City introduces teenage mobile phone curfew

Antisocial mobility: Are tablets and phones actually limiting our ability to communicate?

A Japanese city is so concerned that its youngsters are smartphone addicts that it has proposed a 9pm curfew. Many are worried by our digital dependency, but are the fears overblown?

Concerns are growing about a terrifying new epidemic blighting the lives of teenagers around the world: tablet addiction. The Japanese city of Kariya believes it is such a big problem that it must act to protect its youths, and from next month it will introduce a 9pm curfew on mobile devices for schoolchildren aged between six and 15.

The city is worried that children are spending unhealthy amounts of time glued to mobiles and tablets after the government found that 10 to 17-year-olds are spending an average of 107.4 minutes a day on their phones. Almost half of them spend at least two hours a day online. And while parents will not be punished if they do not enforce the ban, it has the support of all the city’s schools.

The government of neighbouring South Korea also believes it has a problem and thinks one in four teenagers is a smartphone addict. It has even set up a counselling programme to aid these mobile junkies, with some schools trialling an app which allows teachers to remotely shut down smartphones in class.

Waves of panic have followed almost every advance in entertainment technology since the 1950s, when television started to become ubiquitous in the West. Psychologists fretted that TV limited children’s brain activity, and although most subsequent research shows it can be as stimulating as reading, old fears have stuck. Video games in the 80s caused similar worries.

Yet many think our mobile addiction is more pernicious. A US study found four out of five teenagers sleep with their phones under their pillows because they feel pressure to be available at all times. And many suffer from anxiety about missing messages or lose valuable sleep answering late night messages. A University of Chicago study even found that alcohol and tobacco are less addictive than Facebook.

However, few people would support an outright ban on teenagers using mobile technology. Tablets open up new avenues of learning, such as language lessons over Skype, lectures recorded as Podcasts, and making it easier to share materials. Cheap mobile devices are even aiding literacy in places like Africa and Afghanistan. Can a balance be found?

Tablet abuse

Some British MPs have called on parents to follow Kiraya’s lead and take away their children’s phones; a Manchester school which banned them reports improved student concentration. While technology aids education, many argue, moderation is key and it should be enforced.

Others reply that teenagers simply have a different relationship with technology which older generations do not understand. Mobiles and the internet provide teens with some much needed space to communicate and stay connected, and parents should respect that.

You Decide

  1. Do mobiles aid learning or are they more of a distraction?
  2. Should teenagers’ access to mobiles, tablets and smartphones be limited?

Activities

  1. Conduct a survey of your class and see how many would be willing to go without mobile phones or the internet for a day. Would anyone do it for a week?
  2. Write a letter to your headmaster arguing why your school should or should not ban mobile phones.

Some People Say...

“Smartphones and tablets should bring us closer together; instead, they’re driving us apart.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Am I a mobile addict?
If you become anxious when you cannot check social media, fear a weekend away without a phone and compulsively need to check Facebook or your email, then you may well be! Many people who worry they have become too reliant on technology undergo a ‘digital detox’ and abstain from social media for a certain period, if only to see if they can do it.
Don’t the Japanese love technology?
From robot maids to video games, the Japanese are well known for being pioneers of the digital age. But the government also believes half a million students are ‘addicted’ to the net. Psychologists say many younger people are struggling to read human expressions, because face to face communication has become so rare; they feel the country has to make an effort to change.

Word Watch

Addict
Spending more than seven hours a day on electronic devices and then experiencing anxiety if they become unavailable.
Video games
Games can also be highly beneficial in real life. Some studies have even concluded that gaming helps surgeons develop the co-ordination and muscles that are so vital to perform successful operations.
Study
It found many users feel restless and troubled if they cannot access Facebook and that their work is being disrupted by their overreliance on the site.
Afghanistan
In order to counteract decades of restrictions on womens’ education, the Afghan government began a programme which involved issuing a special phone called Ustad Mobile to female students. It allows them to study language through audio and video lessons.

Subjects

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