You're sitting on your couch. It's a rare moment when no one is asking for your time. You take a deep breath and acknowlege the moment, then pick up your phone.
Hmm.... No notifications.
You remind yourself to relax, don't pick up the phone. A few minutes later, you glance over. Any notifications? You pick up the phone.
Hmm. Still no notifications. So you decide to check some of your social media accounts to see if there is anything new and interesting.
Nope. It is the same newsfeed as a little while ago. You put down your phone again.
A few moments later you are feeling that impulse to reach for your phone again. You think,
"This is crazy! Do I have a problem? Nah. And if I do have a problem, I'll tackle it another day. Let me see what IG Reels has to offer!"
The question that had been lingering in the back of your mind, "should I be doing this," fades away as your eyes trace the newsfeed once again.
If this sounds like something you have done, don't worry, you are not alone. Research shows that the average adult checks his or her phone an average of once every 4 minutes. Last year it was once every 5.5 minutes. In only one year, our tolerance to exist without our phones has decreased by 1.5 minutes! That means the average American checks their phone 344 times a day!
Why is this happening? Well, each time you look at your phone, a little bit of dopamine is released in the pleasure center of the brain and makes us feel good.
What else triggers a little hit of dopamine? Nicotine and cocaine.
The pleasure stimlated by dopamine contributes to addiction. When something triggers that reaction, such as being tagged by a friend or being notified about a new sale at Target, it makes you feel good. WIth each hit, the dopamine stimulates the pleasure center of your brain, and your brain tells you that you want more, more, more! Thus, a feedback loop is formed.
Phone-> Dopamine release->great feeling.
When you feel a little, down, lonely, bored, etc, you reach for what makes you feel good, triggering the same feedback loop:
Phone-> Dopamine release->great feeling.
The loop is reinforced over and over again. And it feels so good, that you ignore the instintual feeling that you might be overindulging and you reach for it a little more. And so a habit is formed.
If you notice this pattern, but you can't stop yourself, you could have an addiction in the making. In the field of traditional mental health, professionals use a gigantic diagnostic manual called the DSM. The DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria necessary for diagnosing 158 different mental health disorders, including addiction.
Guess what they currently researching for the next edition of the DSM? 2 new addiction diagnoses: "Smartphone Addiction Disorder" and "Internet Gaming Disorder." Both have similar symptoms to another more well known behavior addiction, Gambling Disorder. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
So, if too much screen time may be a sign of addiction, what is a healthy amount of screentime? Generally, most experts recommend not more than an average of 2 hours per day for adults as a standard amount of screentime. For example, Australia formally recommend no more than 2 hours of electronic screen use per day, provided the people also have at least 1 hour of physical activity.
So, do you have a problem? Does your partner, or your kid have a problem? Maybe. But not necessarily. What we know is that smartphone use is habit forming and addictive. We also know that people experience withdrawal symptoms when they reduce their smartphone time to a healthier amount. This information may be just enough to consider that maybe there 's more that meets the eye when it comes to smart phone use and mental and emotional health. After all, there was a time when people thought nicotine was the cat's meow, even giving it to their kids!
Moderation is key. Start by taking a look at how much screentime you're getting (smart phone, tv, computer), and evaluate it for yourself. Is your screen time a moderate amount? Maybe the avereage of 344 times a day can be reduced to a more moderate amount, say only 150 times a day. (Doesn't touching the phone only 150 times a day still sound like a giant piece of cake?)
Regardless, even just being a little more conscious of your screentime can help. When you know better, you do better.
Stay tuned for my next blog post about screentime and kids!
Follow for ideas on how to reduce screen time follow @thekidcoachlakeland (during your 2 hour recommended time ;-) !)