Why are we so addicted to our phones?

Drawing of a young girl looking at her phone. According to The Common Sense Census about 2.5 days of your week goes into screen media time.
Drawing of a young girl looking at her phone. According to The Common Sense Census about 2.5 days of your week goes into screen media time.
Eleni Becker

Don’t get me wrong, I use my phone a lot and am not proud of it. Some days I spend up to five hours in a digital world instead of facing the real one. I would like to change that but change is hard, especially from something that is so addicting.

My favorite type of screen media is TikTok. Just hours of endless and brainless scrolling. I have even tried setting time limits for my social media screen time but, at this point, it’s just a habit to click the 15 more minutes button and ignore limits. This is justified by me telling myself, Oh, I will only scroll until 3:45 p.m.. And when I accidentally miss the 3:45 p.m. minute mark, I have to go to the next “even” time, and this cycle will go on for hours and hours. Sometimes I am so bored of TikTok that it’s not very fun anymore, but I just keep on going.

Teens Screen Time Usage
A report from The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2021 says the average screen media time for teens is eight hours and 39 minutes. To put that into perspective, eight hours and 39 minutes daily screen time adds up to 60 hours and 39 minutes a week. Between 2019 and 2021, that number increased more rapidly than it had for the previous four years, since, before the pandemic, teenage screen media time was only seven hours and 22 minutes.

Why Are We So Addicted?
Developing bad phone habits does not just happen overnight. It all starts with the buildup of a tiny little neurotransmitter called dopamine. Every time you open your phone and enjoy the time spent on it, your brain releases dopamine into your system. Soon, your brain starts to associate the time spent on your phone with the release of dopamine, which is why you begin to crave screen time so much. Whether it is two seconds on your phone to check the time or an hour of social media, your brain enjoys it.

So, Are You Doomed?
Take time to reflect on your habits. Do you ever feel a phantom buzz on your phone but in reality, there is no notification? Or think of how many times you have picked up your phone in the last hour, 10 minutes, or even minute. Is it frequent? If it is, it may be time to change your routine. While fixing bad habits can be hard, there are some things that you can do to help change them. Such as, not charging your phone near your bed, turning off all non-essential notifications, or putting your phone away immediately when you walk into a room. These small changes to your routine can affect your day in ways that might surprise you.

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