What would it take for you to give up your phone?

Teenagers are setting their alarms so they can wake up in the middle of the night to check their phones, it has been claimed.

"One woman emailed me and said her daughter has an alarm set to wake up in the middle of the night to go in and like her friends' pictures and things, because if she doesn't they'll be upset the next day and say, 'Why didn't you like my pictures?'" Taino Bendz told The AM Show.

Bendz, whose day job is finding ways technology can benefit productivity, is the brains behind Phone-Free Day, which is being marked Friday. He got the idea for the movement late last year.

"I was at Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium here in Auckland with my sons in the kids area, playing with the boys and 10 other kids there maybe. Looking up I see a wall of screens from other parents. 

"I've been that parent, but it made me see what our behaviour looks like to our kids - at the same time we limit our kids' screen time."

Research last year found one-in-four young people were addicted to their phones to some degree, particularly girls aged 17-19.

And a study in 2017 found even just having a smartphone on our desk at work reduces our cognitive ability - even if it's turned off

"Just having your phone on the table reduces your cognitive capacity on par with lack of sleep," said Bendz. 

"It's there staring at you, and we know it can take our focus at any time... It's affecting relationships, it's affecting mental health, it's affecting sleep, it's affecting productivity at work."

Taino Bendz.
Taino Bendz. Photo credit: The AM Show

But despite the evidence, getting adults away from their phones won't be easy. A recent poll commissioned by Frog Recruitment found 83 percent of Kiwis would stop using theirs at work, but only if they were paid an extra $250 a month. 

"Perhaps if people need a little bit of a kicker, you could have some fun with it around incentives - it doesn't necessarily have to be money," said Frog Recruitment spokesperson Jane Kennelly. "It could be all sorts of things."

Kennelly says limiting technology can increase teamwork and communication in the workplace. 

"Teamwork's been affected, we're not problem-solving necessarily as well as we used to - we go straight to Google, and we're not going to get lost for a day if we can't access Google Maps."

Bosses will also need to stop expecting people to be ready to pick up the phone day and night however.

"Employers do need to be really acutely aware these days that their employees are so tied in - they're answering emails at midnight," said Kennelly. "You've got to be able to shut down, or at least tone it down. And need to be able to do that during the workday as well."

While Phone-Free Day might be new, Bendz has been trying to practise what he preaches for years.

"Six years ago when I got married we actually had a phone-free wedding. We'd been to a bunch of weddings and you only see screens - the people getting married only see screens, not the guests."