The phone obsession that has emerged in the past two decades has created a dependence that feels impossible to break. In fact, search results show that “phone addiction” is googled over 22,000 times per month. But is there hope?
Read on for tips and encouragement to break phone addiction and set proper boundaries around phone usage. And be sure to check out these supporting articles on Overcoming Addiction and What Kids Really Think About Their Parents Smartphone Addiction.
Addicted to the Phone
“Vurrrrrrrrp.” You heard it. You either A) reach immediately for your phone to check the notification, or B) resist the urge for approximately 5 seconds before receiving a second ding and check the phone. 15 minutes later, and you’re wrapped up in a series of ping-pong style texting, or scanning your inbox for updates. Or both.
Oh, if someone could have made a collect call to tell my middle-school self in 1997 that one day my entire life would exist within my phone…I would have had a good laugh before slamming my bulky landline telephone down with a clang.
Back then, you didn’t have to worry about responding to people immediately. If you tried to call someone and they weren’t home, you didn’t freak out and think they were ignoring you. Messages were left on machines or with whoever happened to pick up the phone at the time. Email was brand spanking new and reserved for the most pointless (or cryptic) of messages. And social media? That term didn’t even exist.
Ah, the good ol’ days.
Now, our whole lives revolve around our phones, similar to the earth’s rotation around the sun, with our phones acting as our light/heat source. 2022 statistics show that on average, people spend over 4 hours on their phones daily, pressing their “happy buttons” an average of 2,617 times a day. Whoa.
And unfortunately, for those of us that are old enough to remember life WITHOUT the phone, it can be very depressing when we realize that we have become part cyborg, with our phones being an extension of ourselves.
Terminator 2 was right, the machines are out to get us and they must be stopped.
Breaking Phone Addiction
But I get it: phone addiction is REAL. The moment we decide we’re going to STOP using the phone so much, that seems to be the time we get a surge of text messages or you find yourself chain-watching YouTube shorts (when you really meant to just watch one). Pulling away is like cutting off an oxygen source. And trying to come up with something to do, to kill a few minutes or a few hours, WITHOUT a phone? Makes me feel like Laura Ingalls real quick.
I’m here to tell you though that despite the challenges, it IS possible to break phone addiction. And it starts with boundaries.
Like, do you remember when we were kids and you were allowed to play outside (gasp!), but your mom always gave that one rule, “you can play, but don’t go past (and then she’d name some invisible boundary like the old creepy house at the end of the block).”
Well, we have to put our own invisible boundaries up for our phones, but we gotta do it as adults.
And listen, I get it. Don’t think I’m above getting distracted by sales emails and text messages. I’m not. But I do put up a good fight, even when I’m feeling vulnerable to a $20 boots sale. The Bible tells us that the devil is like a roaring lion waiting to devour you. And that’s EXACTLY why we have to put boundaries into practice.
1 Peter 5:8 (KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Wait, am I saying that the phone is the devil? Not necessarily. But the enemy will definitely use the phone as a way to distract you– from your family, from life, and from God. Think of it as that annoying pop-up ad that is always trying to pull you away from what you’re actually trying to accomplish. For every ad you X, another more aggressive one appears.
For Christians, we must recognize that the phone, while being a nifty tool that can be used for good, can also be used for evil. Luckily, there’s always hope!
Phone Addiction Help: 5 tips to Break the Habit
Below are some of my tips for breaking your phone addiction, and keeping healthier boundaries on screen time.
1. Don’t use your phone first thing in the morning
A study taken by IDC Research shows that 80% of people check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. And 62% grab their phone immediately before doing anything else. YIKES.
For me, and I’m being brutally honest here, the first thing I do in the morning is pee. Yes, believe it or not, I’m putting bodily function as priority over my cell phone. Then, I leave my bedroom and I leave the phone in it. Yes, you read that right. I LEAVE MY PHONE BEHIND. It’s also important to note that in order for this action to be successful, that means I have to use an actual alarm clock instead of using my phone as an alarm.
I wake up by reading my devotions or Bible quietly while sipping on my morning coffee. It’s ONLY afterwards that I rescue my phone from the bedside table.
If you make the effort to put this into practice, I promise you will feel better, almost immediately. I believe this is the first step to breaking phone addiction, because how you start your day is so important. Your morning routine may not look the same as mine, but think about how you can orchestrate your morning flow without the phone by your side.
Why it works: By starting your morning without a phone, you’re setting the tone for a better, less-stressed day. You’re not bombarded with text messages, news articles, and emails that feel urgent first thing.
2. Uninstall apps and unsubscribe from emails that will only distract you
We’ve all been there. We get that email notification and we immediately cave and take a peek. Our brains (and the enemy) want to trick us and make us think that we’ll jump right off, but that’s not always the case. Regardless, you’re spending precious moments of your day checking and re-checking email.
That’s why I DON’T have any apps installed that will constantly be trying to get my attention and get me back on the app. That means, no social media, no instant messenger, and no notifications. It also means that I unsubscribe from any newsletter or website that is always harrassing me to make a sale. I am weak and I will cave.
