Does your screenager consider his device to be a firmly implanted eleventh digit on his hand? Does the suggestion of a wi-fi free holiday in the bush cause a less than pleasant reactionary push-back, mild panic and desperate requests to stay at home? Well there are words for this typical cluster of ‘teen-minus device’ tantrums – it’s called nomophobia!
WHAT IS NOMOPHOBIA?
‘Nomophobia‘ is a disconnection syndrome that can be briefly described as fear of being without a mobile phone. And do we even need to tell you the panic is real!
Like any other phobia, Nomophobia involves uncontrollable, irrational thoughts and fears that influence and impact on our lives on a day to day basis. From minor irritability to an increased heartrate and proper panic, the symptoms equate to any of those associated with more traditional phobias.
And yes, letting go of our devices is hard. From alarm clock to provider of all information factual and not so factual – the device tells our teens who was invited to a party, who was not, who will actually be at the party, who will not, what should be worn, what should not. With the push of a like button, it validates or trashes, it is a private investigator capable of stalking the intimate moments in the lives of friends and foes and ultimately it entertain and soothes and eventually numbs like an on-tap doodoo blanki.e
We have asked, some of our teens know it doesn’t always serve them, and they know they are online too often, too long and too intensely. It’s like a relationship that you know you should end but, well, it’s just too much effort. And too uncomfortable…and anyway, maybe tomorrow it will be different.
So how can we help? Going cold turkey in a world driven by devices is only a valid path for those who are using the device as a one way ticket to compulsive online shopping, compulsive porn watching, compulsive stalking and compulsive gambling. For the rest, incremental steps to regaining some device-life balance is an honest, teen-friendly approach to managing the sticky glue that grows between digits and device.
KLIKD’S TOP FIVE TIPS FOR MANAGING DEVICE ADDICTION
1. Talk in terms they can hear
Telling our kids/teens off for being addicted only invites denial (as it does when any addict is repeatedly confronted without being offered an alternative path to follow). To get their buy-in to a more balanced approach to using the device, explain that you would like them to break up with phone, but for sure they can still be friends. And like any break-up, it means stepping away, getting a bit more distance from the old ‘lover’ while gaining bit more connection to others. Make light of it. Own your own difficulty in letting go. Spare them the sanctimonious stuff – truly it falls on deaf ears.
2. Be reasonable
Coming down on teens every time they look at the device is simply unfair. Set some expectations that you and they can live with – one day a week the whole family to be device free. Maybe just no devices from 6pm -8pm so you can all hang in the kitchen. Or no in the car on the way to school -and maybe no devices first thing in the morning before school so you can start the day together. Decide together and join them.
3. Put micro changes in place that feel palatable to your child/teen
o Don’t let your child book-end his or her day with a device (the device shouldnt be the first thing looked at upon waking up, nor should it be the “digital dooodoo” that we look at while we fall asleep. This applies equally to grownups!
o Suggest intermittent fasting of “phasting” (see what we did there?!) with the phone – start by first leaving the phone at home for one family outing, leaving it upstairs for half an hour when with the family. Gradually increase the time each week.
o Download apps like Siempo that allow your child to select two or three people they want to accept messages from while studying and block the notifications from rest temporarily).
o Suggest a device ‘spring clean’. Sit with your kids and laugh as they get rid of the 14 Candy Crush versions they never look at anymore. Do it on your devices too!
4. Reward disconnection with connection
When you start to see improvement, comment on it and reward it. “I noticed you have been chatting to us at dinner so much more than before. I’m loving your company. How about we go look at that new hoodie you were telling me about/go to Rush/make your favourite spagbol”.
5.Have some fun with it
When next on a family outing, suggest that the first person in the family to respond to a ping, a beep, a snap has to make dinner, buy everyone a colddrink, wash the dishes for three days…but here’s the rub: be the first to fall on your sword and then live out the consequence. Next round you will get full buy-in!
FOR A DEEPER DIVE:
And then, let the KLIKD App do the talking – The Klikd App has a whole module called “Me? An Addict?” on helping our kids to manage the never-ending pull of their digital devices. In fun interactive videos, real teen interviews we explain in teen language why we are ALL addicted to our devices and get our screenagers to think about ways they can re-set their own tech-life balance. They even need to write a breakup letter to their smartphone! It begins with “Dear Smartphone, Its not ME, It’s YOU!”
For families the app comes with parent scripts and tools to chat to your kids about their online world and for schools – it comes with a full Digital Citizenship Curriculum to use in LO classes. Get in touch if you would like to book a demo of the Klikd App for your school.
Above all, choose your battles
Sarah and Pam