Are you at dinner with family, and it seems everyone is more interested in their phones than in the conversation? Tech addiction has become an increasing concern over the past few years, with consumers pressuring technology powerhouses to address the issue. According to "The New York Times," Google and Apple have responded by providing “digital well-being” updates and reporting user screen time statistics, respectively.
However, there are still concerns over how to deal with phone usage on a daily basis, especially since reports suggest links between overuse of digital media and mental health problems. A 2017 study in the journal "Clinical Psychological Science" looked at data from two nationally representative surveys of U.S adolescents and compared that to national suicide statistics and depressive symptoms. It found that adolescents who spent more time on social media and smartphones were more likely to report mental health issues.
On average, American consumers check their smartphones 52 times each day, according to the U.S. edition of the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey from Deloitte. That’s up from 47 times per day, according to last year’s study. Also in the study, 60 percent of U.S. consumers ages 18-34 admit to smartphone overuse, the highest of any age group. As technology becomes more available and more advanced, how can consumers prevent screen time overuse?
Many smartphone apps, especially those that are ad-sponsored, are engineered to hit the same pleasure centers of the brain that alcohol and opiates do. Technology addiction is “a progressive disease that could potentially lead to death,” says Dr. Hilarie Cash, the chief clinical officer of reStart, a Seattle-area rehabilitation center that specializes in such disorders.
It’s important to be conscious of signs that indicate phone addiction, so we can take steps to mediate it. According to HelpGuide.org, a mental health non-profit partnered with Harvard Medical School, smartphone addiction is often fueled by an Internet overuse problem. It’s rarely the phone itself that creates the compulsion, but rather it’s a vehicle for games, apps and online worlds. Generally, users should be aware of when compulsive use interferes with work, school and relationships.
One example is consistently neglecting household chores or frequently working late because that designated time was spent online. Another is that your relationships begin to deteriorate because you’re checking your phone during conversations or you would rather connect with your online community than your friends. Or maybe you feel panic if you leave your phone at home or you feel phantom vibrations when you think your phone has vibrated but upon checking, there are no new messages. These are just some examples of phone addiction or the path to addiction.
Knowing the risks of cellphone overuse and addiction, it’s helpful to cut down on screen time. For most people, getting control over their smartphone usage isn’t a case of quitting cold turkey. It’s more parallel to going on a diet such that you slowly incorporate and build healthier methods into your routine so that it eventually becomes a habit. Here are some tips to help you use your phone less.
According to Forbes, a good tip is to ask a friend you trust to change your email password over the weekend or your social media passwords during the workday, so you’re not tempted to check.
You can download an app on your phone to block websites when you need to be productive.
Set aside time to catch up on phone calls, texts and other apps so you know you have a goal time while you can focus on other important tasks, in the meantime. It also helps with the urge to see if others are trying to reach you.
Do you reach for your phone when you’re lonely or bored? Or maybe you use your cellphone as a way to soothe your stress or anxiety. Once you know your triggers, it’s easier to recognize the situation. Then, you can find healthier and more effective ways of managing your moods.
If you are bored, lonely or anxious resisting the urge to use your smartphone can be difficult. Have a plan for other ways to fill the time, such as meditating, reading a book or chatting with friends in person.
You can turn off your phone when you’re driving, in a meeting, at the gym, having dinner or playing with your kids. That way you can be engaged with the activity, instead of being half-distracted by your phone.
The blue light emitted by the screens can disrupt your sleep if used within two hours of bedtime. Turn devices off and leave them in another room overnight to charge.
When you’re having lunch, dinner or drinks, have everyone place their smartphones face down on the table. Even as the phones buzz, no one can grab their device. If someone checks their phone, that person has to pick up the check for everyone.
It’s easy to pick up your phone and scroll endlessly through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. What you see on social media is rarely an honest reflection of someone’s life, so spending less time comparing yourself to an idealized model can help boost your mood and self-worth.
If you check your phone every few minutes, start off by limiting your checks to once every 15 minutes. Then once every 30 minutes, then once an hour. If you need help, there are apps that can automatically limit when you’re able to access your phone.
If you have a smart speaker, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, it can counterbalance your screen time. A writer at CNBC says that instead of turning on music or podcasts with her phone, she will prompt her smart speaker to do so, leaving her less screen time and reducing the temptation to continue to use her phone if she had it in her hands.
You don’t have to be interrupted by every “like” that your latest Instagram picture receives or with a message from Candy Crush. To cut down on distractions, reduce your push notifications for as many apps as you can.
Time Well Spent, a nonprofit focused on changing our relationships to technology, recommends switching your phone to grayscale to remove the “shiny rewards” that colorful icons give you every time you unlock. You can turn on grayscale by digging around in the “Accessibility” category of your phone’s settings. On an iPhone, find “Display Accommodations” and then turn on “Color Filters.” On a Samsung device, find “Vision” and then scroll down to “Grayscale.”
In our current technological climate, it’s difficult to completely disconnect. However, we can utilize technology in a way that doesn’t adversely affect our health and relationships. If you see signs of overuse or would like to curb technological addiction, there are useful tips to cut down. Be mindful that it’s hard to go from using an abundance of technology to a limited amount of screen time, so be patient, use different techniques and build as you master those habits.