How often do you check your phone?

If you’re like me, you’ve become pretty attached to your device. I check it to find out where I need to be today, to text my friends and kids, to find out what’s up at the office, to record an idea I want to follow up on later … it is my portable office! I am working and parenting! I need to be updated all the time! 

Ex-Design Ethicist & Product Philosopher at Google, Tristan Harris wrote:

"The average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Why do we do this? Are we making 150 conscious choices?"
Photo by franckreporter/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by franckreporter/iStock / Getty Images

No, we are not. What we are doing is looking for the dopamine release that comes with that little pleasure of new email or a Facebook tag. Harris goes on to say:

"Several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:
  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.
  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath."

In a recent poll by Common Sense Media, 69% of parents and 78% of teens reported that they check their devices at least hourly. I've seen this with my own kids and their friends.  A survey from Cardiff University reported that many teenagers even wake up during the night to check social media. 

So how often is too often? Have you thought about it? Here are some ways to get into a conversation about it with your family this week:

  •  Have you noticed much time passes between your digital device check-ins in a typical day? 
  •  If you go more than an hour without checking your device, is it by choice or because you are in a screen-free zone like a theatre or a certain family activity that has a screens-off rule attached to it, like the dining table or a family gathering?
  • How much time can pass before you feel like you really need to catch up on screen time?
  • How frequently does your device interrupt your homework time?
  • Do you stay up later at night to fit more screen activities in?
  • Have you considered trying an app that tells you how often you check social media and you set up to force you to take social media breaks?
  • How about turning off all notifications so you only check in when you want to, not be alerted or reminded all the time?