The fallout from a California teenager's "excessive cell phone and social media usage" is detailed in an upcoming special report on ABC News' 20/20. Brooke, now 15, got her very first personal device—an iPhone—as a 12th birthday gift. Shortly after, Brooke said, she became obsessed. "It was always about refreshing my feed and I'd stay up until like 4:30 in the morning," Brooke said. "It was my heart. I couldn't put it down … It felt like a part of me."
According to parents Stephanie and Jim, Brooke started "acting out" at home as her usage increased. At first, the family tried limiting phone access. "We would shut off service to the phone," Stephanie told 20/20. "We took her phone. She'd go and buy someone else's phone. She would find old phones."
Brooke also set up multiple accounts, including "like six accounts" on Instagram and multiple Snapchats. "I would block [my parents]," she said. Eventually, Brooke's parents claimed, this so-called "social media fixation" was followed by alcohol consumption and drug use. At one point, when Brooke was 13 years old, police showed up at the family's home to inform them that she was involved in a blackmail attempt involving her nude photos. "I think I just got to a point where I kept getting hurt," Brooke said. "I kept doing things that I knew didn't make me happy, but I just continued to do it because I had nothing else to do."
After a "suicide note" from Brooke accidentally appeared on a parent's phone, the family took a different approach. Brooke eventually started receiving treatment for excessive social media use, substance abuse, and mental health at the Solstice residential treatment center. Though her parents have said she hasn't fully returned to her pre-phone behavior, the entire family is optimistic about the future. "I'm completely different," Brooke said. Read the full 20/20 report on Brooke's journey here.
The 20/20 article's care in not explicitly using the word "addiction" when describing Brooke's incident is notable, as the idea of "social media addiction" itself has inspired debate. While the unbalanced use of social media or the internet in general can negatively affect a person's life, some experts have cautioned against using "addiction" as a broad term. "Addiction is a word that should not be used lightly to describe a set of behaviors," Mark Fabbri, of South University, says. "Addiction is related to a compulsion to consume something or engage in a set of behaviors to the point that it significantly interferes with a person's life."