Is smartphone addiction a real thing? Here’s what you should know about using smartphones in a healthy way and when it might be time to step away from the screen for a while. To get help to break an unhealthy habit, there are also a number of tips for reducing phone use throughout the day. You don’t have to ditch smartphones entirely to cut down on the time you spend scrolling, but you can learn to limit yourself.
What is smartphone addiction?
Smartphones have increased connectivity and productivity in a way that is almost impossible to overstate. But for some people, there is definitely the potential for too much of a good thing.
Although the exact definitions vary, smartphone addiction can include compulsively checking or using your phone, feeling restless when away from your phone, and using your phone in a way that interferes with social life or other activities, according to the International Journal of Cognition and Behavior. It is sometimes connected to a general addiction to the internet.
Additionally, smartphone addiction or overuse is a common problem for many people, so you’re hardly alone if browsing takes more time than you’d like. Smartphones give your brain a jolt of social stimuli thanks to constant texts and social media alerts, making it hard to look away, according to Harvard University. It’s no wonder so many people have a hard time ignoring their phones for long periods of time.
The downsides of smartphone addiction
In many cases, overuse of smartphones correlates with anxiety, poor sleep quality and even physical problems with the fingers, neck, back and shoulders, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. If you’ve ever stayed up late surfing your phone, some of these symptoms may sound familiar.
In addition, spending hours on the phone can leave less time for other hobbies or social activities.
How to use your smartphone less
If you want to cut back on smartphone use for any reason, take steps to wean yourself off slowly. Chances are, it will be easier to reduce your usage little by little than to make a sudden, big change to your current smartphone habits.
1. Make your phone less fun
Make the colorful, irresistible smartphone a little less interesting. It sounds simple, but reducing the bright, punchy colors makes the phone duller and less likely to grab your attention. Apps, websites and even texts lose some of their appeal.
To start, set the screen to grayscale. Enable developer mode on Android phones before choosing Monochromacy option below Simulate color space settings. A YouTube video by Trent B1 covers all the steps in detail.
To enable grayscale on an iPhone, go to Settingsthereafter availability. Select Screen and text sizeand finally Color filters. Select Grayscaleand watch the colors on your phone disappear.
Then disable notifications to reduce distractions. Whether you want to stop notifications for your Android phone or control your iPhone notifications, reducing them will help make your phone a little less interesting.
Worried about missing calls or messages? Dedicate certain times of the day to answering texts and returning calls. By replying to messages in designated groups, you can maintain focus for longer periods of time while staying in touch with contacts.
2. Monitor screen time
Set a goal for how much time you want to spend on your phone each day and stick to it. Somewhat counterintuitively, downloading an app designed to monitor screen time can be useful here.
The OffScreen app helps limit screen time usage overall. Choose the maximum time you can spend on the phone each day during setup. In addition, the OffScreen app monitors your movement to prevent phone use while walking. It also gives you the ability to block certain apps during certain parts of the day to improve focus.
A progress screen tracks your phone usage over time, and it records exactly how long you go without touching your phone in a day.
Download: OffScreen: Screen Time Control App for iOS | Android (subscription required, free trial available)
3. Pay attention to your pickups
It can be so easy to play with your phone when there are delays in your day (and chances are, almost everyone around you uses a phone too). Find ways to reward yourself for leaving your phone alone to keep this common habit at bay.
Using the Forest app rewards you for ignoring your phone for set periods of time, for example. Stay focused during regular work sessions to grow a virtual forest filled with an incredible variety of trees.
In addition, check screen time on Android in the Digital Wellbeing screen, which shows the number of times you unlock the phone. On an iPhone, you can see the number of pickups on the Apple Screen Time feature. Keeping track of pickups, and gradually learning to fiddle with your phone less often, will result in less screen usage overall.
4. Keep your phone away from the bed
It’s so tempting to keep scrolling long into the night. But fiddling with your phone at bedtime is often associated with poorer sleep quality, and experts often recommend keeping smartphones out of the bedroom, according to Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. For many people, the temptation to check their phone at all hours of the day is hard to ignore.
Break the habit by leaving your phone in another room and using a smart alarm clock (or a traditional alarm clock) instead. It may take some adjusting time, so experiment with the best way to store your phone. You might want to keep it in an adjoining room to hear in case of late night phone calls, for example. Other people may prefer to keep it off altogether.
Spending less time on your phone each day, using time tracking apps, reducing notifications and keeping your phone away from your bed can all help reduce overall usage. Whether you want to overcome a smartphone addiction or simply increase your screen-free time, using your phone in a more conscious way can help you avoid overuse.