Plenty of research has been done on how smart phones affect relationships. Some research suggests that smart phones are a positive influence. People may be happier and more secure in their relationships when they are able to stay close throughout the day with calls or texts.

Other research reveals the darker side of smart phones. Often face to face interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone. Research seems to confirm that the distraction of being attached to your smart phone may sabotage your attachment with your loved ones.

Romantic and Committed Relationships

As a couple, some of your most private moments are in bed.  However if you bring your smart phone into the bedroom you may be loosing that intimate connection with your loved one.  Many people use their phone as their alarm clock. However, do you just shut off the alarm when it goes off, or do you start checking your notifications, emails, Instagram, Facebook while you are still rubbing your eyes in bed?  

This can feel like an involuntary impulse or a conditioned response.  It can become a habit that you don’t even realize you’re doing. Not only does this habit short circuit cuddle time and private moments in the bed, some studies have found that even the presence of a smart phone in the bedroom may cause decreased cognitive capacity and ability to focus on your partner.  

Instead of waking up with privacy in your bedroom, it may feel like waking up with all your online “friends” in bed with you. If you notice the first thing you do when you wake up is to start scrolling on your smart phone, ask yourself is it necessary or can it wait. Focusing on your partner instead of your smart phone in the bedroom could be a game changer in the connection that you two share.

College Age Relationship

A team of researchers studied college students that were in committed relationships to see what role their phones were playing in their actual connection. In this study, the college lovebirds were asked to report on their own smart phone use. First: how dependent they felt on their device. Second: how much it would bother them to go without their device for a day. They then answered similar questions about their partner’s smart phone use.

Turns out students were not upset about how much time their partner spent on the smart phone. They only became upset or stated that it caused an issue when their partner needed the device. Students who felt that their lover was overly dependent on their device said they were less satisfied in their relationship. The authors of this study found in summary, “It’s not the use of the device; it’s the psychological relationship to the device.”

Research suggests that the overuse of smart phones can lead to dissatisfaction within our most important relationships. According to a study that assessed 243 married adults, relationships with excessive smart phone usage not only decreased marital satisfaction, but it also contributed to a greater likelihood of depression.

The implications are clear that our most important relationships can be diminished in favor of screen time. You and your partner can work together to overcome excessive smart phone usage and reconnect with face-to-face time together.

Family Relationships

How you use your mobile device around your family can affect the mood around the house greatly. Cell phones can keep you connected, but they can also distract your family from connecting with each other face to face. Some people have trouble putting away their cell phone even if it is causing problems. You might feel the need to constantly check it without a real reason.  

A habit of staying connected and checking when the notification sounds goes off has been formed. Your kids may be upset if they don’t have access to their smart phone as it is a major factor in their online identity. It is important to model proper smart phone use for your children by prioritize putting away phones and engaging in face-to-face communication.

Using a cell phone for work purposes during family time can increase distress and strain on a family. While parents are using their smart phones, they talk to their kids less, respond slower, and overreact to being interrupted.

Think about the rules that you want your family to follow when you’re together. To get your family on the same page, call a family meeting. Review each person’s current cell phone use, what’s working, and the areas where you think some changes are needed. If you have kids, ask their opinions on your own cell phone use. You might be surprised by what they have to share.

Use good communication skills by practicing active listening and showing curiosity about what each family member has to say. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you need to assess whether smart phones are getting in the way of your family time.

How much do you actually use your smart phone when you are with your family?

Is there an opportunity to cut back in your or your kids usage?

What does appropriate use of a smart phone look like for our family?

Can you agree to place all smart phones on silent, in a basket, or out of view during mealtimes and other family time?

When do you want to use smart phones to play family games together?

How does everyone feel about limiting smart phone use during family outings?

Quality time together strengthens family bonds. People rate the quality of their conversations and interactions in general as more significant when smart phones are not present.  Regardless of age, ethnicity or gender, connection increases when smart phones are limited.

Less smart phone use also means less screen time, which let kids and adults get outside and be more physically active. When teens spend more time engaged with their parents they tend to set higher educational goals and have better social skills when heading off to college and into the workplace.

Self Relationship, Self-esteem

If you’re at a job where you can’t check your phone, you have an acceptable excuse for not being prompt in a response. But to be honest, sometimes you just want to scroll IG or watch Netflix without an immediate back-and-forth conversation.

