Excessive use of cell phones during adolescence can become a problem. Sleep disorders, isolation or the development of phobias are some of the consequences. How can we deal with this?
Either as a tool or as a symbol of independence, mobile phones play a momentous role in our lives and, even more so, during adolescence, since the mode of socialization has been conditioned by these technological advances that are part of the life of the younger generations.
The point is that the standardization of these devices has made our lives easier, although at the same time it can be harmful. Dependence, isolation and sleep disturbance are there.
At EFEsalut we have Sergio García Sorianoclinical psychologist, and with Javier Tubío Ordoñezresearcher of the group “Neuropsychology applied to education“, from the International University of La Rioja (UNIR) to analyze this daily problem.
When does it start to be a problem?
Younger people turn to their phones for anything and everything. Your social life is based on using this little device. But… What is the limit?
Psychologist Sergio García Soriano distinguishes between two concepts: use and abuse.
- use. When mobile phones are used as what they are: a communication tool, nothing more and nothing less. In other words, the mobile phone is used responsibly without affecting the individual’s day-to-day life.
- abuse. It is considered abusive use of the telephone when the young person is isolate of his social circle, he changes his way of to be, to think or to communicate or live by and for mobile. It is important to emphasize that dependence on mobile devices can be particularly dangerous during adolescence: a fundamental stage for the construction of personality, where insecurities are at the surface and the virtual world is understood as an escape .
Depending on the behavior of the young person, therefore, it will be considered a problem or not. The point is not to fall into the fallacy that all teenagers abuse mobile phones simply because leisure has moved to the virtual environment. In other words, the generational comparison is an empty argument.
“It would be making a wrong reading of the current reality”, assures the psychologist.
Leisure and the way we relate has changed and there is no doubt about it. Comparing past ways of life with today’s is as unfair as it is irrelevant.
It’s hard to know when
One way or another, most of the time, distinguishing between use and abuse is not as easy as it seems.
And the fact is that there is no formula that applies to everyone, there is no margin of time from which an addiction can be considered. It is a personal thing that it depends on the usage given to the cell phone itself.
Because the device is not just entertainmentbut it is also a useful and fundamental one educational tool for academic monitoring.
This versatility is what makes mobile phones such a highly controversial issue, although through the tracking, monitoring or restricting activity (via mobile apps) attempts to put an end to the doubt.
Consequences of mobile phone abuse
Having distinguished between use and abuse, knowing the consequences of excessive use of the terminal and its consequent dependence is essential. First of all, the main victim is sleep. Because addictions do not understand time or rest.
The role of sleep
Javier Tubío Ordoñez, UNIR researcher in the field of neuropsychology, differentiates between the short- and long-term effects of lack of sleep.
- Short term. We all know the short-term consequences: tiredness, slow cognitive processing, less attention span or memory. We need sleep for a number of processes to occur so that we can get on with our lives the next day.
- Long term. The maintenance of these practices over time can lead to a worse regulatory capacity.
We confuse our body
When we talk about regulatory capacity we must understand that our body is regulated cyclically: 24 hours a day, our body generates hormones based on what it thinks it needs. If these cycles are not respected, the synthesis of hormones is altered.
And the fact is that our body regulates itself based on the information it captures from the environment, such as light or daily activity. If we stay awake at night, we don’t secrete enough melatonin, so the body adapts to conditions that have greater long-term consequences.
And it’s no longer just to keep us awake, but, as Dr. Tubío Ordoñez explains, the white light from the phone (similar to that of the sun) also confuses our body.
And, despite the fact that in adolescence the recommended hours of sleep are around 8/9 hours, 30% report that they sleep less, mobile phones being an important factor to take into account in this regard.
This leads, not only to what was previously indicated, but also to a worse way of dealing with emotions, since it affects the executive functions, those we use to achieve a goal and plan it.
We underestimate it
And the fact is that sleep is as important as a balanced diet or daily physical exercise. Without sleep, all efforts to lead a healthy life go to waste.
Tubío insists on the contradiction that he assumes has increased the concern for healthy food and sport when the sleep deficit is a more serious and less visible problem.
The dopamine that generates the short-term reward
But, in addition to affecting sleep, the abuse of mobile phones is a source of short-term reward that conditions our way of perceiving reality: in adolescence the mobile phone is a very addictive component, which gets us used to a short-term stimulation.
This makes incorporating activities whose reward is more delayed much more arduous. Thus, what can be considered as a possible solution to the abuse of the mobile phone, such as finding entertainment in reading a book, turns into something very difficult, since we have become accustomed to what is immediate, to short terms between rewards.
Abuse of cell phones in adolescence: recommendations
UNIR researcher and psychologist Sergio García put together a series of tips to deal with these situations at home.
- Set a good example. And the family cannot transmit any contradictory messages. one responsible use in each family and every teenager, this is the use of the mobile phone as a tool without involving a change in behaviour.
- inform. The word is a very powerful tool. Young people are curious by nature. Therefore, giving yourself the opportunity to learn more about the subject is an important factor:
- To trust. When you hand over the mobile phone you have to trust. Awareness of the mobile phone, dangers and advantages, rules of use and limits is essential. But the continuous and daily reprimands for the mobile phone question the autonomy of the teenager, who perceives the phone as a symbol of independence. You deal with the problem once it exists, not before.
- limits. They must be established and maintained; you need to listen in the process. Teen cell phones should be a tool to get to know your child, not an item of power. Treating it as such will lead to frustration, but also more desire to use it.