Colombian teen seeks out treatment to combat social media addiction

Latin America

For some, social media networks are nothing more than a fun way to pass the time. But for others, they can become an addiction. This unhealthy behavior can take a toll on families. That’s what lead one Colombian teenager to seek treatment.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.

Seventeen-year-old Andrea Barrios stayed up till 3:30 in the morning on her cell phone. For Barrios, conversations through social media sites, like Facebook and messaging apps, were the only way to communicate.

“I became supremely intolerant, and impatient,” she explained. “I stopped interacting with my family.”

Barrios realized she needed help when she began to feel insecurities that were amplified by social networking. She voluntarily sought a month- long treatment at a Colombian foundation. The Criar Foundation treats a range of addictions, from drugs and alcohol, to social media technology.

Last year, data research group eMarketer estimated there were 2.34 billion social network users worldwide. That was an increase from 2015. There are no statistics on how many of those users are addicted to networking sites, but there are studies on these sites’ mental health impact on youth.

“The child who is addicted to social networks has a fractured self esteem, which means if they aren’t finding attention from their family life, they look for it in social networks,” psycologist Camila Quinones of the Criar Foundation explained.

According to Quinones, treating social network addiction is different from other substances because of its popular use in modern society.

“In the case of drug addiction it is different, because you can take away that substance more easily. But in a Colombian middle class society, almost everyone has internet. That makes it very difficult to abstain,” Quinones said.

After a month-long rehabilitation, the challenge for patients like Barrios will be to follow the limits set on social networking use. For now, she said she doesn’t feel the immediate urge.

“I feel peace now, I’ve come to realize I don’t need a cellphone to live,” she said.

Doctors have said prevention of abuse and healthy coping strategies may be the wisest way to move forward from social media addiction.