compulsive phone habits
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Be more present! Break compulsive phone habits with these 5 strategies

Everyone has compulsive phone habits, and everyone can break them.

There aren’t any notifications on your phone. No Instagram alerts, no phone call missed…. but you just have the urge. The urge to pick it up, check it out, maybe spend some minutes scrolling.

Emily Jones of Family Tech University calls it compulsive phone habits, and it’s something both teens and adults can struggle with.


“We are wired to seek novelty, new ideas, new things, new messages. It’s the same idea as running to the mailbox back in the day. It’s that same little rush that we get,” said Emily. Recognizing this inherent trait can help us understand our compulsive phone habits without resorting to self-shaming.

Emily recounted an encounter with a 17-year-old girl who approached her, expressing her frustration over her constant urge to check her phone.

“I was so impressed with her self-awareness,” Emily shared. Teenagers are becoming more aware of their compulsive phone habits. However, adults are not exempt from this struggle.

“As adults, I think we feel that same guilt and that same, ‘I don’t want it, I don’t want to feel this way,’” Emily admitted.

The silver lining in this situation is that since everyone deals with this issue, it presents an opportunity for families to collaborate and work on it together. Emily suggested using this as a chance to demonstrate discipline or good communication and healthy living habits.

Practical Steps to Overcome Compulsive Phone Habits

Emily offered some practical suggestions to help curb compulsive phone habits:

  1. Get Technology Out of the Bedroom

The first step is to get technology out of the bedroom.

“This one is huge and goes a long way,” Emily emphasized. She suggested buying an alarm clock to replace the phone’s function as an alarm. This helps remove the feeling that we need our phones by our side when we sleep.

  1. Boss the Notifications

Next, Emily advised taking control of our notifications.

“The research shows that teenagers receive over 240 notifications a day. That means they are receiving 240 interruptions to living in real life,” she explained. By going through our list of apps and deciding which ones are allowed to interrupt our day, we can regain control over our time and attention.

  1. Create Physical Distance

Another effective strategy is to create some physical distance between us and our phones. Whether we’re at home or at work, setting our phones several rooms away can significantly reduce compulsive checking.

  1. Establish Sacred Spaces

Emily also recommended we establish ‘sacred spaces’ within our homes where phones are not allowed, such as the dining table.

“I am sending the message to my children that nothing that’s coming through this phone is worthy of interrupting my interaction with you at this moment,” she explained.

  1. Be Deliberate About Downtime

Lastly, Emily encouraged us to be more deliberate about how we spend our downtime. She suggested we use our phones to schedule time away from technology, treating it like an important appointment.

To learn more about Family Tech University and their work, you can visit their website at or follow them on Instagram, @familytechuniversity, and Facebook.

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