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Smartphone addiction spreads to younger set

23 Comments

Cases of Internet addiction severe enough to require medical intervention had previously been most common among youths in their late teens to their early 20s. But Yukan Fuji (Feb 21) reports that due to the growing number of elementary school students owning smartphones, these problems have been cropping up among children from increasingly earlier ages. Some therapists are starting to voice concerns that they may be a growing factor in children's refusal to attend school or health-related problems.

Those determined to be pathologically addicted to a smartphone, personal computer or video game unit may wind up at the National Hospital Organization's Kurihama Medical Addiction Center in Yokosuka City. Seventy to 80% of those seeking therapy at this facility are said to range from middle school to university age.

"More recently, we've been treating more elementary school students," remarked the center's director, Dr Susumu Higuchi. Among the conditions related to addiction are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression.

The Seijo Sumioka Clinic in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward also says more of its young patients have diagnosed with Internet addiction. The 285 it treated in 2013 represented a 3.5-fold increase over the previous six years. The average age of such patients is 17.8 years, with the youngest treated only 10 years old.

Clinic head Dr Takashi Sumioka observes that belonging to an SNS can be a source of anxiety over a perceived need to be in constant contact with other members.

According to data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, in 2013, about one elementary school student in three owned a cell phone, up from around 20% in 2010. In a survey conducted in 2014, those in the 10-19 year age segment were found to spend the most time using their smartphones, for an average of 3 hours, 15 minutes per day on weekends -- the highest usage among all age segments.

Dr Sumioka mentions the case of one patient, a 27-year-old woman, who became addicted to the Internet from the first year of middle school. Except while in the bath or toilet, she constantly played games or chatted. When she stopped attending school she was helped by a sympathetic teacher, but like alcoholism or drugs, it's exceedingly difficult to rid oneself of Internet addiction unless a person first recognizes that he or she has a serious problem.

"We've been getting more consultations by parents who tell us, 'We're worried because our child can't seem to stop poking his or her cell phone,'" says Miki Endo, director of the NGO Angel Eyes, which was set up to deal proactively with such problems as Internet addiction. "They start worrying that the kids are addicted after noticing that their child's vision had become weaker, or that they complained of stiff shoulders, or that the child flew into hysterics when the parent scolded them for using the phone too much.

"One of the things we warn the parents is that a child may observe his or her own parent using a smart phone, such as chatting via the Line application, and then start imitating them, which plays a part in their eventually becoming addicted," Endo told Yukan Fuji.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

23 Comments
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Over addiction to anything is a problem. How exactly is this different?

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Smartphones really have become a problem of very dangerous distraction and over-importance.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

One sure sign of internet addiction — when excessive time spent on the Japan Today comments section causes you to procrastinate to the extent that it starts eating into your income stream. Ugggh.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I think phones should be banned on trains and platforms.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Phones are as addictive as heroin and nearly as insidious. I live near a primary school and can often see kodomo walking home while poking the screens or holding a conversation, completely oblivious to their surroundings. And that remark in the final para really hit home. I was in a restaurant last week and the woman at the adjoining table completely ignored her daughter -- a beautiful child who looked to be around age 9 -- while engaged in a chat with her friend. That sort of neglect is absolutely shameful and I felt like telling her off, but I like the restaurant and as they did nothing to deserve a screaming contest on their premises held my tongue. Soon enough that little girl will have her own phone and mom's role in her upbringing will diminish into insignificance.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

ArtistatLarge: "Smartphones really have become a problem of very dangerous distraction and over-importance."

Everyone says that about technology they don't use and/or don't understand. They say that about the internet (even in this article), for example, and yet here you are.

Sorry, but people blaming smart phones for all of societies problems are like those who blame McDonald's for obesity. I'm sorry, but phones are NOT like 'heroin' any more than manga or paperback books are, or writing in a notebook at cafes or on trains. Walking while staring at cell phones is a problem, as is walking while staring at a map, staring at billboards while walking, looking at a beautiful man woman instead of watching the road, or anything else that involves simply not paying attention to the main thing you are doing, be it walking, working, trying to sleep, etc.

