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  • QUIZ: How Addicted Are You to Your Mobile Phone, Mom?

    Plus, 3 practical tips you can try right now to lessen your screen time
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
QUIZ: How Addicted Are You to Your Mobile Phone, Mom?
  • Research from a global survey revealed that half of children think their parents spend too much time on their mobile phones. What's more, 32% of the kids felt unimportant when their parents used their phones during meal times, conversations, when watching television, and playing outside. And, more and more experts are giving out warnings on the addictive quality of our devices. 

    Screens, like the smartphone in your handbag or pocket, are being compared by researchers to addictive drugs. Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of neuroscience at UCLA, calls screens “electronic cocaine” and Dr. Andrew Doan, the head of addiction research for the Pentagon and the US Navy, calls video games and screen technologies “digital pharmakeia” (Greek for drug), according to the New York Post.

    Social psychologist Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, perhaps takes it a step further by saying that we — kids, teens and adults — are not just figuratively addicted to screens, but literally addicted, he said in an interview with The New York Times

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    Are you glued to your smartphone? Researcher Caglar Yildirim, an assistant professor of human computer interaction, devised a scale that can tell you. It’s essentially a 20-item quiz that asks you to rank your responses to each statement from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). We’ve taken a few items from the test as a sample for you to try out: 

    1. Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me. 

    2. I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone when I wanted to do so.

    3. If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it. 

    4. If I did not have a data signal, then I would constantly check to see if I had it again. 

    5. If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would be nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls. 

    6. If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.

    Add up your score. The higher it is, the more likely you’re addicted to your phone. Find the full test here (and how to interpret your results here in this CNN article). 

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    Alter defines addiction as “something you enjoy doing in the short term that undermines your well-being in the long term — but that you do compulsively anyway.” Addictions work, he said, by “hitting the right buttons” that triggers the brain to release dopamine, the feel-good hormone, in turn, making the user to want more.

    The effect of this addiction? Screens can put a strain on physical and mental health, neurological development, and personal relationships, said The New York Times writer Jane E. Brody. “We’re checking our social media constantly, which disrupts work and everyday life,” said Alter. “If you’re on the phone for three hours daily, that’s time you’re not spending on face-to-face interactions with people.”

    Psychotherapist Nancy Colier also thinks we should be spending less time on our devices. “Our presence, our full attention is the most important thing we can give each other. Digital communications don’t result in deeper connections, in feeling loved and supported.”

    And in a statement that may hit hard especially for parents, Colier pointed out, “we are spending far too much of our time doing things that don’t really matter to us.”  

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    Nothing matters more to us than our children. But there’s nothing wrong with getting a bit of help to detach ourselves from the small but deceiving devices in our pockets. Here are a few tips to control your gadget use: 

    1. Turn your screen gray

    Senior editor at The Atlantic, James Hamblin, MD, shared this simple but effective hack to help break a phone addiction: switch your phone's screen from colored to black and white. The grayscale dulls down attention-grabbing images, helping you focus more on words and making infinite scrolling through Facebook less exciting. Most Apple and Android phones already have a built-in feature for this. Find instructions on how to turn on the grayscale mode on your phone here.  

    2. Have no-screen zones at home
    Probably the most important area of the house where gadgets shouldn’t be allowed is at the dinner table. Pope Francis himself advised families to refrain from using phones during dinner because it gets in the way of having meaningful family conversations. “Once the food is ready, ask everyone to turn off their phones, silence them, or set them to ‘do not disturb.’”

    3. Get an app that tells you how much time you spend on you phone
    Researchers say people spend as much as four hours a day on their phone. If you’re doubtful you spend this much time scrolling through your feed, download an app that can tell you your exact figures. The results may surprise you or motivate you to keep trimming down your screen time.

    Mashable suggested apps like QualityTime for Android and Moment for iOS. These also have features that give you alerts to remind you when you've had enough and set daily limits for yourself when you've gone overboard.

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