Are you hooked to your smartphone?

Do you sometimes wake in the middle of the night and immediately reach for your smartphone? Or put down your knife and fork during meal times to check social media? Have you ever had arguments with those closest to you about how much time you spend on your device?

If so, you’ve probably got a smartphone addiction. And you’re far from alone.

What is smartphone addiction?

Smartphone addiction is the feeling of constantly having to check your device for messages, missed calls or social media posts. The most serious cases see people checking their phone in their sleep, or at times when it’s not socially acceptable, such as mealtimes. Sufferers will often deny they have any sort of addiction and it can caused a strain on relationships.

That all may sound like something straight out of a Charlie Brooker satire, but smartphone addiction is a very real affliction and one that is becoming a growing problem across the UK, according to the results of a study from Deloitte.

Deloitte’s 2019 annual Mobile Consumer Survey found the following:

  • Around 88% of people use smartphones, and around 95% of smartphones are used every day.
  • 39% of people think they use their smartphone too much, but 29% do nothing to cut their screen time.
  • 62% use their phone while relaxing at home
  • 8% use apps and tools to help monitor and cut usage

Previous studies have also found the following:

  • One in three UK adults, and half of 18-24 year olds, said they checked their phones in the middle of the night, with instant messaging and social media the most popular activities.
  • One in 10 smartphone owners admitted reaching for their phone as soon as they woke up – with a third grabbing the device within five minutes of waking.

What is the problem?

The good news is, this smartphone addiction could be a temporary thing as we all get used to the new technology.

Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte said: “What smartphones enable people to do is to keep tags of what’s happening, what people are saying, what people are posting. You can do that throughout the day and what smartphones are encouraging people to do is to do that at night,”

He added: “We’re getting used to how to use this tech which let’s remind ourselves is just nine years old. When we have something new we tend to overreact to it.”

So it remains to be seen just how smartphones will shape our long term future behaviour, what is certain though is we could all do with taking a break from our devices and stop being always switched on.

What are the symptoms of smartphone addiction?

If you’re worried that you or someone you know has a smartphone addiction, you should look out for the following symptoms:

  • Preoccupation with smartphone use and a need to use it more and more
  • Persistent failed attempts to use cell phone less often
  • Uses smartphone for comfort when feeling anxious or depressed
  • Excessive use characterized by loss of sense of time.
  • Has put a relationship or job at risk due to excessive cell phone use.
  • Tolerance.
    • Need for newest cell phone, more applications, or increased use.
  • Withdrawal, when cell phone or network is unreachable.
    • Anger.
    • Tension.
    • Depression.
    • Irritability.
    • Restlessness.

How to control smartphone addiction

The rule for pretty much anything in life – too much is never good for you. And smartphones are no different.

And, as with any addiction, breaking the cycle is difficult. But, unlike other addictions, going ‘cold turkey’ could actually be the best approach.

This doesn’t mean locking your phone away and never using it, but putting it out of sight an hour before bedtime is a good start. If you really want to go for it, you should also delete all unnecessary apps – you can keep things like your online banking and maybe a messaging app, but kicking social media from your phone will instantly help to cut your usage.

It’ll be tricky at first, but you’ll start getting used to it after a couple of days. The intervals will become longer and you’ll not feel the urge to keep checking.

And if you want to wean your kids off their phones, you’ll need to take the lead by showing them you can ditch the phone and also offering them some alternative activities, both outdoors and indoors.

If you can start to rediscover the real world around and find more value in face-to-face interactions and relationships, you will be a happier and more balanced individual.

Are you suffering from smartphone addiction? Or do you think someone you know it? Let us know your experience in the comments below…