Keeping an Eye on Your Kid & When Treatment Might be Necessary


The idea of normal vs abnormal behavior is largely dependent on the sociocultural context you view it in. What is considered typical in America could very well be considered aberrant behavior in China. As parents we often find ourselves examining our teenager’s behavior for signs of trouble, stress, and poor decision making. We witness them grappling with newfound freedoms, experimenting with different interests, and sometimes engaging in behaviors that leave us questioning whether intervention is necessary. Among these behaviors, the consumption of video games and pornography frequently rank high on the list of worries.

While video games and porn are not new inventions, the ease of access to them has increased exponentially in today’s digital age. It is not uncommon for young adolescents to have a cellphone that can access the internet and with it, online games and online pornography. While engaging with these forms of media isn't inherently problematic, there comes a point where certain behaviors can raise red flags, signaling the need for further exploration and possibly intervention. Let's delve into some essential insights and practical considerations.


Maladaptive & Abnormal Behavior


According to the Cambridge Dictionary, maladaptive is defined as, “not having the ability to change to suit different conditions.” The ability for humans to adapt their behavior to changing environments and situations is paramount to our survival as a species and the ability to operate as a functioning member of society. Maladaptive behavior is often considered abnormal and abnormal behavior is defined by four criteria.

  1. Deviance - the movement away from accepted standards of behavior in a society
  2. Distress - causing sorrow, anxiety, or pain to the individual or others
  3. Dysfunction - the impaired ability to carry out everyday functions
  4. Danger - posing a risk to himself or others

These are important things to consider when thinking about your child's behavior and whether it is normal or maladaptive.


Practical Considerations


Excessive Consumption: Playing video games and sneaking porn is nearly a rite of passage when it comes to adolescent behavior. We might not love that it happens, but it’s normal. When these things become the primary focus of their lives, we need to pay attention and intervene. Neglecting responsibilities such as school, relationships, or personal hygiene all may indicate a problem. 


Escapism & Avoidance: There’s nothing wrong with a little escapism from time to time. The key word there is “little.” Using sensory distractions to deal with stress, anxiety, or uncomfortable feelings is okay in moderation. If your teen is consistently turning to these activities as a way to avoid dealing with real-life challenges or emotions, it could be a sign that they're struggling with emotional regulation and need support.


Impact on Mental Health: Underlying teenage mental health issues can be revealed through one’s preoccupation with video games or pornography. Pay attention to any changes in mood or behavior that coincide with increased engagement in these activities. Have you noticed your teenager becoming irritable, withdrawn, or anxious? Are they struggling with insomnia or issues focusing? These could be indicators of behavioral health issues that need to be addressed.


Social Isolation: Some kids are just introverts. Nothing wrong with that. However, excessive isolation or a noticeable decline in social interactions could be cause for concern. Choosing to spend all their time online at the expense of real-world interactions can have serious developmental effects and may be a sign of depression, social anxiety, or substance abuse. 


Developmental Concerns: Adolescence is a period of extreme brain development. While experimentation with sexuality and exploration of new interests are typical during adolescence, certain behaviors may be inappropriate or developmentally concerning. If an adolescent's engagement with pornography, for example, involves unrealistic expectations about sex or relationships, it may warrant intervention.


Communication & Support: Open, honest communication is at the heart of every healthy relationship. Create opportunities for non-judgmental talks with your kids and use those times to address any concerns you may have about their behavior. Actively listen to understand the underlying reasons behind their behavior instead of rushing to punishment or criticism. Offer your support and encourage them to talk about their feelings, experiences, and any challenges they may be facing. 


Professional Guidance: You can never go wrong with professional support. If you feel unsure, unsafe, or overwhelmed on how to respond to your teens behavior, don’t hesitate to seek guidance. Some parents aren’t sure whether their kids' behavior warrants intervention. Better to make a phone call and know, then put them and yourself in a worse position by doing nothing. A licensed adolescent mental health professional or counselor can help assess the situation and provide recommendations for appropriate treatment or support services if necessary.


Talk With a Professional


If you’re worried about your teens behavior, call Sustain Recovery today. Our licensed, professional adolescent mental health team is here to help you navigate whatever situation you find yourself in. Bring us your questions and concerns and let us help you find beyond better adolescent treatment for your loved one. Call us today.