How to overcome (some) of the influence of smart phones

4 min read

What would you think if I told you that Silicon Valley not only cared about being at the forefront of the future of technology but they also want you to depend upon technology for everything? And they are using psychology to make it happen.


Just like Pavlov’s dog, we have been conditioned to expect an instant reward (likes, retweets, comments) when we hear the bell (our phones.)


Let’s take a look at inside our lives.


My phone pings and I see that someone commented on the picture I just posted on Facebook, I automatically pick it up. First, I see that I have a few new emails, so I check those, then open my Facebook app. I see that my daughter’s best friend’s mom commented, so I feel like I should reply. When I click back to my newsfeed, there’s a video on autoplay that grabs my attention. By the time I look up, I’ve wasted 15 minutes that I didn’t have.

And I do this multiple times a day.

At least once a week I think about how much valuable time I waste this way, scold myself for lack of will power to resist and resolve to do better. Lather, rinse, repeat. This seemingly unconscious habit is taking away time from my family, my work and my SELF.


Yes, we have been conditioned to expect an instant reward when we hear the bell (our phones.)


Those rewards make us feel validated and connected while simultaneously taking us away from the real lives where we should be connected. Companies hire psychologists to ensure that the tiny case of glass, plastic, and metal in your pocket is meeting your deep-seated human needs.


Technology companies seemingly have two goals; to improve your life with their product and to improve their product so that you can’t live without it.


As a parent, I find this terrifying. If I, as an adult, can identify this manipulation but struggle to fight it, how will my kids resist reliance on technology for their human needs? We cannot deny that technology, specifically social media, is changing societal norms and impacting our kids’ adolescence.


The great news is that WE (parents) still have the greatest influence on our children. That’s why it is so important that we learn to resist the siren call of our phones in every spare moment. We teach them by showing them. We can role model what it looks like to reduce the amount of time we spend on our phones and social media, while being transparent with our children about how we struggle with this challenge.


Try this

  1. Turn off notifications that aren’t from a person you know. Apps are built to keep you engaged, and notifications trigger your need for instant gratification. Turn off notifications for non-essential apps such as social media and games to reduce the number of times you absentmindedly reach for your phone to get your “reward.”
  2. Put only “functional” apps on your first page. Save your home screen for apps that are practical (maps, rideshare, camera) which don’t draw you into the rabbit hole. Even if you open your phone only meaning to check the weather, when those tiny red dots beckon with their new messages, it is hard to resist. Put social media — or any app that sucks your time — on other pages, or better yet, within folders on other pages. If you can only get to it intentionally, you are less likely to be triggered to check it when you meant to do something else.
  3. Use a unique tone for texts & chat. This will help you discern whether an actual person needs your attention or an automation from an app thinks you’ve been away too long.


With practice can overcome (some) of the influence of technology if we are diligent.


It’s not easy. I get it.


Each day I try to be intentional with my technology usage and present in my REAL life.  And each day I cut myself some slack and say, “Tomorrow I will do better”.


With so much of my work and personal life tied up inside that tiny case of glass, plastic and metal in my pocket I really do wish I had my very own tech psychologist on my side or at the very least Pavlov’s dog ringing the dinner bell!

Laurie Wolk graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emory University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She worked in digital media and marketing before becoming a certified coach by the Martha Beck Institute and opening a family coaching practice based in Westchester, New York. She’s a Senior Educator for Girls Leadership and serves on our Advisory Board. To learn more about Laurie’s work with families, go to This post is republished with permission.

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