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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Top Ten Addictive Behaviors of Adolescents

Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a coach, an employer or a youth worker, life becomes frustrating when you have a young person in front of you who is addicted to something. When I was growing up, addictions existed just like they do today, but there were fewer of them and they were less widespread. Back in the 1970s, the top ones, predictably, were smoking, drinking and drugs.

According to a recent poll, the most common addictions for today’s teens are:

1.  Alcohol                                    6. Video Games

2.  Smoking                                 7. Internet

3.  Drugs                                      8. Sex

4.  Gambling                               9. Shopping

5.  Social media                         10. Eating

So, why is addictive behavior more prevalent today? I think there are a number of reasons. First, technology has given our culture not only more free time, but more elements to get addicted to—such as internet pornography, video games, and, yes, even Facebook. Second, our culture finds it necessary today to depend on virtual or artificial means to be happy or stay entertained. In times past, kids would make up games out in the yard or on the ball field. Today—we give them all kinds of artificial and external stimulation that can, in the end, become addictive. More so than the labor involved in playing “army” or softball or four square outside. Kids today experience passive stimuli that can cause obesity, apathy and addictions.

Please understand that I’m not suggesting all the items on the list above are evil. When used legally and in moderation, they can be fine. Sadly, many children and teens have no caring adults to guide them into healthy habits and moderation when it comes to technology or free time. I want to challenge you to be intentional when it comes to talking about these potential addictions with your students. Tomorrow, I will blog about six steps you can take, as an adult, to help them through addictions.

For now, I’d like to hear your thoughts about addictions. Do you think they are more widespread now than thirty or thirty-five years ago? Why or why not?



  1. Christopher Wesley on July 6, 2011 at 7:56 am


    Great post, like you mentioned I think the ability to become addicted in certain arenas as been accelerated because of technology.  Another thing technology is doing is accelerating the consequences of these addictions.  Years ago if someone suffered from one it was a lot harder to expose their addiction than it is today.  While I believe it’s becoming a problem I think we’re also learning about certain situations in a way we have never learned before.

    • Tim Elmore on July 7, 2011 at 8:25 am

      Good point – that is an interesting by-product of technology. It gives us the illusion of anonymity but often that is simply not true. Unfortunately, some people don’t figure this out until it’s too late!

  2. […] may also know more about some other addictions on this […]

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Top Ten Addictive Behaviors of Adolescents