Apple Offers Help for Phone Addicts

By Tracey Dowdy

Are you familiar with the term “nomophobia?” It’s not new – in fact, it’s been around for a number of years, but was recently brought into the spotlight by Apple CEO Tim Cook during an interview with CNN.

Nomophobia, or No Mobile Phone Phobia, is the fear of being without your phone. I’m guilty. I’ve been halfway to pick milk up the grocery store less than 5 minutes from my house and turned around to go back for my phone, “just in case.” There’s even an online test to see if you have it. If you’re not convinced you’re addicted, Apple’s newly released Screen Time feature will prove just how addicted you are to your iPhone.

A couple of weeks ago, Apple released the public beta of iOS 12, the latest version of their mobile operating system that includes features designed to track phone usage and help us all cut down on screen time. The update allows anyone with an iPhone 5S or later to gather detailed information about the frequency and duration of their interaction with their iPhone.  There are other updates of course – group FaceTime, new animojis, and new augmented reality powers.

To turn on Screen Time, users go into their settings and tap to toggle on. Once activated, it will monitor the amount of time you spend on your phone by day and week, and further break down the data by app and category. Not only that, it tracks know how many notifications you received and – ouch – how often you pick up your phone. At the end of the week, you’ll get a report outlining your activity.

Part of the issue says Professor Mark Griffiths, chartered psychologist and director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, is that our phones have moved far beyond being just a phone. “People don’t use their phones to talk to other people – we are talking about an internet-connected device that allows people to deal with lots of aspects of their lives,” says Griffiths.

Because it’s such an integral part of our lives, it can be really tough for some to disconnect. Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychologist and author who focuses on how people use technology says, “The biochemistry of your brain is urging you to check in. That’s really hard to change.”

So, if you’re brave enough, look for Screen Time to be released this fall, and prepare to find out just how addicted you are. If anything, being aware of just how much time we’re devoting to our devices can help us make healthy, necessary changes.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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