If you're a millennial like me or an avid smartphone user of any age, I'm sure you'd agree you would benefit from learning how to break your smartphone addiction.
Smartphones have become our digital appendages, where we can tweet, text, snap a picture, shop, watch videos and more within a matter of seconds.
While this accessibility can be convenient, it can also be overwhelming and even detrimental in the event of cell phone addiction.
As a result, this article is an explanation of what cell phone addiction entails and how to break your cell phone addiction (if you can admit you have one).
In This Guide
What is Cell Phone Addiction?
About 77 percent of Americans now own smartphones, according to Pew Research Center. Cell phone addiction is a compulsive behavioral addiction where you seek uses of your mobile device for emotional outlets and instant gratification. To put it another way, you might feel guilty, depressed, bored, or stressed, so you use your mobile phone to zone out.
While temporary distractions can be useful in clearing your mind, they can also usher in mobile phone dependency. Mobile phone dependency can distract you from important tasks such as work and take time away from the people you love the most. Cell phone addiction can happen to young adults from elementary school to high school and from college students to working class adults.
According to adolescent psychiatrist and technology addiction expert Dr. Graham, technological addiction has gotten worse in recent years. Dr. Graham says it's because of the increasing number of smart mobile devices that can connect to the Internet, according to the Telegraph.
What Are the Symptoms of Cell Phone Addiction?
Psychotherapist and author Nancy Colier wrote that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day, according to the Nancy Colier blog. Sounds crazy, right? Technology addiction is a behavioral addiction that can take varied forms of behaviors. Below is a look at some common ones you might encounter:
- You have a compulsion to check your phone even in important situations like work meetings, at the dinner table with family, or even on dates
- You become distracted and are less likely to engage in normal communication with work colleagues and friends
- You participate in dangerous behaviors for instant gratification: you text and drive, make phone calls or check your mobile phone when driving
Read More: Unfortunately, smartphone addiction may factor into a larger problem: Interner addiction. Although both conditions have similarities, there are striking differences. Read more on overcoming Internet addiction here.
Touching on the last point further, in a survey conducted by Common Sense Media, 56 percent of parents admitted that they check their phone while driving, make calls while driving, or text and drive. Even worse, 51 percent of young adults witnessed their parents engaging in this behavior.
According to Pew Research Center in 2015, 24 percent of teenagers are constantly on their cell phones, which has probably increased since then. As we become further addicted to cell phone use, it can take its toll on our health as well. Addiction Tips states that you can experience:
- Added stress due to the compulsive nature of checking your phone
- You can experience insomnia because your body's melatonin mistakes the light from your phone as sunlight, making it more difficult for you to sleep
- You can also experience irritability, nervousness, and anxiety
These situations become dangerous because they reduce your mind's effectiveness to think critically due to lack of sleep. Additionally, your emotions can become frayed and your initial distraction becomes an addiction you cannot control. This can seriously affect your life, especially if you're a college student or entry-level worker trying to keep up.
Related: The Dangers of Texting & Driving
Research from Baylor University
According to Dr. Roberts from Baylor University, there are six signs to consider to determine whether you are addicted to your phone. You can check out the Huffington Post cell phone addiction symptom list to compare.
Is your cell phone your best friend? If it's the last thing you do before you go to bed and the first thing you do when you wake up, this could be a sign of addiction.
If you would rather be on your smartphone playing Candy Crush and looking through Facebook or Twitter than interacting with those around you, you may have a smartphone addiction.
If you feel like you are using your phone more and more, you may be developing tolerance, a sign of addiction.
4. Withdrawal symptoms
If you have a near panic attack every time your phone isn't in sight, you may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from an addiction. You may also have a panic disorder. Check with your doctor or therapist to see how to go about treating a panic disorder if you think you may have one.
If your smartphone is getting in the middle of your relationships and affecting your life, you may have a problem.
If you've ever tried to stay off your phone for a day or two and were not successful, you may need to get some help.
6 Ways to Stop Phone Addiction
CNN Digital says that technology addictions can happen to anyone. In relation, anyone can stop their cell phone addiction, but it requires you to make small adjustments to your behaviors and bad habits. As these patterns set in, your focus and need to use your smartphone compulsively reduces until you reach the point you achieve a healthy balance. Here are some tips to assist you in learning how to break your cell phone addiction.
