Mobile Phone Addiction
I have an addiction. I need to carry my mobile phone with me everywhere. I am compelled to check it when I’m walking, when I’m sitting, while I’m talking to others.
While I am struggling with this addiction, I justify it by telling myself that I am not as bad as others. I love walking along the waterfront at Sandgate. Last Sunday, I watched several people enjoying a Sunday afternoon walk with their eyes glued to their screens.
As I look around me, I can see hundreds of people with the same addiction. Last year, when I had the privilege to visit Spain, I took a photo of a family of four at the Real Alcázar. We were sitting in one of the finest examples of a Moorish garden when I saw a family sitting in a row, on a park bench, all glued to their own devices.
You only need to travel on public transport to see how widespread this addiction has become. What did we ever do pre-smart phone?
Don’t get me wrong. The mobile phone is a powerful tool that has brought immense opportunity and built incredible networks. However, the dark side of this technology is that it can start ruling our every waking moment.
Many schools are moving to ban mobile phones. I don’t believe that is the right thing to do. Banning phones won’t stop cyber bullying. Mobile phones are here to stay. They are a ubiquitous part of modern life. They can be incredibly useful tools for learning. Our job as adults is to teach our young people how to use that technology responsibly. And it begins by modelling these behaviours: young people don’t do as you say, they do as you do.
If you are a parent of a Junior School student, does your child really need a phone? The standard response, “but everyone has one” isn’t true. Resist the urge to buy your child a mobile phone as long as possible. Somehow, we all managed to survive without and had a terrific childhood.
Do you monitor your child’s mobile phone use if they do have one? At School, students are not allowed to use their phones in class unless they are being used for learning (teacher directed).
Talk about setting boundaries with your child. They don’t need their phones at their side while doing their homework. It can be a terrible distraction. A good family rule is to hand in devices at a set time. Phones should never go to bed with a person. And they should never join the family at dinner.
If your child has a social media profile (and they shouldn’t before the age of 13), do you monitor what they post and what they say? I have no doubt you would be shocked by the language that is used on line and what young people post. If your child isn’t comfortable with you checking their posts, then it is quite likely they are ashamed of what they, or their friends, are saying. That behaviour isn’t okay.
The social media space is another great tool, but has its terrible dangers. We naively let our children loose in this space without teaching them how to behave; and that what they say and do forms part of their permanent digital footprint that future employers may check.
Unfortunately, I have formed an addiction, but I am trying to fight it. I am trying to leave my phone behind on occasions. I am trying not to check it while I am walking, lest I miss the world and all its beauty. I am trying to leave it on the kitchen bench and not check it after 8.00pm. And I am trying hard not to check my Facebook feed every day.
Let’s all aim to use our phones a little less and model the behaviour we would want to see in our children.
Dr Paul Browning