How to kick the cellphone addiction

By Jane Smith on 9th Jul 2020

Two people with cell phones

For some, a cellphone is just a convenient way to keep in touch. But for many, it’s become an ‘essential’ and at times over-dependent lifestyle accessory, one that can have a damaging effect on your health and relationships. Time to take control of your phone and not let the phone control you?

Are you tired of your children or partner being glued to their smartphones or tablets for hours on end? To the extent that communication is a struggle and getting them to put them down, let alone turn them off, is practically impossible? Well, you’re not alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics policy proposes that parents develop and reinforce media guidelines that go beyond how much time is spent on media and consider how they are used.

Strive for balance with a Family Media Plan:
Using the plan, critical health practices are followed daily, including attaining one hour of exercise and eight to 12 hours of sleep (depending on age). To ensure that sleep is restful, the policy says children should not sleep with media devices in their rooms and should avoid any screen time for at least an hour before bed. The plan also suggests designating screen-free locations at home, such as the bedroom, as well as media-free times such as family dinnertime or while driving. Families are guided to prioritize these health practices, to consider other responsibilities such as homework, sports and time with friends, and then to determine how much time is “leftover” that may be considered for media use.

Teaching moments
The policy promotes the thoughtful selection of media, as well as co-viewing of media by parents and their children. Through co-viewing, parents have the opportunity to learn about their children’s interests, discuss family values, and share experiences. Experiencing media together provides ongoing opportunities for families to communicate about treating others with respect (both online and offline), avoiding risky behaviors, and developing healthy relationships. The policy statement represents a step beyond traditional screen time limits and encourages mindful media parenting. Pediatricians have the opportunity to encourage ongoing communication between parents and their children toward balanced and positive media use.

Recommendations for families

For children younger than 18 months, discourage the use of screen media other than video chatting.
 For parents of children 18-24 months who want to introduce digital media, select high-quality programming/apps, and use media together with children.
For children 2-5 years, limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programming, and co-view with children.
Avoid using media as the only way to calm a child.
Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtimes screen-free for all.  Stop using screens an hour before bedtime and remove devices from bedrooms before bedtime.
 Avoid fast-paced programs, apps with lots of distracting content, and violent content.

Five ways cellphones can harm your health
According to the Morningside Recovery Rehabilitation Center, the average American spends 144 minutes a day using his or her phone for 16 hours. Here are some reasons why increased cell phone use can have short-term and long-term effects on your health.

Negatively affects emotions
The presence of a cell phone, while two or more people are talking face-to-face, can generate negative feelings toward the person who has his or her device visible. In one study conducted at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, researchers studied the effects of a mobile device during a nose-to-nose conversation. In the first study, 37 pairs of strangers were asked to spend 10 minutes talking to each other about an interesting event that happened in their lives within the past month. Half of the participants were seated in a secluded area with a mobile device present on a desk nearby whereas the other half remained without a cellphone. The results of the study showed that those who had a mobile device nearby were perceived as less positive by the stranger, compared to the other participants without a cell phone present. “These results demonstrate that the presence of mobile phones can interfere with human relationships, an effect that is most clear when individuals are discussing personally meaningful topics,” said the researchers of the study.

Increases stress levels
The high frequency of cell phone use can have negative effects on our stress levels. The constant ringing, vibrating alerts, and reminders can put a cell phone user on edge. In a study conducted at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, researchers found high mobile phone use was associated with stress and sleep disturbances for women, whereas high mobile phone use was associated with sleep disturbances and symptoms of depression in men.

Increases risk of illnesses in your immune system
The incessant touching of your phone can harbor germs on your handset. The greasy, oily residue you may see on your cellphone after a day’s use can contain more disease-prone germs than those found on a toilet seat. The results of a University of London Study showed that 92 percent of the cell phones sampled had bacteria on them — 82 percent of hands had bacteria — and 16 percent of cell phones and hands had E. Coli.

Increases risk of chronic pain
Cell phones require constant use of your hands, especially when sending text messages and e-mails. Responding to messages at rapid speed can cause pain and inflammation of your joints. Back pain is also common with increased cell phone use, especially if you hold the phone between your neck and shoulders as you multitask.

Increases risk of vision problems
Staring at your mobile device can cause problems in your vision later in life. Screens on mobile devices tend to be smaller than computer screens, which means you are more likely to squint and strain your eyes while reading messages. According to The Vision Council, more than 70 percent of Americans don’t know or are in denial that they are susceptible to digital eye strain.

Information courtesy of Visit for the full article and further information.

Related article: Five steps to digital wellness

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