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Addicted to smartphones

My husband is addicted to the mobile phone. My toddler is worse. When our jobs and housework kept us busy, we began giving our child the phone to distract him. I resent my husband’s constant checks for ‘work mails’ and now my little son is glued too. Help me.

Smartphone addicts constantly feel the pressing need to use their mobile devices all the time. The fear and anxiety of being cut off can lead to a serious disorder that psychologists call ‘Nomophobia’ – an abbreviation for ‘no-mobile phone phobia’.

Research indicates that a whopping 93 percent of little children have access to smart phones/tablets and 66 percent have their own device. Tots love the colour, the entertainment and the music at their fingertips.

Teens and adults join sites, social media, or other messaging groups to receive tribe acceptance by way of likes, comments, messages. So they check the cell phone again and again – to get entertained and to feel rewarded.

It conveys the wrong message to anyone watching, especially to a pained spouse – ‘Phubbing’ is not merely rude, it signals that whatever is happening on the phone is more important and worthy of attention than the person in front of them. He’s spending more time on texting, or social media instead of paying attention to you.

If you check work messages while on a date with your wife, you’re bound to get an eye roll. Or your wife could be playing Candy Crush while you have settled in for a family movie. When this happens regularly between two people in a relationship – when one person is frequently tuned out – arguments ensue.

Some telltale signs according to mental health experts: checking the smartphone, first thing after waking up and whenever there is free time, feeling agitated whenever the phone is out of sight, texting even while driving or talking to someone or during meals, sleep disorders or insomnia. Let’s dig a little deeper into the causes. Many of us sleep with our phones on our night stands, pocket them as we go from room to room and think nothing of using them in the presence of our partners, whether they are talking or snuggling or reading beside us.

The Word says, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:43-48)

Experts say that smartphone use is meddling in our marriages in ways that are often frustrating, causing quarrels and forcing couples to address an important question: At what point are we choosing to spend more time with our smartphones than with our loved ones? Couples work hard all day, come home and sit together glued to their respective mobiles, without conversation.

The first step would be to talk it out in prayer. Lack of communication in a marriage or  friendship, often leads to their ruin. If you want to treat cell phone addiction of your husband, then try loving face to face communication. Open communication means, “We can’t keep doing this. We need conversation and intimacy to keep this family going”.  THAT is possible with God as the centre of your family. And stay committed – “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”. (Ephesians 6:10)

Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If you went around doing whatever you thought you could get by with, you’d be a slave to your whims. ““I have the right to do anything” you say—but not everything is beneficial”, says 1 Corinthians 6:12. Internet addictions can take away from sleep, ministry, work, family life and friendships. Address those by setting and following sleep times, switching off mobiles devices for hours every evening and bringing no devices into the dinner table or the bedroom. Engage in a bit of a screen time for work and then set aside all devices.

Couples then need to enforce the no-smartphone rule to their children. Set a usage time to prevent children from using a mobile during meals, family discussions, or bedtime. Teens should also follow the no gadget rule and remind the adults whenever they use the phone during the forbidden time. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8) The obsessive idea of staying connected round the clock is a real problem that might require sensible care. Quality time for prayer is a must in every family – individually and as a family.  It can prove to be useful for relaxation and help counter anxiety and stress.

Whenever we get a reward online, dopamine that controls the pleasure centres releases in the brain, making people feel happy and they desire more. It also causes a quick message check to turn into endless Facebook feed scrolling. Hence, reinforce the need to socialise WITHOUT devices. Texting friends is the modern way of telling stories around the dining table. Have plenty of non-tech interactive play and socialising experiences with your family, like reading books, picnicking, playing outdoor games, getting fitness training, playing board games, doing puzzles or even cooking together.

If your child is tiny, arrange play dates for your child to encourage face-to-face social interaction with peers. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21) Consider a tech “fast” for your child. Gradually remove tech devices and replace them with activities like board games, reading, swimming, bicycling, a family camping trip, etc. Keep your child away from tech devices for two or three weeks. You will notice the difference in their behaviour.

“On six days do all your work, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of compete rest, holy to God.” (Exodus 35:2) Family time in the evening or at the weekend should be smartphone-free. Observe a Sabbath day, by turning off, tuning out and unplugging once a week, for family worship and family time.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) Amen to that!

We answer your questions about faith, marriage, relationships, parenting, emotional issues, financial crisis or any spiritual struggle here. Have a counselling query? Ask us here, via email: [email protected]


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