Meanwhile, the number of possible pros for phones and the internet by far outweigh the cons. Seriously, what would people suggest giving these kids to hold in their hands instead of what they are doing now? How would staring at manga be beneficial by comparison if they are whipping those out in class, on the train, while walking, at home at night instead of sleeping, etc.? What's different about an old man reading a book or doing sudoku on the train than a person reading a book or doing sudoku on their cell?

Don't get mad at the technology -- it's a losing battle.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

In the previous century (20th) it was commonly said, "It's all about me." Now, "It's all about me and not about you." It is more important to interrupt conversations, express one's opinion whether it is asked for or not, and close the mind to any opposing opinion. The biggest problem is the person who has no idea of the what and who is in the nearby space on the sidewalk, on the street or in the train. "I am here to tell you .........blah, blah, blah."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ Laptap - 100 % agree with your post. Let me site my own memorable example...A couple of years ago, I was walking/beach combing at a beach here in Kanagawa. At one point, I turned from what I was doing, and there was a little girl, no more than three, right behind me. She was very friendly and talkative, but I was scared because there was nobody else on the beach except for a tiny spec of a woman in the distance, engaged with her phone. The girl could have drowned, been abducted, or any number of things, and the mom wouldn't have had a clue. After several long minutes, the mom started heading our way.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

sensei258: You guys and your 'horror stories' of people using phones. I can counter every single one with the EXACT same thing happening without a phone. Last time I went to the beach in summer guess what I saw: kids playing by themselves, and parents in the distance, sunbathing and not paying attention at all. Not using phones, but still paying no attention as their kids could have drowned, been abducted, or any number of things, and they wouldn't have had a clue. So now, is that a machine's fault?

Laptop warrior: "I was in a restaurant last week and the woman at the adjoining table completely ignored her daughter -- a beautiful child who looked to be around age 9 -- while engaged in a chat with her friend."

Same thing. I saw a woman in a restaurant completely ignoring her daughter while engaged in chatting with her friend -- face to face. The daughter playing around the place, walking up to other people, etc. No phones in their hands. And you know what? Next to them was an old couple, not talking to each other, but both reading books. And one of the staff was walking with food to deliver to a table, and you know what she had the gall to do while walking? look at the receipt to confirm table number and take her eyes off the path in front of her.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

You guys and your 'horror stories' blah blah blah

I am only speaking for that one specific incident. IF something had happened, THEN her cell phone fixation would have been an issue.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Speaking of "younger set", I recently met a young lady with her own smart phone at a local mall the other day. She was texting like there was no tomorrow. I said, "You're really good at texting." She smiled and said, "Thanks." I asked her how old she was, and she told me 12 ! Wow ! To top it off, she was wearing a T-shirt that read " When I grow up, I want to be Barbie, that B---- has everything" ! No sign anywhere of parents.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I am addicted. Help me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sensei258: "IF something had happened, THEN her cell phone fixation would have been an issue."

So, DID anything happen? No? So then you admit the issue is not with cell phones at all, is it? and your horror story about it a non-issue. The only issue with cell phones, in fact, by your own admittance is YOUR issue with them. Glad you can admit it.

Kurobune: "" When I grow up, I want to be Barbie, that B---- has everything"

What does that have to do with anything? I saw an elderly woman with a shirt that had the f-word on it, and a bunch of elementary school kids wearing clothes with the playboy bunny. I see messed up English or bad use of symbols like that all the time. Has nothing to do with cell phones. Oh, and guess what else; I've seen a whole lot of 12-year-olds without parents around, and even kids much younger! What of it? It's a shopping mall, not a dark alley with a 6-year-old on her own.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

smithinjapanFEB. 28, 2016 - 08:21AM JST How exactly is this different?

Smartphones are new technology and therefore scary to people who don't understand them well?

I think I'm broadly in agreement with you, in so far as I don't think it's useful to pretend there is something inherently dangerous about smartphones that causes them to be addictive. That said...

I'm sorry, but phones are NOT like 'heroin' any more than manga or paperback books are, or writing in a notebook at cafes or on trains.

