12 Ways to Control Your Cell Phone Use and Stop Phubbing, Being Rude

How to Avoid Cell Phone Rudeness and Cut Back on Phone Use

Father phubbing daughter - bad cell phone etiquette
Phubbing can hurt your family relationships and is bad cell phone etiquette. Hero Images/Getty Images

There's so much we can do with all the tech devices we have today. Thanks to smartphones and tablets and other devices, we can connect with family and friends and even get important and helpful news and information on social media sites, not to mention the countless apps we rely on and utilize every day (What did we ever do before Google Maps and traffic and weather apps?). But despite all these pluses, it's important to be mindful about the downsides to overusing or misusing these great tools.

For starters, these communication devices are, ironically, separating us from those we love. Studies have shown that phubbing, or "phone snubbing," is extremely common in romantic relationships, and that this behavior--which includes actions like pulling out a phone during dinner or in the middle of a conversation with a spouse or partner--is not only causing problems in relationships, but also leading to unhappiness about that relationship and depression as well. (Experts note that phubbing can also take a toll on parent-child relationships and communication, just as it does in our romantic relationships.) And given how precious family time is these days, what with all the homework,extracurricular activities, and work and home responsibilities kids and parents have to juggle, spending time on the phone can add up to a lot of time that we miss fully being with each other and really communicating.

Research has also shown that being distracted by tech devices can be dangerous, and even deadly. Statistics from NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) show that thousands of people die each year and hundreds of thousands are injured becaused of driver distraction.

Strategies to Control Your Phone Use and Prevent Phubbing

  1. Be honest and assess how much you use the phone and how you use it. Take a brutal self-inventory of what you're doing on your phone, says says David Greenfield, PhD, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, in Farmington, Connecticut. Consider for yourself what is really necessary--checking Facebook, shopping, checking sports scores--and then think about what the cost is (not spending time really being with your family). "Research shows that eighty percent of time spent on devices is not related to productivity," says Dr. Greenfield.
  2. Do what you need to do and then put it down. We all have times when we need to check the phone for an important message from work or a family member. "If you need to check messages, do it and get off--don't linger and play games," says Dr. Greenfield.
  3. Don't use your phone after a certain time at night, in the morning, or on weekends. Set clear time boundaries for when you and other family members cannot use the phone, says James A. Roberts, PhD, professor of marketing at Baylor University and the author of Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smart Phone?. And never allow kids to take phones into the bedroom, and practice this habit yourself.
  1. Set a firm rule of no phones at the dinner table. Dinnertime is an especially important occasion for families to catch up with each other and talk about their day. Studies show that regular family dinners are linked with a wide variety of benefits for kids, including lower rates of obesity, better grades, and even increased resilience against bullying. Having a meal and eating with a smartphone at one of the place settings is something people do, and it's bad electronic etiquette, says Dr. Greenfield.
  2. Don't use your cell phone as an alarm clock. Speaking of cell phones in the bedroom, if you use the alarm clock function on your smartphone to wake you up in the morning, stop. "You don't need a six-hundred dollar alarm clock," says Dr. Greenfield. Buy an alarm clock and get the cell phone out of your bedroom.
  3. Don't use your phone or any other screens at least an hour before bed. This is an important good sleep habit tip to keep in mind for yourself as well as your child. Research shows that electronic screens provide stimulation that can interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep.
  4. Have cell-phone free date nights. After you go through all the trouble of arranging a sitter and reserving a table at your favorite restaurant, do you really want to spend part of the time with your phone instead of your partner? The only thing you should have your phone on hand for is in case there's an emergency at home and the sitter needs to reach you.
  5. Write a social contract. How much time should you, your partner, and your children spend on the phone? When should--and shouldn't--you have the phone nearby and turned on? And what is acceptable punishment if you break these rules? Just writing these rules down can sometimes help you realize how much you may routinely use the phone when it isn't necessary, says Dr. Roberts.
  6. Keep a digital diary. Use an app to monitor use (and track your own usage, too). "Download an app that tracks your cell phone use the way you might track calories," says Dr. Greenfield.
  7. Develop a real-time living list. Write a list of 100 things that do not involve a tech device, says Dr. Greenfield. Once you get out of the virtual world and spend more time on things like playing a board game with your family, going for a walk with friends, or reading a book, you'll soon realize how much there is to do when you step away from the medicating effects of a digital device.
  8. Put in trunk of car or get a dumb phone. If you're having a hard time not reaching for your cell phone, try switching to a phone that only makes and receives calls and text messages but doesn't allow access to the internet, or put the cell phone in the trunk of your car, suggests Dr. Roberts.
  9. Get help. If you feel that you've lost control of your cell phone use and that it's interfering with your work performance or personal relationships, seek help from a mental-health professional who has experience treating tech addictions.

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