Are you worried you might be addicted to your smartphone?
Well, researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have created an app called “Menthal” to track your smartphone usage and help you determine how much time you’re spending checking messages, email, or playing Candy Crush.
It’s an interesting study, to say the least. Using an app on your smartphone to determine if you are overusing your smartphone is ironic. But the hope of these researchers is that people will become aware of their excessive smartphone use and back off.
The study was small—only 50 participants—but researchers discovered smartphones were accessed every 12 minutes. That’s 5 times in an hour, and frankly, that’s too much. Not surprisingly, they also found that people felt like they were missing something if their phone was missing. We have become significantly attached to our technology and this idea that we have to always be connected. I’ve noted this before: in this attachment to staying connected, we have inadvertently become disconnected. Ask yourself, do you really have over 700 friends?
Teens and tweens are often chided for not having the “right” smartphone or for not having a smartphone at all. Those who do have smartphones tend to flaunt them like high commodities, bragging about their Instagram accounts and how many followers they have. Note, Facebook is becoming an outdated space for teens. Sites like Instagram and Snapchat are of higher interest now, and part of that is because they are easier for teens and tweens to navigate without being under the watchful eye of their parents as a result of privacy settings. I hear kids talk about how frequently they block people whom they don’t want to follow them.
Smartphone overuse hasn’t been deemed an actual addiction, but if addictive behavior is present, it needs to be addressed. In our residential treatment facilities, cell phones are not allowed. And in our day school and outpatient facilities, cell phones are stored during class time and only permitted to those who have earned the privilege. Cyber addiction is a real issue, and the reality is, having dedicated times that are unplugged are invaluable.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who has a phone glued to his or her hand? Eye contact isn’t even plausible let alone a cohesive conversation. I often find myself around gaggles of teens and tweens and I have to say, the ones who are unplugged are far more engaged. The ones neck deep in their smartphones think they’re engaged but they are in fact, detached from the present moment.
Try any of all of these suggestions:
- Have dedicated smartphone-free zones: mealtimes or (gasp) the car
- Turn off your phone when you go to bed.
- When you are out with friends, keep your phone in your purse or pocket.
- Unplug for 24 hours – call it a retreat – go outside, read a book, play an instrument, meditate, do yoga, go for a run or a hike, take a walk with a loved one and enjoy your environment.
- Volunteer at the Los Angeles Food Bank or at an Animal Shelter.
Will this app work? Who knows, but it offers an opportunity to continue this conversation about the overuse of technology and our disconnection from each other. A hug, a genuine laugh, eye contact: all of those things trump the latest meme or sunset on Instagram.