◎ Our reporter Du Peng

In the hot summer, in the comfortable air-conditioned house, teenagers on summer vacation lazily lie on the sofa, their fingers against the mobile phone screen constantly swipe, and the whole day slips through their fingers. Such a scene has aroused the concern of many teenage parents.

Summer vacation is coming, teenagers have a lot of leisure time, but this good time is almost filled by the "small screen" of the mobile phone, even if they put down the mobile phone briefly, they still can't put down the "flower world" in the "small screen".

So, why are teens so obsessed with mobile phones? What are the designs of mobile phones that are addictive? During the long holiday, how should parents correctly guide teenagers to use mobile phones reasonably? With these questions, the Science and Technology Daily reporter interviewed relevant experts.

More than ninety percent of Internet minors use mobile phones to access the Internet

As mobile phones have penetrated deeply into all aspects of our lives, many primary and secondary school students now have their own smartphones. In addition, unlike the cumbersome and complicated Internet access process in the personal computer era, the convenience of mobile phones has allowed many teenagers to "knock" on the door of the online world early.

According to the 2022 National Research Report on Internet Use by Minors (hereinafter referred to as the Report) released by the Ministry of Safeguarding Youth Rights and Interests of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League and the China Internet Network Information Center at the end of 2021, the proportion of minor Internet users using mobile phones to access the Internet has reached 90.7%, and more than 6% of minor Internet users have their own mobile phones.

This phenomenon is more common in rural areas, the report shows that because more than 4% of minor Internet users in rural areas do not live with their parents, so that adolescents in rural areas need to use mobile phones for a long time to contact their parents, so about 7% of rural minor Internet users have their own mobile phones, and lack of direct and effective supervision and restraint by parents.

The convenience of mobile phones connecting to the online world also makes minors contact the Internet show a clear trend of younger age. The Report shows that the majority of minors start using the Internet when they are in primary school or before they enter primary school, and the proportion has gradually increased in recent years. The proportion of minors using the Internet for the first time before entering primary school reached 28.2%.

What teenagers do with mobile phones is what many parents are most concerned about. The "Report" shows that more than half of the underage Internet users often play games on their mobile phones, and the proportion of regular short videos is close to 5%.

The Report also specifically mentions the impact of video and short video platforms on minors. At present, various video platforms have become one of the main channels for minors to obtain news events and major news, and nearly half of minors are accustomed to obtaining information on major social events through short video and video platforms such as Douyin, Kuaishou, and Station B (Bilibili video website). Especially among juvenile short video users, less than half of them can consciously distinguish whether short video information is published by authoritative media or self-media. Among them, 38.3% of minor Internet users have been exposed to bad or negative information in the process of surfing the Internet.

How to identify the information under the sediment on the network and avoid being affected by bad information tests the level of online literacy of teenagers.

Fang Zengquan, director and researcher of the Research Center for Internet Literacy for Minors at the School of Journalism and Communication of Beijing Normal University, said in an interview with Science and Technology Daily that there is still room for further improvement of teenagers' Internet literacy. "The last three youth online literacy surveys conducted by our team show that the average score of youth online literacy in 3 is 2017.3 points (on a 55-point scale), the average score in 5 is 2020.3 points, and the average score in 54 is 2022.3, and the overall score level is above the passing line, but needs to be further improved." He said.

The double attack of desire "trap" and "emotional satisfaction"

Many parents may have experienced that it is easy for children to pick up their phones, but it is not so simple to put them down.

So, what is the magic of mobile phones that can make teenagers so fascinated?

In fact, smartphones and their apps may be designed to take advantage of some weaknesses in human nature.

"The information on smartphones is endless, social media, video websites, online games and other applications are like a 'bottomless pit', every suspense setting, every automatic play, may make you constantly indulge your desires." For example, pull-down refresh is a very addictive design, and the feedback and freshness obtained by each refresh will be addictive. Fang Zengquan further said that in addition, the algorithm recommendation mechanism widely used in mobile phone applications will also increase minors' dependence on mobile phones to some extent. The algorithm recommendation mechanism provides users with various information, entertainment and consumption content in a targeted manner by capturing users' daily data, analyzing user habits and preferences, which not only provides certain life convenience, but also aggravates users' dependence on mobile phones. These designs are highly addictive for minors who are still in the stage of physical and mental development and have relatively weak self-control.

