Life Wellbeing Phoneaholics anonymous: Suffering from smartphone addiction? Here’s what to do about it
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Phoneaholics anonymous: Suffering from smartphone addiction? Here’s what to do about it

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For many of us, our smartphone is the first thing we look at in the morning, and the last thing at night.

Although it lays beside us, it won’t keep the bed warm through the winter months.

Smartphones have become so omnipresent in our lives that new research has found that many Australians believe they are suffering from phone addiction.

Researchers from Review.org asked 1000 Australians if they consider themselves addicted to their smartphones – and a whopping 46 per cent said yes.

The research revealed our phones are with us almost 24/7, with 72 per cent of Aussies sleeping with their phone next to them and 79 per cent saying they check their phone within 10 minutes of waking up.

Furthermore, 55 per cent of respondents say they never leave the house without their phone, with three in four of us admitting they’d feel “uneasy” if they left it at home.

It may be that some of those respondents suffer from ‘nomophobia’ – the irrational fear of being without your phone.

In January, the first Australian study into nomophobia was conducted by researchers at Monash University.

They found that 99.2 per cent of Australians had at one point experienced some fear of being without their phone.

And 13.2 per cent of Australians had experienced a severe level of dependency that was actually harmful to their health.

Young people had it worse, with 18 to 25 having the highest level of nomophobia.

Do you really have a phone addiction?

Using your smartphone a lot doesn’t mean you’re addicted, according to Lauren Rosewarne, an associate professor in public policy, social and political sciences at the University of Melbourne.

“We simply use our phones for a lot more of the things we do today which – in previous eras – were done in different places,” Dr Rosewarne said.

Phone calls, emails, reading newspapers and books, paying bills, listening to music, and staying in touch with family and friends are all things that can now happen in one place – our hands, she said.

“All of these things are happening on the one device, so naturally we’re on it a lot,” Dr Rosewarne said.

She cautioned against thinking you have an addiction just because you’re using your phone to do everyday things that the modern world demands.

Although you may not have an addiction, you may need to curb your use, she said.

“The signs when your relationship with your phone is probably getting a little out of hand are that: Your sleep is being interfered with, your relationships are being sabotaged, you are neglecting work and family responsibilities,” Dr Rosewarne said.

Digital detox? How to reduce your smartphone use

Sometimes, it’s good to take a break – but in the modern world, it can be hard to put down your phone.

Turning it off for a few days is not something your boss, spouse or child is necessarily going to appreciate without advance warning, Dr Rosewarne said.

“The idea of de-phoning – or digital detoxes – are, in my view, largely ridiculous and a luxury afforded only to those who don’t have responsibilities,” she said.

“That said, there are ways we can make our relationships with our phones a little more detached.

“Turning off alerts so they are not constantly demanding our attention, turning screen displays to black and white so that they are not as tantalising, and leaving phones outside of the bedroom when sleeping.”

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