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Put my phone in a box? Never!

Michelle Wood: Client Manager

This week’s blog post is written by Client Manager Michelle Wood.

“Parents need to put their phones in a box “ MP`s were told by Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England at the recent science and technology committee meeting held at the House of Commons. She suggested that with the current statistics for children’s mental health problems on the rise parents should be showing their children how to monitor social media boundaries. Parents need to take part and model this to the children in the household by putting their phones in a box in the evening as well. We need to show our children and model good practice. There needs to be more family time and discussions in the household. If your phone never gets switched off, you don’t either.

Mobile phone use can become an addiction in an unhealthy negative loop of destruction. Consistent use prompts dopamine release which creates addiction. The addiction manifests with symptoms of feeling irritable, lonely, isolated, anxious, and also separation anxiety. Can you imagine having a panic attack if you do not have your phone?  This seems ludicrous to most of us but this is a reality that is having a devastating effect on our youngsters. Recent research has shown that many young people exhibit signs of stress and have endured heartbeat patterns similar to those who have post traumatic stress disorder when parted from their device.

Some young people will have trouble regulating their emotions or suppress them. They will rely on their mobile phone as a coping mechanism- a distraction- rather than face what they are feeling. Over time it creates a pattern, a negative loop; by using your device as a therapeutic tool of escapism you are vulnerable to more serious mental health issues manifesting out of control. There have been studies that coming off Facebook for one week can boost your happiness and reduce your stress and anxiety.

It is not just young people being affected- it is inclusive. Self reflect and think about your own mobile phone habits. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Has your usage become habitual or even instinctive?
  • Do you wake up and immediately look at your phone, Facebook or any other social media platform?
  • In a 24 hour period how long do you go without your phone?
  • What do you crave from using it?
  • How do you feel when you do not have your phone? Anxious?

Although studies are in early stages and nothing has yet been proved per se; there have been extensive studies by Joel Minden who is a Clinical Psychologist in Behaviour Therapy, California. He does agree that avoidance and escapism can take you away from addressing problems. He has also said that late-night texting and social media activities or web browsing was also linked to a decline in mental health. If you are guilty of using your phone at night and are in this category – STOP. The results are proven; here are the facts:-

The blue light emitted by screens on mobile phones restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.

When I was growing up in the 70’s of course mobile phones were not invented – here goes the old gal! When I went to bed as a child and could not sleep I can remember my mum telling me to count sheep! By the time I got to 100 I had “nodded off”

By going to bed and still engaging in social media or texting activities, that little blue light is tricking your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. This makes it virtually impossible to relax and fall asleep. Our minds need this time to unwind and relax while we sleep.

In a recent study it was found that up to 72% of children aged 6 to 17 had one electronic device in their bedroom at night. This could be a Phone, TV or Computer screen.

However it is not all negative; there is still a place for technology in the classroom. If mobile phones are used to support learning in the correct way they can be a very helpful tool. Students can access tools and apps that help them complete and stay on top of their class work. This can teach students to develop better study habits; like time management and organisation skills. Teaching students how to use technology to communicate and learn will also help them with their careers and develop research skills-  a skill their future employers will be looking for.

Unfortunately as always, there are pros-and cons of allowing mobile phone usage in the classroom. Allowing them in the classroom can mean that students who already find it hard to concentrate will be further sidetracked. Even the most studious of children will struggle not to respond to a text or to be tempted by a social media notification! If a school is going to allow use of digital devices in the classroom then teachers need to have support and training in place.

When we build those positive relationships in the classroom with our students we are creating a positive classroom culture. When students feel a connection with their teacher and a sense of belonging they are more likely to put time and effort into their learning. They have a sense of intrinsic pride in their school and have clear consistent expectation around the rules that fall out of the mouth of every adult in the school setting.

Punitive measures build walls of resentment and recognition of good behaviour builds relationships.

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