In addition, Chen Zhiyan, a professor at the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with a reporter from Science and Technology Daily that there are deeper psychological reasons behind teenagers' mobile phone addiction, mainly including the following two aspects.

On the one hand, adolescents have a weak ability to deal with negative emotions, face negative factors in the real world, sometimes lack the ability to self-motivate, and are easy to form negative emotions such as anxiety and self-doubt.

"At this time, the mobile phone has become a good 'place' to 'escape', pick up the mobile phone, teenagers can enter a virtual world without trouble." Chan said that once this behavior becomes a habit, it will form a vicious circle, leading to teenagers becoming more addicted to mobile phones.

On the other hand, the mobile phone itself also meets the emotional needs of teenagers to a certain extent. Adolescents need companionship, support from intimate relationships and a sense of security as they grow up.

"However, sometimes this emotional need cannot be met from the family parent-child relationship, but some parents will let mobile phones, tablets, etc. act as 'electronic nannies' when their children need companionship, which also pushes teenagers further to smart devices such as mobile phones." Chen Zhiyan said.

It requires the cooperation of online platforms, society and parents

In view of the potential harm that mobile phone addiction may bring to minors, the departments of legislation, education, network supervision and other departments, as well as mobile application platforms, have taken a number of measures.

Since 2019, major video, short video, social, games and other online platforms have successively launched youth mode, which has played an active role in helping minors reduce their dependence on the Internet and resist bad information on the Internet.

The new version of the Law on the Protection of Minors, which came into effect in June 2021, has a special chapter on "online protection", which puts forward clear requirements for the protection of minors for online service providers such as online games, online live broadcasting, online audio and video, and online social networking.

The "Report" also shows that in 2021, the proportion of minor netizens who regularly listen to music, play games, watch videos, watch short videos, and watch live broadcasts on the Internet has decreased to varying degrees compared with 2020.

Although a series of measures have been introduced, it will take time for every child addicted to the "small screen" to put down their mobile phones. For example, the "Report" survey found that although 85.9% of minors and 91.6% of parents know about adolescent mode, less than 5% of minors and parents have set up adolescent mode. In the face of strict management of minors' game accounts, 3% of underage netizens have used their parent accounts to play games.

At the same time, we must treat the symptoms. In addition to online application platforms, parents and the society should also give more support to adolescents according to their growth characteristics.

Chen Zhiyan suggested that in addition to using reasonable methods to control the time of teenagers' mobile phone use, parents should also start from the deep-seated psychological needs of adolescents and give them more companionship and support. "If parents can accompany their children to do sports, chat, and play games when they need companionship, maybe children will not always play with mobile phones." She said.

At the same time, Chen Zhiyan also stressed that on the one hand, parents need to enhance their own understanding of the characteristics of adolescent growth, and on the other hand, the whole society should be encouraged to give parents support.

For example, when children are on vacation, enterprises and other enterprises can allow parents to take timely leave, flexible work, bring their children to work, etc., to create conditions for strengthening parent-child bonds. In addition, social organizations or communities with relevant capabilities can also provide corresponding care services, bring adolescents together for unified management, carry out meaningful offline activities, and pull adolescents from the "small screen" back to the "big world".

Fang Zengquan pointed out that parents should first set an example by reasonably controlling their mobile phone use time and setting an example for teenagers. Schools should establish an effective Internet literacy education system to improve young people's Internet literacy and avoid them being affected by bad information on the Internet. At the same time, enterprises providing online services to minors should also establish an effective annual reporting system for the protection of minors, further optimize the youth model, strengthen the governance of the online information content ecosystem, and actively use digital technology to create a safe and reliable youth-friendly online environment. (Source: Science and Technology Daily)