and you’re probably right! Digital devices are nothing more than the equivalent of a digital pacifier that distracts kids from dealing with their real issues. Device dependency inhibits a teen’s ability to develop coping skills and strategies for dealing with the real world. And just like the pacifier, it’s going to be hard to take away!

You need to set boundaries and find a way to transition your kid to a healthier alternative than screen time. The best course is to get them involved in a real world pursuit that eases them out of device dependency and to start interacting socially with others. Think of sports, art classes, etc. If you can achieve this then you’re a step ahead.


The trap that most parents fall into however is overestimating their child’s ability to self regulate. You want to involve your kid in the solution to device dependency, and you want to trust them. But remember this: your teen literally has no impulse control, or very little, because the part of their brain that handles that isn’t even fully developed yet! The result is that as a parent, you may have to be the baddy and get really involved at first.

The solution is going to be different for every family, and we take a swipe at it in this Tips on Teens video:

“My son struggles with anxiety and depression and he’s on his phone ALL THE TIME. He plays games and is on social media and texts with friends. He says that the phone is the only thing that helps him cope with his feelings. We tell him we think it’s making his problems worse, but he says it’s the only thing that helps him feel better. We feel guilty and conflicted about taking it away. What should we do?”

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here –

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.

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