When Should I Worry About...

PODCAST: Should You Be Worried About Your Screen Time?

Jan. 31, 2023


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The average smartphone user unlocks their device about 150 times a day. Staying in touch, taking photos, getting directions, watching videos, reading the news — there are many reasons we rely on our smartphones so much. But they can also become a distraction. In today's episode, we explore the double-edged sword that is the smartphone, a tool that can improve our lives but also cause a reliance bordering on addiction — and how this impacts our mood, sleep, interpersonal interactions, ability to learn and more.

Hosts: Zach Moore, John Dabkowski (interviewer)

Expert: Dr. Kenneth Podell, Neuropsychologist

Notable topics covered:

  • Nomophobia, the fear of being without your smartphone
  • The way excessive screen time leads to smartphone addiction
  • How reading on your phone is different from reading from a book
  • Whether the blue light emitted from our smartphones affects our sleep
  • When smartphones affect how we interact with other people
  • It's not all doom and gloom — the benefits of smartphones
  • Dr. Podell's tips for forming a healthier relationship with your smartphone


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Episode Transcript

ZACH: Welcome to On Health with Houston Methodist. I'm Zach Moore. I'm a photographer and editor here, and I've worked in multimedia and television for over 15 years — and I'm also a longtime podcaster. And I have a new cohost with me today. John Dabkowski. What’s up John?


JOHN: Not much, Zach. How are you?


ZACH: Good. So, John and I are colleagues in the Creative Services department here at Houston Methodist, and we’re both addicted to our smartphones.


JOHN: Yes, we are and that is why we are here today. To work through our personal smartphone demons.


ZACH: It is a problem truly for the modern age. Right? Twenty years ago, this wasn't a thing.


JOHN: This wasn’t a thing. Now, we also had to print directions any time we wanted to go anywhere and carry around separate cameras, so I’m glad we don’t have to do any of those things anymore.


ZACH: Calculator, a camera, a map, an encyclopedia, all in our pocket.


JOHN: All of the above. I don’t know how we survived before, and so that’s the good aspect of our smartphones. But I think the aspect that you and I spend a lot of time thinking about personally is just how much we’re addicted to these things, how much we pull them out every day and we wish we had them in our hands a little bit less.


ZACH: Yeah, that need you have to pull out your phone in any dead moment like, if you’re standing in line somewhere, right? It’s like, “Oh, I better check my phone.” And it’s innocent ‘cause you’re like, “Let me see if I got an email.” or “Let me see what’s going on.” but the fact that like, when it’s -- Like, I’ve noticed when I don’t have the phone with me and I’m like, “Oh. I just reached for my phone and it’s not even there.” It’s become this instinctual thing and that’s what’s scary.


JOHN: Ah, I couldn’t agree more. I kind of don’t have a problem using it when I need to use it, but to your point, I think we now just pull it out, out of habit and check it out of habit. I can’t remember the last time I was in a line without a smartphone. I don’t wanna know the last time I was in a line without a smartphone. I don’t want it to ever happen again.


ZACH: I feel like if I go out in public without like, my smartphone or even my earbuds or something, I feel like I’m a like a astronaut without a helmet like I can’t -- How am I gonna survive out here, man?


JOHN: I think the earbud thing, I think is another level that I’ve also noticed that if I don’t have them with me, again, you kind of don’t know what to do with yourself. And I don’t stop but at the same time like, it’s something I do think about a lot. I do wish I was a little less reliant on it for distraction, entertainment, whatever you wanna call it, and so that’s -- Yeah, that’s why we’re talking about it.


ZACH: Yeah. People say like, “Oh yeah. I didn’t have my cellphone today and it felt great. It felt very free.” I was like, “No.” You know, I’ve had instances where my cellphone had to be repaired or wasn’t working and no, you’re not free. You were trapped in 1995 and everyone else is living today and you feel more isolated than ever.


JOHN: The next time my phone dies and I’m out somewhere like, I don’t know how I’ll get anywhere or do anything. That's how reliant we’ve become on them.


ZACH: And I don’t know about you, John, but every week when my phone hits me up with that notification of screen time. Your screen time for the past week. I feel shame.


