phone with data on screen
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Do You Need to Cut Back?

A number of apps can tell you how much time you spend on your phone and how long you’re in each app. Even if you don’t think you’re on your phone too much, seeing the cold, hard numbers may inspire you to put it down.

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alarm bells app
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Turn Off Alerts

It’s easier to ignore your phone if it doesn’t buzz every few seconds with a text, email, or social media update. They’ll all be there, no matter how long you wait to you check your phone, and you might feel better and more productive if you let them linger a bit. If you can’t afford to miss some things -- say a message from your spouse or kid -- you can set your phone so only certain texts get through.

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rubber band on phone
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Put a Rubber Band on Your Phone

It’s a little reminder to turn off the part of your brain that does things without thinking. If a rubber band is too annoying, try a screensaver that asks “Do you really need to get into your phone?” It might save you that 45 minutes of mindless scrolling through pictures of farmhouses before you remember that you don’t really like farmhouses. 

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alarm clock
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Get an Alarm Clock

When you use your phone’s alarm to wake up in the morning, you’re more likely to get sucked into checking your email, texts, and social media. An alarm clock keeps the phone out of your hands at least a few more minutes. Other ideas include charging it overnight in another room and setting a specific time to look at it in the morning. 

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mother and daughter play piano
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Go Cold Turkey

Some experts suggest going without your phone for 3 days. That can help you kick bad phone habits and find new, healthier things to do instead. You can ease your way back into using it -- say, just calls and texts at certain times -- then gradually start to do other things if you decide you want to again.

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family walks in park
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Tech-Free Time

If you can’t imagine life without your phone for 3 days, set aside certain times that are phone-free in your household. (You may want to include other digital devices, too.) That might be an hour or so each evening before dinner or every Sunday afternoon. Go for a walk, or play cards or a board game -- anything that gives you a chance to talk and engage with one another.  

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woman outside with dog
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Plan Some Offline Fun

Try something simple like reading a book or going to the park with your dog. No need to post pictures about any of that on social media. Instead, invite some friends to meet you for coffee or a jog and see them in person. Tell them you’re turning your phone off, and they may decide to do the same.

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phone free zone at home
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Create Phone-Free Zones

It’s not a great idea to take your phone out in the bathroom. Mainly, for reasons of basic hygiene, but also because it can be good to keep your phone out of certain parts of your life. Those also might include meetings, playtime with your kids, and driving. It’s a healthy way to get used to short amounts of time without it.

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do not disturb settings in phone
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‘Do Not Disturb’

Some smartphones have a setting that lets you limit certain parts of your phone during a set time every day. For example, you could stop all calls and aler­­ts between 5 and 9 p.m. and after midnight. 

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woman deletes phone app
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Get Rid of Apps

Those games are designed to keep you coming back for more, but they can’t if they’re not there. You just might be able to get by with phone, text, and email on your phone -- you can check social media when you’re on your computer.

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woman with locked phone
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Helpful Tools

Some apps can help limit the time you spend on your phone by locking you out of certain things during set times of day or after you’ve spent a specific amount of time on them. Others offer encouragement or reward you with time after you’ve done things like take 5,000 steps in a day.

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women laughing eating salad
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Talk the (Right) Talk

You’re more likely to leave your phone in your pocket if you say “I don’t check my phone at dinner” than if you say “I can’t check my phone at dinner.” It might be because “can’t” suggests you’ve been denied something, but scientists don’t know exactly why that one word can make a difference.  

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woman denies phone call
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Manage Expectations

If you want to spend less time on your phone but are concerned that people will think you’re rude or get upset if you don’t respond quickly, just tell them. Say you’re trying to break the phone habit and it might be a while before you get back to them.

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woman with flip phone
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Trade Your Smartphone for a ‘Dumbphone’

If the temptation of a pocket-sized computer is just too much, a cellphone that can only call and text might be a solution. It can’t download apps or access the Internet, but it's much less expensive and might be just the thing that sets you free. 

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 04/17/2020 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 17, 2020


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Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction Institute and Telefonica Research: “Productive, Anxious, Lonely - 24 Hours Without Push Notifications.”

Gallup: “Most U.S. Smartphone Owners Check Phone at Least Hourly.”

Journal of Consumer Research: “ 'I Don’t' versus 'I Can’t': When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior.”

National Unplugging Day: “Dr Richard Graham Shares his Insight and Tips on Technology Addiction.”

The University of Chicago Press: “Can 1 simple strategy help consumers say 'no' to temptation?”

USC News: “Long-term behavior change is key to creating healthy habits, research shows.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 17, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.