Dopamine: A chemical that functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. The brain contains several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behaviour. [Rawhide.Org]
‘Smartphones are essentially the world’s smallest slot machine. It’s very neurologically addicting. When you get a hit – finding something or hearing from someone, you get an elevation of dopamine, and it compels us to keep checking.’ Dr David Greenfield psychologist and founder of the centre for internet & technology addiction.
How would you feel if you left your smartphone at home and had to spend the day without it? Research has uncovered some compelling data about how teens use their smartphones which may also apply to their parents.
According to the Global Digital Citizen Foundation, the average American teenager spends 6.3 hours per day on their smartphone, with 60 per cent admitting they are addicted.
This addiction is so prevalent, that the statistics around it are alarming.
- 68 per cent of teens can’t go one hour without checking their phone
- 1 in 3 teens send 100+ texts a day
- 1 in 5 teens wake up in the middle of the night to check their smartphone
- Teens check their phones 74 times a day (every 19 minutes)
In recent times we have become increasingly dependent on smartphones to help us navigate and organise our daily lives.
But why are teenagers (and some adults) so addicted? Well, it comes down to what experts have coined ‘nomophobia’.
What is ‘Nomophobia’? This term is an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia,” and refers to the fear of being without a mobile phone [or device], as well as the anxiety associated with a sudden loss of network coverage. Running out of battery or credit will elicit the same reaction.
While this is considered a growing problem for teens, many parents can identify with feeling stressed if they are separated from their mobile phone or unable to keep in touch with work colleagues, friends or family.
It reminds us to be more mindful of our own media use and to reflect on whether we are becoming more dependent on our devices than we’d like for a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
Why is mindful media use important?
Mindful media use is important as it allows us to understand how our devices are impacting on our own lives and whether as role models to our children we are sending them the right messages about balanced media usage.
For instance, in a Screenagers post called Hold That Text, the idea of mindful media use is approached by discussing when is the most appropriate time to send a text, or when to hold off. The author of the article Delaney Ruston uses her children, school and the idea of making plans as an example.
She said in her article, “A while back I was more apt to text right away. Given the lenient phone policies of my teens’ schools. Then […] my daughter’s high school changed its policy […] to away-for-the day during class time. I realised I no longer wanted to add to the things [my daughter] would feel she had to think about or respond to.”
‘Hold That Text’, is a timely message to encourage us to be a little more mindful about the way we communicate. This might include: setting strict expectations with yourself about whether/when to reply to incoming messages; restricting the amount of texts you can send your child while they’re at school, and reflecting on whether the message you want to convey could actually be left to another time — perhaps even a face to face conversation.
Putting these small mindful practices in place can even help with mitigating ‘technoference’ — a phenomenon discussed in a previous Family Insights blog post.