Maybe a better way to say this is that phone ARE like heroin, as are manga and paperback books and sex and self-harm and tobacco and literally any other compulsion humans can become addicted to. It's not what you're addicted to that's the problem, it's the problem in your life that's driving you to addiction. A child doesn't become addicted to their smartphone because the smart phone has some kind of nefarious "chemical hooks" that ensnare them. They get addicted because what they do on the cell phone pleases them, which triggers the release of dopamine (the same dopamine that gets released with any other addiction) and the child compulsively repeats using the phone because something in their lives is missing that would otherwise cause them to moderate their own behavior.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

katsu78: "They get addicted because what they do on the cell phone pleases them, which triggers the release of dopamine (the same dopamine that gets released with any other addiction) and the child compulsively repeats using the phone because something in their lives is missing that would otherwise cause them to moderate their own behaviour."

I don't think we are disagreeing per se, but even if your comparison is true it means that it is not the smart phones or cell phones that are the problem, as they are just a delivery system for the thing the person is the addicted to. A person who loves gaming is going to game, and if phones provide them with easier access, they will use the phones to do it. Same with television; if someone loves and is addicted to television programming, they are going to suddenly be watching it on the train, while walking, or places they could not previously when they did not have the phones. For people to be collectively blaming the phones or other technology for the problem instead of blaming the problem itself and trying to treat it is pure folly -- the next technology will come around and they will just blame that as well.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Many friends of mine play games on their smartphone every spare time they find, however short it is. Even when we are hanging out!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

smithinjapanFEB. 29, 2016 - 10:46AM JST I don't think we are disagreeing per se, but even if your comparison is true it means that it is not the smart phones or cell phones that are the problem, as they are just a delivery system for the thing the person is the addicted to. A person who loves gaming is going to game, and if phones provide them with easier access, they will use the phones to do it

Exactly. Even people who love video games for example put down the controller sometimes and interact with their friends. It's only people who have something serious missing from their lives who become unable to stop themselves. It's not that addicts are weak-willed, it's not that cell phones are somehow more insidiously addictive than other things, it's that people who suffer from problems they don't no how to solve turn to other things for relief, and for some of them eventually pursuit of that relief causes their problems to become worse, causing them to need more relief, and the cycle of addiction is born.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

katsu78: Where there is the opposite problem in regards to cell phones is with people saying since it is a source of addiction (which is wrong, it is merely a means in some cases to deliver), it should be eliminated. That works with drugs, of course, and other sources of addiction in some cases, but with cell phones it does not take into account that the primary function of the tool is, ironically in many cases, communication. It is also a means by which countless things are possible in terms of education, among other things. The idea that phones should be banned here and there because some people cannot control themselves while most can is akin to saying the internet should be banned because some people are addicted to porn or reading right-wing blogs.

THAT is why I say, constantly, that phones cannot rightly be compared to drugs or other silly things, cannot be cited as the source of the problems people above talk about, and should not be considered things to be banned, etc. Seriously, the minute cell phones were banned the people who blame everything on them would literally turn around the find the next thing in the room to blame -- except the things they themselves enjoy doing, of course.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I gave my two boys sketchbooks and colour pencils when we travelled and talked with them. The conversations went who knows where but the PILES of full sketchbooks are still here.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It may not be many people's favorite movie (it is definitely entertaining to me, though), but the scene(s) in Adam Sandler's film Grown Ups, where the kids are "forced" to go outside is a very real issue. Even though the film depicts the issue via video games, I believe it is cellphone addiction these days.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't see the problem. So smartphones replace, what, video games? TV? Talking to friends about the latest gossip or something really trivial?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So then you admit the issue is not with cell phones at all, is it? and your horror story about it a non-issue. The only issue with cell phones, in fact, by your own admittance is YOUR issue with them. Glad you can admit it.

Dang, there you go again. putting words in my mouth then arguing against them. I didn't "admit" anything you accuse me of admitting, but you said I did, so that makes it so doesn't it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When I see my daughters playing around with my smart phone I cant help but think of myself at that age when my Mother came home with a brand new windows PC its the same thing just now its smart phones instead of PC's or console game machines.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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