How Often Do You Take Breaks From Your Phone?

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How Often Do You Take Breaks From Your Phone?

Would you say you have a healthy relationship with your phone?

If yes, how did you develop that healthy relationship? What strategies do you use to maintain it?

If you feel like your phone often has more control over you than you do over it, do you ever attempt to unplug or reset your relationship with your devices? What challenges do you face when you try to do so?

In “How to Have a Healthier Relationship With Your Phone,” Eric Athas writes about ways you can use your tech in a manner that serves you, according to experts.

Their tips include, among others, paying attention to any urges to reach for your phone:

You know that urge you get to reach for your phone without realizing it? And then, before you know it, you’re an hour into a social media binge?

If you want to peacefully coexist with technology, you need to get a handle on those impulses. Start by noticing when you have an urge to lift your phone or open social media on your browser window, said Richard J. Davidson, the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

By becoming conscious of what you’re about to do, you’re interrupting an automatic behavior and awakening the part of your brain that governs self-control, he said. As one research article suggests, awareness of your actions can help you rein in bad habits.

Avoiding using your phone while you are moving from one location to another:

Dr. Anna Lembke, a professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, said one of the biggest problems with smartphones is what she calls “texting while running to catch a bus.” Using our devices while we’re on the move — walking from meeting to meeting, taking a child to school or catching a bus — prevents us from being more engaged in our lives, Dr. Lembke said.

“We’re missing out on a wealth of information and signaling in the world around us, and also depriving ourselves of the opportunity to process and interpret what we’ve experienced,” she said.

One way to create harmony with your technology is to limit your phone use when you’re on the move. Headed out for a walk? Turn off your notifications. Going to grab a coffee? Leave your phone on your desk. If you’re feeling brave, try powering down your phone while in transit, said Dr. Lembke, who wrote “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.” It won’t buzz with notifications, text messages or phone calls, which Dr. Lembke said could help you focus on the world around you.

Scheduling tiny tech breaks:

Extended vacations from your gadgets may not be possible. But if you’re trying to spend less time staring at your screens, 10- or 15- minute breaks might be a more practical option, said Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco and author of “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World.” You might take a quick walk, close your eyes, work on a puzzle or read a book.

And, as James A. Roberts, an expert on consumer behavior at Baylor University, suggests, controlling your environment instead of relying on sheer willpower alone:

Get an alarm clock. A phone alarm forces you to pick up your device upon waking up, making it far too easy to start reading email and alerts, Dr. Roberts said. But a stand-alone alarm clock allows you to leave your phone untouched until you decide it’s time to dive in.

Appoint an accountability partner. Dr. Roberts suggested asking a family member or friend to remind you to put down your device when you’ve been on it for too long, when someone’s trying to have a conversation with you, or at other moments when it is disrupting life in the offline world.

Delete social media from your phone. To manage social media use without quitting it entirely, you’ll need to make it less accessible, Dr. Roberts said. One tip he suggested is to delete it from your phone but keep it on your computer so you can still use it for work or keeping in touch with family and friends.

Students, read the entire article and then tell us:

  • What advice did you find to be the most helpful? What was the least helpful? Why?

  • The article refers to a challenge that thousands of Google employees have undertaken, during which they spent at least one night per week for six weeks without technology. What do you think of this challenge? Do you think you could complete it? Would you want to try?

  • Dr. Anna Lembke states that “texting while running to catch a bus” prevents us from “being more engaged in our lives.” Have you ever missed out on what was going on around you because of your phone? On the flip side, have you ever been around people who were caught up in using their phones when something really interesting happened? How do you think your life would be different if you and others were on their phones less?

  • One suggestion you just read about is deleting social media from your phone, so you’ll have to use your computer to access your account. What do you think about the idea? Who do you think it might work for? Who wouldn’t it work for? How do you think it would work for you?

  • Another suggestion is to ask someone to remind you to take breaks from your phone. Do you already have someone in your life who does that? If not, is there someone you can enlist to help you?

  • Do you have rules in your home or at school that are meant to help you have a better relationship with your phone? If so, what are they? Do they work? If not, do you wish the adults in your life did more to help you get a handle on your technology use? Why or why not?


Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.