Do you unlock your cell phone every 10 to 30 minutes? Does being away from your phone make you anxious? If you can honestly answer true to these questions, it’s possible that you could benefit from a cell phone hiatus. I’m not innocent of being glued to the cell phone—spending time texting, surfing timelines, playing games and etc. are all pretty harmless and fun. Still, if it’s a dependency, the distraction that it causes is something seriously worth looking into. So how do you know if what you think is casual cell phone use is actually displaying addictive behavior that can possibly be setting your parenting priorities on the back burner?
Signs of Cell Phone Addiction. It seems that studies may just be catching up on our attachment concerns in the past couple of years. You can find a plethora of articles on the topic. Before, teenage addiction was the hot topic, but now, it seems parents are just as guilty of missing out from swiping away at their smartphones. You’ve seen instances when mothers in public were on the cell phone while the child wasn’t their center focus; it happens and there are sure signs of addiction. The symptoms of dependency are increased use, inability to cut back, engaging in behavior despite risks of negative consequences—even slightly ignoring children or your own safety. In the news a while ago, a woman fell into a manhole while walking down the street on her cell phone. Similar to her story, if excessive phone use is a definite distraction as it was for her, chances are the cell phone is the root of other hindrances i.e. lateness, delaying priorities, lack of eating, isolation, or sleep deprivation, studies show. As parents, every bit of energy counts. When we are deprived of our needs, it shows in our attitudes and triggers consequential behaviors.
One study in the Journal of Pediatrics proved that adults absorbed in their mobile phones ignore their kids or may even lash out on them. Out of 55 parents at a restaurant, 44 were absorbed in their devices at different rates. Some children responded by entertaining themselves, and others acted out for attention. The caregivers either separated or shared the devices. But the absorbed parents responded harshly to child misbehavior.
When asking a State worker who has worked heavily with social services in Perth Amboy, NJ, she admitted to seeing some parent and adults display abuse patterns with their cell phone and act inattentively when handling business. “It’s definitely an obsession,” she added.
To test the theory, I sparked a challenge of completely cutting usage for three days and noted the results in my journal. The first night was peaceful—parent/child interaction was more intimate. My concentration was fervent and in the present. Day two and three were a little more challenging. I was irritable and had the urge to turn on my phone. I found out that I could use a little more cutting down when engaging in parent/child activities.
Why are we so Dependent? In the smart phone era, many get their entertainment and companionship from cell phones while in-person, face-to-face interaction has decreased. When the phone alerts, it can mean intriguing information is available. Pay attention to your feelings when hearing an alert on your phone. What do you feel? Is it anxious, happy, or annoyed? The phone triggers different feelings from positive and negative interactions with the outside world, which form an addiction or emotional attachment. Some continue to look for information that spark the pleasurable feeling that they crave.
Cutting Your Usage. Phone apps are designed to control cell phone use. Breaking Free app is a useful one. If you’re looking to cut your cell phone use, keep busy, find hobbies, and spend time with friends and children without the cell phone in hand. Tune in to the present and learn to enjoy the experience. To put it simply, turn it off! As you become comfortable, try leaving the phone at home when you go out. You will see how much you will enjoy yourself. Lastly, set a limit for the day and cut off all alerts after you’ve reached your daily limit.