When people think of addiction, the first thing that comes to mind is often substance or drug abuse. However, the rise in technology usage over the past two decades has created a problem that flies under the radar—and we may not even be aware of our addiction.

When you have an idle moment, whether it’s waiting in line at a grocery store or taking a break at work, what is the first thing you do? For many, free time sparks an urge to pull out a phone and scroll. If you find yourself checking your phone every few minutes—and spending all your spare time scrolling—consider these five tips for kicking your addiction to the curb:

  1. Find a Friend
    As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers. Having someone who can keep you accountable is crucial to making a permanent change in your life. You can also enlist the help of a friend who isn’t attached to technology. Several studies have shown that habits are contagious, whether they’re good or bad. Try to spend more time with friends who love being in the moment, rather than being in front of a screen.
  2. Turn Off Notifications
    Does your phone ping every time someone comments on your Facebook posts, likes your Instagram content, or sends you an email? When you have a smartphone, you have access to an entire world at your fingertips—and if you’re notified about every development, you’ll find yourself constantly checking your updates. Consider turning your notifications off in the evenings or on the weekends to help you be more present with the people around you.
  3. Schedule Tech Times
    Set parameters for checking your phone so that you aren’t tempted to do it constantly. If your whole family is trying to limit technology use, you can work together to schedule times where screens are allowed and plan fun activities for when you can’t use technology. For example, if you turn technology off at 7:00 p.m. every night, you can do something together like make cookies or play games before bed. Try keeping the phones away from the activity to limit the temptation to take a quick peek.
  4. Change Your Environment
    It’s easy to pass time on your phone when you’re at home—but if you go to a place where phone usage is less common or even frowned upon, you can focus your attention elsewhere. Talk to your friends about enrolling in a class at the YMCA together or teaming up to volunteer at a local nonprofit. When you fill your spare time, you’ll find that you have a less of a desire to pull out your phone and reinforce your screen addiction.
  5. Start Small
    You don’t have to put a hard stop to your technology usage. There are advantages to using it in smaller doses, such as keeping in touch with long-distance friends or family, and it’s difficult to make drastic changes without preparation. If you want to limit your phone or tablet activity, start by putting it in your room during dinner; then slowly increase the amount of time you spend away from it. Starting small will help you form more sustainable habits.

When you commit to unplugging from technology—even in minimal doses—you can start on the path of reclaiming your life and living in the moment. With a few of these steps, we hope you and your family can break unhealthy addictions and form stronger relationships with each other and the world around you.