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Problematic Screen Use

Problematic screen use is a broad category. This is where one's screen use is not bad enough to be an addiction, however, it’s not healthy either.

Problematic screen use is when screen use is not adding value to one’s life.


Someone with a screen use problem is able to control their screen use more than one who is addicted. They may feel compelled to game or use social media, but they have more control than someone who is addicted. When they see negative consequences happening due to their screen use, they can make changes.


Someone struggling with problematic screen use don’t meet all the criteria for an addiction. Let’s take Internet Gaming Disorder. Rather than meeting at least five of the nine symptoms, they might have three or four. There is a problem, but not an addiction.

An example could be a teenager using pornography. This person could be doing well in school, have a lot of friends, and overall be a happy person. However, they feel a lot of shame using porn. When they have a bad day, porn is how they cope. They want to date, but have unrealistic expectations of what they want in a partner.


On the outside, this person is doing well with no problems. But their porn use is causing problems.

Or maybe a student plays too many video games. Maybe their grades are dropping and can't keep up with their work because they only game after classes. They used to enjoy other activities but now primarily want to game. And they consistently use games to escape problems in their life.

Their gaming is not all bad though. They strengthen relationships from gaming with their friends. They don't like many sports, so gaming is a fun competitive activity they enjoy. This person's gaming is not a full addition nor is it completely healthy.

This person's gaming is causing problems for them.

Problematic screen use can have the following symptoms.

  • Inconsistent completion of school or work assignments due to being distracted by screens

  • Has high anxiety when they are not socializing through social media

  • Feels sad, irritable, or ashamed after spending time online

  • Struggles to complete responsibilities due to screen use


Image by Alexandru Acea
The main question to ask yourself is the following:
Is my screen use improving my overall health?

If yes, then your screen use is probably healthy.


But if the answer is no, then it might be worth making some changes.

Escape Problematic Screen Use

How to Treat a Screen-Based Problem

Set Consistent Boundaries

Have clear boundaries with your screen use. Each person is different regarding healthy screen time. However, spending at least 2-3 hours per day away from screens is a good start. Use something like Screen Time or Net Nanny to help you enforce boundaries for yourself or your loved one.

Redirect Online Strengths

Our screen time serves a purpose. We might enjoy communicating with others, playing an exciting game, problem-solving, working together, or being a leader. Find the positive traits of your online experience and bring them into the real world.

Engage in Life-Giving Hobbies

If your screen use is causing problems for you, replace that time with life-giving activities and hobbies. Do things that are fun, challenging, and social. Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone a little to try something new. Explore the Hobby Tool resource at the Game Quitters website to give you some ideas on what hobbies you can get involved in.

Get Support

We are not meant to struggle alone. Ask for support from the loved ones around you. Talk with your friends and family about improving your screen use and how you will do that. Friends and family can help you stay accountable. They can support the progress you're making by asking for their help and support. Positive community is a powerful tool for change.

If Desired, Seek Help

You are in control of your life. You can take control of your problematic screen use. You can turn your problematic screen use to healthy screen use. It will take some effort, but you can do it. However, if you would like support moving from problematic to healthy screen use, contact Or use this FREE self-help guide to get started!

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