According to mental health professionals like Dr. David Greenfield, Director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, smart phone addiction is real. In fact, he estimates that 90 percent of Americans probably fall into the "overusing or abusing" category when it comes to their smart phones. He reached this conclusion following a 2014 telephone survey of 1,000 smart phone users, conducted in conjunction with AT&T. But those aren't true addicts -- just misusers, he says. So how can you tell if you're actually addicted to your phone?
Signs of Smart Phone Addiction
If you are a smart phone addict, you're actually one of the roughly 10 to 12 percent who exhibit the telltale signs of addiction, a mental health issue that we normally associated with drugs, alcohol or nicotine.
A hallmark of any addiction is developing tolerance, meaning that at first you'll get the "high" you're seeking from just a little of a substance (or in this case, a device), but gradually you'll need to increase use to get the same sense of satisfaction, until at last, the addiction takes over completely. A true smart phone addict will also continue to abuse his "drug of choice" even when it has a negative impact on his or her life. For example, he has an accident while texting and driving, feels terrible about it, maybe even losing his driving privileges for a while, yet won't -- no, can't -- stop using his phone, and will likely do it again the next time he's driving.
Kicking the Habit
According to Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University who's done considerable research on the subject of smart phone addiction and who's currently writing a book on the subject, a "cold turkey" approach is not the answer.
Rosen says that the people most at risk -- the "heavy users", tend to be young people in their teens and twenties. They've grown up in a "connected" world, and experience severe anxiety when separated from their phones, even for a short period of time. Parents who take their kids phones away or take them on camping trips in remote places without a signal, are only succeeding in making their kids anxious and miserable, because inevitably, they'll get their phone back or come back to the "real world" where they'll find they've got 300 unanswered emails and text messages, and feel the need to be glued to their phones more than ever!
The best solution, he says, is a "slow wean" that begins after telling friends that they're doing just that, and not to be offended if they don't answer texts or "like" their Facebook post right away. This, he says, removes some of the anxiety associated with the fear of offending peers who expect them to be connected at all times. Meanwhile, like any addict, they'll have to wage their own battle with FOMO (fear of missing out).
The best strategy, he advises, is to set limits and stick to them. At first the limits might be lax: They'll only check their text messages and emails every 1/2 hour, only allowing themselves 15 minutes of "phone time". Gradually, the time between phone checking can increase, while the time spent texting or answering emails can decrease. Persistence and determination are key, and slip-ups are expected and forgiven, as long as they don't become excuses to give up. Eventually, their smart phone becomes a mere convenience and a neat toy instead of an extension of themselves.
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