Nomophobia. Ever heard of it? If you have a tween or teen living in your house, you’ve probably witnessed the effects of it. Defined as a state of stress caused by having no access to or being unable to use one’s mobile phone, nomophobia (an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone” phobia) is a modern phenomenon currently being studied by psychologists. Could your teen be addicted to their cell phone?
And while the experts debate whether the word addiction should be used when we talk about our dependence on cell phones, there are definite “symptoms” that parents should be on the lookout for when determining what is unhealthy when it comes to their kids’ phone and device usage.
Tweens and teens may have a problem if they consistently:
1. Become grouchy/angry when kept away from their phone.
2. Break rules that forbid phone use at certain times.
3. Isolate themselves in group settings to be on their phone.
4. Interrupt face-to-face conversations to answers texts or notifications
5. Lose interest in activities that don’t include their phone.
In addition to these interpersonal effects, there are physical ramifications to kids constantly being on their devices. One of them is called “text neck” – a repetitive stress injury to the neck caused by holding your head in a forward and downward position for extended periods of time. Digital eye strain is another risk, as is an increased chance of injury from falls or walking into objects when not paying attention to one’s surroundings.
As parents, there are quite a few strategies we can implement to prevent our teens from becoming addicted to their cell phone, or to lessen the severity of existing issues.
- Establish rules that create phone-free times such as during meals, study time and family activities. It’s best if phones are not in kids’ bedrooms overnight, but if they use them for an alarm to wake up, be sure they are not close to your child’s head, or under their pillow during the night.
- We need to remember that our kids watch us closely, and if we are placing more importance on our phones than on the people around us, they will naturally start to do the same. Set a healthy example by never using your phone while driving, and by putting your phone away during meals and family activities as well.
- It’s easy for teens to become dependent on their phones for social interaction and start to feel isolated if they aren’t checking them often. Whenever possible, create opportunities for kids to be involved in fun activities that do not allow devices to be used.