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Check your phone habits with Checky. — Submitted Photo

Even if you can restrain yourself, a quick check of your environment will indicate otherwise. People are checking their cells at the movies. Or while having dinner with friends. Or, even in the bathroom (eww!). Certainly, mobile phone users may not be addicted to their gadgets, but they are straddling a thin line and are definitely not fully tuned in to real life happening around them.

“Only a small percentage of people qualify as addicted,” said Dr. David Greenfield, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. “But many people overuse their smartphones.”

In a Time magazine look at the current technology-spurred attention deficit condition, Baylor University professor James Roberts agrees with Greenfield’s definition and lists some warning signs in his book, “Too Much of a Good Thing.” According to the professor, one red flag of digital addiction is if you feel anxious, irritable or uncomfortable when your phone isn’t within reach. Another warning is the need to use your phone more and more. Roberts says “that ever-increasing desire for a ‘dose’ of smartphone is akin to substance abusers who build up tolerance to drugs or alcohol.”

Time magazine finally summarized that the line between overuse and addiction may be gray.

An honest assessment begins at the source: You. One way to start adjusting your smartphone or digital gadget habit is to simply turn the unit off. Not restart, but completely powered down. A simple trick is to shut off your phone or tablet while you sleep. Of course, you can go nuclear and shut off your Wi-Fi or unplug your router.

If you cannot bear the thought of going hours without your digital glow, consider using your “Do Not Disturb” function to put the world at bay for a few minutes, or, ideally, hours. Or, you can download an app to help.

Checky is a free and very simple mobile app that does one thing well: it tells you how many times you’ve turned on your phone today, and nothing else

(iOS and Android).

You can also earn rewards by blocking distracting websites and apps with the Freedom app. This application monitors phone usage by providing statistics of all the ways you spend on your mobile unit and allows you to set a daily limit (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android).

The hallmark of smartphone addiction is if you cannot put your phone away even if it may harm your life. Just like eating too much candy can damage your physical health, ingesting too much internet by spending time on social media or constantly checking your phone can rewire your brain and emotions in untold ways.

Take control of your digital life now, and reap the rewards of better concentration and possibly a less stressful life later.

“Visible Digital” is a weekly column that explores digital technology and social media trends. Share your digital world with me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook @bobbibooker.

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