In recent times, much is being said about the problems of young people hooked on mobile phones and screens. Hundreds of articles are written warning about the harms of addiction to these gadgets (In addition, most of the time parents have bought them and it is also common for us to be the ones who pay for the internet connection).
A new word has been coined: nomophobiawhich is the abbreviation of the English phrase “no mobile-phone phobia” that attempts to express the concept of anxiety about not being connected permanently to mobile and social networks.
Brainy specialists warn us of the dire consequences of this dependency but, curiously, most of these concerns are expressed referring to adolescents and to the young. As if we adults didn’t have behaviors that are practically the same as those we criticize in our minors.
We have been exposed to possible misuse for many years now and, if we are honest, we are not a great example for our children
You can tell me that in developing brains with immature neural networks the damage may be greater, but we forget that the first mobile phones came on the market in 1973. They weighed more than 2 kg and looked more like a field phone like those of Gila when he asked the enemy to get on the plane. The first Smartphone was put on the market on August 15, 1996. It even had a fax. I recommend searching the internet for photos of these junk that today seem as ridiculous as Maxwell Smart’s shoephone, agent 86.
Despite the fact that at first it was a technology available to very few, it quickly became available to almost all pockets. Therefore, many years ago we are exposed to possible misuse and, if we are honest, we are not a great example for our children. Many of the things we criticize today have already been done by us. And what’s worse, we keep doing it.
How many hours did you spend playing the snake game?
If we look around us (when we look up from the mobile screen) we can see people of all ages fascinated by the contents of the phone, which has become a central element in our daily life. Yesterday I had dinner with my wife in a restaurant and I entertained myself by telling how many people were using the mobile. Virtually everyone. Some took photos of the dish that had been served to them, others made pouts in a selfie, the infants played a video game or watched cartoons and a girl with the appearance of an executive closed a commercial agreement while her soup cooled. The few who weren’t actively using it had it on the table, waiting I guess for their moment to activate it during dinner.
Even a couple of boyfriends consulted the screens dumbfounded without even looking at each other’s eyes. The only gesture of tenderness that I was able to perceive was that they held one hand while with the other they each held their phone.
What are the most common symptoms of nomophobia?
We use a series of tracking systems in the consultation to make patients of all age groups aware of a possible misuse of devices. Add the hours of television, since adults continue to watch programs on television, something that most of the new generations do not do. All these symptoms can guide us on the abusive use of digital devices:
- check compulsively if you carry your cell phone and go home to look for it if for some reason we don’t have it.
- query repeatedly to see if we have received a message, a photo, or to entertain ourselves when we wait or do not know what to do. It is known that the average number of mobile inquiries is more than 100 times a day, which in young people increases to 150 a day, but these are data from 2019 and I dare to bet that they have increased.
- suffer from irritability or uneasiness if we are without coverage or the battery is running out.
- Use the mobile while we are in another activitysuch as watching TV, at a concert, in a museum…
- Notice a tingling sensation in your pocket or in the leg as if the mobile vibrated without sound. To check immediately that we do not carry it with us. It is what are called phantom vibrations.
- The number of hours we spend in front of the screen. According to a study carried out by the Swedish company Ikea in 2019, one in two people spent more than two hours a day connected for leisure. To which should be added the time that we are supposedly connected by work. However, a recent study by the Fundación de Ayuda contra la Droga (FAD) on young people and digital leisure published on April 28, 2022 and which analyzes 1,200 surveys of young people between 15 and 29 years of age in Spain, yields spectacular data: four out of five young people in this age group spend an average of almost seven hours a day in digital leisure activitiesI guess some stolen from sleep. This includes listening to music, watching series or movies, consulting social networks, shopping online… We don’t have data from a recent similar study on the use of devices in adults, but I can assume that it would indicate quite similar results. And perhaps the average would drop just because the older ones are not digital natives.
How much time do we spend on mobile?
It is easy check the time we have been connected on the devices. Check yours. Perhaps the result will surprise you. In Android devices (from version 9) there is a function called Digital Wellbeing that allows you to check the time of use; the times you unlock the mobile, the number of notifications received or the frequency of use of some apps. In iOS you can consult the menu settings-time of use- see all the activity and enter device queries.
So let us be able to be self-criticalsince we will not have any credibility when we pretend to give lessons to the youngest. There is no better lesson than example.
About the Author
We are talking about Dr. Xavier Fàbregas, founder and medical director of Mas Ferriol