Posted by: ramonamom | October 10, 2009

Cell Phone Addiction?

There was an article on Fox News yesterday about a young man who alleged attacked his parents after they took away his cell phone as punishment for hitting his younger brother.  It would be easy for parents to read this and gasp, thinking something along the lines of, “Wow, what a dysfunctional family that must be!!  A teen reacting that strongly must have a long history of rebellion and trouble with the legal system!”  Parents, please realize that there are some young people who are much more prone to become addicted to having a cell phone (and all that it represents) than others, and it is so important to remain IN your child’s life enough to know for certain if he/she is developing such an addiction.

So, what is the big deal about cell phones?  Why do some kids become addicted to them while others can take them or leave them without a second thought?  In order to understand this, you must first understand that it is not the cell phone itself that is the problem, but what it represents.  Have you ever really watched a young person with a cell phone for long?   If  not, try it sometime.  See how long they go without receiving or sending a text message.  For many of them, a five minute gap without communication is rare and, in fact, reason to begin wondering if everyone in the world is mad at them.  Seriously.  But, is this a real problem or just a phase they are going through?  Can an extreme reaction such as the one described in the above article be predicted?

In order to answer these questions, we must first understand what a cell phone may represent to a young person.  {Important caveat: This does not apply to ALL teens who use cell phones!  The point is to consider whether your teen is susceptible to such thought patterns or not.} It is their connection to what they consider the “real world”.  You know, the world with no rules, people who like them for who they are and just like to have fun (particularly the type of  fun they enjoy), people who make no demands of them, the world where the most important thing is what your friends think of you, what guy likes what girl, what he said, what she said, ya da, ya da, ya da…  That, parents, may truly be the “real world” for your teen.

Consider for a moment a Christian adolescent, as they begin the often scary journey into the teen years.  They are inundated with new feelings, a different body, changing friends, and things that just don’t make sense to them anymore.  It is not uncommon for them to begin to question beliefs they have held since placing their faith in Christ as they find themselves immersed in this new universe.  Given a cell phone and texting capabilities (a.k.a., instant and continual communication with others who are going through similar challenges, some of whom may not share those basic Christian beliefs), they enter a new world where it is possible for them to receive input each and every moment from others who may be just as confused as they are.   Indeed, their brains are being bathed with gossip rather than godly wisdom on a continual basis.  Consider the following definition of brain washing from Answers.Com:

  1. Intensive, forcible indoctrination, usually political or religious, aimed at destroying a person’s basic convictions and attitudes and replacing them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs.
  2. The application of a concentrated means of persuasion, such as an advertising campaign or repeated suggestion, in order to develop a specific belief or motivation.

The difference between brainwashing and what these teens experience with texting is based in the intentions; however the end result is often the same.  Although unintentional, the continual communication that comes with cell phones often serves to “destroy our young people’s basic conviction and attitudes, replacing them with alternative, fixed beliefs.”  They begin to lose sight of where God is in their lives and they stop reaching out to Him.  Problems are solved with the help of  friends, via texting keyboards, rather than seeking out counsel from more godly sources.  Tension builds as they become more and more immersed in this teen culture of acronyms and emoticons that are understood by few adults.

Back to the questions, “But, is this a real problem or just a phase they are going through?  Can an extreme reaction such as the one described in the above article be predicted?”  Parents must seek to keep all levels of communication open with their young adults, in order to better discern whether such a habit is a serious problem or a phase for their child.  If such channels are kept open, extreme reactions such as the young man in the article had are more likely to be nipped in the bud.  In fact, the moment a young adult begins to shut down communications with his or her parent, action must be taken.  Waiting to see if the phase passes can be a dangerous choice.  Parents should have open access to a teen’s phone – contacts, received and sent messages, etc – and this should be checked on a regular basis.  Remember that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Prov. 22:15) and bad company ruins good morals (I Corin. 15:33) .   A teen who begins resisting allowing his or her parents such access to this information must be followed closely and observed for signs of rebellion and disobedience.  Any time a parent is flat out refused “permission” to view a cell phone, steps must be taken immediately in order to avoid potentially dangerous problems.   Parents must have the courage to completely remove the privilege of allowing their teen to carry a cell phone.  In a situation where a phone is needed for the purpose of communication, one can be provided that does not have texting capabilities.  Some phones are now available that only have certain numbers that can be dialed, also.

Is your teen/young adult addicted to their cell phone?  Talk to them and find out.  If they refuse to talk to you, be concerned and begin removing phone privileges until you have their full attention.  Do you really think that spiritually edifying conversations are taking place via those keyboards?  When is the last time your teen/young adult said, “Hey Mom, look at this great verse my friend shared with me on my cell?”

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Responses

  1. Ramona,

    This is right on! Thank you for addressing this! I have linked it to my Facebook page.

    Blessings,

    Beth

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I think you are SO RIGHT! 🙂


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