Why do teenagers want smartphones

The issue of smartphone

The smartphone is a revolutionary and helpful invention: Who would want to do without mobile access to e-mails and the Internet today? Thanks to our cell phones, we are virtually networked with one another and feel connected to one another worldwide. So far so good. If it weren't for the problems that the smartphone sometimes brings with it.

Risks and side effects: which problems smartphones (can) cause

1. Lack of leisure and periods of rest in everyday life

The smartphone overwhelms us and our teenagers with a flood of images and information that can hardly be processed. The cell phone always makes tinkling or vibrating noises and constantly demands our attention. It could be that you miss an important message ...

The consequences: There is hardly any idle time; Leisure time for relaxation and self-reflection hardly occur in everyday life. The cell phone becomes a burden rather than a relief. That in turn brings stress, hectic rush and anger in everyday life. And often arguments with the partner or within the family.

2. Lack of presence and divided attention in interpersonal contact

The internet-enabled mobile phone almost forces us to be constantly available: According to a study that was carried out on around 60,000 people with the help of an installed app (“Menthal”), a smartphone owner switches his screen on an average of 88 times (!) A day. He spends about 2.5 hours on his cell phone, of which he only talks 7 minutes. For teenagers, the average time they spend on their smartphones is likely to be even higher.

The consequences: It is sometimes difficult for (especially young) smartphone owners to be really present for the other person who is present. Anyone who picks up their smartphone in the middle of a conversation and just checks their chats signals to the other in a more or less clear way: "You are not that important right now, I only give you half of my attention." This is especially in partnerships and families are often a problem because the other understandably feels neglected and neglected.

3. Continuous fun and carelessness in dealing with yourself

With its diverse games, apps, streaming services, downloads, films, music videos, etc., the smartphone constantly invites us to be entertained: According to the above survey by "Menthal" on Facebook, WhatsApp, users spend the majority of their time on their mobile phones and with games.

The consequences: The possibility of distraction is very seductive and ensures that we and our children often no longer really feel ourselves. Uncomfortable feelings are quickly faded out when the teen watches funny Snapchats or plays another round of Pokémon Go. As a result, however, he also misses out important information that his body or psyche wants to send him. Because anger, anger and sadness are also justified and want to be felt and processed instead of just being suppressed. Problems are often not recognized and dealt with too late or not at all, which can have long-term consequences (such as later depression).

More than a phone: what a smartphone means to teenagers

For a teenager, a smartphone is not just a versatile, colorful and varied digital toy or a fast means of communication. For him, the cell phone is an important medium for virtually networking with people of the same age, being able to “keep up”, “being there” and belonging. Massive peer pressure can hardly be overlooked here. Anyone who does not have an internet-enabled cell phone misses important information from the class chat and can no longer have a say in normal gossip. In addition, teenagers also use smartphones to detach themselves from their parents and to become more self-determined. A smartphone is not only a status symbol, but also a sign of growing up, a trophy of increasing independence. That, too, is a reason to accept the teenager's smartphone as an important part of life. However, you should pay attention to a few aspects in your daily use (see below).

Prohibit, allow, control? How to deal confidently with the subject of "smartphones"

Parents of teenagers are constantly challenged to make important decisions, such as:

  • At what age does my child get a smartphone?
  • Can it have a flat rate? If so, how many megabytes of data?
  • Should I allow him WhatsApp / Snapchat / Instagram / Facebook / YouTube? If so, from what age?
  • Should I control what my child is up to on social media channels? Or just have confidence that nothing bad is going to happen?
  • What time rules should I set up for Internet use?
  • Should I install a child safety device or not?
  • Should I make the use of the mobile phone subject to certain conditions? Etc.

