Panicky kids and the rise of “nomophobia”

Heard of nomophobia?  Possibly not, but a report from King’s College states that a quarter of young people are so dependent on their smartphones that if they were to be denied access for any length of time, they would become anxious or upset.  The colloquial term for this is nomophobia (fear of not being near a mobile).

Anyone with teenagers will be surprised that the number is as low as a quarter.  The report highlights that it is uncertain whether the addiction is to the phone itself or rather specific apps.  I believe however, if certain apps were taken away, others could easily replace them.

A changing human capability

A fundamental change in society has resulted in unclear consequences.  Anyone that has watched television with a young person will notice that they are usually multitasking; focussing on both the television and their smartphone.  An example of this, is when my son plays video games on a PlayStation, while also messaging friends.  It appears young people are rapidly evolving into creatures with incredible capability.  There is an old myth that men cannot multitask; if that was true before, it certainly will not be in the future.  The next generation can process information from various sources incredibly quick and are therefore able to react faster than I ever could.

Some argue that young people are less sociable today – citing the fact that they no longer speak on the phone.  In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.  The young people I know have an exceedingly wider social group than the one I had at the same age.  Although they may not speak on the phone as much, they do seem to value face to face conversation; possibly communicating with more people than most adults.  They also seem incredibly good at managing communication with a vast number of people while completing required tasks, which I am unsure I would be able to keep up with.

An unknown impact

Of course, the implications of this evolution are yet to be fully known.  The King’s College report points out that addiction to anything can lead to mental health issues and other wellbeing complications.  Employers often complain over the lack of attention and short attention span of millennials and how the expectations simply do not meet reality. However, this is surely missing the point with the next generation not expecting to work in the same way we did, within a hierarchical structure.

Harnessing the power of youth

The real challenge is how to harness these new skills into a business. Those of us that are employers must adapt by taking a leap of faith. It’s extremely important to build trust in younger people so they can deploy technology which is native to them for the benefit of businesses.  Constant access to a smartphone is a fact of life for young people, which employers need to turn into revenue and profit.