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Five Ways Your Smartphone Can Damage Your Life and How to Stop It

For all the advancements technology provides and all the convenience it affords us, there are risks associated with it that often catch us off guard. Who knew that the advent of the home computer would lead both to infinite discovery and obesity? It is the blessing and curse of any tool that it can be used for good and harm. That is why in this world of near constant tech connection we learn how to protect ourselves.

Frequently, the simple answer is to unplug.

All things in moderation as the saying goes. But there are times when we all must remain chained to our phones, for business or personal needs. In those times, you can end up creating some serious problems for yourself, but that isn't technology's fault. It's yours. Here are five ways to stop it.

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Photo by PeterPan23
Problem: Eye fatigue.

We all get tired looking at tiny things on a bright screen. Ideally, everything we would read would be in large type black on a soft, off-white background, but that isn't the way things are. So, staring at your phone for long periods of time isn't great for your eyes. The obvious way to avoid this is to simply stop looking. One recommended method is called 20/20/20. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Another option is to move to a larger screen, preferably a larger computer monitor. You can even increase the size of what you are reading to help, something you can't do on a phone.

Problem: Notification stress.

Years ago I had a Blackberry. It was one of those weirdly-shaped gray things with a black and white screen and a keypad. It drove me insane because there was no way to stop e-mail notifications. Either it beeped or a little red light flashed over and over and over, until I checked it. The great thing about today's modern smart phones is you have the power to control notifications. If you don't want to know when an e-mail comes in -- or even a text message or phone call -- you can adjust your settings to whatever you want. This allows you to control when you look at your phone and what you look at instead of being prompted by an inanimate object.  

Problem: Distraction.

Recent studies suggest we look at our phones an average of 110 times per day or about 10 times per hour. Not only is this remarkable considering the iPhone didn't exist 10 years ago but it's borderline crazy. I can't think of a technology that has ever existed that we purposefully checked 110 times every day. Even the watch or clock, at best, gets looked at a couple times per hour, but nothing like this. The only solution here is to put the phone down and walk away. The more you look, the less time you have for friends, family and other pursuits. Sometimes, unplugging is the only option.

Problem: Potential long-term disability from holding it near your head.

Some studies have suggested that the electronics in phones and even the radio waves they utilize can be harmful over a long period of time to brain cells because the phone is held close to the brain when talking. While there is no real proof of this, the better safe than sorry approach is probably warranted. The simple fix is to go with earbuds or a bluetooth headset. They are so commonplace now, I often find myself wondering why a person is walking through the grocery store talking to herself only to realize she is on the phone.

Problem: Car accidents.

In November, my truck was totaled by a girl who ran a red light because she was looking at her phone. She never even applied her brakes. Everyone involved was lucky to walk away with no serious injuries. There really is no excuse for using the smart part of your smart phone while driving. If you must access e-mail or, God help you, Twitter or Facebook on your drive, pull the hell over and save a life -- especially mine. And if you are going to talk on the phone, go hands free or don't talk. Keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel wasn't just good advice when Jim Morrison sung it.


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