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Which would you go without for a week: your cell phone, your best friend, or good food? Chances are, it’s not your phone.

Half your waking life

High school students appear to spend almost nine hours per day—more than half your waking hours—on electronic devices, according to a national study. That includes time spent texting (you send an average of 55 texts a day), listening to music, using social media, streaming shows, playing games, and a bunch of other stuff.

Addictive brain chemistry

Phone notifications release dopamine, the same feel-good chemical triggered by eating sugar, falling in love, and finishing a level in Candy Crush. “We’re not really addicted to our cell phones per se but to the activities on our phones,” says Dr. James Roberts of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, who specializes in the psychology of consumer behavior.

Losing control while driving

Almost all of us agree that texting while driving is dangerous, yet 6 out of every 10 drivers have done it, according to AT&T’s It Can Wait survey (2015).

Worse grades & worse sleep

More than 80 percent of students acknowledge that their gadgets interfere with their learning, and one in four say this hurts their grades, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Media Education. In addition, phone use is a common sleep disruptor—and sleep disruption just makes everything horrible.

How to get your texting under control

1. Test yourself

Think you can get away with texting while driving? Maybe you’ve been lucky. That will change. Check out the online texting-while-driving simulator by AT&T.

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2. Set the mood

Know where your phone is welcome—and where it isn’t.


Where to put the phone
Make it easier
In the trunk
Ask for a stand-alone GPS as a gift, buy one for yourself, or try to find one on Freecycle
Going to bed
Charge it in a different room
Borrow your parent's old alarm clock
On a date
In the car
Suggest that your date do the same
On vacation
Leave it in the hotel
Use a digital camera or an old-school Polaroid
At the gym
In your locker
Use an mp3 player or iPod for music

3. Use an app or #x

AT&T’s DriveMode and Sprint’s Drive First apps silence your phone and respond to messages for you. Or text #x to let friends know you’re about to drive.

4. Reality check

When you can measure something, you can manage it. Use an app like Moment (iPhone) or BreakFree (Android) to track how much time you’re spending on your phone. Try it, then see if you can resist texting about it. Or take the Smartphone Abuse Test.

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5. Find your voice

Sometimes it’s hard to remember the last time we picked up a phone to call anyone besides Grandma or the pizza guy. Next time you want to make plans or check in with a friend, try talking.

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Article sources

James Roberts, PhD, professor of marketing, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Alavi, S. S., Ferdosi, M., Jannatifard, F., Eslami, M., et al. (2012). Behavioral addiction versus substance addiction: Correspondence of psychiatric and psychological views. International Journal of Preventative Medicine, 3(4), 290–294. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354400/

AT&T. (2015). It Can Wait survey. AT&T and the Center for Internet Technology Addiction. Retrieved from http://about.att.com/content/dam/snrdocs/2015%20It%20Can%20Wait%20Report_Smartphone%20Use%20Behind%20the%20 Wheel%20.pdf

Berridge, K. C., Robinson, T. E., Aldridge, & Wayne, J. (2009). Dissecting components of reward: “Liking,” “wanting,” and learning. Current Opinion in Pharmacology, 9(1), 65–73. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2756052/

Common Sense Media. (2015). The common sense consensus: Media use by teens and tweens. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/census_researchreport.pdf

McCoy, B. R. (2013). Digital distractions in the classroom: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Journal of Media Education, 4(4). Retrieved from http://en.calameo.com/read/000091789af53ca4e647f

Roberts, J., Honore Petnji Yaya, L., & Manolis, C. (2014). The invisible addiction: Cell-phone activities and addiction among male and female college students. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 8(1), 39–51.

US Department of Transportation. (n.d.). Distraction.gov. [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html