Written by: The Meadows Adolescent Center By Christa Banister Did you know that the fear of going without your phone is called nomophobia? Or the fear that you’re unable to send or receive a text is known as textaphrenia? Have you ever experienced phantom vibrations? That’s the feeling you get when you think you’ve received a notification, text, or alert when you actually haven’t, according to Healthline.com. Teens and Cell Phone Addiction While excessive cell phone use touches all demographics, research shared in the National Library of Medicine shows that adolescents are more likely to demonstrate addiction-like symptoms. Whether it’s seeing what’s new on your favorite TikTok channel or checking how many likes you got on a recent Instagram post, that rewarding hit of dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain, is enough to keep you coming back again and again. Not only does cell phone usage peak during the teen years with an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes a day, but the early adolescent years are typically when a child is given their first phone. With this comes the likelihood of developing problematic habits, says ABC News. But what separates the teens who are simply looking to connect with their peers from the ones who can’t even turn off their phones at night for fear of missing out? There are some telltale signs that typify teens struggling with a cell phone addiction. Among those are: Waking up multiple times at night to check your phone Declining performance at school, work, or extracurriculars Prioritizing your real-life relationships is no longer as important Reaching for your phone the moment you’re alone, bored, or anxious Feeling anxious or upset when you don’t have access to your phone Experiencing a marked decline in mental health Having family and/or friends show concern about you Limiting your phone use feels seemingly impossible Not only does cell phone usage peak during the teen years with an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes a day, but the early adolescent years are typically when a child is given their first phone. Mindless Scrolling and Mental Health At one time or another, it’s probably happened to all of us. You check something specific on your phone and before you know it, you’re sucked into a virtual vortex. For some, this happens regularly with news and posts of the distressing variety, a phenomenon called “doomscrolling.” For those who already struggle with anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), doomscrolling may feel like a proactive measure to stay informed. But instead of it being a productive way to control what’s happening in an out-of-control world, VeryWellMind.com says constant scrolling often leads to more anxiety and fear. The decidedly mindless nature of doomscrolling also doesn’t help with navigating the present. Rather than enjoying activities and interactions that build you up, it’s a time-suck that robs you of opportunities to foster better mental health, often orchestrated by algorithms programmed to lure you in and keep you attached. So how do we stop what we never really intended in the first place? A few suggestions on how to stop mindlessly scrolling include: Take Action Once you realize you’re doomscrolling, stop. Put your phone down. Walk away from your computer. Redirect your attention. Prioritize Positivity Ditch the doomscrolling in favor of funny videos or stories that talk about good things happening in the world. Maybe scroll through your favorite vacation photos or family shots. Fill your Instagram feed with accounts that make you smile, feel gratitude, or nudge you toward your goals. Practice Gratitude Instead of focusing on things you fear, focus on things you’re thankful for. Pursuing gratitude has long-lasting benefits and is proven to transform the brain. Establish Parameters Set a time limit and stick to it. Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? Ever drive past a high school and notice how many students have their heads buried in their phones? Rather than focusing on face-to-face interactions, many teens (and adults) are looking to their phones for camaraderie, influence, even their self-worth. Research noted in USA TODAY shows that our phones have also fostered an existence where it’s become more difficult to hang with people or spend time alone in real life. Rather than focusing on face-to-face interactions, many teens (and adults) are looking to their phones for camaraderie, influence, even their self-worth. With our technology constantly front and center, how to stop wasting time on our phones has become an important question to ask for our overall well-being. In her book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, author Catherine Price highlights three questions she believes we should be asking every time we pick up our phones: What for? Why now? What else? Price acknowledges that our phones aren’t always the enemy and can be helpful for feeling connected, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdown. But she emphasizes how too many people mindlessly pick up their smartphones instead of using their time intentionally to cultivate other off-screen interests. To break our brain’s association of reward with our phones, we need to find other ways to fill our time. Even taking a break from phone usage can deliver more of the connection and meaning we’re looking for, something our phones only have in short supply. Is there a teen in your life who is struggling with addiction, anxiety, or a lack of connection? Our caring professionals here at The Meadows Adolescent Center can help. With treatment options tailored to the unique needs of teens, our comprehensive approach features a wide range of proven therapy methods. Reach out today to learn more.