JOHN: It comes every Sunday afternoon. I’m already feeling a lot of things on a Sunday afternoon and for some reason they decide that’s when we’re gonna send out those alerts, and it makes me feel even worse about myself.


ZACH: Yeah. So we checked what our screen times were the previous week as of this recording.


JOHN: We did.


ZACH: We did not tell each other. So, we’re gonna reveal it here to you, the listeners. First, John, what was your screen time last week?


JOHN: My screen time was five hours and 16 minutes.


ZACH: For real?


JOHN: For real.


ZACH: [Laughter] Okay. My screen time was five hours and 15 minutes.


JOHN: [Laughter] I wish we had set this up, but I don’t think we’re smart enough to set this up.




JOHN: Also, I just don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse about our current situation.


ZACH: Yeah.


JOHN: Maybe better. I’ve a friend now. [Laughter]


ZACH: You’re very vocal about how you feel like you’re spending too much time on your phone.


JOHN: Right.


ZACH: So, I was really hoping you’d come out here with like eight hours, nine hours. To know that we’re the same concerns me on a deep level. So, we’re gonna need some help, and in our search for answers about how to break this smartphone addiction, who did we talk to this week, John?


JOHN: We spoke to Dr. Kenneth Podell. He is the director of Neuropsychology in our department of Neurology. We talked about a lot of different things regarding smartphones. We talked about addiction. We talked about sleep. We talked about light mode versus dark mode and what that means, and the good and the bad that might come with that. We also talked about the more social implications of smartphone use. I think we’ve been at restaurants, at dinners, at gatherings with friends and family only to realize we’ve been staring at our smartphones for the last 20 minutes when there’s actually physical people around. So, we talked about a lot different things regarding smartphones.


ZACH: Awesome. Let's get into it.


[Sound effect signaling beginning of interview]


JOHN: I’m here with Dr. Kenneth Podell, a neuropsychologist here at Houston Methodist. Thanks for joining us today.

DR. PODELL: Oh, it’s great to be here.


JOHN: So, I’m gonna start with a confession. My average screen time last week was five hours and 16 minutes on my smartphone. How much trouble am I in?


DR. PODELL: [Laughter] Well, it’s an interesting point that you make about the amount of time, and it’s increasing. And on average, people are spending about four and half hours on their phone a day.


JOHN: I’m on the high side. I'm in trouble.


DR. PODELL: Well -- But people, when they look at those numbers, it’s social. It's not work-related activity, right? So, if you start looking at four and half hours of free time, and then you add in work, people are upwards of eight, nine hours a day on their phone, and then probably spending that amount of time on a computer as well. So, it is a problem. What’s interesting is if you look at some of the data that looks at countries, we’re not even near the top there anymore. So, it’s -- We’re still kinda low, but it’s an issue, and it does have some implications in terms of our brain, in terms of our mood and behavior and health overall.


JOHN: So, I was doing some research here ‘cause this something that I think about a lot, and something I'm really excited to talk to you about. So as I was doing a little research and a little self-therapy before we spoke just in case, found a couple facts that I’ll just rattle off here quickly. On average, smartphone users unlock their phones 150 times a day. Over 50% of smartphone owners never turn it off, and 71% of smartphone owners sleep with or next to their mobile phone on a typical night. What’s your general reaction when you hear statistics like that?


DR. PODELL: So, it’s -- There’s a term for that. It's called nomophobia. Okay? The fear of being without your smartphone. Okay? No mobile phone phobia. That’s a common thing now where people, you know, “Where’s my phone?” Right? You know, it’s like, you never used to leave the house without your wallet or your keys. Now, you don’t leave your house without your wallet, your keys, or your phone. Right? And it always comes down to moderation and how you do it. Is my phone next to me at night? Yes. But is it set for Do Not Disturb from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.? Yes. Because it’s just charging and if there’s an emergency from the hospital or something, I need to have it. But that’s a problem with kids and they’ve shown studies where kids that have their phone in their rooms sleep less overall, and sleep deprivation is a huge problem in our teens, in our adolescence, right? And my advice to them is always, “That phone stays in the kitchen.” with teens. They will wake up in the middle of the night and start texting and searching or whatever.


