The SPOTT installation allows youth to tackle drug and screen addiction. photo eva guillamet
The SPOTT Center of the Barcelona Provincial Council has been the leading service in the state in the prevention and care of screen addiction among youth. Since 2016, the team of professionals has helped more than 200 young people and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20, as well as their families. However, the situation is worrying as the number of people assisted increases every year, and around seventy youth have been operated on so far in 2023.
The main user profile is that of a 14-year-old male adolescent who is attracted to video games primarily out of competitive motivation. If eight out of 10 cases relate to boys, girls, despite being a minority, enter the service earlier, and at the age of 13 on average they are already treated on the spot, according to the center’s data.
Teenage girls’ addiction focuses on social networks with a relational aspect. in statements to Triangle, Gemma GarciaThe head of the Drug Addiction Intervention subsection of the Barcelona Provincial Council, explains that referrals from the social services of the city councils are increasing every year, and “there is a significant concern from all sectors, whether it is family, school, etc.” , In fact, school failure or poor performance in school is present in approximately half of SPOTT cases, and is one of the factors used to detect screen abuse.
Another characteristic of the cases treated in the service of Diputassio is “the high presence of dual pathology, meaning the simultaneous existence of an addictive disorder and another related mental disorder.” Therefore, in seven out of 10 cases addressed in SPOTT, screen addiction co-exists with an anxiety disorder, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder.
Gemma Garcia believes that “early detection and intervention is essential as prognosis improves significantly.” The current problem is that a large proportion of the cases referred to SPOTT are already very old and the intervention is more complex. “We find cases of youth who have been out of school for two years and locked in their rooms. When they want to set boundaries, they react with aggressive behavior. These are serious cases where it is more difficult to change habits,” he explains. Therefore, it is very important to be able to carry out preventive work, and if you notice a problem, refer it to specialized services.
However, the major challenge in any case is gaining the participation of adolescents. “They believe they don’t have a problem and the most complicated thing is to recognize it. ‘I’m not addicted,’ he says. Family participation is basic to obtain the link. “Working with the family is fundamental in the treatment process and they are involved from the first moment,” says Gemma Garcia. It must be borne in mind that “there is no perception of risk, and young people do not want to be treated and say they have no problems.” Therefore, it has been fundamental at SPOTT to “open a family care program where we can work with families and thus link the young person to services,” he adds.
To head to Drug Addiction Intervention, once you get the link, you can find out what’s behind screen addiction. “What we find lies behind many of the difficulties of social relationships; emotional regulation difficulties; Other concerns, and we start with these concerns to be able to work with them. We try to identify their individual motivations and use them to fight against screens. We help them learn how daily life affects them and the need to set boundaries.
Without limits on screen use, teens may begin to show noticeable symptoms, such as lack of sleep, as they stay connected all night and wake up tired for school; Relationship problems at home with character changes; Impact on other areas of life such as social relationships, nutrition or lack of screen-free leisure. According to Gemma Garcia, you then have to take action and “manage to resolve all their emotional problems, family problems or related pathology.”
Regarding the debate on the ban on smartphone use until the age of 16, the SPOTT Center’s approach is in favor of “negotiating, observing and delaying as much as possible, if necessary, the age limit according to maturity development and psychological Is. Of every minor. For Garcia, “We will not talk about prohibition, but about regulation for responsible use. It is true that it is advisable to delay as much as possible the time for teenagers to start having a mobile phone, so that we can respect the evolutionary development and brain maturity of the teenagers.” Now, we can talk about the celebration of Communion or strollers for very young children. We are looking at the first mobile phone with a screen included.
Although school is important, “the deeper work is at home.” She believes that “Families need to be able to work on responsible use. Good modeling is needed from families, because many times the adults at home are constantly connected. “We need to set rules, limits, and expectations about screens. “We have to be able to help maintain this fair use.”