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Talk with the Doc: Assessing personal cell phone habits

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

Current statistics tell us that the average American spends about 5 ½ hours each and every day on their cell phone. Further investigations and surveys tell us that approximately 10% of cell phone users state that they often spend more than 12 hours every day on their cell phones. This data would be very consistent with what many of us have observed in friends, family and many others who seem to be always on their cell phone. They may be observed texting, talking, looking something up, or perhaps just playing games on their high tech cell phone devices.

Cell phones are often defined as being either a mobile phone or as a smartphone. Both of these cell phones are devices that you can use to make calls and to send text messages. That’s about where a mobile phone capability stops, although many of them also feature a camera. A typical smartphone generally has many additional capabilities. These additional functions available on smartphones will likely include email capabilities, internet access, video chatting, gaming, downloading of many additional applications, high quality photo taking and video recording, playing and storing music, and some with additional capabilities as well.

At the present time, there are nearly 300 million phones in use in the United States. This puts the United States in third place in terms of the total number of mobile phones being used in our great country. Based on recent estimates, China has approximately 841 million, and India has 729 million mobile phones. This is likely due to the fact that both of these countries have substantially larger populations than the United States. However, it should be noted that the percent of the China and India populations with cell phones is lower than the 93 percent of the United States population that now have mobile phones.

Now, let me strongly suggest that we all assess our personal cell phone habits. It may also be appropriate that we also suggest to others that they assess their cell phone habits, including our family and friends, additional significant others, students, children, grandchildren, and others as may be indicated. Perhaps the first item we all should do is to honestly ask ourselves the following. “How much time do I spend each day on my mobile phone?” The next question is to assess whether this is where I should be spending my time, and what is the impact it may be having on my communication with family, friends, co-workers, and others that I am blessed to have in my life.

Further, when we are engaged in a face-to-face conversation with others, we should be respectful by giving them our complete and undivided attention. If you do receive a call during a time when you are personally speaking with others, let your voicemail do its job and handle non-urgent calls. If you are expecting an important call, or recognize that an incoming call may need to be answered right now, apologize to those with whom you are engaged, and ask permission to answer before accepting it.

Of course, we all need to be very careful when we are driving and also using a mobile phone. The cell phone can serve as a significant distraction and make for very unsafe driving. Absolutely do not ever text and drive. If you are expecting and believe you have received an important text message while driving, safely pull off to the side of the road, and then check your phone.

The bottom line is to be respectful of others and stay safe when using your mobile phone.

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