Taking control of your smartphone

This was originally published in the PWK Newsletter, but I have decided to give it a home here on the blog also!

Smartphones are awesome! They have allowed us to be connected and to be free at the same time. They allow us to work, shop and play all on the one small hand held device. But for many parents smartphone use also comes at a cost.

It comes at a cost through a number of ways:

  • We spend way more time on the phone than we plan to.
  • Our brains becomes used to constant connection and constant instant gratification.
  • We aren’t fully present at moments when we want to be.It makes us feel worse about ourselves.

Not so sure this is the case? Have a look at these stats:

But if you look at how much money is spent by tech companies to get our attention it isn’t really surprising is it?

Our attention is how they make their money. The longer we stay on their site, the better it is for their bottom line. The apps we use, the social networks we join, they all want us to spend as much time as possible on them and they design them very cleverly so when we pop on for a 5 minute check, we are still there half an hour later.

One answer to this probably is to throw the smartphone away, but I don’t really think it solves the problem in a meaningful way. There are some small steps we can take to set ourselves up, so we become conscious users of our smartphones and we control it, not the other way around;

Set boundaries for your phone use

For a period of time, my phone was the first thing I looked at when I woke up in the morning and then the last thing I looked at before I went to bed. Once I became aware how strong the pull of my phone had become, I set myself boundaries for when I would be able to go on to my phone.

In the morning, it isn’t until I have dropped the younger kids off to school could I use my phone, but now due to how I have changed the way I consume social media, it is most likely after lunch until I access any apps on my phone. Then other than using it for phone calls and the odd podcast while cooking dinner, I stop using it when the kids come home from school.

Once the younger kids are in bed, I might occasionally go on my phone, but I try to be off devices at least an hour before I go to bed due to the impact they have on sleep (you can read more about that in this article – How Smartphones Hurt Sleep.

Turn off notifications

It makes a huge difference to how much time you spend on your phone if you are not pinged and dinged every 10 minutes. Many apps have default settings so that you receive notifications. I have all mine turned off except for Text Messages and Messenger – both those apps are key ways my kids communicate with me when they are out and about etc.

  • If you want to turn off notifications for your iPhone you can check out these instructions here.
  • If you want to turn them off on your Android phone try this post here.

Have your phone away from you

I used to be that person that constantly had their phone on them and if I accidentally left the house without my phone, would feel frustrated or cross with myself for leaving it behind. Now I often have to look around to see where my phone is. The closer your phone is to you, the more likely you are to use it – check your message or have a quick scroll through Instagram!

Since I have been using my phone less I feel better – I feel more present, I don’t suffer from FOMO and I don’t feel constantly bombarded by information. And I am not the only one, even famous pop stars feel the pressure from being constantly connected.

Ed Sheeran has recently given up even having a phone and says he loves it because “I don’t wake up in the morning and have to answer 50 messages of people asking for stuff. It’s just like, I wake up and have a cup of tea.”

I have a three question anonymous survey I am running about how we use our smartphones and would love it if you could take 1 minute to fill it in! If you could please click here to complete it – I will be super grateful 🙂 .

How is your relationship with your smartphone?