Roughly three-quarters (77 percent) of Americans own smartphones, and those people spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes on their phones each day. That computes to about 86 hours a month. What’s more, 61 percent of smartphone users admit that they even use their devices in the bathroom.
Let’s face it. Americans love our smartphones. But are we going too far? Should we be concerned that we could possibly become addicted to them? Or are we already? Is being constantly connected helping or harming us?
To date, there have been a number of scientific research studies performed with the goal of finding out just how our mobile phone obsession is affecting our lives. One study carried out at Seoul’s Korea University used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to study the brain chemistry composition of teenagers who were believed to have an addiction to their smartphones.
The results revealed an imbalance in that brain chemistry. In fact, twelve of the nineteen participants ended up receiving cognitive behavioral therapy similar to that which addresses addiction to video games.
But is that just an isolated incident? Are we really on our phones too much? Well, according to the Pew Research Center, almost half of those surveyed (46 percent) say they “couldn’t live without” their smartphones. And evidence from the referenced research study suggests that it’s not only our social lives that are suffering. It could be impacting our physical and mental wellbeing as well.
The scientists behind the study used standardized tests to determine the severity of each subject’s addiction. Participants were specifically asked how their smartphone usage impacted their day-to-day lives, including social activities and sleep patterns.
The teens who were addicted scored higher on tests that indicated the presence or likelihood of depression, anxiety, insomnia and poor impulse control.
That’s not to say we can’t or shouldn’t continue using our smartphones. After all, it’s the way most of us manage our lives, from checking emails and social media to shopping and brushing up on the latest news. The key is balance. If you feel you’re overdoing it, here are a few tips to help you break the cycle and get your smartphone usage under control.
- Set times and limits for when and how long you’ll use your smartphone.
- Turn it off from time to time – particularly when you need concentration or have the opportunity for actual social interaction.
- Don’t use your phone or tablet within two hours of bedtime. This can disrupt healthy sleep patterns.
- Replace smartphone use with healthier activities. For instance, if you’re bored, rather than grabbing your phone, go for a walk or reach for a book instead.
- Wean yourself. If you feel the compulsive need to check your phone every 15 minutes, make a conscious effort to slowly increase the time in between check-ins to 30 minutes, then 45, then an hour, etc.
- Overcome your FOMO. One of the biggest culprits for smartphone addiction is fear of missing out. Accept that limiting your phone use may mean missing something from time to time. Remember what it used to be like before smartphones? You’ll be ok – we promise!
Now, over to you. What do you think? Are we too wrapped up in our smartphones or has it just become an acceptable part of life? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!