Adults and teens concerned about their screen time are turning in their smartphones for “dumber” models.

Buried in the settings of many smartphones is the option to look up how much on average you are staring at your phone per day. It can bring an uncomfortable realisation, that what was supposed to be a useful piece of technology has become an obsession.

“Social media is built around FOMO (fear of missing out), so I felt like I couldn’t get off it,” said on 16-year-old. “Instantly I got Instagram and it was a downward spiral.”

According to a study by Harvard University, using social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that is also triggered when taking an addictive substance. This has raised concerns about phone habits among youth.

In the UK, research by Ofcom estimates that around a quarter of children aged five to seven years old now have their own smartphone. Links have been shown in some studies between use of social media and a negative effect on mental health - especially in children.

Some campaigners want age limits to be introduced for smartphone use. Others are choosing to swap their smartphones for much simpler so-called “dumbphones” devices, which only has texts, calls, maps, and a few other limited tools.

Parents are also turning to dumbphones, not only for their children, but to help themselves be more present for their families. Sales of dumbphones have been increasing in North America.

At Dumbwireless in Los Angeles, store-owners Daisy Krigbaum and Will Stults cater to customers looking for low-tech devices. “We have a lot of parents looking to get their kid that first phone, and they don’t want them drifting off on the internet,” he said.

But giving up the smartphone is easier said than done. Mr Stults said some schools require pupils to have certain apps. And it is difficult to hold the line when children see their friends being given expensive smartphones.

“Parents can control the smartphone with this tag, and also monitor the usage,” Mr Stults said. There are several phones that have now been developed particularly for users who want to avoid an addiction to mindless scrolling.

Chris Kaspar founded the company Techless to develop an “intentionally boring” but sleek device that looks much like an iPhone. The latest version is dubbed the “Wisephone II”.

“It has no icons, just words, two colours, and two fonts.” He describes it as “very peaceful, very tranquil”.

It will have some limited third-party tools, such as the taxi application Uber, but no social media. “We’re asking this question—what’s actually good for us?” Mr Kaspar said.

He first developed the phone with his teenage foster daughters in mind and says 25% of their sales are to children, but that it is marketed to adults. “If you have a phone that’s branded as a kids’ device there’s some shame associated with that. So we made a very adult, sophisticated, Apple-esque, really nice device,” he said.

With revenue from apps and social-media advertisement in the billions of dollars, the big companies have little motivation to encourage different habits, he said. Meanwhile, some teens in Canada are saying that they are planning to stick with their new device, much to the amusement of friends.

“They think it’s pretty weird but at this point I’m like it doesn’t really matter because it’s helped me so much,” one said. “It’s definitely taken me into a better spot right now.”