Kathy Craig's Blog
While you may not think of it that way, your brain can become addicted to personal electronics to such a degree that it impacts multiple areas of your life. Of course, the physical effects are substantial once you’re aware of them. But worse yet is the impact on your family.
What smartphones do to your brain
While it may not be the same as a narcotic addiction, heavy cell phone users often find themselves compelled to check their mail, group chats, and texts without regard for the people with whom they are sitting. Often, they’ll break a conversation or lose eye contact if they’ve been away from their phones for too long. This needless checking and rechecking their phones steams from the “fear of missing out” on something. Unfortunately for the people they’re with, it seems like “fear of missing out on something better.”
When it comes to family time, reading, watching movies, endlessly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, and playing games often take the place of meaningful interaction. And it’s not just the kids. Increasingly, parents are busy on their phones too, so when everyone is home after a day apart at work or school, they’re still not home together … they’re all in their own little worlds on their own devices.
Breaking the addiction
As with any addiction, recognizing the problem is half the battle. The emotional triggers that cause you to reach for your phone are vast and varied, but mostly you’ve developed a routine or habit that needs to be broken.
Turn on your screen-time statistics to see how many hours per day you spend on your device and the breakdown. Do you mostly play games? Spending time on social media? Read books? Read or watch the news? How about texting? Sometimes phone use is productive. Like where you’re going through work emails so that you can go into the office later in the morning, or when you use apps like Dropbox to check the progress of a project. Of course, we use our phones for banking and bill paying too, so once you know your usage stats, you can start to formulate a plan.
- Create mental speed bumps. That is, force yourself to go through a process before you can randomly use your phone. Make your login harder. Change your lock screen to ask you questions about your intentions. Put your phone is a case that takes the effort to use it for anything other than a phone call.
- Practice reducing your screen time for a week. Check your stats each day and make it a game for the next day to be less time on the clock.
- Go through all the apps on your phone and remove any that you don’t use.
- Then, give it another look. Remove the ones that take up large blocks of time without any meaningful return. For some that would be social media and for others, games.
Keep only those apps that you absolutely need. For instance, if you’re planning to buy a home, keep the real estate apps on your phone until you find the one to buy. Then, remove that one too.