Italy is planning on packing phone-addicted teenagers off to rehab with a tough new law to curb social media obsession.
New legislation is set to crackdown on a phenomenon called “nomophobia,” which means living in fear of losing your mobile and having no internet connection.
According to the bill, eight out of 10 Italian teens suffer from the tech-related malady, prompting politicians to take a stand.
Vittoria Casa, an MP with the governing Five Star party, who proposed the bill said: “It’s getting worse and worse and it must be treated like an addiction.
“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.”
The bill proposes courses in schools on the danger of phone addiction as well as a campaign to inform parents.
In the worst cases, the most frenzied phone fanatics could be sent for “re-education” at health centers.
Italy’s postal police, which tackles online crime, will also be asked to monitor excessive phone use, according to the bill.
The move comes on the heels of studies showing that 15% of Italian teenagers spend more than 10 hours a day on their phones.
‘Attention spans like fish’
Half of Italians aged 15-20 check their phones at least 75 times a day and 62% of teenagers are messaging late into the night.
Casa, who was a head teacher in a Sicilian school before she became an MP, added: “So-called vampiring means children are nervous and apathetic the next day in school.”
Giuseppe Lavenia, head of a group that monitors internet and gambling dependency, said children’s attention spans were dropping fast from the 20 minutes recorded a few years ago.
He added: “We can now compare them to fish who can concentrate for nine seconds.”
Professor Lavenia said constant messaging harmed children’s development: “It separates real emotions from the display of emotion, meaning teens can’t form true empathic relationships.”
Italian experts put some of the blame on parents, who spend hours on their phones in front of their children and allow four in five children between 11 and 13 to have social media profiles.
That has helped to encourage 6% of children between 11 and 13, mostly girls, to post intimate photos of themselves, which are often shared among peers and used to ridicule them.
However, on the flip side, 21.6% of Italians have no internet access at all, with the figure rising to 42.5% among over-65s, according to the most recent figures from poll company Censis.
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