How to Avoid Mobile Phone Addiction
December 22nd 2018 | By Emma Grant
The festive season is a time when many of us take a break from work to relax and enjoy some well-earned down time. Inevitably though we find ourselves spending much of the time perched on the sofa, navigating a long list of terrible TV repeats or trying desperately to avoid getting involved in family party games. Unsurprisingly, this is the time of year when more people than ever find themselves burying their heads in their smartphones as a means of escape.
But there is a fine line between escapism and mobile phone addiction, with studies revealing that spending too much time scrolling through a phone can be damaging to mental health and focus.
Mobile phone addiction is a very real phenomenon of the 21st century. If you find yourself reaching for your mobile as soon as you wake up, before you even set foot outside of the bed, then you could be addicted. Similarly if you’re checking your phone when you should be working, minding the kids, enjoying an intimate dinner or doing something else important, the same goes. Mobile phone addiction can even put lives in danger, with way too many people checking their phones whilst driving or crossing the road.
If you’re reading this and nodding, “yep, that’s me”, then it’s time to take steps to stop your phone interfering with your life. Here are 7 tips to help you manage your mobile phone addiction.
Step 1: Set a Schedule
Constant interruptions are bad for concentration and workflow. More often than not, a ping, ring, blip or beep will not be alerting you to something work related, and even if it is, it can usually wait. If someone needs you that urgently, they’ll call. So, set yourself a schedule for checking your phone so that the pings and beeps are all dealt with in one hit, periodically.
A great way of doing this is to set an alarm on your phone. If you are just starting out weaning yourself off mobile phone addiction, make it every 30 minutes. Then up it to 1 hour minutes and every two hours. Once the alarm sounds, spend up to five minutes maximum dealing with any notifications, then reset your alarm.
It will help to let people know that they may not hear from you as immediately as they used to, so that you do not get badgered for a response. Similarly, you should be setting expectations regarding any business responses. If you make a habit of replying immediately, then it will become an expectation. So, resist the urge to reply out of hours in the first place, then you will not feel pressurised to do so all the time.
Step 2: Turn off Notifications
It really is totally unnecessary to look at every like, message or post that appears on your phone in real time. Putting a stop to this really is as easy as switching off notifications.
Think about what apps command your attention most, and stop letting them ping at you. It’s really easy to do this; just tap on Settings > Notifications and set your preferences for each app. By all means leave notifications on for email, messages and calendars, but anything that is remotely addictive, like social platforms for example, can be switched off so that you are in control of when you look at them, rather than letting them control you.
Step 3: Turn on Screen Time Reports
Do you know how much time screen time you rack up every week? You might be shocked. And that could be a good thing.
Screen time apps provide you with reports on your phone habits. They also let you set usage goals so you can track your progress with your mobile phone addiction rehab. Take a look at QualityTime (manage your digital diet) and Moment (less phone, more real life). The iPhone also has its own Screen Time and App Limits feature made available in the iOS 12 update. To activate it, go to Settings and tap Screen Time, enable it to use it. You’ll see your usage so far for the current date, as well as a breakdown of your app and website habits for the past seven days. The results could well shock you into doing something about your mobile phone addiction.
Step 4: Delete Distracting Apps
If switching off notifications for your most distracting apps still doesn’t help, go a step further, and delete them altogether. That way you won’t be tempted to ‘just have a quick look’. This is good practice for apps that tend to incite upset and anger. It is a sad fact that these types of apps are the ones that are most addictive.
Something that could really help is to replace ‘negative’ apps with positive ones, for example apps that help you learn something like a new language. That way your screen time becomes positive and beneficial.
Step 5: Ban Your Phone from the Bedroom
If you are one of those people who check their phone the minute they wake up or last thing before the light goes out of a night, then you need to take serious action.
Screen time before bedtime is bad for your health. Light from electronic devices increases alertness and supresses the release of melatonin, all of which can prevent us from getting to sleep.
Checking your phone first thing in the morning will again negatively impact upon your health. The first half an hour following waking up is a very important time. It sets the mood for the day. You should be stretching, taking in some fresh air, focusing on all that you are going to achieve, sitting down to a healthy breakfast. Instead, so many people wake to social and news feeds littered with bad news and negativity.
So, put your phone on a bedroom ban. Tuck it away in a drawer in another part of the house at least 30 minutes before you retire, and don’t retrieve it until you’ve been up in the morning for at least the same.
Step 6: Make your Car a No-Phone-Zone
If you think about it, it really is surprising that mobile phones are not banned from cars altogether. When you set off on a flight, you are required by law to switch your phone to flight mode. Quite why there isn’t a legal requirement for ‘car mode’ is yet unknown, but perhaps it will become the future.
Focusing on more than one thing at a time is dangerous, especially when driving. Even if you are stopped at the lights, your senses still need to be on full alert, and definitely not immersed in your friends’ latest updates.
So, take the law into your own hands and make your car a no-phone-zone. If you use your phone as a sat-nav, then switch on your Do Not Disturb feature. This will prevent all notifications, alerts and calls from making any noise, vibration or lighting up the screen. This will completely remove any temptation to check your phone whilst in control of your vehicle.
Step 7: Switch Virtual Reality for Real Reality
And finally, the ultimate fix for mobile phone addiction: do something real instead.
Find something better to do. Get outside. Read a book. Attend a live show or concert. Learn a new craft or skill. Get fit. Play with the kids. Teach the kids. Take them out and educate them about their surroundings, instead of walking along focusing on your phone and leaving them to get bored. No kids? Spend some time with friends. Chat. Share a meal without sharing it to social media – go on, we dare you! There really is so much else you can do with your life other than burying your head in your phone.
Your New Year’s Resolution?
Why not make it a New Year’s resolution to reduce your screen time and curb your mobile phone addiction? The benefits are extensive. You could enrich your life. Learn stuff. And keep yourself safe whilst driving or crossing the road. We wish you good luck.