WhatsApp has changed everything. Instant messaging has made many teens dislike making or receiving calls. “Indeed, a large percentage of young people refuse to perform or attend them and prefer to use applications and social networks,” says Rebeca Cáceres Alfonso, PhD in Psychology, psychotherapist and executive director of the Tribeca Psychologists Center. However, she maintains that the term cannot be extended telephonephobia —fear of talking on the phone and having a conversation— to all the people who decide not to pick up the phone. “Some choose not to because they find answering the call distracting and taking up too much time. We cannot ignore the fact that many of these children and adolescents have grown up with other types of communication channels, such as voice messages. Therefore, in these cases, we are talking about a choice and not a problem, ”he explains.
Cáceres indicates that many of the young people of the post-millennial generation communicate with photos that disappear when they are opened, something that for her represents a revolution in the world of communication and social advancement. He also maintains that people who have this irrational fear of having a telephone conversation suffer from a set of physical and psychological symptoms: “The physical ones have to do with stomach pain, dry mouth, nausea, hyperventilation or panic attacks, among others; and at a psychological level ruminative thoughts usually appear —recurring thoughts on the same question—, or avoidance behavior to respond to the receiver, for example”.
For the expert, these boys and girls are very used to handling a type of communication in which you can think about what is said and how it is said, a certain amount of control, something that she explains as a lack of spontaneity and resolution in real time. “Letting go of that control can lead to fear and anxiety. She also interferes with the fact of setting limits, not knowing, for example, expressing that they don’t want to talk about a certain topic or that they don’t feel like talking anymore, ”she adds. Cáceres stresses that this problem can also be associated with highly self-demanding individuals with low self-esteem: “They are young people who do not feel comfortable with who they are and who are afraid of saying something inappropriate that they will be disapproved of.”
Teresa Terreros Roncal, a psychologist specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapy with children and adolescents at the Cláritas Psychological Institute, clarifies that the telephonephobia It can affect the quality of life of certain people due to the nervousness and anxiety it generates. It also identifies that it is possible to speak of young people who had a hard time in the pandemic and who during the confinement related to each other through messages and audios, so now it can be a great challenge for them to answer a call for fear of being questioned or to fail. Terreros stresses that it is important to discover the source of that fear that paralyzes them and help them face it. To reduce their anxiety and increase their confidence, she recommends practicing phone call rehearsals so they can anticipate different scenarios, as well as gradually exposing children and teens to them, starting with short, simple calls and increasing their duration and complexity. accompanying them at first. In addition, Terreros advises mothers and fathers to go to professionals when they perceive discomfort and suffering in their children.
More interpersonal exchanges
“81% of millennials have telephonephobia”. This is indicated by the 2022 study Generation mute, millennials phone call statistics (generational silence, statistics of telephone calls from millennials, in its Spanish translation), which indicates that this phobia comes from youthful isolation derived from the rise of social networks and video games.
Lara López, 17 years old and a 1st year Baccalaureate student at the IES Universidade Laboral de Ourense, believes that many of the people around her suffer telephonophobia: “When one of my friends has to make a call to some kind of service, they ask me to make it myself. I don’t know the exact reasons, but every day I see it more. López, who assures that she does not feel identified with this fear, does prefer to send a message on many occasions because it is easier, more practical and effective for her, without the need to wait for an immediate response. “The problem is that many people do not stop doing this out of comfort, but do not call for fear of social contact”, says the student. “It is not the only environment where people are anxious to socialize. I feel that, in general, we are becoming more individualistic and tend to be less physically related. There are also many adults who choose to contact by mobile and not in person.
A conclusion with which Izarbe Lafuerza, an expert in emotional intelligence, agrees, who understands that not calling causes a decrease in their socio-emotional abilities in young people. “In the digital world they feel that they can choose the conversations they want to address and not answer, that is, end a communication with any contact without any justification, a phenomenon known as ghosting”, affirms the creator of the Alt.O project, a global movement to train eco-emotional leaders.
Behind the screen and without verbal communication, feelings can be hidden, as well as deceive or send harmful messages to others that can be the prelude to cyberbullying, according to Lafuerza: “In quick conversations in the digital world, more interpersonal exchanges are favored, feeling one less unprotected and that disconnects us from the others”. For Lafuerza, families must get involved in the digital education of their children: “It is essential to learn and teach digital empathy to children and adolescents to avoid problems.”
In addition, he points out that at school, students must be given opportunities to present in public, this is essential: “Oratory and the ability to improvise would allow them to better function in all kinds of digital and in-person conversations.” Lafuerza maintains that the proper use of technology is decisive and shares some points that parents should take into account in the digital education of their children:
- Delay the age of introduction to the digital world and prioritize face-to-face communication.
- Set connection hours to limit time spent online.
- Take care of the content they consume to prevent them from normalizing maladaptive behaviors.
- Use parental controls to filter the information they can access.
- Talk to them about the content they consume, being open to listening and debate.
You can follow Mamas & Papas on Facebook, Twitter or sign up here to receive our biweekly newsletter.