On Building Smart Culture for Using Smart-Phone
It is “easier said than done” on reducing screen time. Implementation fails. Reason? The person, who wants to reduce screen time, does not know how to reduce it.
Parents want to regulate and discipline the mobile use of children. So many articles are being churned out with repertoires of tips and routines which promise to curb appetite for screen time. Parents refer to them. But, do they help? Of course, they help somebody. They help somebody who has some serious goals or passions to follow. They help somebody who takes seriously the adverse effects of spending too much time in front of the screen, somebody who is health conscious and wants to preserve the quality of their intellectual, physical, and emotional life. But what about an adolescent?Health consciousness, serious goals, passions, etc are yet to take shape in the life of an adolescent. He is yet to amass the necessary cognitive stamina to focus on a goal for a better future. The regions of his brain which regulate goal-directed behavior and rational/judgmental thinking---cortical regions-- are yet to develop. His cortical regions will not mature until he reaches 20 years. His brain is regulated by the functions of limbic brain regions— which process any incoming information for its emotional content and not for rational significance. He can react only emotionally to his impulses and cravings. He is pre-programmed to gravitate towards and absorbed by all that is capable of squirting dopamine in the pleasure centers of his brain. In other words, a state of addiction is unavoidable when your adolescent comes to know that there are ample applications in the mobile capable of feeding his brain’s craving for pleasure and excitement. Never blame your adolescent. We cannot snatch it away from the adolescent. Also, even if parents are setting a good example for their smartphone use, it need not have an impact on adolescents' tech behavior. The social learning theory of Bandura seems to be not working here. Because the “rewarding” experience an adolescent derives from the applications of smartphones is intermittent and extremely compelling. All the psychological needs of adolescents can have at least a vicarious satisfaction when there is a smartphone within his reach. Youth’s need for love, relationship, novelty, socialization, sexual stimulation, adventure, entertainment --all can be readily satisfied with simple-soft-smart-touches on their screens. It will not be a hyperbole if we say applications in the mobile exploit their physiological and psychological drives. That much powerful it is.
A wicked problem
Teachers and parents nod their heads in agreement when we mention about building a culture of relating to the smart-phone so that the device will not end up controlling the adolescent. But they don't know how to actualize it. In this era of technology revolution and knowledge explosion what should be the "contours" and "contents" of the culture which will promise rational use of the smartphone by youngsters? This seems to be a "wicked problem". A wicked problem is "a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. It refers to an idea or problem that cannot be fixed, where there is no single solution to the problem; and "wicked" denotes resistance to resolution, rather than evil" Introducing detoxifying schedules into family rules is one of the effective ways. But it needs to be strictly observed and there must be a consensus among the family members about the importance of it. And the duration of detoxification must be strong enough to combat the compulsiveness of young brains.
Usually, the parents are too late when they realize that child has been initiated into a state called "mobile addiction", thanks to the invisible nature of this addiction. It works clandestinely. When parents begin to intervene the tangles and nooks might have become beyond the usual means of disentangling. Withdrawal symptoms may clash with parent's strict disciplinary movements and the quality of parent-adolescent relationships may stagger. Moreover, when the boy/girl is in adolescence parents can not move beyond a certain point as the need to establish functional autonomy is so ferocious and blind in adolescence. So, many parents feel helpless and painfully witness how technology curtails the growth and development of their children into competent, responsible adults.Research is yet to make a satisfactory breakthrough into the conundrum "what makes people addicted to mobile?”. The best explanation given by neuroscience is incomplete when it comes to the question of how to enhance "inhibitory skills" of human brain mechanisms to beat compulsion. It is still an open question. Neuroscience is best at explaining what happens when you get addicted. But to answer the “why”s and “how”s of prevention, cure, and relapse, neuroscience has to seek the assistance of behavioral, cognitive sciences. Hence psychological research is imperative into the query “How we can develop a culture where our growing student community is not drawn into a state called addiction?”
We need to think of...
We have laws to curb alcoholism, pornography, etc. Why can't we craft some laws around this gadget? Can’t we design a version of this gadget exclusively for the student population (below 18 years) and strictly prohibit using the adult version of it inside the campus? Personalizing the mobile for academic purposes in which there are restrictions for applications that are high in their potency for generating addictive tendencies in youngsters, isn’t it possible? We sensor newspapers, films, and TV contents based on some pre-determined standards. What about building a reliable tool for measuring the addictive potential of apps that are being released in the digital market and grade them according to the strength of their addictive content? Think of what will happen if we ban the use of social media apps inside the campus, what will happen? Real face to face communication will increase; students will get a better opportunity for building social skills. They will know how to blend virtual and real relations in the right proportion. We can save humanity from falling into a state of “virtually connected social beings” who shy away from real life connections. We need to think of developing a culture of relating to technology in a healthy way. Or our youth may drown in the virtual world.