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Cell phone habits: overuse vs. moderation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Are you or someone you know afraid to be without your cell phone for 5 minutes? If so, there's a name for it. It's called nomophobia. It stands for no mobile phone phobia.

A growing number of people are experiencing this as phones become an extension of who some people are.

"Lots of people, especially young people, ages 16-34, are experiencing nomophobia because they are unable to be without their cell phone," Dr. Sephra Rahabi-Vigna, a clinical psychologist said.

"They experience real anxiety symptoms at the thought of not being with their cell phone, losing their cell phone, not being within cell phone reach and also when their battery dies down."

People can often feel stressed or anxious when they're separated from their phones.

As Dr. Vigna explained, kids are often taught to wait to get what they want, but with technology being infused into so many parts of life, some people become attached to instant gratification.

"In the generation of cell phone use kids are learning they don't have to wait. They're finding everything that they need right on their cell phones and they are instantly getting their needs met."

According to psychologists, patients can try to overcome the fear by focusing on activities away from their cell phone. "They have to really try to increase face to face interactions with people and actually engage in activities that could keep them away from their cell phone,"

For example, if someone plays a baseball game or watches a movie, they should practice turning their phones off. If it's hard to do for extended periods of time, people can start off small, with 15 minute increments.

"The key is to find balance," Dr. Vigna said.

One school in Lancaster has made it their mission to do this.

They had a no cell phone policy, but administrators noticed kids were always breaking the rule. As a result, Lancaster High School adopted a new policy.

"Students can have their cell phones in their possession. They can use it during passing time, in the cafeteria, and in the hallways," Cesar Marchioli, the principal of Lancaster High School said.

Teachers have autonomy in their own classrooms. If they don't want students to have their phones out, that's the rule during that period. If they want to use to use it for instruction, they can.

"You'll get assignments and you can go answer the questions and submit your assignments right through on your cell phone. There are also some quiz games, flash cards, really anything you can do on your phone, they found a way to use it for education here," Nick Doering, a senior at Lancaster High School said.

Marchioli said the goal is to teach kids how to be responsible and accountable for their mobile phone use.

So far, students say it has taught them some real life lessons.

"You have teachers at the school that say, ‘You know what, if you want to be on your phone and not pay attention, (just know) nobody in college and nobody in life is going to tell you to put your phone away," Joe Molea, a senior at the high school said. "Then you quickly realize I'm not capable of paying attention right now. Over time you realize this is more important than what's on my phone."

Junior, Madilyn Potter, went to a school that did not apply these techniques. She said the difference is profound. She now plans on teaching those around her how to use their phones wisely.

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