First, the addiction isn’t necessarily with the phone, it is with the incoming/outgoing, constant communications and engagement in a cyber world that the phone creates. Because the phone is mobile, they always have it with them.
I call it “phone addiction” because I have seen what happens when the phone is taken and it is very similar to traits of other addicts. So, I looked up Signs of Addiction from About.com. I highlighted the ones that related to our daughter. Extreme mood changes – happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc. Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of day or night
- Changes in energy – unexpectedly and extremely tired or energetic
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Unexpected and persistent coughs or sniffles
- Seeming unwell at certain times, and better at other times
- Pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than usual
- Financially unpredictable, perhaps having large amounts of cash at times but no money at all at other times
- Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd cell-phone conversations
- Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency
- Drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, etc
After reviewing these, I thought about how these standard addiction symptoms apply to our daughter and her cell phone.
Some Signs of Cellphone/Cyber Addiction (written by a mom with an addicted daughter):
1. If asked to return the phone or put aside, etc., they throw a tantrum.
2. They can’t get through a conversation with you (or others) without checking the phone, and perhaps even returning a text during the conversation.
3. They give you 100 reasons why they MUST HAVE the phone (alarm clock, school needs, homework, safety, etc.)
4. They stare at the phone screen the majority of the evening, playing games, texting, Facebooking and you think it is starting to get in the way of a normal family evening.
5. They start talking more about what happens ‘online’ than in real life.
6. When checking phone and outgoing texts, they are the one initiating a lot of texting conversations. This illustrates that they will text anyone and everyone to ensure they are always sending, and receiving texts.
7. Instead of coming to ask you a question when in the same location, they send you a text.
8. They posts pictures to Facebook to see how many “likes” or “your pretty” they can get.
9. They share/say that they will post more photos or something if they get a certain amount of likes. (Whoa… the need for attention is frightening!)
10. They expect immediate responses from you via text and if you don’t, they habitually text you until your respond.
11. They text during dinner or other meals.
12. They leave the dinner table to check the phone if the phone has been put away for dinner. (Put the phone in a basket so you know where it is).
13. When asked for the phone, they hand over a decoy phone (an old phone), then secretly use theirs in their room. (Yes, this happened to us until we powered up the decoy phone to see it wasn’t hers.)
14. If a phone is taken, they start using an itouch or other method of communication because They CAN’T be without technology (this also happened to us).
What Can You Do?
These are simply ideas. Every child and situation is different. We wish we would have done some of this A LOT sooner.
1. Create a “contract” between you and your child of acceptable use of the phone which might include hours per day, time of day they can use phone, social networking sites they can download, any downloads, texts per month,
2. Hold your child accountable to the consequences of the contract. They must remember the phone is a privilege and not a right.
3. Remind them often you will be checking the phone for appropriate behavior.
4. Put off buying a smartphone for as long as you can. These phones offer more games, social networking capabilities, and more of everything. If you need a phone for child safety, there are many available options.
5. Work with your cell phone provider to set phone settings and schedules to your preferences. Many phones have a lot of settings that parents don’t know about to help them manage the phone. These settings can be both easy and hard to find depending on what you are looking for.
6. No phones in the bedroom. Period.
7. If you do allow phones in bedroom during the day because it’s hard to manage, definitely no phones in the bedroom at night. Buy them an alarm clock if needed.
8. Don’t allow the phone to go to school. School is a place to focus on studies, not texts, online games with friends, etc. Phones are meant to be social vehicles, and the good old-fashioned, face-to-face socialization happens at schools.
Nicole Burke is passionate about educating parents on the many dangers that lurk online. She speaks, blogs, and educates on cyber safety and kids.
She is a spokesperson for TrueCare.com and works closely with parents on a daily basis, educating them on the dangers of social media and non-monitored internet. Nicole is a step-mom to teenage girls, 16 and 18 years old, who are active Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Text users.