Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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How to know if you’re addicted to your mobile phone

Published 03 October 2012 05:32, Updated 03 October 2012 11:37

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How to know if you’re addicted to your mobile phone

Do you control your phone or does your phone control you? ... In the US, the fear we experience when we can’t get to our electronic devices has been given the medical name Nomophobia. Photo: AFP

A few years ago, my son gave his first speech in front of the school and parents. He described a game of hide-and-seek with his father: how he crept through the house, looking under beds, in cupboards, upstairs and downstairs.

Finally, he flung back his bedroom door. Boo! There was Daddy ... checking his emails on his BlackBerry.

Everyone laughed. We were all guilty then of allowing technology to tear us away from giving our full attention to the ones we love. We are even more guilty five years later.

Now we have all the i-devices flashing at us, trilling at us, seducing us. For a family of four, we have enough laptops for all of us, plus iPad, iPods, an Xbox and mobile phones.

And if we can’t lay our hands on those devices, we start to sweat. In the US, they have medicalised the fear we experience when we can’t get to our electronic devices – Nomophobia. This unfortunate-sounding condition (you must enunciate well when you say it) is an abbreviation for no-mobile-phone-phobia.

The stress of people who cannot find their mobile is compared with “wedding day jitters” and of going to the dentist.

Two-thirds of people fear being without their mobile, according to a recent survey by OnePoll. In the US, people can now even check themselves into a drug and alcohol recovery centre in California to be treated for their nomophobia.

A UK study finds more women are most nomophobic (70 per cent female to 61 per cent male). The younger you are, the more phone-dependent you are (77 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 are nomophobic).

In Australia, mobile solutions company Good Technology, says 88 per cent of people work outside of regular hours on their mobile device.

In a survey conducted by the company, 41 per cent say they first check their phone on or before 7am, with almost half indicating they check their phone for messages as soon as they wake, even at weekends.

Then, 32 per cent last check their phone at 10pm or later and 35 per cent check their phone and email in bed.

Excessive use causes friction. “Of those in relationships, 24 per cent indicated they have had rows with their partner about working on their mobile outside of work hours, while 1.4 per cent admitted to having broken up with a partner because of their device usage,” according to Good Technology.

“Thirty nine per cent said they need to use their mobile device outside of regular hours to keep on top of their workload, while only 4 per cent said it was to impress their boss.”

For those who can get their nomophobia under control, Good Technology offers a solution to allow workers to turn off corporate email after hours.

Jim Watson, the company’s vice-president, says: “It is important for workers to feel in control and not let their mobile rule them. The technology exists to enhance productivity and enable greater flexibility between work and personal life – not cause us to work all the time”.

Do you even know if you are addicted to your mobile phone? has a guide to the top 10 symptoms:

  1. You have spent more on accessories than on your phone
  2. You have 30 different apps installed. And use them all
  3. You have alarms telling you when to do everything in your life
  4. You read about your phone on your phone
  5. You have cut back on necessities to afford your phone bill
  6. A full battery charge barely lasts the day
  7. You broke it, and it feels like you lost a friend
  8. When you meet people with the same phone, you can only talk about the phone
  9. You feel a brief moment of panic when you touch your pocket (or grope to the bottom of your purse) and it’s gone
  10. You use it in the bathroom.