Katie Hurley, LCSW (@katiefhurley)
(February 23, 2015)
Research shows we check our phones around 150 times per day. Take our quiz to find out if it's time to tune out your smartphone, and tune in to the real world.
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Does being away from your phone make you agitated?
The National Institutes of Health warns that “Internet Addiction Disorder,” although not officially listed as a psychiatric disorder, can leave you moody, depressed, and anxious when you can’t get your fix. Stress reducers, including breathing exercises, can really help if you’re trying to cut back and have digital withdrawal.
Do you sleep with your smartphone?
Family internet safety advocate Sue Scheff suggests picking a specific time to power down each night. “Shutting down means turning off,” cautions Scheff. “There’s nothing wrong with unplugging at 7pm."
Can you chat in person with a friend without glancing at your phone screen?
The intense need to check the screen that some smartphone users experience can negatively impact your interactions with others. You miss out on deeper conversation, eye contact and even expressing empathy. Worried about missing an important text or call? Set distinct ringtones and text tones for babysitters or your boss.
Can you sit at a red light without checking your phone?
Each day in the United States, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured due to distracted driving. “You have two choices when you get in the car,” says Scheff, “turn the phone off or silence it and put it in the glove box.”
Does reading friends’ social media updates leave you sad or distressed?
If you answered yes, you might have a digital addiction, says Scheff. “Keep in mind that social media is only a perception of what people want you to believe,” she says. However, “seeing others living it up on vacation when we are struggling to make a car payment can negatively impact our own sense of self-worth.”
Do you check your phone during meals?
Checking your smartphone — or making it part of the table setting — sends a clear message to your dining companions that you’re not fully present. You’re also depriving yourself of connecting with others. Tuck your phone in your purse or pocket when out; at home, leave the phone at a charging station that’s away from the table.
Do you get agitated if you’re interrupted while checking your phone?
A study published in Pediatrics found that caregivers highly absorbed with their handheld devices often responded harshly to their children. Try limiting phone to when the kids are at school, napping or in bed for the night.
Do you lose track of time when using your smartphone?
Getting lost in cyberland can decrease your productivity, affect your relationships and even leave you feeling emotionally drained and physically stressed. Helpguide suggests keeping a log to track your non-work Internet habits so you can find out how much time your habit is really taking up and what triggers you to surf.
Do friends and family frequently ask you to put down your smartphone?
Relationships suffer when digital addiction occurs. Kids, for instance, will act out when they feel like your phone is more important to you than they are. Parents also risk sending the wrong message: “We can’t expect our kids to disconnect and pay attention to us unless we are willing to unplug and pay attention to them,” says Scheff.
Do you mindlessly check for updates just out of habit?
According to PEW research, 67 percent of cell owners check for messages, alerts or calls even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. Fear of missing out (FOMO) isn’t just a Facebook problem: Constant connectivity creates a need for constant input. The cycle can be hard to break. “Detaching from digital life is a process,” says Scheff. “Set realistic limits on screen time and gradually increase time away from your smartphone.”
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