Although not yet in the Cambridge dictionary, Nomophobia is the term being given to the anxiety sufferers feel when they are unable to use their mobile phones. A recent study by UK based firm SecurEnvoy claimed that 66% of mobile owners are hooked on checking their devices for alerts and updates. They go on to warn that this addiction is leading to a decline in the ability to engage in face-to-face conversations.
This addictive behavior can also lead to problems of withdrawal, which in turn could cause problems in the classroom. Students could show a lack of interest, become distracted and indeed become disruptive without the comfort of their mobile phone.
While this appears to be a growing phenomenon, advice on this specific problem is in short supply. Until there is greater understanding about ways to help, sufferers should perhaps be given the same consideration as they would with any other addiction.
In the classroom this will present a particular challenge, not least in first identifying that a student may actually be an addict. If a student is addicted to their mobile phone, they may struggle to engage in the classroom. However, it would not be practical to allow them to continue to use it during teaching time.
Perhaps until further evidence and advice becomes available it may be necessary to take a few steps back and try to prevent this addiction becoming a problem. Teaching students about responsible and reasonable use of mobiles, setting time limits for use, switching the phone off at night etc, may also help those who are finding themselves becoming more and more attached to their phone.
A site which teachers and students might find helpful is www.stem4.org.uk/addiction/
Related news stories:
The Telegraph - Twitter and Facebook 'addicts' suffer withdrawal symptoms
"Facebook and Twitter users suffered withdrawal symptoms when forced to go cold turkey as part of a scientific study into the addictiveness of social media, academics have found."
The National - Addicted to IT? You have nomophobia and could be damaging your health
"The urge to log onto to social networking sites or constantly check email can be a stronger compulsion than the desire to take drugs or drink alcohol."