How to Break Your Cellphone Addiction
Does the thought of being without your phone make you agitated? Fight back against nomophobia
Is your cellphone taking over your life? You're not alone.
Last year, a Baylor University study revealed that college students spend eight to 10 hours per day on their cellphones. Approximately 60 percent admitted they may be addicted to the device and become agitated without it.
“Wow, think what could be accomplished if we channeled even part of those minutes to helping others or working harder,” says James Roberts, PhD, a Baylor professor of marketing and the study's lead author.
Excessive cellphone use and the fear of being without one is called nomophobia, short for “no mobile phone phobia.” It can interfere with personal relationships, decrease productivity, increase the danger of walking or driving accidents, impair the ability to sleep and create agitated emotional states, according to the Baylor study and researchers at Indiana University’s School of Public Health.
Related: Putting Down My Phone: A Resolution
Here's how to fight it and reassert control over your time.
Take it down a level
The good news is that you don't need to stop using your mobile device entirely to break your addiction, according to Roberts. “I think the best way to approach it is not to attempt to go 'cold turkey' but to set boundaries.”
Follow these steps:
- Track the problem. For one week, keep a record of the number of minutes you spend on it each day. “Awareness of the problem behavior is often enough to prompt change,” says Roberts.
- Take away temptation. Stow your phone in the trunk while driving. No text or phone call is worth getting into an accident. Turn it off or leave it in your car when attending a meeting or class, supervising children, doing homework or performing other activities that demand your attention. If you must keep it turned on — your job may require that you be available, for instance — don't touch it unless you receive a call.
- Plan some unplugged fun. Set aside some time to enjoy life without a mobile device. Have coffee with friends, take a walk or read a book. “Rediscover the joy of uninterrupted conversation,” says Roberts.
- Set a curfew. Decide on a time in the evening after which you won't use your device. Before going to sleep, turn it off and store it outside of your bedroom.
“It takes about two months to create new habits,” says Roberts. “But the effort is well worth it — a life filled with meaningful experiences versus a life of momentary pleasures.”
Moodoff Day, an Australian charity organization, holds an annual Morning Without Technology event, during which it encourages people around the world to turn off their mobile devices for at least five hours and interact with people face to face. This year's event takes place on Feb 22.
Parents, take control
Adults are not the only ones struggling with addiction. “Nomophobia is extremely dangerous in children and teens because their brains haven’t fully developed, so exposure to such stimuli can rewire synapses to affect the pleasure center,” says Karen Ogden, a licensed marriage and family therapist who helps families cope with children's cellphone and Internet issues.
“Neuro-imaging studies have shown that when kids are texting there's an area of the brain that lights up,” she continues. “Ironically, it’s the same area that illuminates when one is using heroin.”
In general, Ogden says parents should require their children to:
- Give them all of their social media passwords
- Stop posting to social media after 5 p.m.
- Turn the phone off no later than 7 p.m.
She advises encouraging them to use a land line to make calls, and when appropriate, giving them nothing more elaborate than a basic (non-smart) phone.
“Consider the age, maturity level and needs of your child before you buy them the top-of-the-line cell phone,” says Ogden. “There are many phones that are designed specifically for young children in which they only call a few numbers like home and a relative or grandparent.”