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Smartphone Addiction: Breaking Free

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The following is an excerpt from Smartphone Addiction by Helpguide.org:

Self-help tips for smartphone addiction

There are a number of steps you can take to get your smartphone use under control. While you can initiate many of these measures yourself, an addiction is hard to beat on your own, especially when temptation is always within easy reach. It can be all too easy to slip back into old patterns of usage. Look for outside support, whether it’s from family, friends, resources such as Smartphone statistics, or a professional therapist. Seeing as the majority of us use our phones pretty much every day, it is understandable to feel some sort of way if the phone was to ever get damaged. Saying this though, it would be as simple as taking it to an iPhone repair store to resolve the issues. Some people will be able to cope with being separated from their phones for a few days while it is getting repaired, but others may find it a little difficult, especially if they are addicted to their phones.

To help you identify your problem areas, keep a log of when and how much you use your smartphone for non-work or non-essential activities. There are specific apps that can help with this, enabling you to track the time you spend on your phone (see the Resources section below). Are there times of day that you use your phone more? Are there other things you could be doing instead? The more you understand your smartphone use, the easier it will be to curb your habits and regain control of your time.

Recognize the triggers that make you reach for your phone. Is it when you’re lonely or bored? If you are struggling with depression, stress, or anxiety, for example, your excessive smartphone use might be a way to self-soothe rocky moods. Instead, find healthier and more effective ways of managing your moods, such as practicing relaxation techniques or using HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.

Understand the difference between interacting in-person and online. Human beings are social creatures. We’re not meant to be isolated or to rely on technology for human interaction. The inner ear, face, and heart are wired together in the brain, so socially interacting with another person face-to-face-making eye contact, responding to body language, listening, talking-can make you feel calm, safe, and understood, and quickly put the brakes on stress. Interacting through text, email or messaging may feel important but it bypasses these nonverbal cues so can never have the same effect on your emotional well-being. Besides, online friends can’t hug you when a crisis hits, visit you when you’re sick, or celebrate a happy occasion with you, as much as it makes you feel good to use apps like Upleap to get you more followers, they aren’t there in person.

Strengthen your support network. Set aside dedicated time each week for friends and family. If you are shy, there are ways to overcome social awkwardness and make lasting friends without relying on social media or the Internet. To find people with similar interests, try reaching out to colleagues at work, joining a sports team or book club, enrolling in an education class, or volunteering for a good cause. You’ll be able to interact with others like you, let relationships develop naturally, and form friendships that will enhance your life and strengthen your health.

Build your coping skills. Perhaps tweeting, texting or blogging is your way of coping with stress or angry feelings. Or maybe you have trouble relating to others, or are excessively shy with people in real life and find it easier to communicate with people online. Building skills in these areas will help you weather the stresses and strains of daily life without relying on your smartphone.

Recognize any underlying problems that may support your compulsive behavior. Have you had problems with alcohol or drugs in the past? Does anything about your smartphone use remind you of how you used to drink or use drugs to numb or distract yourself? Recognize if you need to address treatment in these areas or return to group support meetings.

Modify your smartphone use, step-by-step

For most people, getting control over their smartphone use isn’t a case of quitting cold turkey. Think of it more like going on a diet. Just as you still need to eat, you probably still need to use your phone for work, school or to stay in touch with friends. Your goal should be to cut back to more healthy levels of use.

