Technology addiction: when cell phones take over your time and attention

Skyterra Embrace works with young adult women to break phone and technology addiction. Our program teaches the importance of real-world relationships.

The challenge

Independence and life as an emerging adult is full of challenges, and there is one constant: technology

Cell phones are not going away, and technology is taking over our time and attention. Excessive phone use is a problem for many people, both as an addiction and as an impulse control issue.

Similar to the way that using drugs and alcohol causes the brain to release “feel good” chemicals, phone addiction also creates a pleasurable reward in our brains. Also like drugs and alcohol, it is easy to build up tolerance, requiring more and more time in front of the screen in order to have the same amount of pleasure.

Phones are built to be convenient so that we can take them everywhere we go. Most people are never more than a few feet away from their phone. These factors alone encourage frequent use because when we are bored, we are compelled to look at our phone to satisfy the uncomfortableness of boredom.

The solution

Skyterra Embrace will help you balance your life, online and off

A stay at Skyterra Embrace is a time to focus on and connect with yourself, laying other distractions aside.

The professionals at Skyterra Embrace have more than 30 years of therapeutic program experience, specializing in the transition to adulthood. Before a student attends Embrace, our experts meet with students to determine their personal goals and needs, then create a personalized schedule just for them.

The program culture allows you to give Embrace your full and undivided attention so that you can discover who you are and who you are becoming.

The results

Lead a productive and fulfilling life by spending your time in positive and meaningful ways

Embrace students find balance with screen time use and understand that too much time on the phone interferes with leading a productive and fulfilling life. Students learn the benefits of wellness through engaging in healthy and nurturing activities.

During the Embrace program, students develop credibility and demonstrate growth and success in independence through participation and creation of a legacy project.

Embrace experts teach appropriate ways to create a healthy relationship with technology for life after Embrace.

Students leave Embrace knowing how to plan for and live out the vision for their future, creating a smooth transition from Skyterra to everyday life, with healthy technology boundaries built in.

Whether you spend a long amount of time on your phone or check your phone hundreds of times per day, the following tips will help

Tip 1: Work to understand the role phone addiction plays in your life.

Phones can be productive tools but compulsive use can interfere with work, school and relationships. When you spend more time on social media than you do interacting with real people, or you can’t stop yourself from repeatedly checking texts, emails, or apps (even when it has negative consequences in your life), it may be time to reassess your technology use.

Addiction to social media, dating apps, texting and messaging can be so severe that virtual, online relationships become more important than real-life relationships, and most people have trouble recognizing it. Since there are not specific measurements for phone use to be considered an addiction, you must take a serious look at your individual use to see how it is impacting your life.

The internet can be a great place to meet new people, but online relationships are not a healthy substitute for real-life interactions. Online relationships can be easy because they exist in a bubble. Real-world relationships have different demands and stresses than online relationships.

Compulsively scrolling on social media, watching videos and playing games can lead to lower productivity at work or school, and can lead to isolation for hours at a time. Many areas of your life can be neglected because of phone addiction:

  • Real-world relationships: staring at your phone will harm face-to-face interactions that meaningfully connect you to others, alleviate anxiety and boost your mood. This harm can cause isolation from family and friends.
  • Hobbies: phone addiction can take priority over enjoying offline hobbies like playing a sport, going for a run, crafting, reading and more.
  • Mental health: many people compare themselves with their peers on social media, promoting feelings of loneliness and depression. You may think that escaping the real world to lose yourself online could make loneliness, depression and boredom go away, but it often leaves you feeling worse than before.
  • Responsibilities: completing tasks at work or home can be difficult. Laundry piles up because you’ve been busy texting or scrolling through social media.

Tip 2: Identify problem areas.

To help you identify problem areas, keep a log of when and how much you use your phone. Utilize your phone’s built-in usage information to help you track the time you spend on each app. See if there are times of the day where you use the phone more. The more you understand your overuse, the easier it is to curb your habits and regain control of your time.

Consider the things you could be doing instead of spending time on your phone. Recognize the triggers that make you reach for your phone. Is it when you’re lonely or bored? If you are struggling with depression, stress or anxiety, instead of reaching for your phone, find healthy relaxation techniques to manage your mood.

Tip 3: Build structure and coping skills around technology use.

You control the amount of time you spend on your phone. Your phone does not control you. Technology should be a tool rather than a lifestyle. Healthy structure and parameters are key. Give yourself realistic, specific times of the day to be on your phone. Outside of those times, only use the phone as necessary.

Learn to hold yourself accountable for the parameters and communicate the boundaries with friends and family so that they can support your efforts. A digital detox can be healthy, but many people choose to add structure instead of quitting cold turkey.

Build your coping skills to help you weather the stresses and strains of daily life without relying on your phone. Set aside dedicated time for friends and family. Set goals for when you can use your phone. Either schedule use for certain times of the day or reward yourself with a certain amount of time on your phone once you’ve finished a chore.  

Tip 4: Consider professional help.

Constant use of your phone can often be a symptom of other struggles like stress, loneliness, depression or anxiety. If you struggle with these problems, excess phone use can make them even worse.

Turning to your phone to relieve feelings of worry or anxiety, awkwardness in social situations or loneliness only pushes yourself further away from real-world relationships around you. These relationships help alleviate anxiety and boost your mood so when these interactions don’t happen, you are making your struggles worse.

This cycle is very hard to break. Many students turn to Skyterra Embrace for help.

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