And before you give your list of excuses on why you need (app), please consider this: if you have children in the home, or spouse, how many hours are you taking away from these relationships, because you’re trying to nurture online relationships? No one will reach the end of their life, wishing they spent more time on Instagram.
(P.S. Posting pictures of your kids is not connecting with your kids. Sorry not sorry.)
Why it works: Social media and other apps take up significant amounts of your time (that you won’t get back). If you cannot set proper boundaries, uninstall them immediately. Unsubscribe from sales emails or newsletters that steal minutes away from you. This allows you to be more present with people you care about.
3. Set strict hours and boundaries
This is a must. If you can’t seem to follow through with tips number one and two, at the very least, you must do this if you want to start to break your phone addiction. Setting strict hours for me means that I don’t use the phone first thing in the morning, I don’t check the phone while I’m helping my son with schoolwork, and I don’t touch it during family evening time.
Boundaries means that not only do I have set hours, but I also have limits on when the phone can be in use. For example, no one in my family is allowed to have their phones at the dinner table. If there’s a funny video that someone wants to share, that must be done AFTER we are all finished eating. No excuses.
Another boundary that I have is that I do not respond to text messages or phone calls after 9 pm, unless it’s a family member. I’m sorry if you think it’s okay to text me at 11 pm because you decided to have a couple glasses of sherry, and now sending me Facebook events sounded like a good idea to you. I’m flattered, really, but I will get back to you in the morning.
I must throw in here that I also do not respond to phone messages while I’m actually in a real-life conversation with someone else. If you’re talking to me IRL, please note that you won’t find me trying to multitask a conversation with you and my phone. Because we both know that’s not humanly possible.
Why it works: Setting boundaries on your phone time is respectful to yourself and others. It allows you to live life away from a screen and build relationships in real life.
4. Don’t go over a time limit
This is a good one. Time limits! We are living in a culture with no limits. The “I can’t drive 55” motto is laughable at this point. Everyone is going the distance and living life in the fast lane. This means that we’re more distracted than ever, spending time with our faces in our phones, googling everything we ever wanted to know.
For apps that you absolutely cannot live without (currently), set time limits for how long you can be on said app. As of 2022, people spend an average of 2 1/2 hours on social media daily. That’s 17 1/2 hours a week, 70 hours a month, and 840 hours a year.
In other words, that’s A LOT of time scrolling.
If those numbers freaked you out a little (they definitely sent a chill down my spine), then do yourself a favor and MAKE TIME LIMITS. Because think of the possibilities of what you could do with an extra 840 hours of your life. What would you do? I most definitely wouldn’t choose social media as a place to spend that.
Why it works: Setting time limits allows us to stop mindlessly scrolling. It helps us stay focused online, doing things we actually need to do (like respond to work emails), instead of burning up precious moments we won’t get back.
5. Download an app that locks you out of your phone
Can’t be trusted with setting a timer on your own? Download an app to lock you out of your phone when you’ve reached your time limit. Just think of it as a parent who locks the door after you’ve missed your curfew. Lesson learned.
Lock Me Out is an app blocker that will keep you locked out of applications “when you’d rather be doing something else.” There are options to choose days of the week as well as time slots. LMO also has settings for Usage Rules, Enforcement Times, and App Blocking.
I haven’t personally used an app blocker, as uninstalling social media apps worked fine for me, however I’ve known many people who have used apps such as this one with great success.
Why it works: If you know you have a problem, app blockers can keep you accountable. This can help break excessive habits and set healthy boundaries for phone usage.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is no set time that classifies an addiction. Truly, an addiction is a compulsive behavior and a phycological need for a substance or thing. So if you feel strong emotional attachments to your phone, and you have a desire to spend less time engaged with it, that can very well classify an addiction. Statistically speaking, 39% of young people show signs of addiction no matter how much screen time they get.
Yes! Setting new boundaries, enforcing strict time limits, and having app blockers are all things you can do to help cut down on your phone time and decrease the need for more stimulation. Please see the tips in post for more details on stopping phone addiction now.
This is the one area I think people struggle with the most. What do you do without a phone anyway? Make a list of activities that you can engage in that don’t require a phone. Things like reading, writing, drawing, crossword puzzles, or card games can all be replacements.
You can also make yourself a basket with items that can help you when you’re trying not to use your phone. We reach for our phones out of habit, and because it’s easy, mindless entertainment. So make it easy on yourself with an arsenal full of substitutions. Even playing real-life solitaire is better than solitaire on your phone.
Quitting a phone addiction can be hard, but it is not impossible. The important thing is that we make a conscious effort to try and break our habits that revolve around the phone. This also means that we spend plenty of time in prayer, asking God to help us through our addiction to our phones.
And listen, we all make mistakes! I’m not perfect at it either, and sometimes I find my phone usage is getting out of control again. That’s when I reevaluate how I’m spending my time online and I decide what has to go. Lastly, I want to leave you with a verse:
Romans 12:2 (NKJV) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
I pray that this article has blessed you and helped you in some way.
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If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.