Phone addiction: how to help your teen?

Expert: Sébastien Herry, psychologist and author of “Tackling screen addiction – smartphones, internet, social networks”, ed. Ellipse

Is your teenager always on the phone? Cases that are far from isolated. Smartphones have made a name for themselves in French households, some of which are among the youngest. According to the Bouygues Telecom Observatory of French digital practice, published in September 2018, 87% of high school students own a smartphone, the most popular mobile phone model. The average young person has their first cell phone 11 and a half years.
A handy tool for maintaining parent-child relationships and keeping track of where your teens are… But smartphones are also the medium of choice for connecting to the Internet and social networks. The time teens spend talking to their friends, watching online content, playing video games, and using apps can quickly become important. 74% of parents also believe their child spends too much time on their phone, compared to 41% of children.

cell phone addiction

In the “ASNAV-Opinion Way 2021 visual health barometer” study, parents of children aged 10 to 16 estimated that they spend 3 hours 28 hours a day in front of a screen. Parents are afraid that this excess consumption cell phones distract their teens from other activities. That’s true, because in this study young people said they would rather spend time on their phones than reading (70%), playing outside (63%) doing artistic or creative activities (61%) watching movies or broadcasts with their parents. (59%) or exercise (51%).

However, according to Sébastien Herry, psychologist and author of “Treating screen addiction – smartphone, internet, social networks” published by Ellipses, it is not entirely accurate at present to talk about addiction or smartphones or the Internet or social networks. “International health authorities have not recognized this addiction. But science collect evidence and a large number of studies tend to show that these are things that can lead to some form of addiction”, admits the expert.

Causes of cell phone addiction in young people

Many factors can explain the need to consult your cell phone. For teenagers who want to have the same things as their classmates, it is a social integration tool. He used it to maintain relations with them.

Mobile phones offer attractive and easily accessible services. It is like a comfortable and fun toy that connects the teenager with the people the teenager likes, which allows him to view the photos he takes, call his friends, watch videos, react to the publications of his loved ones. … Without effort, he owns source of momentary pleasure in hand. “Smartphones offer easy connection, have a fun aspect and provide access to the Internet and social networks that have their own charm. Would we be so dependent on social networks if we had to connect to our computers to access them? asked the psychologist.

According to him, the reduced parent-child relationship, with less exchange, increases dependency. So is a young person impulsive, aggressive, shywith low self-esteem, will be more likely to depend.

Models… parents!

Finally, if parents spend time with smartphones, this becomes commonplace for these teenagers, especially if access is available from a very young age. According to an Observatory study, 89% of parents know it’s important to limit their own smartphone use to set an example, but 37% of teens think their parents spend too much time on it.

What are the signs, symptoms and consequences of cell phone addiction?

Significant time spent on their cell phones can have several consequences for young people.

Sleep disturbances can arise, especially if the teenager has access to his cell phone in his room at night. The blue light from the screen stimulated his awakening. He may have a hard timeasleep and lack of sleep.

This fatigue can change his school results, his ability to concentrate and memorize. It can also impact his mood, making him more irritable, restless. Relationships with parents and teachers can become strained because of this change in behavior.

In addition to the time spent on the phone, the content they are exposed to can also pose a risk to the teen. On the Internet, he can see violent or pornographic images, get in touch with people with bad intentions, become a victim of cyberbullying… So many dangers that unfortunately often occur on the Internet.

What is cell phone addiction? Nomophobia?

“Addiction is generally defined by a loss of control, an irresistible urge to consume and the continuation of this invasive consumption despite negative consequences. In the context of certain screens, the fear of losing one’s phone, real or imagined, experienced or anticipated, is called nomophobia. This can happen when you forget or lose your phone somewhere, or when the battery is low and you don’t have a charger,” said Sébastien Herry. Smartphone addiction and nomophobia are often confused. In fact, nomophobia is seen more as a symptom of addiction. In other words, because a person is addicted, he experiences nomophobia. This term resulted from the association “no mobile phone” and “phobia”. This nomophobia results in panic fear, anxiety… May cause a depressionsocial isolation and risky behavior.
Loss of appetite, lack of interest, sleep disturbances, poor school results, irritability, withdrawal… Any sudden change in a teenager should alert parents.

How to get rid of cell phone addiction?

First, we discussed with the youth to convey our concerns to him. If this has not been done, strict rules are set: no phone on the table or in the bedroom before going to bed, no more than a few minutes a day, etc. We installed parental controls on the phone to limit usage time. We adapt consumption times in his teens, and his sense of responsibility is emphasized more the older he is. We encouraged him to reflect and we then asked him the consequences of his choice: would he be in good shape for his exam tomorrow if he stayed up late? Why did he take his cell phone? What did he come here to look for? Has he noticed that his attention has strayed from the goal he originally set for himself? How long does he spend on social media? What brought him? Couldn’t he find that same satisfaction some other way, off the screen?

Put your smartphone away

While the teenager was doing his homework, we put his cell phone in another room. Every time he checked to see if he had any messages or notifications, it took him seconds or even minutes to refocus. “He can work for 20-25 minutes and then leave his room to check his phone in the kitchen for 5 minutes, before going back to work. It’s a good way to regain control over consumption, while allowing concentration to return to its place”, advises the psychologist.

Set usage time

If he doesn’t respect the rules, for example, laptop usage time is restricted. But better avoid foreclosure on this one overnight. “Addiction can sometimes be a symptom of another pathology and become a support for a person to survive in the face of anxiety, stress and depression. Without this crutch, adolescents run the risk of expressing these anxieties in ways that may be deeper, more showy or violent,” warns Sébastien Herry.

Phone addicts: who to consult? what treatment?

If in doubt, if the teenager spends several hours a day on his smartphone, has an anxiety disorder, his school results drop dramatically, it is best to talk to his doctor who can refer the teenager to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further treatment. By talking to him, the specialist will be able to ask a diagnostic about the dependency level. For example, he or she might offer interpersonal therapy, which aims to re-create relationships and break the isolation in the dependent person, or behavioral and cognitive therapy (CBT).

How to prevent smartphone addiction?

The ideal is to delay as much as possible when the child will have his first cell phone. Why ? Because before college, he didn’t really need it. In college, he gains autonomy, occasionally traveling between establishments and home alone, and this can reassure his parents. From this age, teens will be a bit more mature and better able to exercise critical thinking, understanding the possible risks of owning a cell phone, especially if you have access to the Internet.

Prevention and awareness

Parents’ mission: to make our children aware of the dangers of cell phones and the importance of using them in small doses. This preventive effort was carried out early. To accompany him in his discoveries digital tool, we rely on the 3-6-9-12 rule, developed by psychiatrist Serge Tisseron. This allows children to be prepared for their screen consumption, while respecting certain precautions.

The 3-6-9-12 rule in practice:

  • no screens at all before age 3,
  • no game consoles before age 6,
  • not accompanied by internet before the age of 9 years,
  • no internet only before 12 years (and with parental controls).

How do parental controls work?

From the start, parental controls were installed to control the child’s connection method, as well as the sites that can be consulted. These are usually pre-installed by the telephone carrier. You can also use apps such as “Forest” which will allow you to restrict phone usage.

Most parental control software allows you to:

  • Limit connection time, set internet access hours
  • View browsing history and screen time
  • Set boundaries based on the child’s age. Filters allow you to choose a different profile, for example Child or Teen. With the Kids profile, you navigate in a closed universe, within predefined choices and with no room for dialogue (games, cartoon videos, etc.) The Teen profile gives access to the entire Internet, but excludes inappropriate sites (pornography, violence, illegal content…)

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