JOHN: You mentioned a couple things there that I was really interested to talk to you about. One of the reasons I've been thinking about this more than ever is that I’m a new dad. We have a seven-month-old at home. I never feel worse about myself when I’m with him and playing with him, but then I check something on my phone and then all of a sudden, I realize, I'm looking at him, I’m looking at my phone. But like you mentioned, as far as not wanting to miss out on things like, “I wanna read that article.” Or “I wanna watch that video. I wanna check that notification.” You mention kind of teens and smartphone use obviously affecting that age group. Is my somewhat excessive smartphone behavior having an impact on my son even as just a seven-month-old?


DR. PODELL: It can. And the point that you’re making, and it’s a very important point, is how do people use their phone? And that’s the critical thing. And when it gets to a point where you’re just using it for these short hits, these short bursts of reinforcements, that’s what creates what they call addiction, or dependence. Let’s use the word ‘dependence’. And that’s part of the problem is that people no longer do deep dives. People no longer take the time to think, and it’s just scrolling. Right? Where you’re looking at this or you’re looking at that, when in the moment, you’re playing with your child. And I think that’s one of the critical issues, and probably the most important issues, for our kids in understanding how they use the phone. The way it becomes an addiction, and the way any addiction works, smartphone has been found to be the same thing, is where you look at something and you get this little hit of reward, “Oh, that was interesting.” and that literally causes a little burst of dopamine in the brain, and dopamine is the reward chemical. And then, you get that and then you get the next one and it just keeps coming, and then you become dependent upon getting that little burst. And it totally changes how the brain is wired, they’ve shown that in some research. How the wired brains can depend on how much time you’re on the phone, and it changes what I think is most critical is thinking, is deep dive thinking. Where it’s going, you know, 15 seconds here, 30 seconds there, and then you’re switching to something else, and you never get into the deep dive. It reminds me of when I was a child and we’d go on these family car trips, right? And I’m 60 and that goes back 50 years or so. And you had a coloring book, or you had these little puzzles, and I can’t -- Boredom, I think, is a great thing to have where you just stare out the window and you think.

JOHN: That’s a good point. There’s nothing wrong, not necessarily anything wrong with being bored.


DR. PODELL: I think it’s a great thing, and we don’t have that anymore ‘cause what’s everyone doing in the car? They built videos into the car, into backseat of the car.


JOHN: Plus, they’re on the gas -- You’re waiting for gas to pump. Anywhere you look. I think about it in line constantly. When you’re in line for something and if I didn’t have my smartphone on me -- Like, I can’t remember the last time I waited in a line without it, and I would not want to think about how I would react if I didn’t have it on me. You mentioned this briefly a second ago, but I just wanna follow up on it. From your clinical perspective, how does smartphone use alter or hurt our brains?


DR. PODELL: We need to talk about the brain, and we need to talk about behavior and mood. There are some studies that show it changes brain connectivity, and brain connectivity is shaped by our environment and our behaviors, and our thinking, and what we’re doing. Right? Just like physical exercise shapes your muscles in your body. And the same goes for how we engage our brains during the day. There are studies that have looked at people who read, and people who are on smartphones. There’s a positive correlation between brain connectivity, which is healthy and good for the brain, with reading a book, and there’s a negative correlation between brain connectivity and amount of time on a smartphone.


JOHN: What’s the difference in reading a book on your phone and reading a book the old-fashioned way on paper? Is there a much more benefit that you get out of reading the paper copy?


DR. PODELL: Couple different things to look at. First of all, when you’re looking, when you’re reading a book, that’s all that it is, is that book. You don’t get to switch to something else and it’s a two, three-hundred-page book. You’re stuck there, and then for an hour you’re in a deep dive with this one topic. Now, on your phone, if you do something like that, there’s probably not much difference in terms of that as long as it’s that deep dive.


JOHN: Yeah.


