Is technology addiction just FOMO?

With colleagues at UCL Institute of Education I have worked with teachers at the City of London School for a few years on individual practitioner enquiries. Below is an edited version of Matt Kerr’s report.

To what extent are CLS boys in the Third Form at risk of exhibiting behaviour consistent with Technology Addiction?

little-boy-mobile-phone-13308223

THE ISSUE

The idea for me to study the notion of Technology Addiction came when the School was about to embark on banning mobile phone use for some year groups. Up until quite recently the School’s approach to mobile phone use was somewhat light touch. Academic year 2017 – 18 was the first year that 2nd Form boys were not allowed to use their phones at all during the school day. Subsequently, this ban has been extended to 3rd Form boys for academic year 2018 – 19.

Technology addiction — sometimes called Internet addiction, Internet use disorder (IUD) or Internet addiction disorder (IAD) — is a fairly new phenomenon. It’s often described as a serious problem involving the inability to control use of various kinds of technology, in particular the Internet, smartphones, tablets and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Now that it’s effortless to text and access the Web and social media from almost anywhere, more of us are dependent on communicating via the tiny computers we carry with us. So it’s no surprise that health experts are seeing a rise in addictive tendencies that involve technology.

Technology addiction, and the related and more common term Internet addiction disorder, are not recognised as addictions or disorders in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the reference used by health care providers to diagnose mental health conditions. However, Internet Use Gaming Disorder – excessive playing of video games — was added to the DSM-5 in June 2018. Although my study does not look solely at Internet Gaming, but rather technology addiction in its broader sense, it is compelling to see the WHO recognise the dangers of too much time spent gaming.

Even if addiction to different types of technology isn’t yet a recognised disorder on its own, the problem has been on the radar of health professionals since the 1990s. In 1995, Kimberly Young, PsyD, established the Centre for Internet Addiction and created the first treatment plan for technology addiction based on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques. That same year, the term “Internet addiction disorder” was coined by psychiatrist Dr. Ivan Goldberg.

The way tech addiction is diagnosed can differ from country to country, but surveys in the U.S. and Europe show that between 1.5% and 8.2% of the population suffers from Internet addiction. Technology addiction is recognised as a widespread health problem in other countries, including Australia, China, Japan, India, Italy, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, which have established dedicated clinics to address this growing issue.

Like other types of addiction, technology addiction can range from moderate to severe, and some researchers say that like other addictions, people who use their phones or stay online for many hours a day experience a similar “high” — and also feel withdrawal when cut off. It’s not simply the amount of time spent with the digital device that defines an addict, though, but how excessive use adversely affects someone’s mental and physical health, daily life, relationships and academic or job performance.

According to Hilarie Cash, PhD., co-founder of an Internet Addiction Recovery Program, symptoms can include:

  • Compulsive checking of text messages
  • Frequent changing of personal social media statuses and uploading of “selfies”
  • A feeling of euphoria while on the Web
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in activities that don’t involve a computer, phone or gadget
  • Feelings of restlessness when unable to go online

We are living in an age where one simply cannot escape the use of technology and the enormous benefits it brings are obvious. I was keen to explore how CLS boys are interacting with each other, and using and over-using their mobile phones. I also wanted to get a boys perspective on their level of dependency and usage habits.

RESEARCH QUESTION

It appears that barely a day goes by without a report documenting the explosion in the use of mobile phones amongst teenagers in the UK. With technology so embedded into today’s youth culture I wanted to get a better understanding of young peoples attitudes towards and usage of mobile phones.

So I came up with the following research question:

To what extent are CLS boys in the Third Form at risk of exhibiting behaviour consistent with Technology Addiction?

 

WHAT DID I DO – IN CARRYING OUT THE ENQUIRY

Methodology – part one – Questionnaire

  1. I used Dr Richard Grahams Technology Addiction Questionnaire – questions below. The questionnaire is made up of 12 questions. The questions are designed to be given to individuals who think they may be at risk of suffering from Internet addiction. The questions require a yes or no response and if the respondent answers yes to four or more questions then individuals are said to be displaying a worrying relationship with technology.
  2. All boys in the 3rd Form were invited to take part in the research questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent to all boys via a link to a Google form.
  3. 107 boys completed the survey
  4. The answers to the questionnaire were all anonymous
  5. I then asked for volunteers to take part in a follow up group interview.

 

Methodology – part two – Group interviews

12 boys were selected from all the boys who volunteered to take part in a group interview. The interviews were arranged into two groups of six boys. As part of the group interview all volunteers were given the questionnaire again and then a series of questions were asked which led to some interesting discussions.

