3 Tips to Manage Digital Stress in Children and Teenagers

Digital stress has become quite common among children and teenagers. This is because they spend too many hours using technology. As a result, they end up suffering from chronic stress, which can affect many aspects of their lives.
3 Tips to Manage Digital Stress in Children and Teenagers
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Excessive technology use can cause digital stress to children and teenagers. As a result, their health, school performance, and social relations become affected. Nowadays, technology use has become excessive. Besides, it has replaced other activities, such as reading, playing sports, playing games, and family time.

In addition, they feel the need to be on social media 24 hours a day. As a result, this affects the way children relate to their families and peers. Moreover, the current health crisis the world is going through made children depend on digital technology to continue their studies. So, they’ve ended up spending much more time using their technological devices.

What do we mean when we talk about digital stress?

When we talk about digital stress, we make reference to the way digital use affects children’s body reactions when they face emotionally and physically tense situations.

As we all know, stress helps our bodies prepare to face situations that require certain reactions from us. But, when does this become a problem? This occurs when children don’t react the way they’re supposed to, or when their reaction lasts for too long and it becomes a chronic problem.

Even though stress prepares us for success, it can become a problem if we don’t understand our own body’s signs properly. If we think of these signs as something negative, we won’t be able to face certain situations as we should.

Therefore, students should know how to handle these stress levels, so they won’t focus only on the negative side of them.

 Girl on social media.

How does stress affect children and teenagers?

When children and teenagers become affected by digital stress and don’t know how to handle it, they may have a problem in the following aspects of their lives:

  • Academic performance: when we’re stressed, the body produces norepinephrine and adrenaline, which affects our ability to focus, thus, it makes it difficult for us to learn.
  • Personal relationships: children who spend excessive time in front of screens don’t usually relate to others, because they dedicate their time to technology use. As a result, personal relationships become less important.
  • Memory and information recovery problems: this is mainly due to cortisol production.
  • Less sensible and more emotional decision-making: in stressful situations, the amygdala is in charge of decision-making. Therefore, decisions are less sensible and more emotional.

What is the role of stressors when children and teenagers suffer from digital stress?

What are stressors? They are external stimuli, events, or conditions that produce stress in people. In this case, we’ll talk about the most important stressors that produce digital stress.

Permanent connection

Many children and teenagers spend most of the day online. This could happen because they are on social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, WhatsApp, etc.) or because, due to our current situation, they’re on videocalls with their teachers.

Besides, when they’re not using their phones, they’re often watching TV or playing video games. Therefore, they’re permanently connected, except when they’re sleeping.

The excessive use of technological tools may lead to certain fears and phobias. Some teenagers are extremely afraid of spending time without their mobile phones (nomophobia). This also happens because they feel that, during the time they don’t have their phones, something important is happening in the digital world and they’re missing it.

Irrational thoughts and thoughts of anticipated failure

Digital stress caused by the excessive use of technology can make children and teenagers have irrational thoughts or thoughts of anticipated failure. This means that they may think that, if they don’t have their mobile phones with them, their personal relationships can fail. In addition, they may also think that, in case something bad happens, they won’t be able to call someone for help. All in all, they’ll be willing to use as many excuses as they can to have their phones with them all the time.

What can we do about digital stress in children and teenagers?

Families and schools can be quite useful in helping children and teenagers identify, foresee and face digital stress. If we want this help to be effective, we must focus on three main aspects:

Make good use of their stress, when it’s not excessive

Boy wants his digital device.

Whenever we’re under pressure, we tend to perform better. And, this is something children and teenagers should know. So, let’s make good use of their stressful moments to improve their performance and effectiveness in what they do.

Identify stressors to work on them

Once we identify the reasons for their digital stress, we need to work on them to reduce the effect they have on children and teenagers. In order to do this, we can set some rules regarding technology use. Of course, if we want to reduce the time they spend with their digital devices, we need to do it slowly. This way, it won’t be so sudden, and they won’t feel so bad. The secret is to make good use of technology.

Use chronic or excessive digital stress to become stronger

On many occasions, stress lasts in time and it becomes chronic. When the body is under high levels of stress, it produces adrenaline and cortisol. As a result, we may have difficulties in performing certain tasks or taking school tests. Therefore, it’s important to use this stress to become stronger and benefit from it. 

About digital stress…

In conclusion, digital stress can affect children’s and teenagers’ performance, and it can also cause them many problems. This is why it’s important to identify how much stress affects them and do something about it. Remember that it’ll be always better to do something before the problem gets bigger.

If you think your children suffer from chronic digital stress and you don’t know what to do, ask a professional for help. They’ll have all the necessary information to solve the problem.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Saltzman, A. (2020). Un lugar tranquilo: Programa de mindfulness para enseñar a niños y adolescentes a manejar el estrés y las emociones difíciles. Editorial Kairós.
  • Nagel, L., Salas, F., & Trautmann, A. (2016). Creciendo en un mundo digital: tecnologías y redes sociales en niños y adolescentes. Contacto Científico, 6(6).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.