If you’re up for a challenge, count how many times you pick up your phone in a day. Is it dozens of times? Hundreds? The truth is that our phones—while amazing tools that open up a world of convenience, entertainment, and information—are addicting. It’s way too easy to go from using our phone as a tool for communication and efficiency to feeling the compulsive need to check our notifications every few seconds.
When it comes to kids and teens, the risks are even more serious. Phone addiction can cause problems for their mental health and sleep habits, not to mention all the time they can waste mindlessly scrolling. Our kids’ time is precious—they have lots to learn and do!
But having a phone doesn’t mean we have to be addicted to our phone. So how do we prevent addiction, and how do we break addiction to phones? Keep reading for info on phone addiction and five ideas for curbing that addiction, both for you and your kids.
Smartphones Are Built to Be Addicting
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so easy to feel so reliant on your device, know it’s all by design. Your phone’s constant notifications and never-ending opportunities to scroll are purposely designed to make it difficult for us to put them down.
And our kids are not immune. If you notice your child feeling overly anxious when separated from their device or having trouble sleeping, they might have an addiction to their phone.
How to Break Addiction to Cell Phones
We know it can be challenging to break the addiction to your phone, especially for teens who feel like they need to be constantly connected to their friends and classmates, but there’s hope! While it won’t necessarily be easy, it’s absolutely possible to create a home environment where phones are a tool, not a trap. Below are five ways to break cell phone addictions that everyone in the family can use.
- Make it a team effort. We often talk about how one of the best teaching tools is example, and that’s true here too. As your children see you using your phone mindfully and sparingly, they’ll be more aware of their own relationships with technology. You can set standards for phone usage as a family and work on it as a team so it feels like something you’re doing together, as opposed to rules you enforce for just your kids.
- Have no-phone time. Consider setting aside time (maybe during family meals or a weekly family game night) where no one uses their phone. To make it easier on everyone, put phones physically away from you during this time. It will be harder to unconsciously check Instagram if your phone is down the hall in another room.
- Protect sleep. A good family rule of thumb is to keep phones away from the bedroom at night. Get real alarm clocks and keep your phones in the kitchen or living room. This will help you all avoid those late-night YouTube binges and help you sleep better by avoiding blue light close to bedtime.
- Turn off notifications. If you see someone tagged you on Facebook, how long does it take you to open the app to see what it is? Oh, you check immediately? Yeah . . . us too. But there’s really no urgency to check social media notifications, even if it may feel like it. Try removing the distractions by turning off notifications for everything but phone calls and texts from a few key people. If your kids use social media, they can do the same with their notifications.
- Create full lives. If you or your kids are spending too much time on your phones, fill that time with other activities. You can spend time outside together, help your child pursue an interest outside the screen, and provide opportunities for kids to connect with their friends face to face. It’s harder to rely on screens to pass the time when your time is filled with fun, enriching activities.
So take heart, parents! We live in a tech-filled world, but we don’t have to let our phones take over our—or our kids’—lives. So next time you’re wondering how to break addiction to your phone, try these ideas for keeping phones in their place as tools for communication, learning, and growing.