Becoming Less Engaged with Your Phone: Tweens, Teens & Adults
Monday, June 12, 2023
In today's digital age, smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, especially for tweens and teens (and you know by now that I'm always talking to adults too!). While these devices offer incredible benefits and connectivity to the world, in some cases, excessive smartphone use can negatively impact mental well-being, social interactions, and overall productivity. Remember, negative impact doesn't have to be something as life altering as mental health issues, cyberbullying or addiction. It can be feelings of exclusion expressed by partners or friends, physical aches and pains from improper ergonomic set up, or burnout and overwhelm. It's important for young people to cultivate a healthy relationship with their phones, practicing digital wellness and finding a balance between the virtual and real world. We know there should be boundaries in place as our tweens and teens understand using smartphones and all that they come with, but they also need to understand how to self-regulate and step away. In this blog post, I will explore effective strategies for becoming less engaged with your phone, focusing on turning off notifications, identifying triggers, keeping it out of the bedroom, setting boundaries, and finding alternative activities.
Turning off notifications:
One of the first steps towards reducing phone dependency is to take control of your notifications. Constant alerts and notifications can interrupt concentration, lead to unnecessary distractions, and contribute to the compulsion to constantly check your phone. By selectively turning off notifications for non-essential apps, you can regain control over your attention and become more present in the moment. For me, I have all badges, alerts and notifications turned off on my phone, EXCEPT for notifications from my kids and my husband. Everything else can wait. I don't need to be "told" to respond to something in that moment. I don't need to be made feel like something is urgent, when it's not.
Understanding the triggers that lead to excessive phone use is crucial for developing healthier habits. Common triggers include boredom, waiting for something or someone (like standing in line for a restaurant or movie), procrastination, experiencing awkward moments (like standing in a group of adults while you're parents are talking), or simply needing a break. By recognizing these triggers, individuals can consciously choose alternative activities or coping mechanisms that are more fulfilling and enriching. I think its really important to try a journal exercise, documenting when you grab you phone, for a period of one week. You will probably notice patterns arise, and you could then begin addressing them in a way that creates more digital balance in your life.
Keeping it out of the bedroom:
The bedroom should be a space dedicated to rest and relaxation. Allowing phones into this sacred space can disrupt sleep patterns and hinder overall well-being. Establishing a "phone-free zone" in the bedroom can promote better sleep quality, reduce bedtime distractions, and enhance mental clarity upon waking. Designating a charging station outside the bedroom ensures a technology-free sanctuary conducive to rejuvenation. This goes for adults too. The number one excuse I get is, "but I need my alarm clock". Well, then buy a regular alarm clock! We don't actually NEED the phones in our room, we just want them.
Setting clear boundaries for phone use is essential for digital wellness. Designate specific times and situations when phone use is restricted, such as during mealtimes, while engaging in activities individually or with groups, or on weekend mornings, where you could be doing something mindful or relating to self care. Establishing these boundaries helps foster mindful interactions, encourages face-to-face communication, and promotes a healthier relationship with technology. I think this is a huge step towards reducing phone engagement, but everyone in the household (office) needs to be on board with it so that you can remind each other and have accountability. Enjoy your snack or lunch talking to others or being present instead of on your phone.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds, it's beneficial to find alternative activities that engage the mind and nurture personal growth. For instance, listening to podcasts while eating or getting dressed can provide entertainment and knowledge without the overwhelming distractions of social media. Engaging in hobbies, physical activities, or creative pursuits can also help redirect attention away from the phone and towards more meaningful experiences.
Becoming less engaged with your phone requires conscious effort and a commitment to digital wellness. By implementing the strategies discussed—turning off notifications, identifying triggers, keeping the phone out of the bedroom, setting boundaries, and finding alternative activities—tweens and teens (and adults!) can develop healthier relationships with their devices. Remember, the goal is to strike a balance between the benefits of technology and the joys of real-life experiences, ultimately enhancing overall well-being and happiness in the digital age.