DR. PODELL: But if you are on your phone and you read something for five minutes and get bored and you switch to something else, or you stay on something for Tik Tok and you’re there for a couple of seconds, that’s the bad part to it.


JOHN: Probably, almost resets the benefit you were getting out of spending time with just that one thing.


DR. PODELL: The other thing, if I can just mention real quick, is to think about using the phone at night, and that's where just reading on it at night is considered harmful. Blue light is emitted from electronic devices and blue light -- They call it blue light because the light coming from phones, or tablets, or computers is in the range of blue on this light spectrum. That signals the brain to stay awake. It suppresses melatonin. It decreases that and when we’re awake, we decrease melatonin. Sunlight decreases melatonin. Versus red light, when it gets dark out, we have more red-light spectrum. That signals the production of melatonin to make you sleepy. So, you can halt that process by being on your laptop or your phone all night. And when I have a deadline and I’m on my -- working ‘til 10:00 at night, I don’t sleep well because I just -- My body’s not ready for sleep ‘cause I shut that process off.


JOHN: The brain never stops going.




JOHN: What have you. How detrimental is smartphone use to our sleep specifically?


DR. PODELL: It can be very detrimental and could be a major source of poor health for a lot of individuals. Moderation, moderation. And you’re gonna hear that throughout the podcast. Let’s focus on teens for a minute. There are studies of teens who kept their phone in their room versus the kitchen. If -- Keeping it in your room showed about an hour less sleep in the teens than if it was kept in a different room for the night. ‘Kay? That hour of sleep is shown with an increase of depression, increase of anxiety, decrease in grades, and decrease in physical health, and goes on and on. So, an hour of sleep is a lot. Adults are no better for doing that and often times, we tend to use the excuse, “Well, I needed to do this for work.” Or “I need to do that.” Well, there’s no reason to be working 10:00 at night unless you’re on call or something. Right?


JOHN: Right.


DR. PODELL: It's all about the discipline, or the moderation. And the typical rule is two hours before bedtime no electronics. You’re done.


[Music plays to signal a brief interjection in the interview]


ZACH: You’ve probably noticed that smartphones now have settings regarding light mode and dark mode. As I look at my current settings, my phone automatically switches from light to dark mode at sunset each day. At sunrise, it switches back. The same goes for something it calls ‘Night shift’. According to my phone, Night shift automatically shifts the colors of the display to the warmer end of the color spectrum after dark. My phone claims it may help you get a better night’s sleep. So, not surprisingly, you may be thinking that your phone’s switch from day mode into night mode in the evening is the solution to blue light affecting your sleep, and that reading on dark mode is better for your eyes than reading on light mode. But does swapping the usual bright background for a darker one really gives you a pass to stare at your phone before bed? Dr. Podell said, “Night mode might help a little.” The amount of blue light you’re exposed to is certainly reduced, though you are still being exposed to some amount of it. On top of that, he reminded us that being on your phone, even if it’s on night mode, revs up your brain. Whereas reading from a magazine or a book is more relaxing to the brain at night. If you currently spend time on your phone before bed, and are looking to improve your sleep, your phone’s best setting is still leave-it-in-the-other-room mode.




JOHN: We’ve got more with Dr. Podell after the break.


[Music ends, sound effect signals commercial break]


ANNOUNCER: From annual checkups to managing chronic conditions, your healthcare should be personalized to you. At Houston Methodist, our primary care doctors provide customized care for you and your family with more than 40 convenient locations across greater Houston. We offer a variety of ways to get care, from in-person and virtual appointments to same day visits when you’re sick. Choose your doctor and schedule online at houstonmethodist.org/stayhealthy. Houston Methodist leading medicine.


[Music ends to signal return to the interview]


JOHN: And we’re back with Dr. Podell.


[Sound effect signaling return of interview]


JOHN: Personally, I worry a lot and think about a lot about losing interpersonal interactions due to my phone, and you catch yourself, you might be at dinner with friends or family, what have you, and you catch yourself on your phone, all of a sudden, you realize minutes… quite a few minutes might have gone by before you had any interaction with them at all. What kind of detriments have you seen from a behavioral, societal perspective?


