How to Control Your Cell Phone Use

It's easy to let your life be consumed by a cell phone. People use their phones for pretty much everything these days, which can result in you feeling like you're shackled to technology. There are many ways to lessen the use of your phone. Setting your phone aside for certain hours of the day, and limiting using your phone for things like an alarm clock, can help. If you have children or teens, set clear rules about when and how they can use their phones. If you're worried about data, you can make a variety of small tweaks to your cellphone usage.

Limiting Your Time on Your Phone

Monitor how often you’re using your phone.

The first step to reducing your cell phone is being honest with yourself about how much time you spend on your phone. Once you get a sense of how often you’re on your phone, you can decide how much you want to cut back. You can monitor your cell phone usage by tracking your time manually in a small notebook. You can also use a phone app to see how often you’re on your phone.

  • Apps like QualityTime and Moment can be used to monitor your phone usage. They will tell you how much time you spent using your cell phone on any given day.
  • Once you get a sense of how much you use your phone, decide how much you want to cut back. For example, say you use your phone for three hours a day and want to cut that in half. You can strive for only 90 minutes of phone usage in the coming days.
  • You can even set your phone timer to help limit your sessions.

Turn off notifications.

Many phone apps come with notifications, which can tempt you into getting lost in your phone. For example, you may receive a notification every time someone interacts with you on Facebook or likes one of your Tweets. This will cause you to check these websites, which could result in mindless browsing.

  • Most new apps ask you if you want to allow notifications when you first install them. You should get into the habit of saying “No.”
  • On your existing apps, turn off notifications. It will be easier to avoid checking Facebook if you don’t get a notification telling you there’s a new message in your inbox.

Use a real alarm clock over your phone.

Many people use their phones as an alarm clock. This can lead you to check your Facebook, email, and other websites first thing in the morning. To lessen this temptation, opt to use an actual alarm clock. This way, your phone will not be the first thing you reach for in the morning.

  • Work on removing your phone from your bedroom altogether. This way, you’ll have a phone-free space in your home. This also may help with your sleep, as the light from cell phone screens can interfere with your sleep cycle.

Block time to respond to messages.

The fact is, phones are necessary. You cannot stop using a cell phone altogether, especially if you rely on one for your work. Try to schedule time to return things like emails and text messages. This way, you won’t be tethered to your cell phone on and off all day and you will also make sure you return messages in a timely fashion.

  • It’s important to find a time that works for you. Look at gaps in your schedule where you have free time or down time at work. You can, for example, set aside an hour each morning after breakfast to return messages on your phone.

Turn your phone off during certain hours each day.

It’s important to have some time when your phone is off altogether. It can be very tempting to grab your phone and get on Facebook if your phone is right there. Have a set time each day when you power down your phone and disconnect.

  • It can be particularly helpful to do this right before bed. This will help you disengage and unwind for sleep.
  • Check your phone settings and see if you can program your phone to shut off after a certain number of hours.

Designate a low-traffic room for the charging station.

Instead of charging your phone in whatever room you are in, you might try charging it in a room that is not used very often. For example, you could designate your home office as the charging station instead of the kitchen or living room. This will provide some hands off time for you while your phone charges.

Working Through Cognitive Barriers to Reduce Cell Phone Use

Remind yourself that everything will be okay.

If you worry about being without your phone in case of an emergency, then putting down your phone for even a little while can be distressing. However, having a cell phone on you at all times is not going to make a big difference in an emergency situation. Most people carry cell phones, and even if no one did, then you could go to a nearby business to call for help if there was an emergency.

  • The next time you try to leave your house without your cell phone, try telling yourself something like, “I can be without my phone for a while and I will be fine. If there is an emergency, then someone will help me.”

Calm your fears about not knowing what is going on.

Some people have a hard time putting their phones down because they worry that they will miss out on important news or updates on social media. However, having the news or updates an hour sooner will not make a difference. Try to remind yourself of this if it is preventing you from putting down your phone for a while.

  • If you are feeling anxious about being without news or updates, try telling yourself, “The news/updates will be there when I pick up my phone again. It won’t make a difference if I find out an hour or two later.”

Look for fulfillment and pride in other things.

