Do you dread your Screen Time alert? Many of us are spending more time than ever looking at our phones.

It’s easily done, a habitual swipe here and there can soon turn into a 30-minute doom scrolling session. Entire afternoons can be lost to TikTok videos.

New research shows that it’s not just a bad habit, many of us now suffer from nomophobia – ‘no mobile phone phobia’.

Monash University’s research looks at our digital habits. Their research shows an enormous 99.2% of users have some level of fear of not having their phone around.

The study is in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The survey asked 2,838 Australians about their psychological attachment to their phone and usage habits.

How long do you spend on your phone each day? Almost half (43.3%) in the survey say they’re spending more than three hours a day on their phone.

The research confirms that the more time is spent on the device, the greater the nomophobia. It also shows people will take a higher risk, including extreme and sometimes illegal steps to keep their phone.

Unsurprisingly, the highest levels of nomophobia are seen at the ages of 18-25. Men are twice as likely to engage in dangerous use than women.

Users with nomophobia are 10.3 times more likely to use their phone in a prohibited space, such as a classroom or cinema.

Dangerous behaviours

So far, so rebellious. But the researchers saw dangerous behaviours, too. These users are 14 times more likely to put themselves and others in danger in order to use their device. Examples include using the phone while driving, cycling or walking.

Lead researcher, PhD candidate Fareed Kaviani, says: ‘The fear of being without one’s mobile phone may be a rational response when we have come to rely on them for staying in contact with friends and family, using the digital wallet, scanning QR codes for entry into venues, or to read shopping lists and access information. Use becomes problematic when the digital takes precedence, to the detriment of the physical.”

“Habits are involuntary, and mindless engagement can continue in physical environments where use is prohibited, like the cinema or library, or even become dangerous, such as using a phone while driving or crossing the road. If your smartphone use is having an impact on the physical and/or psychological health of yourself or those around you, then that is a problem.”

The Social Dilemma

A new film caught everyone’s imaginations in 2020, and made many of us take a long, hard look at our social media habits. The Social Dilemma featured interviews with many experts from some of the world’s biggest tech companies.

They revealed some of the secrets that make the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so irresistible to us.

What can we do?

In the book Digital Minimalism, author Cal Newport recommends a digital declutter, where you set aside a 30-day-window to take a break from all optional technologies in your life. Yes, all of them. 

Another suggestion is to use apps, to protect yourself from apps. Sounds strange, but apparently it works. Apps like Freedom, Offtime and Flipd allow you to block access to other apps that can eat up your time. As an example, you could lock yourself out for two hours before bedtime, so no late night scrolling of Twitter or Facebook.

Do the findings surprise you?