Cell Phone Usage – How Much is Too Much?
By: Hillary Harter, RN
Cell phone usage, especially the use of smart phones, has skyrocketed over the past decade. Astonishingly, Americans spend an average of 5.4 hours per day on their phones. For many, using a cell phone is no longer considered a privilege, it is a necessity. Cell phones are integral to everyday tasks such as obtaining directions, accessing news and entertainment, communication with family, friends and coworkers, and managing schedules/meetings.
However, many of us have become addicted to our cell phones and have a difficult time controlling the amount of time we spend staring at our screens. Excessive use of cell phones has been attributed to an increase in both physical and mental health issues including eye strain, neck pain, back pain, depression, loneliness, mood disorders, and sleep disturbances.
Some behaviors which may indicate an addiction to your cell phone may include:
- Losing large amounts of time mindlessly checking apps or browsing the internet on your phone
- Feeling anxious or restless when you cannot access your phone
- Using your phone has interfered with your productivity at work or home
- Using your phone in dangerous or inappropriate situations, such as when driving or crossing the street
- Struggling to wait to check your phone when you receive an alert
- Feeling phantom vibrations (thinking the phone buzzes when it doesn’t)
Given the widespread use of cell phones and their essential nature to our everyday lives, eliminating the use of your cell phone is unrealistic and may actually contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. Luckily, studies have shown that even a small reduction in smartphone use can make a significant impact on mental health and phone addiction. In a study conducted in Germany from April 2019 to November 2020, results showed that a reduction in smartphone use by one hour per day for one week resulted in reduced depression and anxiety and improved physical activity.
To avoid becoming addicted to your smartphone, it is important to set healthy, yet realistic, boundaries. Some suggestions to help manage your smartphone use include:
- Being aware of how much time you spend on your phone – you can track your data usage and set limits for yourself
- Modifying your cell phone settings to limit the amount of notifications you receive – notifications often interrupt other activities and are difficult to ignore
- Being aware of the apps that you spend the most time on and, if possible, remove the app
- Decreasing the urge to jump on your phone by doing other activities that don’t involve your cell phone like exercising, painting or playing a musical instrument.
When your eyes are not glued to your cell phone screen, you are more able to notice the beauty and joy around you. Maintaining a balance between engagement in the real world and your screen time can contribute to a healthy and happy mental state. If you struggle to find this balance and are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, Behavioral Health Partners is here to help.
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U and offers eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
- Daniyal M, Javaid SF, Hassan A, Khan MAB. The Relationship between Cellphone Usage on the Physical and Mental Wellbeing of University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jul 30;19(15):9352. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19159352. PMID: 35954709; PMCID: PMC9368281.
- Brailovskaia J, Delveaux J, John J, Wicker V, Noveski A, Kim S, Schillack H, Margraf J. Finding the "sweet spot" of smartphone use: Reduction or abstinence to increase well-being and healthy lifestyle?! An experimental intervention study. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2023 Mar;29(1):149-161. doi: 10.1037/xap0000430. Epub 2022 Apr 7. PMID: 35389685.