June 13, 2008

How Addicting Are Cell Phones?

This you have to read! A 12 and 13 year old were both admitted by their parents to a psychiatric hospital in Spain for "cell phone addiction". According to the BBC article,

"They were doing badly at school and lying to relatives in order to get money to spend on their phones. They were not just doing "badly" in school, by the way, they were actually failing.

They have been learning to cope without their phones for three months."

Heavy stuff - the lying to get money and the very long duration of the admission.

Dr Jose Martinez-Raga, an addiction medicine specialist, advised looking for similar symptoms as with video game addiction:

  • irritability
  • anti-social, or withdrawn behavior
  • poor school performance
We don't usually ask about cell phone use in our office visits but we often see the evidence in hand. Perhaps that is our foot in the door. Perhaps all it takes is asking the kid "do you use a cell phone?" and then asking the parent "So, how are things in school and home?" and going from there. Simple questions that may not add much more time to our plate if we do it right.

I don't know what the right answer is or the right approach but I do think this story is an eye opener.

What would you do to dig into this deeper?