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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. Studies are finding that we are dependent on our phones and many people are developing separation anxiety from them.[1][2] Psychologists have been looking for ways to prevent smartphone addiction. 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 breathing and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.[4] The goal is to bring your attention to what’s happening in the present moment, instead of stressful thoughts about the past or future.[3]

Health benefits include 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. Students in the study who scored higher on a mindfulness rating were less likely to have 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 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. 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.
  • 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