With the recent introduction of #Pokémon GO, not everyone has embraced this step into mainstream augmented reality with open arms. Despite this, downloads of the app total 30 million and counting (it's now the most downloaded app ever). With this in mind, cell phone usage is at an all-time high and this new app only adds to the addiction. This is evident in the fact that law enforcement agencies in various cities have implemented new laws to not only ban the use of cell phones while driving but some are even considering banning usage while walking. Distracted driving is no doubt dangerous but there has been a marked increase in the number of accidents occurring while walking and fully engaged with a cell phone.

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Whether texting, watching a video, or searching out a coveted Pokémon monster, individuals have found themselves in dangerous situations while walking. There's continued public concern and the introduction of this latest fad doesn't help the situation. What exactly is this chronic overuse of cell phone technology doing to us?

Physical harm

We’ve all heard of the physical manifestations of excessive cell phone use. In addition to accidents while walking or driving, physical damage also occurs while sitting in slouched positions for extended periods of time. Lowered heads strain neck muscles and a device held very close to the eyes can negatively affect vision. Over time these have detrimental affects on users. 

Understanding the addiction

Due to its compulsive nature and interference with daily routines, cell phone usage is now considered an addiction.

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Its been said that the notification of a new text or email releases dopamine into the brain, similar to recreational drug use. The urge to immediately check an incoming message is undeniable. After checking the message there’s still temptation to open a new window to surf the web or check social media accounts. This affect is the same for Pokémon Go. Users are eager to find monsters and when they do, the chemical release is likely similar.

We’ve also been told that multitasking is possible but this concept has been proven to be inaccurate. It’s virtually impossible for the human brain to give 100% focus to more than one task at a time. With this in mind, full engagement with cell phones while walking (and possibly driving) to find the next Pokémon can be dangerous. This new game is extremely popular and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in the near future. To ensure their safety, users should be mindful and respectful of their surroundings.

Curbing the addiction

As a result of this game’s popularity and the general addictiveness of cell phones, users should consider monitoring their time spent using their phones.

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Fortunately, many phones have the ability to track usage which is helpful for individuals who have chosen to limit their usage to a few hours a day.

Another great tool is to practice positive self-reinforcement. With this, users can reward themselves with something non-tech related if they meet their usage goals. Overtime, this reinforcement will allow for moderate phone usage since time is filled with other activities. Also, putting the phone away completely is another way to avoid the temptation of constantly checking it. Consider leaving it in a different room in the evening. It’s out of reach but close enough in case of an emergency.