DR. PODELL: It cuts both ways. There are some good to that and there’s some bad. Let's start with the bad. The bad is simply you’re not interacting. You’re not talking. You’re not socializing. And socialization is so critical to the human existence, both physically and emotionally. I mean, it all ties in together. And that lack of communication with the person in front of you just affects those relationships, and those relationships affect the brain, affects your health, so it can be very detrimental. I mean, it just boils my blood when you walk into a restaurant, and you see a family over to your side and they’re just -- Dad and mom as well.


JOHN: Yeah.


DR. PODELL: You know, you gotta walk the walk and talk the talk. Alright? And I don’t see that. But you have to look at -- There are some positive sides to all of this as well. And for those individuals that do have psychological or psychiatric disorders or problems, it allows them to find a niche or a group that they can talk with. So, people with anxiety or depression, they can kind find support online. You know, one of the things I want is, kind of as a public service announcement, is the suicide prevention hotline is no longer a phone call, it’s 988. It's texting. And that’s to show you the influence that this has on health policy.


JOHN: So, we’ve talked about some of the more negative aspects of smartphone use so far. There are clearly plenty of benefits for having smartphones in our lives. We have much more information more quickly than ever before. I think in a lot of ways, it’s much easier to stay in touch with friends and family, especially those that you don’t get to see physically very often. I think all the time about how I used to have to carry around a separate camera, and carry around printed directions with me, and I don’t have to do any of those things anymore. Specifically, about your health though, there must be some health benefits that come out of smartphone use.


DR. PODELL: There absolutely are. And then you just mentioned one of the most important ones is connectivity. And it does allow for us to connect with others, with like you said, with family members. I think that’s very critical. It allows quick communication with family members rather than having to stop what you’re doing. So, there is -- there are a lot of benefits. It gives access to support groups for those that might not wanna travel outside of the home. Quick information to emergency services, to doctor visits. So, I think there’s a lot there on a social level that -- It benefits us. But from a medical side, I think there’s an almost untapped resource of what it does for us and healthcare, and the pandemic, I think, really brought that out. It gives you access to doctors and to health care that you didn’t have. It gives you access to information that you didn’t have, although, it’s typically -- I see that as a downside ‘cause people misinterpret [Laughter] the medical advice. Exactly. But from a healthcare perspective, I use it every day to do TeleVisits with patients that don’t live nearby. The Houston Texans Support Concussion program. I take care of east Texas. From here to the Louisiana border.


JOHN: It’s amazing.


DR. PODELL: I can monitor symptoms and test patients off of their phone with apps for concussions, for healthcare, so it totally opens up this whole realm. There are over 350,000 medical apps. We can measure blood sugar levels with your phone, heart rate. We are starting to be able to, almost there, to test blood pressure accurately. All of these vital statistics that can be done at home to give doctors insight to the health of their patients that we never had before.


JOHN: That’s really amazing. And just for me, the way that my phone helps me keep up with my physical activity and how much I’ve moved that day, how many steps I’ve taken. Those types of things are obviously a clear benefit of it. You mentioned depression, anxiety. How does smartphone use affect someone’s mood?


DR. PODELL: There are a couple different ways. One is through dependence. And if you’re on your phone too much then as soon as you’re off of it, you kinda get this rebound effect, right? And you feel kind of down. That’s one way. Other ways are how you use it. Then, if you’re looking at other people’s posts and you just see things that are better for others, right? And that makes you feel bad about yourself. And I had a very valuable lesson from a friend a couple of years ago who kinda stopped posting a lot of positive things about themselves. And I asked her about that, and I said, “Why did, you know.” and she said, “Well, because you don’t know how that makes other people feel.”


JOHN: Interesting.


DR. PODELL: Right? And it gives people a way to stay in contact with you, but if you’re only posting good things about you then you kinda start thinking, “Well, why isn't my life like that?” So, there’s a balance there.


