Nomophobia in Teenagers
Nomophobia is a new term used to describe a modern phenomenon. It refers to the irrational fear that many young people feel when they don’t have access to their phone or the internet.
Although teens are most likely to suffer from this affliction, nobody is immune. After all, in today’s world all of us are hyper-connected.
This is undeniably a worrying issue. Experts are working to develop therapies to combat this behavior, which may have serious consequences for mental health.
How to recognize nomophobia
Are you the parent of a teen who cannot stop looking at their phone, is anxious about being separated from their device and is constantly on social media? If so, it is very likely that your child is suffering from nomophobia.
The age group most at risk for this phobia is around 12 to 23 years of age.
This generation was born into a world where mobile devices were already ubiquitous, and simply cannot picture life without a cellphone.
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to this phobia. Many see their phone as an extension of their personality.
They are obsessed with battery levels, and become nervous at the mere suggestion of not being able to use their mobile phone.
Symptoms of nomophobia in teenagers
Parents should pay attention to certain patterns of behavior and offer guidance to their teenage children if nomophobia becomes a problem.
To do this, they must be able to recognize the symptoms that indicate their teen’s cellphone use may have gone above and beyond the normal level:
- They become frustrated and even desperate if a parent limits their cellphone use as a punishment.
- Teens with nomophobia may get angry when the mobile signal or Wi-Fi connection fails.
- Out of control behavior when faced with an empty battery or a lack of charging points.
- They check their phone compulsively for messages, social media notifications or calls.
- They don’t switch off their phone to sleep, or sleep with the device next to them.
- These teens aren’t able to enjoy their leisure time without their cellphone close at hand.
Who is most at risk?
Academics believe that up to 70% of young people are addicted to their mobile devices.
Nomophobia tends to occur during teenage years. At this stage, young people seek acceptance from social groups and want nothing more than to feel like they belong.
Experts say that girls and young women have higher rates of nomophobia than boys and men.
The reason for this seems to be that teenage girls form strong links with their friends over the phone.
Young women also have a strong need to receive affection. All of this can put them more at risk of mobile addiction.
The dangers of nomophobia
Nomophobia in teenagers gives mobile devices a central role in life.
Psychologists warn that this can lead to young people developing what are known as liquid relationships. Young people express themselves solely through messages and emojis.
In terms of human interaction, these kinds of messages are a poor substitute for face-to-face contact.
Being dependent on a mobile device makes it far more difficult for these young people to relate to others in person.
Consequences of mobile dependency
An out-of-control fear of being separated from a mobile device can expose teenagers to:
- A mobile addiction which is difficult to control.
- Insomnia, as constantly checking a phone for messages and notifications disturbs normal sleep patterns.
- A state of permanent anxiety.
- Low school performance.
- Impact on self-esteem.
- All activities outside of the mobile device may seem boring.
- Young people develop problems socializing and maintaining relationships.
5 tips for dealing with nomophobia
Although speaking to a specialist is the best option in these circumstances, parents and children can work together to address mobile dependency:
- Stay away from the phone when you’re around the house. Try leaving it in another room.
- Switch your phone off at night, and leave it outside the bedroom.
- Try going out for a little while without your phone. This way, you’ll get used to not always having it with you.
- Delete any apps from your phone that demand constant attention. This could include mobile games or addictive social networks.
- Switch to a more restricted data plan to force you to use your phone less.
- If any of these is difficult, you can turn to an application for help. There are apps designed to encourage you to stay focused on tasks without using your phone. For example, one app makes a tree grow when you don’t use your phone for 15, 30, 60 minutes or more. The more trees in your virtual garden, the better, of course.
Nomophobia is a technological affliction. The good news is that it is possible to cure.
With dedication, patience and willpower, teens can overcome their mobile addiction before it becomes a serious problem.
Healthcare professionals are able to recommend specific therapies to modify behavior and successfully combat this form of anxiety disorder.
Technology is a wonderful tool, but it is up to us to make good use of it. This means not letting it take over our lives and avoiding becoming dependent.