Smartphone usage is on the up, but people are cutting back

Are you showing signs of addiction? Well, even if you class yourself as a “moderate” user, you’re probably using you phone more than you think. Recent research has shown that those classed as a “moderate” user will touch their phones on average 2,617 times per day.

I know, right? That’s a lot, and it’s started a bit of a movement – people are consciously trying to reduce their smartphone usage and cut back.

Too much tech time

My son recently got a bit of a telling off, and we confiscated his phone for a few days. He was upset, but it was amazing to see his transition back to playing board games or going outside on his bike. It was like a light had gone on – he was a different person. Communicating, laughing, running and going out to meet his mates instead of Facetiming them.

It’s not just how often we touch our phones that’s a problem, but how much time we commit to them once we pick them up. One study found that adults in the UK spend the equivalent of 50 days per year on their phones. This includes using our phones in front of the TV, in bed, and when we’re supposed to be working. That’s not healthy for our minds, our productivity, or for our relationships with others.


Taking a step back

In order to reduce phone use, many people are turning towards phones, surprisingly enough. The reason? There are countless apps designed to help us understand our usage patterns and reduce that use. In addition to Apple’s new built-in usage tracker, a user can install tools like App Usage with added alerts to prevent excessive device use.

For those seeking a more aggressive use management tool, there’s also “Detox Procrastination Blocker”, which uses a lockout setting to encourage you to participate in your social life and attend to their other responsibilities. This can be especially beneficial for young users who are vulnerable to the overuse of social media apps.

According to the founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction Dr. David Greenfield, spending too much time on a smartphone “can increase social isolation and alienation.” For teens, this can also present as serious anxiety and depression.

A Safety concern

In addition to concerns about how excessive technology use may impact mental health, productivity, and relationships; increased dependence on technology has also become a physical safety concern. Pedestrian deaths are at a 30 year high, because both pedestrians and drivers are distracted by their phones. Similarly, there’s been a spate of tourist deaths that involve taking selfies in dangerous locations, including at the Grand Canyon, the Nile River, and popular Western Australian cliffs known as The Gap.

Breaking the habit

It won’t be easy for today’s tech-obsessed population to break our collective smartphone addiction, but it is possible. In addition to engaging use management apps, some have found relief from their technology habit by switching to a basic phone to avoid all of the tempting distractions. This means that you can stay connected, you can still get text messages and make phone calls in the event of an emergency – but there are no apps, streaming content, or internet access. It’s a big step backward, but a potentially beneficial one.

Constant connection has become an expectation, but it’s also become a liability. We can use our devices differently and still enjoy all of their benefits. In fact, with a little less use, we may just enjoy everything technology adds to our lives a little more.