Five Reasons Why Our Smartphones Need a Timeout

We are raising our kids in a different time, technologically speaking. Research is just now starting to hint at the long-term side effects of smart phone use. I struggle with putting it down, and am repeatedly reminded of how important it is to role model the “right” things for my kids.

While I usually think I am going to quickly check my email, I too often end up drowning in a sea of status-checking, news-updating and picture-scrolling. It’s insane the amount of “stuff” that can distract us from living life in the here and now. I am just as guilty as the next person, which is why I have decided to create a smartphone timeout in my house.

Why Your Smartphones Need a TimeoutHere are five reasons why you might consider doing the same:

  1. Smartphone use is related to increased levels of tiredness¹

    Tiredness. Oye! I feel like tiredness defines me lately. What about you? A study of adolescents in Belgium found that even moderate use of a smartphone after lights out doubles the risk of long-term tiredness. For us and for our children, we KNOW the importance of sleep to our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Let’s do ourselves and our kids a favor and keep our phones out of the rooms where we sleep.

  2. Smartphone use is associated with complaints of stress, headache, anxiety, concentration difficulties and sleep disturbances²

    In addition to tiredness, another study based in Sweden found that these additional symptoms are related to mobile phone use. As if being tired weren’t enough! Have you noticed an increase in stress, headaches, anxiety, concentration or sleep disturbances as your smartphone use has increased?

  3. Limiting smartphone use is associated with positive outcomes³

    One study showed a significant increase in positive mood, conscious awareness of the surrounding environment, and increased physical activity lasting 15 minutes on days without smartphone use. Just the thought of these positive outcomes makes me take a deeper breath and want to put it down more often!

  4. Smartphone use hurts our relationships

    To me, this is the absolute worst side effect of smartphone use. CNN reported on a pair of studies showing that our relationships suffer from smartphone use with lower levels of trust and empathy. We fail to live “fully present”. In fact, some research shows that we become anxious if we do not check our phones at least once per hour. Yikes!

    And remember, we do not thrive on an island – we do our best in community. When were the days of long conversations over coffee? Can we return to that? Return to REAL investment in knowing, really knowing, the ones we love?

  5. Smartphone use can become a genuine addiction

    Do you know that addictions by definition have withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and irritability? They interfere with commitments to social, occupational or recreational activities. An addiction takes large amounts of time to maintain.

    How many of us panic when we cannot find our phone? Do we allow our phone to take precedence over a conversation with a friend or use it to “distract” us from responsibilities that are overwhelming? Do we feel a sense of relief when we are finally able to check our phones? It’s revealing, really, to realize how addictive our smartphones are. Let’s nip that in the bud, shall we?

So today, TODAY, I am establishing a smartphone timeout in my house. When our phones are having a negative effect on our family, they will most certainly go in smartphone timeout! It will be a place where we can leave our phones while we intentionally invest in the activities and relationships that do not and should not require a smartphone. We would do well to do this with all forms of technology, as they can all have a similar effect on our lives.

What ideas do you have to help keep our smartphone use in check?

Comment below with your thoughts, or if something you do could benefit the community. I look forward to reading your ideas!


¹ Van den Bulck, J. (2007). Adolescent use of mobile phones for calling and for sending text messages after lights out: results from a prospective cohort study with a one-year follow-up. Sleep, 30(9), 1220.

² Söderqvist, F., Carlberg, M., & Hardell, L. (2008). Use of wireless telephones and self-reported health symptoms: a population-based study among Swedish adolescents aged 15-19 years. Environ Health, 7(1), 18.

³ Faiola, A., & Srinivas, P. (2014, September). Extreme mediation: observing mental and physical health in everyday life. In Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing: Adjunct Publication (pp. 47-50). ACM.


  1. I think it is harder to let go when you don’t have a house phone. I try to keep my phone on me, in case someone tries to reach me, but then I end up checking it more often. It’s also my alarm clock, so ends up bedside (though on airplane mode) every night.

    • I also keep my phone in my room because it is the only way for loved ones to contact me in case of emergency, but I am trying to leave it alone when I enter my room for the purpose of going to sleep. Good idea to keep it in airplane mode!

  2. Thanks for tackling a touchy subject! It’s hard to find a balance in this screen driven world. Finding ways to limit our use can only help us. For me, it’s facebook. I’m trying to limit myself to two quick visits a day.

  3. Another tip is to log out of your accounts. The act of logging back in makes it less automatic and gives you a moment to think about whether you really want to scroll facebook or pinterest again!

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