Phone Addiction: How to Help Your Teen?

Expert: Sébastien Herry, psychologist and author of “Fighting Screen Addiction – Smartphone, Internet, Social Networks”. Ellipses

Does your teenager always have a cell phone? A case far from isolated. The smartphone has made a name for itself in French families, including the youngest families. According to the Bouygues Telecom Observatory of French digital practices published in September 2018, 87% of high school students have a smartphone, the most popular mobile phone model. On average, young people have their first mobile phone 11 and a half years.
It’s a practical tool for parent-child communication and knowing where your teenager is… But the smartphone is also the tool of choice for connecting to the internet and social networks. The amount of time a teenager spends talking with friends, viewing online content, playing video games, and using apps can quickly become significant. 74% of parents believe that their child spends too much time on their mobile phone, compared to 41% of children.

Cell phone addiction

In the “2021 ASNAV-Opinion Way visual health barometer” study, parents of children between the ages of 10 and 16 estimated that they spend 3 hours and 28 hours a day on the screen. Parents are afraid of it excessive consumption cell phone distracts their teenager from other activities. That’s right, because young people in this study would rather spend time with their cell phones than reading with their parents (70%), playing outside (63%) or engaging in artistic or creative activities (61%). (59%) or do sports (51%).

However, according to Sebastien Herry, psychologist and author of the book “Fighting Screen Addiction – Smartphone, Internet, Social Networks” published by Ellipses, today it is not entirely true to talk about addiction or smartphones or the Internet or social networks. “International health authorities have not yet recognized this addiction. But science gather evidence and a large number of studies show that these are things that can lead to a form of addiction,” the expert admits.

Causes of phone addiction in young people

Many factors can explain this need to consult your cell phone. For a teenager who wants to have the same things as his classmates, it is a means of social integration. He uses it to maintain a relationship with them.

Mobile phone offers attractive and easily accessible services. It is like a comforting favorite toy that keeps the teenager in touch with the people he loves, allows him to look at the pictures he has taken, call his friends, watch videos, react to the publications of his loved ones. …Please, there he is it is a source of immediate gratification in hand. “Smartphones offer ease of connectivity, have a fun aspect, and provide access to the Internet and social networks, which have their own appeal. Would we be so dependent on social networks if we had to connect to our computer to access them? asks the psychologist.

According to him, the reduction of parent-child relationships with fewer exchanges increases dependency. Just as young impulsive, aggressive, shythose with low self-esteem would be more likely to be dependent.

An example of parents!

Finally, if parents spend time on their smartphones, it becomes the norm for a teenager, especially if they have access to it from a very young age. According to the Observatory’s research, 89% of parents know it is important to set a good example by limiting smartphone use, but 37% of teenagers think their parents spend too much time on it.

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

Significant time spent on a cell phone can have a number of consequences for a young person.

Sleep disturbances can occur, especially if a teenager has access to a cell phone in their room at night. The blue light from the screen stimulates him to wake up. He may be in troubleto sleep and lack of sleep.

This fatigue can affect his school performance, concentration and memory. It can also affect his mood, making him more easily irritated and withdrawn. Relationships with parents and teachers may become strained due to this change in behavior.

In addition to the time spent on the phone, the content to which he is exposed can also pose risks to the teenager. On the Internet, he can see violent or pornographic images, come into contact with malicious people, become a victim of cyberbullying… Unfortunately, there are many dangers that are often found on the Internet.

What is cell phone addiction called? 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 specific context of screens, it is said to be the fear of being deprived of the phone, real or imagined, experienced or anticipated. nomophobia. This can happen when you forget or lose your phone somewhere, or when your battery is almost dead and you don’t have a charger,” says Sébastien Herri. Smartphone addiction and nomophobia are often confused. In fact, nomophobia is considered more of a symptom of addiction. In other words, a person experiences nomophobia because he is an addict. The term comes from the combination of “no cell phone” and “phobia”. This nomophobia results in fear of panic, anxiety… It is a depressionsocial isolation and risky behaviours.
Lack of appetite, lack of interest, sleep disorders, bad school results, irritability, withdrawal… Any sudden change in a teenager should alert the parent.

How to get rid of phone addiction?

First, we discuss with the teenager to tell him our concerns. If this has not already 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 put parental controls on the phone to limit usage time. We adapt consumption times Adolescents and older are more likely to appeal to their sense of responsibility. We encourage him to think and then ask him about the consequences of his choices: if he sleeps late, will he be in good shape for the test tomorrow? Why is he taking his phone? What did he come here to look for? Has he noticed that his focus has drifted away from his original goal? How much time did you spend on social media? What brought him? Couldn’t he find the same satisfaction by other means, without the screen?

Put your smartphone away

When the teenager does his homework, we put his cell phone in another room. Every time he checks for any messages or notifications, he takes a few seconds or even minutes to refocus. “He might work for 20-25 minutes, then leave his room to check his cell phone in the kitchen for 5 minutes before returning to work. This is a good way to regain control over consumption while allowing it concentration to return to the place,” advises the psychologist.

Adjust the usage time

If he does not respect the rules, for example, the time of using the laptop is limited. But it is better not to confiscate it overnight. “An addiction can sometimes be a symptom of another pathology and can be a support for a person to stand in the face of anxiety, stress and depression. Without this crutch, the teenager risks expressing this anxiety in perhaps deeper, more surprising or violent ways,” warns Sébastien Herry.

Phone addict: who to turn to? what treatments?

If in doubt, if the teenager spends several hours a day on his smartphone, if he develops anxiety disorders, if his school results drop sharply, it is better to talk to his doctor, who can refer the teenager to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further care. By talking to him, the specialist will be able to ask a question diagnostic about his addiction level. For example, he may offer interpersonal therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to re-establish connection and break isolation in addicted people.

How to prevent smartphone addiction?

The ideal is to delay as much as possible the moment when the child will have the first mobile phone. Why? Because he doesn’t need it before college. In college, he gains autonomy, sometimes traveling alone between school and home, which can be reassuring to a parent. From this age, the teenager will have the ability to exercise a little more mature and critical thinking, to understand the possible risks of having a mobile phone, especially if it has access to the Internet.

Prevention and education

Parents’ mission: to educate our children about the dangers of cell phones and the importance of using them in small doses. This preventive work is carried out from an early age. To best accompany him in his discovery digital tools, we rely on the 3-6-9-12 rule developed by psychiatrist Serge Tissero. It allows the child to be ready for screen consumption by following certain precautions.

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

  • No screen at all before age 3,
  • No game consoles under the age of 6,
  • No accompanying internet before age 9,
  • no internet only before 12 years old (and with parental control).

How do parental controls work?

From the beginning, parental controls are installed to monitor the child’s communication methods as well as the sites that can be consulted. These are usually pre-installed by phone carriers. You can also use apps like Forest that allow you to restrict phone usage.

Most parental control software allows you to:

  • Limit connection time, Internet access hours
  • View your browsing history and screen time
  • Set limits based on the child’s age. Filters allow you to select different profiles, such as Child or Teen. With a child profile, you navigate in a closed universe, with a predefined selection and no room for dialogue (games, cartoons, etc.). illegal content…)

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