Reading this on your device? Cellphone addiction a growing concern

Someone I know extremely well grew up in rural Ohio many years ago on a party line with five other customers, two of which were elderly women who talked endlessly about essentially nothing, especially when the person I know extremely well needed urgently to call his friend Billy in town to chat about essentially nothing.

So, these modern-day smartphones forever intrigue and amaze me, the ability to call anyone anytime from anywhere about anything, or even nothing.

It’s not that I’m addicted to my cell, understand. I can put it in my pocket, on my desk or by the bed for minutes at a time without checking. I also have a sturdy case to protect it from the elements like tile floors and a special holder in my car because, California.

But like many American adults I worry more about the impact of such wanton technology on the tender minds of our youth. We adults, not being addicted ourselves, can clearly see the dangers of cellphone addiction on young impressionable minds communicating so often through emoticons, acronyms and gifs with no need to speak real words face-to-face with another human being.

So, it was strangely comforting to learn last night that I’m among nearly half of surveyed parents who worry that their children (or grandchildren) are addicted to these compact tech devices that are more powerful than the computers astronauts took into space not all that long  ago.

A new survey of 4,201 adults, including 1,042 with children under 18  in the home, is just out from Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey. It finds that fully 47 percent of parents worry about their children’s addiction to these ubiquitous mobile devices.

Only a quarter of their children do not have their own cell, 74 percent do have their own (60%) or share a phone (14%). Half their parents worry that using it is negatively affecting their child’s mental health. Almost as many (47%) admit their child is addicted to the mobile device.

Less than a third of these parents (32%) admit themselves to being addicted to mobile devices, although — wait for it — 58 percent of these parents said they owned more than one device. In fact, 18 percent have four of them. But no adult addiction here.

Discouraging news is that five percent of these parents say it’s up to the children themselves to limit their online time. Another five percent say that oversight responsibility rests with makers of the device or app. Uh-huh.

The good news is that 89 percent of these parents say it is their responsibility to limit a child’s time on the device, say, by time of day, length of time or location in the home. For instance, no devices until homework is complete nor at the dinner table. “Mom, I’ve got to take this call.”

According to that person I know extremely well, enforcement of phone time years ago was more informal and closely tied to the amount of time those old ladies occupied the party line. “Yak! Yak! Yak!” the impatient youth once interrupted a particularly long chatty conference. “When are you two biddies going to hang up?”

Unfortunately for the person I know so well, turns out his was the only family on the party line to have a young boy living there. So, his parents levied even tighter time restrictions on his phone time for the next month.