Nomophobia And Technoference

Are technoloically addicted parents to blame for their children’s poor behaviour?

Some of the most exciting objects we have at our disposal are computers and technology but they can be problematic when they get addictive.

Associate professor in the School of Information Technology (IT) at Illinois State University, Ronnie Jia, defines technology addiction as…

….a condition where one develops a psychological dependency on technology use. It is often manifested as excessive use, obsessive thoughts about use, and withdrawal symptoms without use. There is Internet addiction, online gambling addiction, etc.

And we see this all the time – parents are constantly checking their smartphones, always in contact with them but not with their children. It’s not unusual now to see parents glued to their phones with their children a few steps behind them.

Heavy parent digital technology is a huge problem and when everyday life is interrupted this leads to what MacDaniel and Radesky (2018) call “technoference”.

They researched almost 200 families and found that children whose parents were phone addicted were significantly more likely to have behavioural problems.

The study found half of parents reported that their use of technology disrupted interactions with their child three or more times a day. Behavioural problems in children were linked to these disruptions, but interestingly, only for mother-child relationships, not for fathers. The researchers suggest this could be because in the sample, children spent more time with their mothers, so the number of “technoferences” were greater, but the true reason is unknown.

So should we be asking parents to buy dumb phones instead?

The study does grab our attention and there is some truth in it but we need to be cautious.

According to the Modality Partnership, “there are some important things to consider about this research:

  • The participants were almost all white, had a high level of education and were from the US. Therefore the findings might not be relevant to other populations.
  • The survey involved self-reporting, which may be subject to bias. For example, parents may under- or over-estimate their use of digital technology or might be unwilling to honestly answer questions about their child’s behaviour if they fear it would cast them in a bad light.
  • As it was cross-sectional, it only provides a snapshot of parenting and child behaviours, which might change over time.
  • Only children under the age of five were included. Technoference might have different effects on behavioural outcomes in older children – for example, it might encourage use of technology in a positive way. Further research would be needed to determine if outcomes are positive or negative.

Are you a nomophobic?

Nomophobia is a fear of being without your mobile phone.

Iowa State University researchers Caglar Yildirim and Ana-Paula Correia have developed a questionnaire to help you determine if you suffer from nomophobia.

Answer the questions below to see if you are nomophobic and suffer from phone separation anxiety.

Nomophobia Questionnaire  

Respond to the following statements on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).

  1. I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.
  2. I would be annoyed if I could not look information up on my smartphone when I wanted to do so.
  3. Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous.
  4. I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so.
  5. Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me.
  6. If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.
  7. If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network.
  8. If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.
  9. If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.

If I did not have my smartphone with me:

  1. I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends.
  2. I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.
  3. I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls.
  4. I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends.
  5. I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me.
  6. I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken.
  7. I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity.
  8. I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.
  9. I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks.
  10. I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages.
  11. I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.

Total scores are calculated by adding the responses to each item.

The higher scores corresponded to greater nomophobia severity.

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