14 Mar How much time are you spending on your smartphone?
Waiting for a bus? Friend a bit late? It’s easy to spend this otherwise seemingly wasted time unlocking your smartphone screen and just checking for little bits of information. Email, social media, perhaps the latest news – it hoovers up the nooks and crannies of time when we’re a little bit bored.
So far, so harmless. It’s not like this time would otherwise be that well spent. But what this habitual checking can often lead to is the slippery slope of smartphone addiction, checking in the times when we otherwise shouldn’t be bored – for instance, when we’re with our friends or supposed to be engaging in another activity. One of the major causes of this are Intermittent Variable Rewards – smartphone applications and social media are designed to get people to habitually check them regularly, possibly leading to smartphone addiction.
If you then combine this activity with our intentional Internet use – for instance, surfing the web for a necessary purchase, then the time spent on our devices is likely to be much higher.
Average time spent online and with a smartphone
But how much does this all really add up to? It’s probably far more than you think – and possibly significantly more. In March 2017, the average time spent online (combining laptop, desktops and smartphones) per person on the UK was 83 hours. For smartphones alone, this was 65.3 hours – over two hours a day for every smartphone user.
Is this surprising? It may well be, but it’s not the full story. As you would expect, older generations spend rather less time with their smartphones than younger people. For instance, over 45s are more likely to be about 54 hours a month. However, for 18-24 year olds, smartphone usage is much higher – 18-24 year old women are spending 88.5 hours a month on average on their phones – close to three hours a day. Men of the same age are spending 77.9 hours.
How to measure your smartphone usage
Having seen these averages, do you think you’re close? You may be way off, and the only way to truly find out is to track your usage – a kind of digital calorie counting. The best way to track is to install an app that can track your screen time and tell you if smartphone addiction is something you need to worry about.
For iPhone users, you can download an app called Moment, which has features like setting daily limits and even tracking time for your entire family. It’s not available for Android users yet.
On Android you can use an application called Quality Time to measure your screen time in the same way.
Once installed, these apps take no setup to start monitoring – so no need to constantly check them!
Measure your habits for a week – you may think your screen time is rather too high and want to take steps to cut down. If your usage is above average, a personal challenge might be to beat that number for your age group, and then go down from there.
You may well find that as you go through this conscious effort of cutting down – your own mini-version of a digital detox – that you’ll become less distracted and your attention span returns.