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"How do I check my phone safely while out and about?"

Dear Self Defense for the People,

I'm a little addicted to my phone. While I get that's a problem in itself, I know myself enough to admit that I'm often on my device when I walk around. While it's gotten me in pretty lousy situations (like when I stepped in poop while playing Pokemon Go), when I recently saw a fellow phone-addict almost get hit by a car while crossing the street, I realized I have to change my attitude towards my safety. What's the best way to check my phone while on the go?


A Smartphone Zombie


Dear Smartphone Zombie,

Being able to recognize the signs of addiction is the first step to getting help. Good on you for trying to manage your phone usage responsibly! Your first line of defense is situational awareness, of course.

Whether you need to have a quick peek at your phone to see if you're on time, or if you need to respond to somebody via text or email while you're walking around, here are some suggestions:

Be aware.
Remember to look around you before taking out your phone.

If someone is with you, ask them to keep watch. It's kind of like how you can request a friend to watch your back while you're using an ATM. An easy "Hey, I'm going to check my phone real quick. Can you keep an eye out?" can do wonders. It puts your companion in a mindset of perceptiveness and encourages them to think about safety.

If you're by yourself in an outdoor situation, have your back against a wall or against something tall and solid like a bus stop shelter before taking out your phone. Make sure there isn't anyone close to you while doing so. Having your back against a wall prevents someone from coming up behind you and catching you off guard. You might also want to consider ducking into a nearby store as an extra precaution as well.

If you're by yourself in an indoor situation, try to find a spot with something between you and the public before taking out your phone. For example, if you're in a store, try having and having a table or a counter act as a barrier.

In all circumstances, periodically look up from time to time to prevent someone from sneaking up on you. Glance around in all directions to make sure no one is trying to get close enough to do a snatch-and-grab.

While the best thing to do is to not pull out your phone while in public, with the pace of modern life, it is sometimes unavoidable.

As for curing your smartphone addiction? Here's a pro tip: put your phone on "airplane mode" to prevent yourself from getting distracted by texts or pings.

Hope this helps! Stay safe out there.

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