The immediacy of smart phones has us all expecting real-time communication. Fact is that sometimes it’s not possible. This adds a specific type of stress that no generation of humans has ever dealt with.  This immediate “fix” for a response or like from the online world has affected teens on a whole different level.

By 2012, half of the American population owned a smart phone. Teens accounted for 37% of this device ownership. By 2016, 77% of Americans had an iPhone or a smart phone. Teens jumped to 73% ownership. Teens use their smart phones a lot. This puts both their physical and psychological health at risk. National studies have concluded that today’s children are more anxious than ever. The suicide and depression rates are increasing as well.

There is definitely an addictive property about getting a notification on your smart phone or seeing that you got a lot of “likes” on a photo makes us feel good. A study of about 1.1 million U.S. teens found a correlation between social media use and mood. The findings of the research revealed that since 1991 and 2016, teens who spend most of their time on smart phones and social media, texting, games, and Internet were less satisfied with their lives. They were less happy and suffered from lower self-esteem. Teenagers, who spend more time doing activities that did not involve screens or technology had better psychological well-being. They experienced higher self-esteem, happiness and were more satisfied with their lives overall.

A recently study of high school and university students showed that kids are suffering from smart phone addiction. The findings revealed the existence of four fundamental features of addictive smart phone use in teenagers. The one that ranks on the top is low self-esteem followed closely buy low level of emotional stability and responsibility. The researchers found that we are in the presence of a new communication pattern where smart phones have become a necessary accessory in society. Not just adults, this now includes teenagers. Smart phones let teenagers create a parallel reality. They are trying to fill a void in life at that phase of life when we question everything.

Work Relationships, Client Communication, Employee Usage

About 90% of all Americans have cell phones and nearly 60% of those are smart phones. In the professional world these numbers increase. When the workday begins, personal device use does not stop. Many employees use their smart phones to make calls, send texts or check their social media accounts while they’re on the clock.

While a few minutes will not typically hurt a business, excessive use is a big distraction and can become a problem. Some large corporate companies, like FedEx, have banned cell phones from the workplace altogether. Employers who draw a hard line on smart phone use may end up micromanaging.  This may hurt morale more than help productivity.

Many employers find it’s more effective to take a balanced approach. If you are an employer or manager having issues with smart phone usage interfering with productivity in the work place, here are some suggestions on how to deal with the issue without hurting company morale.

1. Make It About Performance

Managing smart phones in the workplace is often a question of performance. If top performers check their phones a few times per day and are still producing desired results, it’s probably not a big deal. However, when employees are on their phones frequently and failing to perform at a desired level, it becomes an issue. Employers and managers may need to handle smart phone use on a case-by-case basis. Identify and document poor performance associated with frequent smart phone use. Have a conversation about performance and be clear about your expectations. Be clear that if expectations of performance are not met that they may need to move on and seek employment elsewhere.

2. Set Reasonable Limits

It’s important to set and enforce reasonable boundaries for smart phone use at work. You would hope that your employees will be able to intuit reasonable use.  Have a game plan in place for any misunderstandings though. Everyone needs to be on the same page as to what is reasonable smart phone use in the work place. Also, as a manager, you must enforce the standards by asking those who abuse them to stop over use or start looking for a new job.  

3. Enforce Smart Phone Etiquette

Smart phone use at the workplace requires guidelines to avoid distracting other employees. Employees that need to make or take personal calls should step out of the office or go to a private area as to not distract others. Employees who want to listen to music while working should use headphones. Notifications and ringtones should be put on silent.  During meetings, let calls go to voicemail. Also avoid inappropriate language and profanity on personal calls.

4. Use Common Sense

Certain workplaces do require a total ban on smart phone use. Any employees that operates machinery, drives any vehicle, or work in kitchens should never use smart phones while working. Employees in retail and customer service should only use cell phones on breaks. Teachers and educational departments should also have restricted use of smart phones as their focus should be on the students and not their own social medial account.

5. Create A Policy

When policies fail to limit smart phone use in the work place, you may have to set clearly defined rules on paper in a contract form. A smart phone policy in a work place should outline all issues addressed in this article as well as points that are specific to your work environment and expectations as an employer. Etiquette, guidelines, access, security, privacy, and consequences for violating the policy should be outlined clearly. Employees and managers should read and sign these documents to insure workplace compliance. Disciplinary action must be enforced when the policy is violated.

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