If getting “likes” on your posts has become a big part of your sense of happiness and pride, then it may be time to branch out and try to find some alternative ways to feel happy and proud. Some things that might help you to become less dependent on social media include:

  • Trying a new hobby, such as painting, knitting, or cooking.
  • Looking for opportunities to shine at school or at work, such as by joining a club or taking on a special project.
  • Building your confidence.

Controlling Your Child or Teen’s Cell Phone Use

Talk over parental controls with your cell phone provider.

If you’re worried about your children’s internet usage, your cell phone provider may be able to help you set up parental controls. Talk your concerns over with a representative for your cell phone provider and see if there’s a service you can pay for to block dangerous websites.

  • Cell phone providers have different services for different fees. AT&T, for example, provides a free app called Data Blocker which allows you to block video and picture messaging on your child’s phone. This can help if you’re concerned about things like sexting. Other providers have similar services.
  • Other apps will allow you to filter out inappropriate content. T-Mobile, for example, has an app called Web Guard that blocks all 18 and over content on your children’s cell phones.

Look into phone apps that offer parental controls.

If you can’t find something that works through your provider, there are many cell phone apps you can purchase. These can allow you to filter content and limit the amount of texts your kids can send.

  • Apps can help filter out inappropriate content, but they can also encourage your child to take a break from the cell phone. Many apps, for example, will send messages encouraging a child to step away from the phone on occasion.

Have specific guidelines for phone usage.

If you want to make sure a child or teen does not overdo it on their cell phone, make specific rules. Make sure your child knows how often they can use the phone, and when the phone must be turned off.

  • Make a family rule about phone use. For example, you might make it a rule that everyone in the family has to power down their cell phones for the evening at a designated time, such as 7pm. You might even have everyone drop their phones into a basket for the night and then allow them to get them again in the morning.
  • Some parents find it helpful to write up a contract regarding cell phone usage and have their teen or child sign it. This way, everyone knows what the rules are regarding the phone and there is little room for confusion or misunderstanding.

Make sure your child or teen follows school rules.

If your child or teen brings their phone to school, talk to teachers or principals about the rules in their school. You want to encourage your teen to be respectful regarding their cell phone usage. You want to make sure your teen or child knows cell phones are not always allowed or appropriate, and they should respect rules regarding phones.

  • If your school does not allow cell phones at all, make sure to take your teen or child’s phone away before they go to school.

Communicate openly about online safety.

Children and teens can easily get into trouble online. Have an open dialogue going in your home regarding safe usage of cell phones and other technologies.

  • Talk to your teen about what they post online. Let your teen know nothing they post on the internet is ever 100% private, and that they should not post anything they do not want someone to see in the future.
  • Let your teen know the dangers of sexting. Talk to your teen about rules regarding sharing lewd content in your state or area.

Using Less Data on Your Cell Phone

Be wary of texting applications.

Many texting applications, like Apple iMessage, Google Hangouts, and third party apps, may use a lot of data. While they are free to download, you end up burning through a lot of data each month using these apps.

  • Keep in mind, exchanging text messages alone should not eat up too much data. However, sending videos and photos tends to use a lot of data, so cut down on the exchange of media messages.

Avoid streaming music and video unless you’re connected to wi-fi.

Listening to music through apps like Pandora, and watching videos online, eats through data fast. You should refrain from doing so unless you’re connected to wi-fi. Otherwise, you will eat up your data quickly.

  • Many people watch movies or listen to music when they work out. See if your gym has free wi-fi to make sure you don’t eat up too much data during your regular workout.

Use wi-fi to update apps.

If you have to update apps, always do so when connected to wi-fi. It takes a lot of data to update applications, especially if you’re updating several at once. Wait until you’re home, or a public place with wi-fi, to update things like Uber.

Restrict background data.

Many apps run in the background, even when you’re not using them. This eats up a surprising amount of data. Check the settings in all your apps and see if any are enabled to run when not in use. If they are, turn this feature off to free up data on your phone.

Download files and content only when connected to wi-fi.

Oftentimes, you find yourself wanting to download a podcast, song, or other content during your morning commute or while you’re waiting for a bus. Make a habit of downloading this kind of content ahead of time, when you’re connected to wi-fi. Downloading any kind of content eats into your data fast.

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