13May
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Does it seem as if your kids are addicted to their smartphones? They just might be: Doctors have suggested that mobile phone addiction among children and teens can be a serious matter, not unlike a sugar or caffeine addiction.

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It’s no secret that many teens in particular are obsessed with their phones, but children as young as toddlers have exhibited signs of an apparent addiction. In a recent study headed by Dr. Hisao Ishii, it was found that 25 percent of kids aged five through 16 possess a smartphone and they’re getting obsessively attached to it.

Ishii says that if this trend continues, future generations may find it difficult to form and maintain relationships without the aid of an electronic device. A team of sociologists undertook the Japanese study and discovered that kids in Japan alone send “millions of text messages” every single day.

“Teenagers can be seen taking advantage of every spare minute to touch base with their friends,” Ishii said. One solution to this growing problem might be to revive the love of a traditional landline, perhaps with a bundling package, to wean kids from their mobiles.

Symptoms of withdrawal

According to Ishii, “Genuine conversation will be driven out by superficial communication, in which the act of contacting one another is all that matters, leading to a deterioration in the quality of relationships. Indeed, the very fabric of society may be threatened.”

With a landline and rules about smartphone usage at home, you can persuade compulsive mobile phone dialers and recipients of such calls to slow down and focus on the conversation at hand. Taking emoticons and multi-tasking out of the equation (at least to some degree) changes the situation.

Dr. Davis Lewis, a child psychologist, says there’s reason for concern about Ishii’s warnings. “The mobile phone, like the Furby or the Rubik’s Cube before it, has developed into a playground craze in this country. Children hate to feel as if they are not in the ‘in group’ and think that without a phone they will be left out.”

Though there are phone models designed for kids that have no texting and limited call features, the compulsion to have the latest gadget might lead to a real addiction.

Why it needs to stop

Lewis says phones are “like an electronic tribal drum. Children use it to keep up to date with a wide group of acquaintances, so that when they meet up they know the latest news or gossip.”

That doesn’t bode well for mastering conversation skills. “The mobile now often substitutes for physical play…. [T]o develop proper friendships you have to invest time with people doing things together,” he says.

“Doing things together” doesn’t include sitting side by side, scrolling through Facebook feeds or texting other folks. The phone stack rule might be increasing in popularity, but a landline may be the more permanent answer.

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