1. Inform Others of Your Struggle
About 50 percent of teenagers feel as though they're addicted to their cell phones, according to CNN Digital. Once you admit to yourself that you have a technology addiction, it's important to share your struggles and bad habits with others. They can form a supportive environment where they supply advice for reducing your usage, refer you to a therapist who can teach you coping mechanisms, and hold you accountable for your actions.
Many social media apps like Facebook or Twitter provide notifications seemingly for every time someone breathes. This distraction is what can cause cell phone addiction initially. For example, you may have a Facebook addiction.
If you have a Facebook addiction, you may get excited as dopamine(one of your brain's reward chemicals) flows to your brain when you receive a like, share or comment on your Facebook status, according to Psych Alive. As a result, you may begin continuously checking your social media apps for that quick dopamine fix because you don't know when you're going to get it.
If you notice this happening, try to delete your social apps and take a social media break. Taking a step back from your Facebook status or other social media can clear your mind and help you develop actionable steps to tackle your addiction.
3. Ditch the Smartphone
If you struggle to stay off your smartphone even when you realize there's a problem, it might be time to part with it. You can buy a standard cell phone or a pre-paid phone; this way you still have access to a phone line in case of an emergency. Another alternative is to contact your cell phone provider and ask for them to turn off your internet access.
You can always sell your smartphone with some of these services if you just need the phone out of your life.
4. Change How You Interact With Others
It's easy to pull out the smartphone to send a text message to others, but often, this contributes to you being on the phone too much. Instead of sending text messages back and forth, make a phone call and invite your friends and family to meet for some face-to-face interaction. A cup of coffee, dinner or even a walk in the park is a great way to change up the routine and most importantly, build the habit of putting down the phone.
5. Alter Your Hobbies
Think of some of the behaviors you've engaged in that made you increase your reliance on your cell phone; then change them. To demonstrate, say you enjoyed online gaming, so the absorption of the game(s) increased your time online drastically to the point you were playing the game for hours at a time without any breaks.
Instead of gaming like Candy Crush online, find some friends and play board games for some face-to-face interaction. If you've been texting too much at the dinner table, put your phone away during dinner. If you've been texting too much in general, try making a phone call instead to practice your interaction skills. These small steps will allow you to stimulate your mind and socialize.
6. Find New Activities
Maybe the problem wasn't you were too absorbed in a hobby, you didn't have a hobby to begin with, resulting in your boredom being the catalyst for the addiction. If this is the case, then it's important to find hobbies to occupy your time. Chances are they are easy to find. Your community has many projects you can participate in from volunteering to serving on councils. You can try your hands at a craft, play in an adult softball league, read, workout at home, or even train for a 5k.
The goal is to find something that interests you and takes you a bit out of your comfort zone. In addition to this becoming a rewarding experience, it also alters your priorities away from compulsive smartphone use.
Apps to Help Curb your Addiction
I know it sounds counterproductive, but Android, iOS, and Windows all have apps to help you curb your smartphone addiction. For example, the Windows, iOS and Android app Forest will reward you for not touching your phone. Here's a list of Windows, iOS, and Android apps to help you stop checking your phone so often.
- Forest (iOS, Android, windows)
- UnPlug (iOS)
- Freedom (Windows, iOS, Android)
- Checky (Android, iOS)
- Productivity Challenge Timer (Android)
Make Adjustments Slowly
Don't try to do too much at once or try to quit your phone cold turkey. Quitting cold turkey can create anxiety, which could backfire, forcing you back to excessive smartphone usage. Instead, make small adjustments to your behavior.
To illustrate, set a timer for 30 minutes for your cell phone use. Once that time expires, leave your phone and engage in a constructive activity such as bike riding, meeting a friend for coffee, or reading.
You can also try sleeping with your cell phone in a different room, as the Huffington Post suggests. You may even want to get a separate alarm clock if you normally use your phone as an alarm clock. Setting small, realistic goals, can give you the feeling of control back while preventing the transition from being too stress inducing.
These tips can help you prevent or break your smartphone usage addiction. If you feel that your child may be addicted to their phone, you can check out our cell phone safety ultimate guide for parents.
Also, if you plan on browsing available cell phone plans, please be sure to inspect any available parental controls or tools that wireless providers may have that would help you and your children overcome cell phone addiction.