Are you using your phone properly or is it using you? Mobile phone users find it hard to remember what life was without mobile phones? Apart from being able to make phone calls and send text messages, smartphones come with apps that make you more productive, ease communication and solve day to day problems. You can take photos, listen to music, watch TV, navigate routes, monitor habits, health behaviors and connect with others too. In fact, many persons use phones to keep track of events, situations and even loved ones. So, for most persons, mobile phones have become essential to daily living.
Some studies suggest that individuals may begin to use their phones in ways that cause more harm than good. This is commonly referred to as phone addiction, which as been found to have recognized signs and symptoms.
Is Excessive use of the mobile phone harmful?
Yes. Although, having a phone has several advantages, there are associated problems too. For instance, it may also distract you from important tasks such as driving. It may interrupt important discussions or events and may become a form of addiction over time.1 For instance, excessive use of phone could lead to several emotional, mental and physical problems such as stress, sleeping difficulties, physical inactivity2 and relationship challenges. Furthermore, spending too much time on the may prevent you from getting much healthy exercise, increasing the risk of weight gain, joint pains and diabetes.
What are the warning signs of excessive phone use?
You become anxious, irritable or unhappy when your phone is inaccessible
How do you feel when unable to use your phone, perhaps when you need to switch off or battery runs down? Some become apprehensive or restless without their phones. You react emotionally when network signal or phone is not available. Do you become angry or unhappy whenever they do not receive phone notifications? They may even begin to consider phone notifications as a measure of their self-worth or importance. Consequently, the use of the phone may be a constant source of stress.
You turn to the phone when you are upset or unhappy
When someone or something offends, how do you react? For some people, surfing the internet or engaging in other activities on the phone helps them deal with the pain. Although, this is better than drinking and use of psychoactive drugs, excessive use of the phone may lead to additional problems. In some cases, feeling unusually low or unhappy may point to more serious health problems.
You check your phone frequently even when there is no need to
Do you find yourself checking your phones too frequently even when you are not expecting any important call or message? Do you find yourself longing for messages? Do you yearn for Email, WhatsApp or Facebook alerts? This craving for notifications is a common early warning sign of phone addiction. According to a survey 2 out of every three check their phones even without receiving alerts or notifications.
You take your phone to inappropriate places
Do you cling to your phone while using the bathroom or at important meetings? What about during social gatherings? Do you spend more time on the phone than enjoying the important moments? Perhaps, taking selfies and recording during parties and leaving little or no time to refresh yourself? Are you able to watch TV, eat or have meaningful conversations without trying to check or follow activities on the phone? Do you allow phone related activities to interrupt other important secular tasks and events?
You are preoccupied with the phone when there are other important things to do
You know you have an important and urgent task but end up getting involved in unimportant activities such as checking for messages or spending time on social media platforms. This may be due to a strong desire to respond to all messages and emails immediately. Does your use of the phone slow you down? Do you procrastinate or miss deadlines because of phone related activities.
You have a strong urge to check your phone as soon as you wake up
For others, it is the last thing they do before going to bed, perhaps falling asleep while using the mobile phone. This pattern of mobile phone use strongly suggests you may be spending too much time on the phone. The use of the phone in the bedroom may also disrupt sleep-an essential requirement for healthy living.
Ask yourself: How often do I check my mobile phone daily? How do I feel whenever I don’t have access to my phone? Do I find it easier to communicate via phone than face to face? To protect yourself from the harmful effects of phone use, you should seriously consider these warning signs and take steps to deal with them. This may have lasting mental and physical health benefits.
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Smartphone use and smartphone addiction among young people in Switzerland. Haug S, Castro RP, Kwon M, Filler A, Kowatsch T, Schaub MP. J Behav Addict. 2015 Dec;4(4):299-307. doi: 10.1556/2006.4.2015.037
Relationship between smartphone addiction and physical activity in Chinese international students in Korea.
Kim SE, Kim JW, Jee YS. J Behav Addict. 2015 Sep;4(3):200-5. doi: 10.1556/2006.4.2015.028.