Progressing into the modern world, one of the highlights of the 21st century is the massive impact of smartphones in our daily lives. The world is changing quite rapidly and would continue to do so with an incredible rate in the future but a mobile phone which was once considered as a novelty is now challenging the entire fabric of our current society.
Regardless of many positive outcomes of advancements in technology, excessive use of mobile phones is now being associated with the destructive human behavior. The human species is outnumbered by the gadgets present in the world.
There are more mobile phones than actual people on the planet
One of the fastest growing man-made phenomenon, mobile phones are developing addictive behaviors in its users which coupled with the internet creates a complete recipe for disaster.
Should excessive use of mobile phone be called an addiction?
Merriam-Webster defines addiction as a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.”
Simon Sinek, author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant is well known to voice his opinions against the addiction of mobile phones and its impact on the younger generation.
While talking about Millenials, Simon in a program called Inside Quest breaks down addiction of mobile phone and how leaving it unchecked is equivalent to showing your child a liquor cabinet.
He describes that all alcoholics get addicted when they are teenagers after finding out its numbing effects and same goes for the use of mobile phones.
When a person is young, all that he requires is the approval of their parents but while reaching the age of adolescence he also needs the approval of his peers. Instead of turning towards friends, some people turn to drugs and alcohol, others may turn to mobile phones and social media to find the release from stress.
According to a study titled The World Unplugged, most students cannot go a day without using media. Losing their phones, laptops or other gadgets induced emotions of panic, depression, anxiety paranoia etc. which are pretty common in any addict.
Many psychiatrists believe that mobile phone addiction is one of the major non-drug addictions of the 21st century
The victim is socially isolated without real and meaningful relationships in their life and is dependent upon a device for its survival, self-esteem, friendship, relationship etc.
Previously addiction was only restricted to medical model like being exposed to physical substance but now many researchers have argued that behavioral patterns hold the same importance.
Why is mobile phone addictive?
The answer is simple, Dopamine. It is a neurotransmitter in our brain that controls the pleasure system, meaning it helps with feeling good, enjoyment etc. So a human being gets the same amount of pleasure from a mobile phone as it can get from a good food, lots of money and even sex.
You might think if a mobile phone is helping someone feel good or is inducing pleasure, why should it be termed addictive? Well, then you have to revisit the definition of addiction that we mentioned earlier.
Dopamine is the same chemical which is produced in excess quantity when a person smokes cigarettes, marijuana or opt for other drugs including heroin, cocaine etc. Now as technology, especially mobile phones are becoming more sophisticated, people are relying more and more on them to bridge a gap in their personal and professional lives.
Another major reason for mobile addiction is the concept of FOMO-fear of missing out. People are afraid of missing out any special news, event or occasion, leading to anxiety and stress. Often these feelings are aroused by seeing posts of other people on social media. Sufferer of FOMO would always be attached to their mobile phones as to not miss out on the latest happenings around him/her, thus fueling their addiction further.
Age Restriction on Mobile Phones
With such serious consequences of owning a mobile phone, parents never seriously evaluate the harmful traits of the said technology while handing over their phones to children. In Pakistan, mothers and fathers proudly tell other people/relatives that their son/daughter can use a mobile phone.
Before a child is taught how to read or write, he/she is handed a mobile phone
Sadly in Pakistan, this trend of negligence could also be seen in the name of underage driving of cars and motorcycles. Children after 10 years of age boast of their driving skills to their friends and relatives and no one gives two hoots about the prevailing dangers.
When mobile phones create the same level of pleasure and addictive behaviors as the worst drugs on the planet then why shouldn’t be an age restriction attributed to the use of mobile phones?
In Pakistan, the legal age of smoking a cigarette is 18 years where other drugs like marijuana, heroin, cocaine and drinks like alcohol are banned. Surprisingly, the technology that gives the same symptoms is celebrated around the country and no consideration is being paid o the role and responsibilities of a parent.
Age restriction on a mobile phone, sounds ridiculous? Well, the answer is easy, would you deliberately expose your child to the addictive drugs? If the answer is yes, scoff away but if you’re thinking only an idiot would give their child heroin just to be rid of them or because he/she was asking for it, then the same should be thought about a mobile phone.
When is your Child ready for Mobile Phone?
Here are a few variables one should consider before handing a mobile phone to a child:
What kind of benefits do you aim to achieve by giving your child a cell phone? Is it because you wish to stay in contact or because he’s telling you that all his other friends also own one. Make sure that you are giving away this privilege for the right reasons.
Children who spent most of their time in front of the screen finds it hard to make connections out in the real world. If a child is staying at home rather than roaming around and playing with others outside, he/she would shrink out their imaginative capabilities.
Also, failure to create deep and meaningful relationships would result in depression and anxiety, where the only refuge would be to get digital acceptance.
Is your child ready?
The most important thing to consider before handing over a mobile phone is whether your child is ready to own a smartphone? It is nit just about being independent, rather a person needs to be fit mentally to know what is right for him/her and knows better about misusing the provided gadget.
Many psychologists refer to look for developmental signs before making this decision. Do they walk to school on their own? Do they misplace their belongings? etc.
How much digitally present is your child? Nowadays children are also part of the social media realm, where they have their own pages where they share their posts, photos, and videos which hinder with their learning.
A far wide digital presence from the young age teaches them that the only thing that matters is their digital persona. A concept that can brutally harm their ego and mental health as they’ll start growing up. So apart from keeping the digital activity under check, parents need to evaluate whether the child wants a phone to share their life online or for personal convenience and safety.
Just like our food, our digital diet also contains some healthy and unhealthy aspects. Addictive behaviors wouldn’t just harm our own well-being but also causes stress and anxiety among other people.
There is an actual term “Phubbing” in the dictionary that describes the phenomenon of ignoring someone in a social setting by favoring a mobile phone. So, we have two options; one to look the other way and the other to admit the addiction and take preventive measures to stop it from deteriorating the concept of healthy beings and society.