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In our GKIS blog articles, we’ve talked before about how social media and smartphone use can be addicting for kids, and how phone addiction can have negative impacts on kids’ and teens’ mental health and social skills. But what GetKidsInternetSafe is passionate about is prevention. That is why Dr. Bennett created the Social Media Readiness Course for tweens and teens. In this best-selling course, she incorporated education about the red flags of risk for digital injury as well as the psychological wellness practices she’s developed in her psychology practice over 30 years. Many of these practices involve mindfulness, a mental health practice that has demonstrated great outcomes. In today’s GKIS article, we will discuss what mindfulness is exactly and whether it is something your family can use to help prevent the damage caused by smartphone addiction.

Defining Smartphone Addiction

As smartphones have become more popular, it can be difficult to determine whether one is using their phone “too much” or if they are addicted. The amount of entertainment and news media we consume every day through our phones continues to increase. Some studies are finding that we are increasingly dependent on our phones and many people are developing separation anxiety from them.[1][2]

Although smartphone addiction has not yet been clinically defined, the World Health Organization defined gaming addiction in 2018. In Dr. Bennett’s book Screen Time in the Mean Time, she quoted this working model of gaming addiction to help readers determine if they should be concerned. Many agree that smartphone activities outside of gaming, like browsing, shopping, pornography viewing, and social media demonstrate similar effects to gaming.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about smartphone use/content if you have concerns about the frequency of your use:

  • Preoccupation: Do you spend a lot of time thinking about games even when you are not playing, or planning when you can play next?
  • Withdrawal: Do you feel restless, moody, irritable, angry, anxious, or sad when attempting to cut down or stop gaming, or when you’re unable to play?
  • Tolerance: Do you feel the need to play for increasing amounts of time, play more exciting games, or use more powerful equipment to get the same amount of excitement you used to get
  • Reduce/stop: Do you feel that you should play less, but are unable to cut back on the amount of time you spend playing games?
  • Give up other activities: Do you lose interest in or reduce participation in other recreational activities (hobbies, meeting with friends) due to gaming?
  • Continue despite problems: Do you continue games even though you are aware of negative consequences, such as not getting enough sleep, being late to school/work, spending too much money, having arguments with others, or neglecting important duties?
  • Deceive/cover-up: Do you lie to family, friends, or others about how much you game, or try to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you game?
  • Escape adverse moods: Do you game to escape from or forget about personal problems, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression?
  • Risk/lose relationships/opportunities: Do you risk or lose significant relationships, or job, educational, or career opportunities because of gaming?


Psychologists have been looking for ways to prevent smartphone addiction, and one of the more promising findings has been mindfulness practice.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a type of mental practice that’s been gaining popularity. It has its roots in Buddhist philosophy, but it’s a non-religious form of meditation and mental awareness of the current moment.[3]

Mindfulness can be improved with exercises that focus on meditative breathing and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.[4] The goal of these exercises is to bring your attention to what’s happening in the present moment, instead of stressful thoughts about the past or future.[3] There are multiple purported health benefits to practicing mindfulness such as improving cognitive ability and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.[3]

How can mindfulness help with smartphone addiction?

A 2019 study found that mindfulness can lessen the impact of separation anxiety related to having a smartphone addiction and that the students in the study who scored higher on a mindfulness rating were less likely to be experiencing depression and anxiety symptoms.[5] 

It was also found in a 2017 study that low ratings of mindfulness were predictive of young adults having internet and screen addictions.[6]

Another study from 2016 found that mindfulness was also able to lessen the impact of bullying and cyberbullying on student depression.[7] This suggests that mindfulness can help with the symptoms of common digital injuries, not just the internet and phone addiction itself.

What can I do if someone in my family has a phone addiction?

  • There are many easy mindfulness exercises available online, and most only take between five to ten minutes. A quick Google or Youtube search for “mindfulness exercises” can help you find one that works for you and your family in no time.
  • It’s also important to help make sure that your family doesn’t become addicted to their smartphones in the first place. Our GKIS Screen Safety Essentials Course is a set of four modules that will help walk your kids through the most important things they can do to keep themselves safe online.
  • For a more direct approach to your kids’ internet safety, The GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit will provide you with apps and guides on how to implement parental controls and keep an eye on what your kids are doing online, in a way that you and your family can both be happy with.

Thanks to CSUCI intern Brandon Bishop for doing research on smartphone addiction and mindfulness and authoring this article. 

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[1] Understanding Nomophobia: Structural Equation Modeling and Semantic Network Analysis of Smartphone Separation Anxiety by Seunghee Han, Ki Joon Kim, and Jang Hyun Kim

[2] Possession attachment predicts cell phone use while driving. by Joshua A. Weller, Crystal Shackleford, Nathan Dieckmann, and Paul Slovic

[3] What is Mindfulness from Greater Good Magazine 

[4] What is Mindfulness? A Simple Practice for Greater Wellbeing by Crystal Hoshaw

[5] Smartphone Addiction and Adolescents’ Anxiety and Depression: The Moderating Role of Mindfulness by Xiu-Juan Yang, Zongkui Zhou, Qingqi Liu, and Cui-Ying Fan

[6] Psychological maltreatment, forgiveness, mindfulness, and internet addiction among young adults: A study of mediation effect by Gökmen Arslan

[7] Bullying victimization and depression in Chinese children: A moderated meditation model of resilience and mindfulness by Zong-Kui Zhou, Qing-Qi Liu, Geng-Feng Niu, Xiao-Jun Sun, and Cui-Ying Fan

Photo Credits

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-red-shirt-sitting-on-couch-meditating-4151865/

Photo by Erik Mclean from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/faceless-man-with-bushy-beard-surfing-internet-4101966/

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/thoughtful-woman-writing-in-notebook-at-home-3769013/

Brandon Bishop
Brandon Bishop