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Getting smart with smartphone addicts
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 06 - 03 - 2015


JEDDAH — Families who have had enough of smartphones have come up with a new rule before members embark on a social gathering: Put the smartphone in a basket before sitting with other family members.

As family members spend more time on their mobile phones than they do sitting and talking with family, smart phones have raised the ire of elderly members. Some families interviewed for this report said that they do not allow anyone to sit inside the family living room unless they put their cell phones in a basket outside.

They complain that cell phone addicts have lost their ability to talk and socialize and instead smile at their phone screens.

Nehad Bakry, a Saudi mother of five, used to gather her family and grandchildren every weekend to enjoy their time away from their hectic schedules. There is one rule in order to sit in her living room where the family gathers: leave cell-phones and other electronic gadgets out of the room in a box.

“Before the invention of smartphones, we used to all sit together and laugh and talk about memories and tell each other stories. But since smartphones gained popularity, family gatherings are not the same anymore. My grandchildren are addicted to smartphones and their gadgets and they smile at the screen more than they talk to us. They don't participate in any conversations anymore. Some of them don't say a word since they spend the entire time looking at their mobile screens,” she said.

“I don't gather them to listen to their silence. So I decided to make a rule for everyone, even my husband. Before the gathering, leave smartphones in a box that I made especially for this purpose. In the beginning, they were upset with my decision, but later they thanked me and realize that they were wasting an amazing time by isolating themselves,” Nehad added.

Muhammad Al-Ghonimy, a Saudi father of four, has banned his children from using smartphones while they are sitting together, especially during meals.

“Smartphones separated us. When we sat down to eat, all my children were holding their phones and were completely isolated from real life. I felt that it wasn't a family atmosphere anymore. We are all strangers in one house,” he said.

Muhammad decided to take all phones away from his children when they sat together in the living and dining rooms.

“They were angry and complained about my decision, but they were forced to listen to what I wanted. Since then, we have a good time sitting together. They started to talk and I got to listen to their problems and I think we have become closer. I taught them about the dangers of smartphone addiction and that they need to be smart when they use it instead of becoming addicted,” he said.

Heba Al-Turkey, a 24-year-old Saudi, said she takes all the electronic gadgets including smartphones from her friends when they are together so they can talk together and have a good time.

“When we go out together we waste a huge percentage of our time chatting on the phone with other people while ignoring the people we are sitting with. We would meet for two hours but would only chat with each other for a few minutes and instead talk to people on the phone. So, I decided to take everyone's smartphones and put them in one of our bags. After that rule, believe it or not, our gatherings became more enjoyable,” she said.

Hashem Al-Madani, a father of two, said, “There is a rule before we gather with friends, to leave our mobile phones in a basket in the corner of the room. We only use them to answer calls or make an emergency call. We need to stay away from these gadgets because they end up controlling our lives. A phone is a phone and it was made for the purpose of making phone calls, not to live inside it,” he said.

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