There are no definitive answers or guidelines for all of these complicated questions. Every family has to find their own way here. However, keep in mind:

  • Your child is growing up in the digital age and has to learn to use digital media. A complete ban on mobile phones or a strict restriction on the use of mobile phones is not helpful for a young person! It is just as unhelpful to link the use of the cell phone to certain services at school. Not only does this make little sense, it also inevitably leads to constant power struggles between you and your child. It is better to agree on a few, but strictly binding, rules (see below).
  • The idea that you can completely control your child and their activities on their smartphone and / or the Internet is a misconception. As soon as your child has given their smartphone a PIN, it becomes problematic. Incidentally, your child naturally also has a right to a certain amount of privacy. It doesn't work without a few parental guidelines, binding agreements and trust!
  • Trust that your child will learn how to use smartphones, tablets and the like. Even if it goes wrong now and then, you don't need to worry. Cell phone use usually returns to normal when teens are out of their wildest phase. So don't make a huge drama about the topic of mobile phones unnecessarily: the more your child can piss you off with it, the more likely it will be to use the smartphone as leverage or as a provocation. The less pressure you build up, the less stress you will have in the family about it. Of course, it doesn't work entirely without rules.

7 rules to keep in mind if your child has a smartphone

1. The younger your child is, the more often and for longer they should put the mobile phone aside and switch it off or mute it. If it doesn't do it by itself, then by all means make an agreement mandatory cell phone breaksso that your child can relax. If your child does not stick to these digital-free times, collect the cell phone temporarily.

2. Inquire about digital trends, security gaps in popular programs, etc. in the current media., so that you are up to date on this. Let your child know if you have heard of certain viruses, Trojans or other dangers and warn your child in good time. In this way you not only protect yourself and your child, but also stay in contact with them in this regard. You can also find out more about what your child is doing online.

3. Get permission before your child downloads an app. If your child does not comply with them and has downloaded apps without your consent, consider whether and what the consequences are. Remember that the consequences should be meaningful and realistic. For example, it is difficult and sometimes pointless to take the teenager's cell phone away if he can log back into Facebook anyway, e.g. via a friend's PC or smartphone. Check out your kid's apps every now and then, see if you think they are problematic. As a rule, however, the free games offered are harmless and suitable for minors.

4. Occasionally ask what's going on in class or other chats. Show yourself interested, not controlling. Also ask your child from time to time whether everyone is fairly friendly in the chat and talk to him about the fact that you have to be just as polite and friendly in the virtual world as in "real life" .

5. While eating together, smartphones, tablets, notebooks etc. have no place on the table. As a consequence, the morning newspaper shouldn't have a place on the breakfast table, and of course the TV shouldn't be on either. Important: These rules should apply equally to all family members.

6. Make sure that your child turns off their cell phone and puts it away in the eveningso that it can not surf secretly for hours or be disturbed by incoming messages in its night's sleep. If your child repeatedly fails to keep this appointment, collect the cell phone overnight.

7. Be a good role model! Put your smartphone aside as often as possible, don't answer the phone while you eat or talk to each other. Then, over time, your child will also learn to be considerate and polite accordingly.

Dependency: is my child addicted to smartphones?

If your child spends an extremely long time on their smartphone, you may be concerned about whether your child could be addicted to cell phones. Here, however, experts often give the all-clear. Admittedly, the smartphone exerts a strong fascination on young people, but very few of them become really pathologically dependent, i.e. addicted.

There are four criteria that characterize a mobile phone addiction:

  1. The cell phone addict feels an extremely strong desire to perform an action on the smartphone, such as going online or playing a game on the cell phone.
  2. The addict loses control of himself. He neglects school, his friends, food, clothes etc. in favor of mobile phone addiction.
  3. Over time, the cell phone addict has to keep increasing the amount of Internet or gaming dose on the cell phone or pursue his addictive behavior longer and more frequently.
  4. Withdrawal symptoms occur when the addicted teenager does not have a cell phone: they become extremely restless, depressed, aggressive or anxious.

Researchers in the USA speak of the “Mobile and Internet Dependency Syndrome” (MAIDS), but in Germany cell phone addiction is (still?) Not a recognized disorder.

My advice: An addiction only arises if your teenager has a certain psychological disposition and additional stressors are added. So the smartphone alone is not to blame if your child develops signs of addiction. If you suspect that your child may be addicted to mobile phones, you should seek professional support, e.g. at a youth counseling and addiction counseling service in your area. You can find a self-test for possible cell phone addiction in our download area at www.elternwissen.com/elternwissen-service / gratis-downloads.html and as an enclosed checklist for your child!