Are you addicted to your phone? It may have more to do with an obsession with social media instead of an actual addiction to talking on your phone. Because let’s face it, how many minutes are you actually logging making phone calls? Or even sending text messages to your friends? More likely, you’re mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or checking your Twitter timeline.
Before you senselessly get lost in these apps, we encourage you to think about the number of times you check your phone per day. If you actually recorded the number of times you reach for your phone, the answer may surprise you. This may not be a huge problem for you personally, but research shows that it is most likely adversely affecting your children. Research has shown that teens are the most likely group to be addicted to their cell phones. It may seem like a minute problem, but cell phone addiction can actually affect normal brain functioning.
Phone and Social Media Addiction
Social Media and Phone Addiction are often associated with each other because younger people are accessing their Instagram accounts and sending out Snapchats from their cell phones rather than spending hours playing “Words With Friends.” Sending out a Snapchat or creating a live Instagram video may seem like it is social interaction, but in reality, people are just looking at a distorted view of people’s lives through their screens. When staring at fitness influencers’ Instagram pages, you can’t help but compare yourself to the person on the other side, but comparing yourself to someone, especially to someone who is only exposing an edited glimpse of their actual lives, is a depressing (and pointless) act.
Along these lines, a study by Sage Journal found that the rate of teenage suicide has risen by 65% since 2010. Further research found that the increased depression rates and thoughts of suicide were interconnected with how much time the teen spent on their phone. Other studies from the Sage Journal also found that while teenagers were browsing through social media, addictive cells were constantly being activated. Developers of social media have even admitted that notifications and other features were designed to catch people’s eye so they will continuously come back for more; a classic indication of addiction.
The anxious feeling people get when their cell phones run out of battery or are lost, stolen, or broken finally has its own name, Nomophobia. It means No Mobile Phone Phobia and the definition is “the fear of not being able to use your cell phone or other smart devices.” On CNN.com you can actually take a short quiz to find out if you may be suffering from Nomophobia yourself. A majority of the questions begin with the phrase “If I did not have my smartphone with me I would be/ feel…” followed by the words “worried” “anxious” and “uncomfortable” then a possible scenario would follow.
During the quiz, you rate your feelings on a scale of 1-7, where 1 means completely disagree and 7 means strongly agree, and the higher the number of your score, the more likely that you are suffering from Nomophobia.
Outside of increased anxiety and depression in people when they are with or without their cell phones, there are other negative behaviors that are associated with mobile phone use, too. Texting while driving has been linked to an average of 9 deaths each day and 1,000 injuries. Checking your phone while walking can become a danger too. A recent study showed that nearly half of pedestrians who walk into traffic during the “Do Not Walk” sign were not paying attention because they were using their cell phone. These numbers may begin to reach epidemic proportions if more action isn’t taken to become more mindful of our activities and surroundings when it comes to using our devices.
Curbing the Addiction
So what steps can we take to help teens and others correct the behavior of cell phone addiction?
Start with tracking your cell phone use. As previously mentioned, the amount of time you spend checking your phone may surprise you enough that you will make the conscious decision on your own to decrease cell phone usage. Think about all of the other things you could be doing with the time that is usually spent mindlessly going through emails and actually do them. Other possible solutions include turning the “Do Not Disturb” setting on. If you’re not expecting an important phone call, this can help you to forget that your phone is even there, at least for a little while. At home, there are plenty of other things to be doing other than refreshing Twitter, but if you can’t help yourself then perhaps you can try placing your phone in another room. Creating rules and boundaries for your family on cell phone use can be extremely helpful as well. A few ideas include not allowing phones at the dinner table, while watching a movie together or during family game nights. These rules will instill good future habits for your children and for yourself. It is not only important to help your children curb cell phone addiction, it is essential that you remain mindful of your daily activities, too.
If you’re worried about losing social connections because you’re not communicating on Facebook or sending out Snapchats, make plans to hang out in the physical world. Sitting down for a single lunch will strengthen your relationship way more than sending out a thousand Snapchats. Also, remind yourself that it’s not necessary to respond to every single email as it reaches your inbox. If something is that important at work you will certainly get a phone call.
Perhaps in the future, our relationships with our cell phones will change as we become more aware of the negative effects these dependencies can have on our bodies and minds. Maybe our standards for entertaining ourselves will naturally change and we will tire of that fleeting jolt of happiness that is felt everytime our phone informs us that our Instagram photo received a new like. However, for the younger generation who have grown up with social media as a way of life, they may need to take a deeper look inside to completely cleanse themselves of this addictive behavior. Above all, staring at screens is fun and pleasurable, but there’s a whole world out there full of engaging stimuli, human connection, and real-world, tangible experiences; go enjoy them without your phone every once in a while!