It is very probable that the mobile phone is the technology that has most changed the lives of families, for which we should stop and think about the impact that technology of information and communication (ICT) has on our children.

When we talk about information and communication technology, we usually refer to those technologies that allow us to transmit, process and spread information instantly.

We have all incorporated the use of ICT into our daily lives, as a tool of interaction, socialization, work, amusement and learning. However, it is in adolescence where the increase of usage is most noticeable. The content of ICT has become an element of interaction and socialization, principally among peers, owing to shared affections for certain activities such as music, fashion and film among things. Further, this allows them to exchange information like: interesting web pages, bloggers, tricks to use in certain video games, etc.

ICT and the mobile phone in particular grant multiple opportunities and benefits; for example they favor social relations, cooperative learning, the development of new abilities, new forms of construction of knowledge, and the development of creative capacities, communication and reasoning. In the family atmosphere, a new space opens for participation in family. In this way ICT well-used can be a channel of communication between family members. For example when the parents often travel, one way to communicate with them is through Facetime, Skype or similar platforms.

So, with so many benefits, how do we get addicted to mobile phones? Who are the most vulnerable?

Who is most at risk of suffering mobile phone addiction?

Determined psychological variables can influence the greater or lesser predisposition or vulnerability to becoming addicted to new technologies. Some of these variables are: impulsiveness, low self-esteem, low mood, inadequate confrontational strategies, need for affection or a poor network of social support.

Youth and adolescents are the most vulnerable and for various reasons. They are have grown up with the newest technologies and see the use of such as normal and necessary; they have easy access to devices; the life stage that they are experiencing is characterized by the search of feelings and identity and as such are greatly influenced by their peer group.

Mobile addiction?

Adolescents place fundamental values in new technologies and internet, as a sign of identity and status, and the use of these has become a priority in their lives. It is here where we begin to see the following signs:

  • Loss of control

  • Loss of privacy

  • Dependence: need or intense impulse to conduct the behavior

  • A rising tension until able to perform the behavior, characterized by different alterations of mood (anxiety, depression, irritability,...), cognitive (effects on concentration) and sleep patterns

  • Grave interference in daily life and interactions

With respect to factors that favor addictive qualities, they are the ease of access and availability, the experience of time distortion during connectivity, perception of anonymity and a feeling of inhibition that allows the possibility of representing different roles or revealing uncomfortable or hidden aspects of oneself without risks.

When using the mobile phone just to use it, the aforementioned symptoms appear.

Having arrived to this point, the daily life of an adolescent can be affected on different levels, starting with a loss in interest, passed up in favor of the mobile phone. The adolescent will start to reduce social relations, to have problems with studies or work and to use the mobile more and more.

How do I know if my child presents behaviors that could be related to mobile addiction?

  • Loss of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed and were gratifying

  • Excessive preoccupation to use the mobile which interferes with daily routines

  • Depressive mood, irritable, restlessness and lack of concentration, changes in sleep patterns

  • Changes in academic performance, loss of friendships

  • Denying or hiding behavior, connecting in private and losing the notion of time during use

What can I do to help my child?

It is of vital importance to work on the emotional and communicative bonds in the family.

The more the adolescent gets to know himself and is capable of expressing feelings and worries with confidence of being heard and accepted as they are, they will have more ability to tolerate frustrations and resolve conflicts. They will know how to ask for help at home if they need it because they will feel a climate of confidence and support to help them talk.

Alternative activities

Planning alternative activities that are incompatible with mobile use is a good strategy to reduce the quantity of hours dedicated to the mobile. Good options for activities are those that imply relation with others that are enjoyable, cultural or sporty, outdoors, etc.

  • Impress upon your child from a young age the importance of spending time with friends doing activities that do not include the use of modern technology.

  • Observe the mobile use of your child to make it a process of usage and learning at the same time.

  • Agree upon some rules regarding times, places, content and forms of use.

  • Enforce a monthly limit on time spent on the mobile phone and ensure your child is responsible for some coverage of mobile costs.

  • Reason with your child some respectful rules regarding third parties and content, photos and videos, sharing images with other people, and of course, not distributing content of others without authorization of use that could irreversibly damage the image of someone

  • Ask your child to turn off the mobile phone when they do not need it or should not use it, for example while studying, in school or while eating or sleeping.

  • Teaching by example is very important. Children replicate the behaviors of their parents. Our children should see us, as adults, making rational use of the mobile phone and following the same rules.

Technology is undoubtedly going to play an irreplaceable role in our lives from here on out. However by making ourselves and our children aware of the use and implanting responsible and reasonable practices we can ensure the maintenance of a healthy & beneficial relationship with these helpful technologies. If you think you or your child is having troubles with technology addiction, Sinews is happy to offer counseling and steps to change this relationship.

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