Nomophobia & Smartphone Addiction Among Children
The term “addiction” is usually associated with alcoholism and drug abuse. Yet people do get addicted to different stimulants that are quite legal substances.
Smartphones changed our primary concept of a cell phone. It is no longer used strictly to establish audio communication. Smartphones allow us to have our camera, GPS navigator, video game terminal, and even our own library in hand. Nevertheless, the biggest and most important aspect is that a smartphone gives us access to the Internet.
Nomophobia (no-mobile-phobia) is defined as the fear of being out of cell phone contact. Have you thought about how long you can go without checking your cell phone? How about your children and their smartphones?
The problem among teens is that they have become so engrossed with their smartphones that they are missing the world around them. So-called smartphone zombies are now walking during class breaks and at home. And even if children are having fun, their fun has to be documented via photo, video or text message. Other habits such as watching very large number of YouTube videos, playing computer games and reading online also can lead to Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).
According to Pew Research Trust’s Internet Research Project:
- More than 90 percent of U.S. citizens own a smartphone
- Sixty-seven percent of users check their smartphone for calls, text messages and social media activity even when the phone is not ringing
- Forty-four percent of smartphone owners sleep with their phones next to their bed to make sure they don’t miss any text messages, calls or social media alerts
- Twenty-nine percent of users admit that they cannot imagine their lives without smartphones
The University of Derby (England) recently conducted a smartphone behavior study. The key finding: “Smartphones are psychologically addictive for children, encourage narcissistic behavior and should come with a health warning.”
Study your child’s smartphone behavior. Notice if he or she is constantly checking the phone. See his or her reaction when the battery is low or there is no Internet connection. Ask questions to see if your child is actually listening to you.
Common signs of smartphone addiction include:
- Restless nights
- Social isolation
- Nervous breakdown
- Weight changes (both loss and gain)
Below are some things you can do to help your child with smartphone addiction:
- Create special no-phone zones
Disallow smartphone use in certain rooms such as the kitchen, bedroom or dining room.
- Set special times for smartphone usage
Prepare yourself: This will be a struggle. If your teen is, in fact, a smartphone addict, he or she will do everything to avoid these rules. Set special times — perhaps for two hours after school — when kids can use their smartphones, access social media, play games and chat.
- Reclaim family time
No smartphones at the table should be the rule. And this includes silent mode and “I am just going to check it real quick.” Family dinners, birthdays and general family holidays should be smartphone-free. If this is too much to ask, you can allow several pictures and videos during the event.
- No driving and texting
This should be obligatory. According to a May 2015 National Safety Council report, cell phone-related crashes have increased for the third straight year and now account for 27 percent of all crashes. Teens are inexperienced drivers and are more likely to be involved in accidents, including fatalities. You can and should block your teens’ smartphones when they are driving.
- Monitor your teen’s smartphone activity
Tell your child that as a parent you are allowed to monitor his or her online activity. Install parental controls on your teen’s phone to set screen time limits.
- Refer to therapy
Some forms of smartphone addiction are hard to overcome. It is extremely difficult when stimulants surround a teen almost everywhere. Mental health professionals can help your child without creating family tension.
Teen with phone photo available from Shutterstock
Paula Thompson is an online safety expert based in NYC. She works at pumpic.com and consults with parents on e-safety matters. She will gladly answer all your questions concerning online safety in the comments below.
Thompson, P. (2018). Nomophobia & Smartphone Addiction Among Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/nomophobia-smartphone-addiction-among-children/