July 9, 2016

I’m Addicted To My Cell Phone!

Dear Brandon,

I think I’m addicted to my phone. Before, I read and doodled in my spare time, but now most of my time is wasted on watching Youtube or playing games on my phone! I realize I’m addicted, so I want to change my ways. But, my brain keeps saying, “Come on, just one more minute.” And before I know it, I spend two whole hours wasting my life on my phone. How can I beat this habit?

Phone Addict

Hi Phone Addict!

I’m so glad you wrote in about this, because I think it’s something a LOT of people can relate to. Not just kids, either. Anyone old enough to have a phone, really.

I think it’s amazing that you realize it’s a problem. That’s really the first step to breaking any addiction, and sometimes it can be the hardest. Lots of people are completely addicted to their phones but would never in a million years admit it. You see the problem and you want to do something about it, so you’re ahead of the game. And, by game, I don’t mean Dr. Mario World!

It’s also awesome that you already know what other activities might fill your time. Reading and doodling are great and they use your brain, imagination, and all that good stuff. If you took that book or sketchpad OUTSIDE and read in the sunshine and fresh air, my grandma would nominate you for some sort of Best Person Ever award.

Seriously, some kids are lost if their phones get taken away. They have NO idea what to do with themselves. So again, you’re ahead of the game.

But, wanting to change your ways isn’t enough when you’ve got an addiction. Because like you said, your brain sneaks in there and tells you, “Just one more episode/one more game/one more minute.” But then when that one is over, your brain tricks you into “just” one more…and another…and another…

So, if you really want to change things, here are a few ideas:

  1. Use an App! There are apps you can put on your phone, like Freedom (if you have an Apple phone), which lets you decide WHAT you want to block – maybe video, game, and social media sites – and say how long you want to block them for, and then the phone doesn’t let you do those things (while still working as an actual phone). This way you could set certain times of the day when you just won’t use the phone and couldn’t if you wanted to. If you have an android phone, there are similar apps, like one called Keep Focus.
  2. Plant a tree! Okay, I don’t mean this the same way my grandma would. But there’s another phone app called Forest, and for every 30-minute chunk of time that you do NOT use your phone, a little virtual tree grows in the app. But then if you use your phone when you’re not supposed to, your little growing tree starts to die. And there’s even a feature where you can earn points and use them to have real trees planted in Africa!!
  3. Involve your parents! Your parents probably aren’t thrilled with how much time you’re on your phone. Or maybe they don’t even know! But I bet they would be proud of you if you came to them and asked for help in cutting down usage. There’s an app called Dinnertime Plus (for iPhone or Android) that allows parents to block your access to your cell phone remotely, from their cell phone. They can turn off your access for anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, and a countdown will appear on your phone showing you when you will have access again. There’s also a parent program called TeenSafe that allows parents to monitor their kids’ devices. It means your parents would be able to see your texts and social media posts, and also your browsing history. That might seem like a real bummer, but it would be one way for them to help you notice when you’re spending way too much time online.
  4. Create No Phone Zones! This one could apply to your parents, too. Because like I said, plenty of adults have their own phone addictions. But even if the whole family doesn’t agree, you could decide for yourself to have certain areas in the house where phones are not allowed. Many families have a no phones at the dinner table rule, but from the usage you’re talking about, it sounds like probably your bedroom or living room would be the best place to say your phone isn’t allowed. Basically wherever you tend to veg out and watch TV. If your phone’s not allowed in the bedroom, hopefully you’ll end up reading or doodling again!

I think you’re already on your way and I hope these ideas help!

Has anyone else ever conquered a cell phone addiction? How did you do it?