JOHN: I talk about this all the time at home, but people have mentioned that me before where you’re just like, “Oh, you guys have been traveling so much. Oh, looks like you guys have been doing fun things.” It’s like, well yeah, you know, we post about the most fun, the best, the most interesting part of our lives. Which I think generally is a good thing to do, but I think other people looking at others maybe makes them feel worse about themselves if they’re not doing certain things, or they’re not kind of putting their best selves out there on social media.


DR. PODELL: So then, that’s one way. The other thing that happens with smartphone use, it falls under like, cyberbullying. And one of the bad things is that if you’re not in a social interaction, you aren’t concerned about someone else’s response.


JOHN: Right.


DR. PODELL: So, you let it rip, so to speak. Right?


JOHN: Right.


DR. PODELL: And you don’t have a filter, and you just kinda say one sided things. And that’s the other thing about smartphones is you can easily dismiss what you don’t wanna hear. So, you’re not getting a broad conversation about a topic. You’re not getting different views. You’re getting very narrow-minded views. And that’s one of the problems is where it just allows someone to go down this one track, have blinders, be myopic about the topic and not get this diversity of views. So, that’s another problem that we often see with the smartphone. One of the negative aspects of it. Cyberbullying is a problem with our teens. I mentioned previously that it can be an avenue, an outlet, for those that need support group, but depending on what sites you’re on, cyberbullying is there and it does happen. And it’s usually, you know, an individual is attacked by others and because of that anonymity to others and not, you know, having to expose yourself, you can be meaner to people, and then people can be very sad about that. And if you don’t talk about it, then you internalize it and symptoms of depression kind of kick in, and it can be a very rough time for a teen.


JOHN: I’m curious how many cases of physical injury you’ve seen from smartphone use. I’m sure they’re distracted people walking around, hopefully not texting and driving. That type of thing. How often do you see that?


DR. PODELL: Too often. Too often. About ten times a year I’ll have someone in my office that had a head injury from doing something while they were texting. Last week, I was -- I went to a place down at Jones Hall and I was just waiting for my wife. She had to come separately. I came from work and I’m just standing outside. It’s a beautiful night. I’m standing by a bench, and this woman is just on her phone walking and just goes right over ‘cause the bench was pretty much knee high.


JOHN: Right.


DR. PODELL: And just went right over. She -- That was the end of her phone. It was gone. And luckily, she didn’t hurt herself, but people can’t do two things at once.


JOHN: Right.


DR. PODELL: Can’t be on your phone and whatever. And you know, texting and driving, that’s a real, real bad issue. And even now, you’ll see people at a stop sign. Right? Or a stop light and they’re on their phone. No, no, no, no, no. Pay attention. [Laughter] And so, we do see those types of injuries.


JOHN: So, we’ve talked about a lot today and it’s been really interesting. To kind of wrap up, I’d love to hear your go-to advice generally for someone that would like to have a healthier relationship with their smartphone.


DR. PODELL: Sure. Most of it’s common sense and moderation. Okay? I think there is absolutely a place for electronics, and smartphone, and social media in our lives. I do not have a problem with that. The issue is too much, and to the point of being distracting to what you need to get done in life. Simple rules for families and everyone has to follow them. Parent as well as child. There are certain times that there should be no cellphone use unless you have to pick up a phone call, or something like that. But most of our kids don’t use a cellphone as a phone, of course, but thing is it has to go away at certain times. At dinner times, absolutely, there is no phone. Certain time at night, cellphones are off. It's just basic, basic common sense. I know that parents and kids have certain rules about cellphone use during school. Some parents want to have that access, and I think that the parents need to critically analyze, do they really need that access? And I can’t make that decision, especially in today’s day and age. That’s an individual parental right to do, but there are times for it, and there’s time in when it should be put away. I’m a big proponent of increasing deep thinking. Okay? And concentration and focus. At work, I will close my email. Okay? I don’t want that. I have none of those alerts on.


JOHN: Right.


DR. PODELL: Okay, I will turn my phone on Do Not Disturb, and try to get those moments of deep critical thinking. And that’s one of the biggest things that I really would like to see improve is our ability to do deep dives and the cellphone, the smartphone is taking us away from that.


