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How to stop the addiction of minors to mobile phones and why the family and the peer group are key to disconnection

Experts in psychology, psychiatry and in the treatment of addiction to new technologies agree that this dependency can be prevented by promoting good habits of use from an early age, where fathers and mothers should also be aware that their behavior and relationship with devices, social networks and video game directly influence children.

In recent years, nomophobia has become a great concern both for families with children and for professionals trying to combat this irrational fear of being without a mobile phone, which has become a device in constant use and in all scopes.

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The latter agree that it is not easy to eradicate this need, Among other things, because screens in general and ‘smartphones’ in particular have become the means of communication preferred by young people with your peer group.

In this sense, a group of experts has valued the measure implemented by parents and teachers from the city of Greystones (Ireland), who have come together to establish a common code that prohibits the use of smartphones among their children and students until that they reach high school.

With this decision, it is sought mitigate the harmful effects of new technologies, How are the exposure to inappropriate content, addiction and dependency of these devices, cases of cyberbullying and ‘sexting’ or the loss of privacy. Added to this are other physical dangers such as vision problems, poor posture or lack of sleep.

Due to this series of negative consequences favored by the habitual use of new technologies, from the Ita Argentona specialized mental health center they consider that a measure like the one they have taken in Ireland “is not an unusual or unrealizable proposal” and that it would favor children before generating that dependence on mobile phones, a measure that could also be extrapolated to the excessive use of consoles and video games.

“It is a feasible measure, taking into account that it is not withdrawn in isolation, but in a group, which generates a regulatory framework that allows children to more easily understand this measure”considers one of the psychologists of this center, Aleix Cortés.

This specialist also insists that by removing the devices “leisure spaces would be recovered and new skills would be worked on, such as boredom management, self-regulation and socialization skills”.

In this sense, the psychiatrist from the Childhood and Adolescence area of ​​the Institute of Psychiatry of the Gregorio Marañón Hospital (AdCom Madrid) Ignacio Civeira sees concern that minors find refuge in technology when they have problems, which can hinder self-care.

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“We are seeing higher rates of depression, anxiety, school failure and loss of freedoms,” he maintains, and anticipates that by staying connected through these technological means, the youngest even “stop taking showers, sleeping what they should or eating at their hours”.

The psychologist of the Technological Addictions Service (SAAT), Luis Padilla, sees very clearly what is the reason for this to happen: “The more these tools are used, the more they want, be they social networks or video games”he comments, emphasizing that the measure carried out in Ireland “It would be realistic as long as all educational agents in all contexts were consistent and in the same direction: family, educational and social”.

The experts agree, therefore, that not only are necessary “laws that govern the use made of technologies”according to the CEO of Desconect@, Marc Masip, but it is also essential to raise awareness on the part of the parents of these children, who must take into account how their behaviors can influence minors.

“Society has normalized the use of mobile phones from a very early age. This is comparable, for example, with the habit of smoking. Everyone knows that it is harmful, but not everyone thinks the same about the abuse of technological means.qualifies Civeira.

The director of Desconect@, considers that “The problem is that in Spain psychology is interventionist, never preventive”which is why training is increasingly necessary with which minors can know what are the effects that the constant use of technologies can have in their daily lives.

PREVENTION VERSUS INTERVENTION

Regarding the decision of the Irish families, Cortés believes that in order to avoid situations of frustration and family conflicts due to the withdrawal of the screens, “a series of steps should be taken to raise awareness.”

“It is healthy to notify them in advance that their mobile phone is going to be taken away and explain the specific reasons why that decision has been made”he assures, while Padilla insists that “If there is already a situation of abuse or dependency established in the use of technology, it would indeed be conflictive in the family environment”.

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Hence, they agree that it is advisable to remove these devices as soon as possible, in case of taking the Irish measure as a reference. “From the age of 12, with the onset of adolescence, the need for communication with the peer group increases. Technology acquires special relevance because it allows them to be in contact with their peers, because the importance of the family context and the figure of their parents as referents are reduced”adds Padilla.

Despite this, the experts consulted insist that “without the support of parents, awareness outside the family environment”, such as in schools and institutes, “is useless”, in the words of Civeira.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE AN ADDICTION

The support of families It not only serves to raise awareness -and, therefore, prevent dependency- among the youngest in the harmful uses of technology, but also is essential during the recovery process in case cases of addiction are noticed.

“Parents always participate in our treatment sessions,” says Masip, who emphasizes that the group sessions are the most enriching “since in them they can share their problems with other people of their age and sex and it makes them feel more understood”.

Despite the possible detachment from the family once more advanced ages are reached, it is usually the parents who detect a series of signs that would indicate that their children may be dependent on mobile phones or social networks: isolation, poor academic performance, etc.

In any case, “You have to value the dimension of the person andneed to distinguish between what is an abusive use due to factors such as boredom and an addiction to technology or video gamessays the AdCom Madrid psychiatrist.

In this sense, experts agree that “more girls” are the ones who lock themselves up on platforms like Instagram or TikTok “because self-esteem problems are more common in them,” according to the executive director of Desconect@.

The data offered by the Barrié Foundation demonstrates what this expert says: a study carried out among 10,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 from 59 schools in Galicia found that there were a greater number of girls -29.2%, compared to 22.1% of boys- who admitted to being addicted to their mobile phone.

The National Observatory for Technology and Society had the same impressions in one of its latest reports, ‘The use of technology by minors in Spain’ (2022), where it determined that mobile phone possession was higher among girls than among boys. (a higher 7%) in the last five years, in a context in which 96% of children under 15 have a mobile phone.

Source: Elcomercio

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