Cell phone use has become a necessary staple in our lives. It is difficult for many of us to imagine life without a Smartphone or iPhone. The capabilities of our cell phones have increased greatly over time. We can access numerous apps that make our life more convenient. Over 68% of adults have a smartphone (source). As our advancements in technology increase, our cell phones will take on greater functions. So how could something that offers us so much be bad for us? Just like most things in life, too much of something can be harmful.
There are numerous examples of pleasurable activities that can be abused. A glass of wine during a meal, for some, is enjoyable. Too much wine and you become a problem drinker (alcoholic). The same argument can include other activities such as sex, work, gambling, and even eating. For those who state that cell phones are necessary, they would not get any arguments from most individuals. It is the overutilization of cell phones that can create addictive behaviors. An example of this is food. We need food to survive. However, too much food or your relationship with food, a person can have an eating disorder.
For teenagers, the use of cell phones for social media can be as high as 70% (source) for some platforms. It is easy to see how dependent they could become on their cell phones. Developmentally, social connectivity and peer groups are extremely important for this age group. It is an important lifeline for them. This especially presents itself when teens are around adults. Social media and communication with and about peers are not only more interesting than adult conversations, but they do not want to miss out on anything.
A recent study presented findings that for adolescences, higher cell phone reliance was associated with effects on self-control (source). This study did not show any long-term effects of over-reliance on cell phones, but the article associated an increase of negative emotions, such as anger. Another study stated that 23% of teens in the study, presented symptoms of addiction to their cell phones (source). The more time spent on their phones the less engagement in the adult world. Something important for them to learn to navigate and master as they transition to adulthood.
Adults do not fare any better in some studies. The opportunity to disengage from others, including their family, increases with the preoccupation of using their phone. One study indicated that 20% of people polled in a survey, texted while having sex (source). Driving and texting is also a factor for as much as 18% of adult drivers (source). 19% have admitted to using it in places of worship (source). It is difficult to measure other abuses of cell phones, such as carrying on loud conversations on phones in public. Our ability to concentrate over time has greatly diminished. One study (source) ranks our concentration level below a goldfish. However, it can be problematic.
Here are some indicators your use can be a problem.
- Are you spending more time on your cell than you realize?
- Do you find yourself using your cell phone for most of the day, even when you in an activity (concert, place of worship, child activity)?
- Is more time spent texting or tweeting than talking to people?
- Do you check your phone regularly, even in the middle of the night?
- Do you text and drive?
- Are you anxious if your cell battery is low? Or if you cannot get a cell phone reception?
- Are you irritated if someone asks you to put away your phone?
- Do you use your cell phone during meals?
- Do you feel your cell phone use takes up too much of your time?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is suggested you evaluate your relationship with your cell phone. Like other addictions we presented earlier, providing a necessary or enjoyable function does not exclude it from being a problem. Cell phones are not going away. As we discussed earlier, the capabilities of our phones will only increase in time. Here are some suggestions to moderate your use and making sure it does not become a problem.
- Understand your limitations and when you are prone to misuse it. If you tend to look at it at nighttime, turn it completely off. If you text and drive, put your phone in the glove department. If you use your phone to wake up, go old school and buy an alarm (yes they still make those).
- Leave your phone in the car or hand to a reliable partner when you are going to activities.
- Promote a no cell phone dinner time.
- Discourage uses during family time.
- Delete social media from your phone. You can still access it from a desktop and for some individuals, it may be too tempting having easy access to your phone.
Habits can be broken. It will take time to get accustomed to living with less cell phone time. The need to be constantly plugged in can create problems for people. If it does become difficult seek out professional help.