When I want to know about an ache, I check a medical dictionary online. A pop star? I check music videos online. A breaking news event? I check my iPhone for AP mobile updates and for posts by friends on my Facebook feed.
I learned about everything from my alma mater winning the Rose Bowl to the last-minute deal on the fiscal cliff to the 2012 deaths of Davy Jones, Donna Summer, and Larry Hagman on either my laptop or my cell phone. (On a typical day, four in 10 Americans get news online or on a mobile device, according to the Pew Research Center.)
So far I haven't started playing Yahtzee free online. But I often check the weather, Facebook, and text messages. Am I too attached to my digital devices? Are you?
To get tips on how you and your family can use mobile phones, iPads, and computers wisely, I talked with one of my favorite experts, Dr. Mason Turner, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. His advice:
Put phones away during meals. Make it a rule for your whole family. "With kids, I think it's important to set up some expectations that we won't be doing texting during dinner," says Turner. Worried about an emergency call? Set your cell to vibrate and then discreetly check it, he says.
Tell friends and family not to count on instant email and text replies from you. A 2012 Time Mobility Poll found that 37 percent of Americans checked their wireless mobile phone at least once every half hour. "The more immediate you are at responding, the more that becomes an expectation," says Turner.
Give priority to in-person interactions. "People are holding their phones, they're holding a conversation with you while they're checking to see if they have a Facebook update," he says. "We're losing some of the social fabric that's involved in interactions."
Make eye contact. "Part of why I tell families to put the phones down is because you need to look at the other person and have a conversation with them," says Turner. "Learning how to read facial signals is very important."
Talk more, text less. A 2012 Pew report found the median teen sends 60 texts a day. "At some point, it's so addictive to send these messages," says Turner. "Sometimes we need to pick up the phone and hear those verbal inflections."
For more about your family and mobile phones, read: