Smartphones are compact computers. With them owners can contact anyone at any time through calling, texting, and private messaging or posting on social media. They enable online search just as any other computer. That is a lot of power at someone’s fingertips, especially for an adolescent who’s beginning to test the limits of growing independence.
Perhaps it was with that in mind that a mom gave her then 13-year-old son a new iPhone but also gave him a contract, a set of rules to follow if he wanted to keep it. This story may be from 2012, but it’s still a good illustration of so many things – internet addiction, smartphone use, responsibility, common sense, social etiquette, and life lessons.
In 18 points, the mother succinctly addresses everything about having access to such a powerful piece of technology beginning with who actually own the phone (she does).
Adolescents, the Internet, & Smartphones
Cyber-bullying, pornography addiction, internet addiction. It’s quite a varied list, but each has been aided by the internet and smartphones just as much as face-to-face interaction and communications have been hampered.
“7. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
9. …Censor yourself.”
It seems like common sense to not text things you wouldn’t normally say in front of that person or someone’s parents. However, that’s exactly what people do – adults and teens alike. This hits right at one of the issues of the internet: the power of anonymity. Even if using your own account, you feel much more empowered to say things to someone else because distance creates an invisible wall that “protects” you. So-called Twitter wars ensue, or comment threads quickly deteriorate as people “trash” or pick on each other.
She also cautions against sending certain private photos. “12. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you.”
“14. Leave your phone home sometimes… It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than…fear of missing out.”
A sign of internet addiction is emotional attachment to technology. Adolescents today have no reference for daily life without a cell phone, so it’s about actively learning to be without it. With internet addiction, people also lose touch with the people and activity around them. Saying, “[#13] Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos… Live your experiences,” this mom takes a shot at social media and the obsession surrounding it. While she doesn’t mention online gaming, it still fits; the virtual world will never replace reality. “17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you.”
Wilderness Therapy: When the Internet Takes Over
Most people rely on and enjoy technology. That’s OK. For some, the internet becomes a crutch or comfort laying the groundwork for addiction. Research indicates internet addiction is the result of other factors, such as depression. To overcome the grasp of technology, the underlying issues must be resolved. Some adolescents or young adults may find the best help comes through a wilderness therapy program like Pacific Quest.
Pacific Quest’s therapeutic model is based on personalized clinical care with a holistic approach. Each student’s needs are assessed then addressed during individual and topic-specific group therapy time. The underlying issues for their internet addiction can be discovered, discussed, and worked on to be resolved. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy also includes horticulture therapy, which is a tool for getting students active and learning life skills like goal-setting in a calming community setting. Just as with that teenager’s mom, Pacific Quest’s hope is that they provide lessons and skills that can be carried forward into life beyond the program, so students can be successful for years to come.