Why is the phone addicting teenagers these days

Constantly on the smartphone: is my child maybe addicted to mobile phones?

The child comes home from school, greets them briefly, and then sinks into their room and into the world of smartphones for hours. “Is my child addicted to cell phones?” Parents ask themselves. How to recognize cell phone addiction and what experts advise.

The mobile phone as a constant companion: If you leave everything else and just look at the smartphone, this is an indication of a mobile phone addiction, according to experts. (Image: Danilo Andjus / iStock, Getty Images Plus)

This is what this article is about:

It seems like teenagers almost always have a smartphone in hand - on the train, in a café or at home. In fact, they spend a lot of time with smartphones, tablets and the like. Swiss young people spend two and a half hours a day looking into their smartphones. On the weekend it is even three hours. This is the result of the JAMES study published by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) at the beginning of November 2018. The smartphone, which, according to the study, almost 99 percent of young people own, offers the possibility of being online almost anywhere.

Cell phones don't just have their downsides

The crux of the smartphone: The devices are now ubiquitous and offer - young people and adults - many amenities that make life easier. As a result, everyday life can no longer be imagined without them. And they open up completely new possibilities; for example in the way you can express yourself creatively, or in terms of communication.

So it is not surprising that most young people today use their smartphones to chat with friends and classmates, either individually or in groups. The cell phone is also used very heavily to download and listen to music. According to the James study, young people most often use smartphones to communicate via messenger apps, as a watch and as a music player. At the time of the James study, the most popular apps were Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram and Youtube.

7 to 8.5% of young people show problematic behavior in their Internet use; 11.5% a risky one.

However, constant access to the Internet also harbors dangers. "A dependency can develop, and as with any other addiction, the transition from problem-free use to problematic use and addiction is fluid," warns the Swiss Addiction Foundation against cell phone addiction. Because of the diverse functions that are combined in the devices and the great gimmicks, the risk of becoming dependent is high. "Five percent of Swiss young people between the ages of 12 and 19 can be described as being addicted to cell phones," the ZHAW recognized as early as 2012 in its study entitled "Cell phone use among young people in Switzerland - between committed use and behavioral addiction". The Association of Youth and Media writes that 7 to 8.5% of young people show problematic behavior in their Internet use; 11.5% a risky one.

Young people who find it difficult to approach others and maintain friendships are particularly at risk, warned the authors of the JAMES study. Instead of looking for friends in real life, they go to virtual social networks to experience a feeling of connectedness and belonging. "Emotional problems seem to be easier to overcome with games and on the Internet," explains Jugend und Medien, the national platform for the promotion of media skills. Smartphone addiction often grips teenagers with low self-esteem. You can be tied to your smartphone through computer games, among other things, which easily give you a quick sense of achievement.

This is how mobile phone addiction can be recognized

At the latest, when children prefer to sit on their smartphones in their rooms during the holidays without meeting real friends, parents should be vigilant and think about a possible cell phone addiction.

However, the length of time a child spends on their smartphone is not the decisive factor in determining whether they are addicted to mobile phones. It is much more important whether a person still maintains real friendships, copes with real conflicts and is in lively exchange with their environment, said Franz Eidenbenz, head of Zurich Center for Gambling Addiction, opposite the “Einstein” program on Swiss television SRF. If this is the case, increased smartphone consumption is not critical.

Signs of cell phone addiction

  • The cell phone is becoming indispensable
  • The user loses control over cell phone use; Pulling out the smartphone is becoming routine
  • Cell phones are also used in inappropriate situations
  • Person has fewer and fewer real contacts and prefers to communicate via mobile phone
  • Smartphone is used for psychological stabilization, e.g. to cheer up or to reduce stress

Long-term consequences of smartphone addiction in adolescents

  • Declining performance in school
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fatigue as a result of lack of sleep
  • Neglecting contacts with peers
  • Lack of interest in other leisure activities

(Source: «Youth and Media», National Platform for the Promotion of Media Skills)

Ways out of mobile phone addiction

1 Communicate the concerns to the child

It is not always easy to get into conversation with the child. Teenagers in particular often resist being patronized by their parents. Marshall B. Rosenberg, American psychologist and author of numerous books on nonviolent communication, recommends starting a conversation like this for situations like this: “Since you came home from school today, you've been using your cell phone. That worries me. I want you to find more time for other things like hobbies, sports and school. Please let's think about when you can turn off the cell phone. ... »According to Rosenberg, you can start a conversation without reproach.

2 Find common rules

When it comes to developing rules for using cell phones, listening works wonders. Have you found a compromise? Kirsten Boie, teacher and writer, advises in her book "What to do when the hamster gives up the spoon?", Which she wrote together with the education experts Jesper Juul and Katharina Saalfrank, to first arrange a test run. This test run can then - after a week, for example - be discussed. Are parents and child satisfied? Where does it make sense to make improvements?

3 Be a role model

Parents who like to use cell phones and computers a lot will hardly be able to convince their child to pursue other leisure activities. "Your television consumption or your own use of the Internet influence your child's attitudes and behavior," explains the Swiss Addiction Foundation. Perhaps the family would like to dare to try the mobile phone fasting experiment together? The Zürcher Oberland addiction prevention center, for example, invites you to: "Imagine your children and young people spending their free time without WhatsApp, Google, series, games and the like. The kids will be amazed at how much time is suddenly free!" writes the addiction prevention center about its project week «Flickerpause».

While such a project has been carried out in the canton of Lucerne for ten years, the addiction advice center Zürcher Oberland dared to try the “flicker break” for the first time in 2016. Five primary school classes, four individual pupils, a secondary class and a youth center took part in the experiment. While the majority of the visitors to the participating youth center stayed away from the project, some young people on the project side said they were positive: “Sleep well. It was strangely quiet. My parents read », said one young person. Another concludes that he will read more again. "I sometimes forget to read," he states. Classes, families, groups of friends or groups of young people can register for the project.

Offer 4 alternatives

Parents should consider what activities they could suggest their child to fill their free time. “Our task as parents is to keep in touch with our young people about their interests in all areas of life - both in terms of the media and what is happening in school and leisure time,” recommends the educational guide “Step - Living with Teenagers”. According to the authors, it is crucial to offer them alternatives to media use. These can be leisure activities such as sport, culture or social engagement that can be planned well together as a family. Those who like to be outside could, for example, build a tree house, go on a geocaching tour or just play a game of football. Tips for activities with younger children can be found here.

5 When worries remain

Sometimes worries persist despite efforts to motivate the child to engage in real leisure activities. "If you notice that you are stuck together, do not hesitate to seek support," advises the Swiss Addiction Foundation. Specialist centers for addiction problems, youth counseling centers, educational counseling centers and psychologists can help. "You can get support together with your child or on your own."

The JAMES study

Experts from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) have been investigating the media use of young people in Switzerland on a regular basis since 2010. To this end, over 1,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 19 from the three major language regions of Switzerland are surveyed. The research results are published every two years. The representative studies set a different focus each time.

The results of the last few years can be found here in the overview: JAMES study