Belfast Telegraph

Why we must call time on our addiction to smartphones

Parents should give the lead to youngsters, says Abi Jackson

We've probably all grumbled, or joked - or let out one of those exaggerated holier-than-thou sighs - about people being glued to their smartphones, or constantly on social media. (It's the ones that keep checking phones at the dinner table, right? No, actually, those constant cryptic 'somebody's wronged me, but I can't possibly say who' status update-posters, jeez!)

But, evidence is increasingly mounting that this is far more than just a case of poor table manners, or the modern-world tech-enhanced version: over-sharing.

Internet addiction is real - which means it needs to be treated as such.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently published findings from its survey of 540,000 15-year-old school children from around the world.

It turns out, British youngsters spend more time online than most of the other countries included in the research (even more than their Chinese and American peers), averaging 188 minutes per day, outside of school time, on the web.

This major global study, however, also found that youngsters who spend most time online, tended to be the least happy. Correlations also cropped up between things like girls skipping meals and increased pressures from social media.

Dr Richard Graham, who opened the UK's first technology addiction clinic at Nightingale Hospital, says in response: "Looking at these findings, it's clear that it's more important than ever for parents and carers to understand technology addiction within children and teenagers."

Tackling web addiction isn't black and white, of course. Just like you can't tell somebody battling bulimia to simply stop eating, just going cold turkey forever more with technology isn't often a viable option. Boundaries and habit-changing techniques can help though.

"It's important to restrict the time children spend using technology, to help prevent them from forming an unhealthy dependence," says Graham.

"It's also about making sure adults leave their phones off, or on silent, during meal times and when with friends and family, as children learn behaviour from their parents."

Deloitte's recent Mobile Consumer survey, which quizzed 4,000 UK mobile users, found one in three UK adults have argued over using their phone too much, with the same amount of people admitting they check their messages at night.

The stats just keep on coming, and it's probably nothing we don't already know, from our own behaviour and that of our friends, family, colleagues and - yes - our children.

Belfast Telegraph