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5 Steps to Help Teens Break Their Smartphone Addiction


Is smartphone addiction a problem with your teen? It probably comes as no surprise to you that 73 percent of teens have access to a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center. This enables them to spend much of their time online. Ninety-two percent of teens say they go online daily while 24 percent report they’re online “almost constantly.” The typical teen sends and receives 30 texts per day.

Smartphone Addiction

Smartphone addiction is a real thing that can lead to serious anxiety issues. Individuals may feel anxious when they have no cell reception or when their phone battery dies. They may also have an intense fear about forgetting or losing their phone. It’s believed that smartphone use can lead to depression and low self-esteem.

Breaking their smartphone addiction allows teens to slow down and enjoy the world around them while learning how to control addictive and self-destructive behaviors. If your child is addicted to his smartphone, consider these steps to helping him.

1. Track Smartphone Usage
It may sound counterintuitive to use a smartphone to break the addiction to it, but in this case, it can help. The first step to overcoming any addiction is realizing there’s a problem. A free app like Break Free can help bring the severity of the addiction to light. The tool will show you which apps are used most, and it even includes usage times next to each one. It also delivers an “addiction score.”

Try to have fun with it. If your teen isn’t convinced he’s addicted, make a bet with him about how often he unlocks his screen, how many minutes he spends on his phone per day, or what his addiction score might be. That way, he’ll go into the first step willingly and can see for himself how serious his addiction is.

2. Control the Device
You can use the Break Free app—or apps like it—to help ease your teen’s reliance on his phone. For example, if a user is on their phone for too long, the app will send a notification saying it’s time to slow down.

You can also use tools like this to disable the Internet, send auto text messages, or reject phone calls. Schedule when to use these tools. For example, if your family eats dinner at 6:00 p.m. every night, your teen can schedule the phone to disable the Internet and sound notifications at that time so he has a few minutes per day where he’s not disturbed. One of the tips I include for cell phone etiquette in my book Smile & Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World is to leave cell phones off or silenced at the dinner table.

3. Remove Extra Apps
Chances are your teen’s phone is filled with apps he doesn’t actually use. This is bad news for him because it takes up memory, slows the device, and runs the battery down quicker. It also means that notifications from those apps are distracting your child.

Though he may think he needs all those apps to survive, the reality is that most Americans only use about three apps frequently. Encourage your teen to delete the apps he doesn’t use or need. Feel free to sit down with him and do the same with your phone. By eliminating these time-wasters and extra notifications, it helps keep you both from reaching for your phones every few seconds.

4. Set Up a Nightly Charging Station
The majority of students—62 percent—use their smartphones after bedtime, says a recent study. Not only does sleeping with a smartphone next to them reinforce a teen’s dependence on it, but it can keep them from getting enough sleep. Smartphone use at bedtime correlates with insomnia and academic underperformance. Over half of teens report texting or tweeting in bed, and 1 in 5 will wake to text messages.

Set up a “charging station” in the kitchen or living room. Have everyone leave their devices plugged in there overnight. It keeps the devices out of the bedroom at night and ensures they’re charged up for the next day. It also helps keep your teen from checking his phone first thing in the morning.

5. Lead by Example
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your teen break his smartphone addiction is to lead by example. The last thing a teen wants to do is to set his phone aside, and it becomes increasingly difficult if you get to keep your phone next to you when he can’t.

You might be surprised to find out how much you’re addicted to your smartphone. According to a recent Bank of America survey, 36 percent of Americans over the age of 18 check their phones constantly. Remember that Pew Research reported this number was 24 percent for teens. That means more adults than teens are constantly on their phones.

To encourage your teen to break their smartphone addiction habit, download the same monitoring apps, follow the same “blackout” schedule, delete your own extra apps, and leave your phone outside the bedroom at night. Your child will be much more likely to follow these steps if you follow with him.

Break Teen Smartphone Addiction for a Happier Life
As you help your teen break his smartphone addiction, remember that this is not about making him give up his phone completely. It’s about helping him establish positive, productive habits that will stick with him as he ages. Encourage your teen. Work with him, and lead by example. With these ideas in mind, you can help your child become less dependent on his smartphone so he can lead a happier, more productive life.

To learn more ways to help your teens break their smartphone addiction and improve their social skills and job skills, check out Kirt Manecke’s award-winning book Smile & Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World. Be sure to also check out Kirt’s award-winning book Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service, the essential 60-minute crash course in customer service and sales. Both books are quick and easy to read. Learn more on Kirt’s website.

Posted by Kirt Manecke | 2 Comments
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2 thoughts on “5 Steps to Help Teens Break Their Smartphone Addiction”

  1. Some really great suggestions for a societal problem that is expanding daily! Smartphones are a way of life today, so educating kids on proper use (and abuse) is critical. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello Wayne,
      Thank you for your kind words and terrific insight. You are welcome. I am so sorry for my tardy reply. My blog does not alter me when I have comments, and I just logged in today to check.
      Thank you again Wayne.

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