Expert advice on how to break your smartphone addiction

Experts have warned that excessive reliance on devices can have detrimental effects on mental well-being and productivity. Picture: Supplied

Experts have warned that excessive reliance on devices can have detrimental effects on mental well-being and productivity. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 3, 2024


Smartphones have become an indispensable part of people’s lives across the globe.

They offer convenience, connectivity and entertainment at our fingertips.

Despite the many benefits that a smartphone offers, mobile app development agency Sonin has warned that the constant influx of notifications and the allure of various apps can lead to a concerning phenomenon that is being termed “app addiction”.

The organisation's Ethan Bennet added that this excessive reliance on our devices can have detrimental effects on mental well-being and productivity.

The impact of smartphone addiction

Bennet explained that the prevalence of smartphone addiction is staggering, with studies indicating that a significant portion of the population exhibits signs of compulsive behaviour towards their devices.

This includes a new Consumer Smartphone Usage survey conducted by mobile phone power bank provider Adoozy, which revealed that South Africans can’t spend more than an hour without their phones.

Almost half (40%) of the study respondents, who were mostly young South Africans aged 18 to 35, indicated they would rather endure the frustration of sitting in a traffic bottleneck than give up their phones.

Meanwhile, a 2019 study conducted by researchers from King's College London (KCL) in the UK and published in BMC Psychiatry, found that one in four children and young people have a problematic relationship with smartphones.

The researchers, who analysed 41 studies published since 2011 on smartphone usage and mental health, also revealed that these youngsters are exhibiting "problematic smartphone usage (PSU)", which means that they use the devices in a way that is consistent with a behavioural addiction.

The study concluded that between 10% and 30% of children and young people use their phones in a dysfunctional way, meaning that on average, 23% were showing PSU.

The KCL researchers defined PSU as behaviour linked to smartphone use that has an element of addiction, such as anxiety when the phone is unavailable or causing neglect of other activities.

Experts have warned that excessive reliance on devices can have detrimental effects on mental well-being and productivity. Picture: Supplied

Meanwhile, Bennet added that an addiction to a smartphone can manifest in various forms.

This includes constantly checking for updates, scrolling endlessly through social media feeds or feeling anxious when separated from your smartphone.

Tips to regain control of smartphone addiction:

Set limits on screen time

An effective strategy is to set limits on screen time, either through built-in features or third-party apps.

“By establishing boundaries, we can prevent ourselves from falling into the rabbit hole of endless scrolling and app usage,” said Bennet.

Prioritise essential apps

It has been advised to prioritise essential apps and minimise the use of those that contribute to mindless browsing or procrastination.

This can be achieved by organising apps into folders or by removing distracting ones from the home screen.

Schedule regular breaks

Scheduling time away from digital devices can be incredibly beneficial as Bennet noted that during these breaks, you can use the time to engage in activities that promote mindfulness, such as reading a book, practising meditation or engaging in physical exercise.

“These breaks not only provide respite from the constant stimulation of our devices but also allow us to reconnect with the present moment and cultivate a sense of balance in our lives.”

Designate technology-free zones

Establishing designated tech-free zones in your home, such as the dining room or bedroom, can help create boundaries between digital devices and personal spaces.

Bennet added that this allows you to spend quality time with loved ones or to relax without the distraction of screens.

Practise mindful usage

Incorporating mindfulness into your smartphone usage can help you become more aware of your habits and impulses.

“Before reaching for your phone, pause and ask yourself why you are using it. Are you seeking information, connection or simply boredom relief?”

He added that by practising mindfulness, you can break the cycle of unconscious scrolling and make more intentional choices.

Utilise the Do Not Disturb mode

The Do Not Disturb mode on your smartphone allows users to minimise distractions during focused tasks or designated quiet times.

“Turn on Do Not Disturb mode during work hours, family meals or bedtime to reduce interruptions and maintain your focus on what matters most,” he said.

Set clear boundaries with notifications

Bennet also advised reviewing and customising notification settings to reduce the frequency of interruptions throughout the day.

“Disable non-essential notifications and prioritise those from important contacts or apps. By reducing the influx of notifications, you can minimise distractions and regain control over your attention.”

By implementing these practical tips, Bennet believes that you can further enhance your efforts to combat app addiction and reclaim your digital well-being.

“With a mindful approach to smartphone usage and intentional habits, you can cultivate a healthier relationship with technology and experience greater balance in your daily life,” he added.