The questions asked include:

  1. What are your perceptions of healthy versus unhealthy use of mobile devices
  2. What does a typical 24 hour period look like in terms of your digital device usage.
  3. How do you feel when: you leave the house and you realise that you have forgotten your phone?
  4. How do you feel when / if your phone has been confiscated.

 

MAKING SENSE OF THE INFORMATION

I only used results from boys who had completed all of the questions. Any incomplete responses were not included in the final analysis. All of the boys answered yes or no to all 12 questions and this produced some interesting results which I have presented in pie charts.

(Remember: according to the design of the questionnaire anyone answering yes to four or more questions are said to be displaying a worrying relationship with technology.)

Group Interview data handling: I selected 12 volunteers from over 20 boys who were keen to take part in the group interviews. I first asked them to complete the questionnaire again. I then asked individual to share their responses with the rest of the group. I deliberately allowed the discussion to flow with little intervention from me. During the discussions I was taking notes and trying to ensure all members of the group had a fair opportunity to voice their views.

WHAT DID I DISCOVER

  1. 37 / 107 (35%) boys answered yes on 4 or more occasions.
  2. 5 / 107 (4.7% ) boys answered yes on 8 or more occasions.
  3. The average number of “yes’s” per person = 2.93
  4. 1 boy answered yes to all 12 questions
  5. 16 boys answered no to all 12 questions = (15% of boys)
  6. By the time the boys are in the Third Form the temptation to stay online longer than expected is increasingly difficult to overcome.
  7. “Only” 10% of boys would rather spend time communicating online rather than face to face. This is particularly concerning, however, if the individual has any socialisation difficulties. In addition, SEND students are known to be at a higher risk of Technology addiction and to take part in other risky online activities.
  8. 22.4% of boys sleep with their smart phone near or under their pillow. This contravenes all advice given to teenagers about healthy amounts of sleep, and best practice in terms of not having mobile devices in the bedroom.
  9. Probably the most worrying statistic is that 37.4% of boys secretly wish that they could be a little less connected to their mobile devices. This is a clear signal that they are not able to self regulate. The boys need and would appreciate help with curbing their own phone use.
  10. Almost 20% of boys hide or become defensive about their online activities. The secretive element of online behaviour is troubling for a number of reasons. 1. Secretive behaviour and actions online can result in boys encountering content or people that are not appropriate for their age. 2. Secretive online behaviour can increase the likelihood of technology addiction. 3. Many incidents of online bullying are carried out by lone individuals sending messages that they believe are anonymous.

 

Key results form the groups interviews. 

All of the people interviewed said that when asked the same questions again they answered differently and all of them said they gave more “no” responses. When asked about this, they explained it was easier to be honest on an anonymous survey. And when asked face to face they are more likely to give the response that they thought they should be saying. Some boys explained that some days they feel very attached to their mobiles and other days they don use them at all. This often depends on what game they are playing at the time and who else is playing with them.

  1. What are your perceptions of healthy versus unhealthy use of mobile devices

Healthy use is “normal usage” and this was described as the same time and amount of usage that their friends are spending. In reality this often means gaming before school, at break times and for large parts of the evening after homework has been completed.

Unhealthy use would be described as gaming all night and failing to hand homework in because of excessive use.

None of the boys surveyed believed they were unhealthy users.

  1. What does a typical 24 hour period look like in terms of your digital device usage.

It is not unusual for the digital day to start very early in the morning, before they have got out of bed and continue long after their agreed bedtime.  Some boys said that they would set their alarm on their phones for earlier than they needed to check messages and to play games before having to get up for school.

  1. How do you feel when: you leave the house and you realise that you have forgotten your phone?

All of the participants explained that they would never leave the house without their phone. Hypothetically speaking if they were to leave the house without their phone – they would return home to get.

  1. How do you feel when / if your phone has been confiscated.

Angry, unfair treatment, I would be worried because I couldn’t play my games and I would feel like I am missing out. (FOMO), having my phone confiscated is the worst thing that could happen to me.

None of the boys interviewed  expressed any feelings of relief if they were to have their phone confiscated.

One question that I did not ask but should have asked was: why did you volunteer to be part of the group interview research group?

Summary.

To what extent are CLS boys in the Third Form at risk of exhibiting behaviour consistent with Technology Addiction?

The short answer to this question is that I feel that the high level of mobile phone use by the boys surveyed is putting them at risk of developing behaviours that are consistent with Technology addiction.

 

 

 

Advertisements