  1. Set goals for when you can use your smartphone. For example, you might schedule use for certain times of day, or you could reward yourself with a certain amount of time on your phone once you’ve completed a homework assignment or finished a chore, for instance.
  2. Turn off your phone at certain times of the day, such as when you’re driving, in a meeting, at the gym, having dinner, or playing with your kids.
  3. Don’t bring your phone or tablet to bed. The blue light emitted by the screens can disrupt your sleep if used within two hours of bedtime. Turn devices off and leave them in another room overnight to charge. Instead of reading eBooks on your phone or tablet at night, pick up a book. You’ll not only sleep better but research shows you’ll also remember more of what you’ve read.
  4. Replace your smartphone use with healthier activities. If you are bored and lonely, resisting the urge to use your smartphone to play games or check social media can be very difficult. It’s not wrong to spend some time gaming. You can limit the time you spend on games though. Say you read a Review of Casinoly Casino and find that it’s exciting to play some games on it; go ahead and spend 15 minutes on some games and then keep your phone away. Have a plan for other ways to fill the time, such as meditating, reading a book, or chatting with friends face to face.
  5. Spending time with other smartphone addicts? Play the “phone stack” game. When you’re having lunch, dinner, or drinks together, have everyone place their smartphones face down on the table. Even as the phones buzz and beep, no one is allowed to grab his or her device. If someone can’t resist checking their phone, that person has to pick up the check for everyone.
  6. Remove social media apps from your phone so you can only check Facebook, Twitter and the like from your computer. What you see of others on social media is rarely an accurate reflection of their lives-people exaggerate the positive aspects of their lives, brushing over the doubts and disappointments that we all experience. Spending less time comparing yourself unfavorably to these stylized representations can help to boost your mood and sense of self-worth.
  7. Limit checks. If you compulsively check your phone every few minutes, wean yourself off by limiting your checks to once every 15 minutes. Then once every 30 minutes, then once an hour. If you need help, there are apps that can automatically limit when you’re able to access your phone.
  8. Curb your fear of missing out. Accept that by limiting your smartphone use, you’re likely going to miss out on certain invitations, breaking news, or new gossip. There is so much information available on the Internet, it’s almost impossible to stay on top of everything, anyway. Accepting this can be liberating and help break your reliance on technology.

Treatment for smartphone addiction

Therapy and counseling for smartphone addiction

Therapy can give you a tremendous boost in controlling smartphone and Internet use. Cognitive-behavioral therapy provides step-by-step ways to stop compulsive behaviors and change your perceptions about your smartphone. Therapy can also help you learn healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.

If your smartphone or Internet use is affecting your partner directly, as with excessive use of Internet pornography or online affairs, marriage counseling can help you work through these challenging issues. Marriage counseling can also help you reconnect with your partner if you have been using virtual worlds for most of your social needs.

Group support for smartphone addiction

Organizations such as Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous (ITAA) and On-Line Gamers Anonymous offer online support and some face-to-face meetings to curb excessive technology use, as well as tips on starting your own chapter. Of course, online support groups and forums should be used with caution. Although they may be helpful in finding sources of assistance, it’s easy to use them as an excuse to spend even more time on your smartphone or computer. While you need real-life people to benefit fully from any addiction support group, it’s especially important for smartphone or Internet addiction. Sex Addicts Anonymous may be another place to try if you are having trouble with cybersex or compulsive use of sex and dating apps.

For those in need of greater intervention, there are now specialist treatment centers that offer digital detox programs to help you disconnect from digital media. For help finding these, as well as support groups and therapists, see the Resources and References section below.

Helping a child or teen with smartphone addiction

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, while young children older than 2 should spend no more than 1 to 2 hours a day viewing age-appropriate material. Of course, once kids have their own smartphones, limiting their use becomes that much more difficult. Any parent who’s tried to drag a child or teen away from a smartphone or tablet knows how challenging it can be to separate kids from social media, messaging apps, or online games and videos. Youngsters lack the maturity to curb their smartphone use on their own, but simply confiscating the device can often backfire, creating anxiety and withdrawal symptoms in your child. Instead, there are plenty of other ways to help your child find a healthier balance:

Be a good role model. Children have a strong impulse to imitate, so it’s important you manage your own smartphone and Internet use. It’s no good asking your child to unplug at the dinner table while you’re staring at your own phone or tablet. Try not to let your own smartphone use distract from parent-child interactions.

Use apps to monitor and limit your child’s smartphone use. There are a number of apps available that can limit your child’s data usage or restrict his or her texting and web browsing to certain times of the day to enforce technology breaks. Other apps can eliminate messaging capabilities while in motion, so you can prevent your teen using a smartphone while driving.

Create “phone-free” zones. Restrict the use of smartphones or tablets to a common area of the house where you can keep an eye on your child’s activity and limit time online. Ban phones from the dinner table and bedrooms and insist they’re turned off after a certain time at night.

Encourage other interests and social activities. Get your child out from behind the phone or computer screen. Expose kids to other hobbies and activities, such as team sports, Scouts, and afterschool clubs. Spend time as a family unplugged.

Talk to your child about underlying issues. Compulsive smartphone use can be the sign of deeper problems. Is your child having problems fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress? Is your child suffering with other issues at school or home?

Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents, but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, doctor, or respected family friend. Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling if you are concerned about your child’s smartphone use.

If you would like help breaking free from smartphone addiction, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.