JOHN: I use Do Not Disturb all the time. I think it’s actually helped me a little bit, and I’ll do it even a little bit before I go to bed. Certainly, I have it on Do Not Disturb all night, but I think that feature’s been a really good thing and we can probably all do with a little more Do Not Disturb in our lives.


DR. PODELL: Right. Even -- It comes down to that we all have this impulse of where I’m standing around waiting.


JOHN: Yeah.


DR. PODELL: And -- Right? And what do you do? You reach out for your phone and to try to teach yourself to just stop, pause on that. And there are several things that I’m trying to work out, and do myself even, is mini mindfulness breathing. Even if you did that for thirty seconds where you just kinda -- and close your eyes, you took a deep breath, relaxed. That's beneficial. And that will take up the minute that you would have gone through three or four images or something on your phone. Think about your day, think about what you did, what you have to do tomorrow. Just something else to get you away from that initial impulse. That is always -- that we’ll all have that drive to just pick up that phone to fill up that void.


JOHN: Well, thank you so much for doing this today. That’s all really great advice, and I think that’s really good information that we’ve shared with people. Thank you.


DR. PODELL: You’re welcome.


[Sound effect signals the end of the interview]


ZACH: So, John, what did you take away from that?


JOHN: One big surprise that made me feel better about myself was that it sounds like I’m not totally screwing up my seven-month-old yet by having my phone around him. ‘Cause again, I’ve always thought about this a lot in my smartphone use. That has added another level of anxiety to me, thinking about my smartphone use, so I was glad to hear that I’m not creating a major problem yet, but it’s still something for me to think about and keep my eye on.


ZACH: Yeah, we’re really the first generation of people who are gonna have kids where we need to think about this.


JOHN: There’s some inevitability there, but I think the longer I can keep a smartphone out of my kid’s hands, I think the better is my mindset right now and Dr. Podell really didn’t give me any reason to change that mindset. I really don’t want to have to set rules about the dinner table and before bed and things like that. I would just like it to not be a thing for him for as long as humanly possible.


ZACH: Yeah, and just the whole psychology of it, just that security blanket, this technological security blanket we all carry around with us. And knowing that, you know, as he said, moderation. Right? That seems to be the theme in pretty much any topic we talk about, but it’s the truth, right? Moderation -- I mean, that’s why we joked about it off the top, had a few laughs about our screen time but that’s an important statistic to pay attention to.


JOHN: And I think pick your spots in order to gain that moderation. Dinner time, mealtime, before bed. I think if you can take it out of those aspects of your life, you’re probably doing -- you’re probably in a much better spot.


ZACH: Yeah. See, that’s how I know that I have an issue sometimes ‘cause I’m like, “Oh, you want me to put my phone up?” Like, me and wife talk about that all the time.


JOHN: We’ve all been there I think where it’s either your significant other, your friend, your parent, what have you. The person that you’re with is like, “Hey, you wanna put your phone up?” and you like automatically get defensive about it.


ZACH: Right? “What do you mean? What’s the problem?”


JOHN: “I’m not doing this. This is -- What are we doing here?”


ZACH: “I’ll put it down anytime I want.”


JOHN: “I’m normal. People have phones.” Getting ahead of that, I think, in those instances where you are in a social setting is probably another good way to achieve some of that moderation. When you’re by yourself, when you are in a situation where you’re killing some time, maybe it’s okay and it’s a good --or you know, borderline a good thing. But when you’re in those social settings, taking it out of those would be a good way to try to achieve some of that moderation.


ZACH: So, yeah to wrap like we said off the top, smartphones, they’re a great invention. They’ve done a lot of good for this world. You’re probably listening to this podcast on a smartphone so thank you for that. But everything in moderation, again, just check out that screen time. If you find yourself losing connection with the people around you and the environments around you because you’re so plugged into your phone, then it’s probably time to put it down for a few minutes and just connect with the people around you.


JOHN: I think that’s good advice for everybody.


ZACH: Alright, that's gonna do it for us this time. And be sure to share, like, and subscribe On Health with Houston Methodist wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoyed this conversation, for more topics like this, visit our blog at houstonmethodist.org/blog. Stay tuned and stay healthy.


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