Our smartphones are a daily part of our lives now. It’s easy to find yourself scrolling on social media for hours. You may often take a break to charge your device or run an errand, only to be struck by how long you’ve been staring at the screen. You aren’t alone, as statistics from Data.ai report Americans spend an average of 4.8 daily hours on their mobile devices, an amount equivalent to one-third of their day.
Below we’ll look into how to use your phone responsibly, the effects of excessive phone use, and tips on how to better use your smartphone.
Occasional Use vs. Excessive
Cell phones replaced the landline as an essential source of communication, and now with smartphones, our phones are more than just communication devices; they’re entertainment devices and offer ways to manage our lives with apps. At the start of the pandemic, many people turned to smartphones to communicate with friends and family and entertain themselves while stuck inside. Today some of these habits linger as Americans use their smartphones for large portions of their day, such as for Slack, Zoom, and other workplace communication methods.
So, what’s the difference between an occasional phone user versus an excessive user? An occasional phone user can take a break from their phone without stress. However, if any of the following occur, it’s a sign excessive phone use is unhealthy:
- Reckless behavior, such as looking at the screen while operating a vehicle
- Ignoring loved ones to spend time on the phone
- Changes in work performance
- Lack of sleep or repeat sleep disturbances
- Anger when interrupted from using your phone
Occasional phone use is acceptable, and health experts advise adults to limit their recreational daily screen time to less than two hours a day.
Excessive Screen Time Effects on Health
Our phones help simplify and streamline our daily lives, but they can also take their toll, especially on physical and mental health. Studies on the effects of screen time show the following:
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Higher feelings of loneliness and stress
- Slower reaction times
- Disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm
- Higher risk of myopia or nearsightedness
- Migraines and other headaches
As smartphone use increased during the pandemic, our devices became indispensable, often used for work and personal use. If your job requires you to use your smartphone, especially if working remotely, it can be hard to reduce your dependence on mobile devices. You can practice smarter and healthier phone use by making simple changes.
Changing the Way You Use Your Smartphone
You can start your screen time makeover by determining how much you use your phone. Most smartphone operating systems feature a Screen Time report that lets you see the associated percentage of calls, social media, emails, texts, and app use. Using this data, you can see patterns and make changes as needed.
Determine boundaries for work versus personal use: Being “on call” for work and using your phone for personal messages can mean spending the whole day on your phone. Use your phone’s focus or do not disturb setting to create boundaries as needed.
Change your screen appearance: Make your phone less appealing by sorting your apps into categories and folders, making it harder to open them with a simple touch. You can also change your screen’s brightness or even change the color setting to greyscale.
Separate yourself from your phone: If you have your phone nearby you at all times, try to remove it from your location, such as letting it be in another room. You can also give yourself a few set times to check your phone, such as on a lunch break or while drinking your morning coffee.
Silence or limit notifications: Alerts of social media comments, texts, voicemails, and app updates can be very distracting, causing us to lose focus. Improve your productivity and reduce your screen time by limiting or silencing notifications.
Remove the phone from your bedtime routine: Mobile devices emit blue light, which tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daytime. Using your phone at night before bedtime reduces the body’s melatonin production, making it harder to sleep. Replace your phone alarm with a traditional alarm clock, and stop scrolling at least two hours before bed.
As you put these tips into practice, you begin using your smartphone more mindfully and purposely. Take the time to examine your screen time; if it’s excessive, plan to change how you use your phone. You don’t have to stop completely; instead, look for ways to create balance and use apps you need for work or life, not just mindless scrolling.
With minor adjustments, you could be a more mindful smartphone user. If you think your phone use may be unhealthy, create an action plan that works for your life and schedule. To achieve a healthy balance, focus on apps and content that enrich your life or are necessary for work.