In the form of smartphones, computers, or tablets, screens are now ubiquitous in the daily lives of adolescents. From 10 years old, 35% of them have their game console, 28% have their tablet, and 11% have their TV. The smartphone arrives very quickly, too: 87% of 10-15-year-olds say they have a smartphone, including 65% since entering sixth grade, according to the latest Mediametrie-OPEN study.
Before confinement, young people already spent on average more than 4 hours per day on their smartphone, according to data collected from 4,000 French people aged 13 to 20, in a standard-setting. The period of confinement has certainly intensified this link with digital technology, especially among the “digital natives”, this generation born after 1995.
How then to manage the access of adolescents to their mobile phones, to prevent the craze or habit from turning into dependence? What can a parent who has not grown up in a connected world say to his child, who was born amid new technologies? Should we try to control everything and reprimand the differences strictly or, on the contrary, play on the duty of transmission and socialization? Insights into possible strategies.
If one cannot speak of addiction, in the sense of a habit which would require a withdrawal, confident teenagers can develop particularly toxic behavior towards their smartphone, to the point of feeling anxious at the idea not to have it handy.
Recent scientific studies on the subject support the idea that a new neurosis is spreading in our society today, and more particularly among adolescents, these digital natives, ultra-connected: the anxiety or the phobia of being without his smartphone, known as “nomophobia.”
Nomophobia, a contraction of “no mobile phobia,” designates a form of pathology linked to modern technologies, in particular, the smartphone and the excessive fear of being separated from one’s smartphone. The person then fears not being able to communicate, losing their connection, not being able to access information, or giving up their comfort.
A nomophobia measurement tool has been developed and published in the scientific journal Computers in Human Behavior to estimate the extent to which an individual is addicted to his smartphone.
Nomophobia is indicative of a particularly high neurosis in adolescents: 76% of them state that they are anxious about losing their smartphone. Also, 33% of these hyperconnected young people would consult their smartphone at least fifty times a day, and sometimes even at night.
Drinking can not be without danger: it causes sleep disturbances, vision disturbances, depression, etc. Falling grades in secondary school must also alert parents. The breakdown of relationships with friends or the permanent isolation in his room is other signs to take into account.
Rules and tips
Banning the smartphone is not the solution since it is a tool for social integration in adolescence and that, to mark their independence, young people tend to transgress the prohibitions. Rather than prohibiting the use of the smartphone, parents have every interest in favoring dialogue.
First, it is a matter of talking with your child about what he does with his smartphone, what he finds there and what it gives him. Then, clear rules can be set in partnership with the adolescent, such as:
- set up areas without screens at home (at the table, in your room) and why not one day a week without a smartphone for the whole family,
- install a basket for all family members’ smartphones at night, away from the bedrooms,
- disable notifications from smartphone applications to limit unwanted requests,
- have the adolescent wear a watch to prevent him from continually checking the time on his smartphone,
- set up activities other than digital (sports, music, etc.), 59% of parents do so today
- limit the use of smartphones, which 34% of parents already do: authorized time slots and adapted daily connection time.
Parents are seen as the most influential actors in the digital education of adolescents. Today, only 35% of parents would adapt their practices to set an example for their children (Médiamétrie 2020). It is essential that parents not only inform their children about the risks of excessive use of the smartphone but, above all, that they bring their children to an awareness of the processes of dependence.
For the adolescent, the smartphone plays a structuring role: it represents not only an object intended to communicate but an object over-invested with meaning playing a vital role in the construction of the adolescent’s social identity.
If it occupies such an essential place, can this be explained by the fact that adolescents lack places of sociability? Isn’t it because the dialogue between adults and adolescents has become more difficult?
The pervasive presence of the smartphone interferes with family relationships, to the point of altering the ties that parents must build with their children during adolescence. It is not uncommon to hear teenagers criticize their parents for using their smartphones excessively. A real paradox!