Smartphone Addiction- Are You A Victim Of This?

Are your kids aping your smartphone usage habits?

 Are you more present in the virtual world at the expense of the real world?

According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 95 per cent of children in India live in homes with a mobile phone and 73 per cent of Indian children are mobile phone users.

A recent study has found that on an average collage students in India use their smartphones 150 times a day! Most of the usage is for non-calling purposes using smartphones. This has resulted in a spike in cases of smartphone addiction. Most children and young adults use their phones to play highly addictive games like the blue whale, Pub G etc or for social media.

Addiction is considered by WHO (World Health Organization) as dependence, as the continuous use of something for the sake of relief, comfort, or stimulation, which often causes cravings when it is absent. In cities like Amritsar and Prayagraj mobile phone detox centres have been formed to help treat such cases of addiction and I envision that many more are likely to follow.

According to my findings, excessive smartphone use creates the following issues:

1. It can create eye strain and tiredness – Constant usage of electronic devices like smartphones are known to create eye strain, which can also cause headaches and tiredness.

2. It increases stress levels in the user- Research has found links in constant usage of smartphones and the effect it has on our moods. Changes in the virtual world can directly alter a person’s mental frame in the real world. Reading a comment someone has made about the person online can deeply affect the person in real life. Just the fact that a friend has not responded to a text or online message can negatively affect a person’s mood.

3. Increases loneliness and depression- Social isolation in the virtual world can be very painful. A number of friends a person has on Facebook or the number of followers on Instagram is considered to form a benchmark of how popular the person is in real life! This can cause a person to feel depressed if he/she does not have too many friends on social media. On the other end of the spectrum, a person can feel extremely lonely even if they have a lot of friends on social media. Virtual friends can never replace or compensate for friends in real life. Hence, I always encourage people to meet face-to-face and to have a real conversation devoid of WhatsApp chats and face time.

4. Encourages self-absorption – Constant smartphone use compels a person to become almost fully absorbed in the virtual world. They tend to become irritated and snappy in the real world and see it as a source of distraction from their time spent in the virtual world.

5. Trouble completing tasks – With the invent of virtual accounts like facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp etc, users are often multi-tasking and constantly shifting between the accounts. At times multiple chat windows are open and the user is pre-occupied in conversations between them. This can reduce a persons attention span and make them more restless. They will find themselves doing ten things at a time without fully focusing on one thing and completing a task. The urge to go back to conversations in the virtual world often impacts a person’s performance in the real world and their concentration levels.

6. Isolation from family and friends – Many children and young adults during social gatherings or outings with their family tend to be absorbed in their smartphones rather than enjoying quality time with their friends and family members. This is not only considered rude but, can seriously damage relationships.

7. Having a fear of missing out – Not being updated on the recent events in another person’s life can create havoc in a person. They feel compelled to keep checking their messages in order to stay updated. 8. Feeling of dread, anxiety, or panic if you leave your smartphone at homeThe deep feeling of loss and not being able to perform at a person’s best without a mobile phone is a clear indication of being addicted to the device. So what can be done to prevent or restrict the problem?

Here are ten tips which I have found to be effective in overcoming mobile phone addiction:

1. Don't use your phone in bed:

Many of us tend to use our phone just before going to sleep. Research suggests that the light from electronic devices like mobile and television directly impacts the quality of sleep of the individual. Hence, it is highly recommended that such devices are kept outside of the bedrooms at night. It is also recommended that users stop using the mobile phone 60 minutes prior to going to bed. Switch to reading books, meditating listening to relaxing music prior to hitting the sack.

2. Invest in an alarm clock:

Quite a few of my clients give me the excuse of keeping their phones next to their bed because they set alarms on their phones. This problem is easily fixed by investing in an alarm clock. This was the way people use to wake up prior to smartphones!

3. Switch to a non-smart mobile phone:

Like the old Nokia phone. This will restrict users to use phones to make and to receive calls. Users can keep to phones and divert all calls to the non-smartphone when home.

4. Ensure that your dining table is a free phone zone:

Do not make or receive calls during meals no matter what. Also, strive to have a meal as a family unit. This time should be spent as family time. Don’t discuss work, finances, or other stressful situations during mealtime. Instead discuss the meal, future meals, holidays and exciting events. If you run out of topics then try to think of ways to create exciting events in your life.

5. Put your phone on silent and turn off notifications when at home:

This will reduce distractions. Students should do this during study time.

6. Delete unnecessary apps:

Review your apps on the phone every month and delete the apps which you do not use and which you tend to be addicted to. It will also teach you non-attachment and build resilience in the long term.

7. Use screentime trackers:

Set alarms to remind you of screen time use and stop using your device once the alarm rings. This will teach you self discipline and will help you set healthy boundaries for yourself.

8. Do you really need to use your phone? Ask yourself

Make a list of things you can do which does not involve using your phone. Look at the list every day and try to follow it. Challenge yourself to follow it.

9. Use the landline more often:

Get a landline and use it whenever you are home. Inform everyone that you will only be available on that number when home.

10. Ask for help:

Ask your family and friends to help and support you during your de-addiction journey. Let them remind you of non-screen time. Acknowledging the fact that you have formed an addiction is important, seeking help for it is a sign of strength and overcoming it is a real accomplishment. I hope this article helps parents, children and young adults to understand smartphone addiction, recognize the signs and take necessary actions to overcome the issue.

If the situation becomes challenging then please do seek the help of a professional therapist who is skilled to help you or a loved one overcome smartphone addiction. Lead a healthy and balanced life.

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