Psychology Professionals See Smartphones Hindering Social Interaction And Skills For Children

Messaging on social media and WhatsApp is a very deformed method of communication for children cause less social interaction.

<p>Clinical psychotherapist Jerilee Clayton in her own office. Young kids have spent more time on their smartphones than interacting with other people. COURTESY/SWNS TALKER</p>

An expert claims rising rates of loneliness in children are due to kids under 11 having smartphones – and has called for schools to BAN them.

The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which runs the helpline Childline, this week revealed calls from under-11s wanting support for loneliness have soared by almost three-quarters in the past five years.

Clinical psychotherapist Jerilee Clayton in her own office. Young kids have spent more time on their smartphones than interacting with other people. COURTESY/SWNS TALKER

Clinical psychotherapist Jerilee Clayton, 45, says youngsters have been left feeling isolated due to spending too much time on their handsets.

Jerilee, of Bishop’s Stortford, UK, said the problem has got so bad she believes stricter rules must now be enforced to prohibit their use in schools across the UK.

The NSPCC is contacted on average 15 times a day by youngsters struggling with loneliness.

Jerilee feels children aged 5-11 using smartphones is a driving factor behind this tragic statistic.

And she said constant messaging on electronic devices means they are missing out on “real-life conversations.”

She said: “Most children have mobile phones by year five or six – so they communicate by texting and Instagram.

“When messaging, it’s a one-way stream of consciousness, you’re not having to engage, like in real life.

“Messaging on social media and WhatsApp is a very deformed method of communication – no wonder they’re lonely.

“Our brains aren’t activated by a device in the same way as face-to-face conversation.

“Prioritizing connections in real life will result in them not feeling so isolated.”

The data released by NSPCC revealed Childline delivered 5,564 counseling sessions with children on loneliness between April 2021 and March last year.

This was a 71 percent increase in calls of the same nature between 2017-2018.

Jerilee said a big factor in this was the more frequent use of mobile phones – particularly in schools, and the use of messaging services such as iMessage, WhatsApp and Instagram DMs.

She added: “As adults, we often forget that becoming a teenager starts from the age of about nine when the hormones first kick in.

“By nine, adolescence has started, they have all these confusing feelings and hormones.”

A young kid looking and observing instead of interacting with his peers. Facial expression are the most critical part to determine the child whether he or she is social among his or her own peers. MIKHAIL NILOV/SWNS TALKER

Jerilee explained how in these early stages of adolescence, human connections are critical – and losing them in a string of WhatsApp messages can be damaging.

She said young people’s brains aren’t “activated by a device” in the same way as they are by real-life engagement.

Critical parts of communication such as tone, intonation, facial expressions, timings and body language are all lost.

She said this can lead to children feeling more alone – because they’re not getting the same level of satisfaction from the conversation.

She said: “It’s so normalized that now I see groups of children together and they’re still on their phones, not even speaking.”

Jerilee said the more a smartphone is used, the lonelier a person feels when they then go without it, such as during lessons.

She said this was because phones trigger the brain in the same way as a drug they can result in Dopamine dysregulation hits.

She added: “Then they get withdrawal when you can’t use it.

“It’s sad – why are these 10 and eleven-year-olds experiencing that?”

Jerilee said that while in most primary schools (children aged 5-11) phones are not allowed, older children still bring them in.

They are secretly used at break times and as soon as they leave the premises, she said.

And she believes the kids would benefit by all schools banning phones on the premises altogether – and more strongly enforce the rules.

She said primary schools should also discourage parents from allowing their children to have smartphones in the first place, before reaching secondary school age.

If they need one purely for safety – such as to communicate in the case of an emergency – they don’t need a smartphone.

Jerilee added: “If a primary school said we ‘don’t do phones, we don’t have phones at all,’ it removes the need.

“If schools discouraged parents from letting their children have them in the first place, I wonder how that might change things.

“When children connect in real life they have positive feelings, which will result in them not feeling so isolated.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker