Does Your Child Show Signs of Phone Addiction? How To Combat It
Most tweens and teens seem permanently tethered to their mobile devices—especially their smartphones. While checking the phone can be a harmless preoccupation, the mobile fixation can turn problematic when teens become unwilling—or unable—to separate from their phone.
According to a poll by Common Sense Media, half of teens believe they might have an addiction to their cell phone. The phone has morphed from a simple communications tool to a complex device that provides users with numerous platforms of engagement. Social media apps, messaging functions, games, book readers and digital cameras leave teens with very little reason to seek solace outside of their digital handheld world.
While smartphones allow easy access to a vast number of digital resources, the device also perpetuates a toxic dependence. Most teens have never known a life without the internet or social media, and their phone serves as a 24/7 all-access pass into this social wired world. Teens don’t have to sit down at a computer and take the time to log in, now their updates are simply a finger click away.
For some teens, this ease of access isn’t a problem. They may use their phone as often as their peers, but they can live without constantly checking the device. However, for other teens, the smartphone has taken over their existence—they jump to answer each text ding, and they cannot put their phone down. While parents might think their child’s phone is too distracting, they often don’t know how to decipher when a preoccupation with a device crosses the line into full-blown addiction.
So is your child addicted to their smartphone? Here are five signs that might indicate a problem:
1. The phone shows up at the dinner table.
According to PsychCentral, bringing the phone to the table and using it while having a meal is a warning sign. Teens should be able to eat and enjoy family time without checking their phones. Ideally, parents should set rules about devices during meal times. And this includes parents, too. Teens and adults need face-to-face communication. Be sure to set mealtime boundaries in your teen’s cell phone contract, and insist on this rule.
Nomophobia may be a sign of cell phone addiction. Nomophobia stands for no-mobile-phone phobia or a fear of being without a cell phone. If your teen is terrified of leaving the phone behind and seemingly cannot be without the device, they may suffer from an addiction. Nomophobia research has shown that when teens were without their device, they showed an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and lower attention.
3. Less time engaging in face-to-face communication.
Emailing and texting is easy. However, if your teen would rather text or email and be on the phone than have a face-to-face conversation with a friend, this is a red flag. The phone should not replace physical and face-to-face contact. And screen interactions certainly do not take the place of peer relationships.
If your teen can’t seem to engage in face-to-face communication, then it’s time to set some serious cell phone boundaries. This is, again, where cell phone contracts can play a key role. Teens should have cell phone breaks stipulated in their contract—this means there should be times when they need to put that phone down. Keeping teens involved in outdoor activities also helps remove the dependence from their phone. If they’re busy playing sports or engaged in community activities, they don’t have time to play on their smartphone.
4. The smartphone doesn’t have a bedtime.
Teens who are up all night talking, texting or gaming on their phone aren’t engaging in healthy behaviors. The phone should not go to bed with them. The phone doesn’t need to be at their bedside and teens should not be using their phone recreationally throughout the night. Set firm limits on when the smartphone goes to bed. If teens cannot handle the temptation of having their phone in the same room at night, then charge the phone in another location. Parents also may choose to use apps like TeenSafe Control to turn off the phone during the late-night hours.
5. Waking up to the phone.
In a contributing article for Entrepeneur, Jacqueline Whitmore noted that reaching for the phone upon waking is a sign of a problem. The first thing most of us do in the morning is either eat breakfast, use the restroom or some other important activity. Checking updates on the phone should not come before nutrition, hygiene or a ‘good morning’ to parents.
While many parents may believe their teen is addicted to their phone, not every teen falls into a toxic dependence with their digital device. To prevent an unhealthy preoccupation with a smartphone, parents should create a cell phone contract stipulating the rules and regulations of the device. The contract should include times when a teen is prohibited from using the phone and the consequences for failing to follow the rules. Smartphone addiction is becoming a scary trend, but with the right direction teens can learn to control habits so that the phone does not become their drug of choice.