- A politician from Italy’s hard-right governing party is pushing legislation to combat teens’ “addiction” to their phones.
- The bill proposes courses in schools and a public awareness campaign, plus “re-education” in health centres for worst-case scenarios.
- Oxford psychologist Andrew Przybylski said the proposed law was a bad idea, and pointed to tech “addiction boot-camps” in China.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
An Italian politician has submitted a bill intended to curb what she perceives as the rising threat of “phone addiction” among teenagers.
Vittoria Casa, a member of the governing populist Five Star party, said teenage phone usage is “getting worse and worse and it must be treated like an addiction,” per The Times.
“We agree with studies showing that expecting ‘likes’ for posting on social media triggers the chemical dopamine in the brain. It’s the same as gambling,” she said, according to the newspaper. The bill cites figures that eight in ten Italian teens fear losing their phones and their connection to the internet, otherwise known as “nomophobia.”
Casa added that teenagers are “vampiring,” or staying on their screens messaging at night. “So-called vampiring means children are nervous and apathetic the next day in school,” she said.
The bill would bring in courses at school-level on the dangers of phone addiction, a public awareness campaign aimed at parents, and even “re-education” in health centres for extreme cases. The bill would also ask Italy’s postal police to monitor excessive phone usage, according to The Times. Business Insider was unable to confirm how the police would enforce this.
While some studies have drawn correlations between phone usage and addiction, some academics are sceptical.
Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute in the UK, expressed grave doubts about the bill.
“This law and others like it are a pretty bad idea,” he told Business Insider. “In China, and other parts of the world where people approach technology in this way we’ve seen for-profit ‘tech bootcamps’ pop up and there have been multiple deaths.”
Przbylski is sceptical of much of the science and media buzz that surrounds studies about phone or internet addiction. “There is no evidence that things are getting worse, instead it is likely that our other anxieties, say about violent video games and alike are simply being transferred to the technology of the day, smartphones in this case… The apps and features of phones and other digital technologies vary widely and can be tools for good and bad.”
“We need solid science, not fear-mongering,” he added. Przybylski is set to lead a large-scale study into how digital technologies affects adolescent wellbeing in October.