There’s no doubt about it: we’re attached to our gadgets. Nearly two-thirds of Americans owned a smartphone in 2015, and we rely on this technology during virtually every part of our day. Many people can’t bear to be away from their cell phones — there’s even a phobia that describes people who fear being caught without their mobile or being out of range — and according to LG, approximately 90% of people experience anxiety when their phone battery runs low. While it’s somewhat understandable, then, that we like to bring our phones everywhere we go, research shows that there’s one place that should be off-limits: the bathroom.
A 2015 survey conducted by Verizon Wireless found that 90% of people use their phones in the bathroom. But because your cell phone contains, on average, 25,000 germs per square inch, your mobile device is actually dirtier than your toilet seat. One U.K. study conducted in 2011 found that one out of every six smartphones contained — brace yourself — fecal matter. And while you can (and always should) wash your hands after using the facilities, you might not think to disinfect your phone. Using these dirty gadgets can cause everything from acne and allergic reactions to staph and E. coli infections. Smartphone owners should invest in microfiber cloths and cleaning wipes specifically made for electronics. There are even devices that will clean your phone with UV light and charge the battery at the same time.
But bacteria isn’t the only reason to make your commode a phone-free zone. Dropping your phone in the toilet, sink, or tub is an ever-present threat. If you don’t want to have to stick your phone in a bag of rice and eventually pay for a replacement (remember, water damage probably isn’t covered under your warranty), don’t bring your gadgets in the W.C. in the first place. Even if you happen to have a water-resistant model, do you really want to reach in and grab it?
Using electronics in the bathroom can actually be fatal, in rare cases. One Texas teenager recently died from electrocution when she decided to use her charging smartphone while she was taking a bath. Others have suffered electric shocks under similar circumstances. While these incidents are few and far between, it’s just one more reason to keep your tech out of the toilet.
Not only should you place limits on where you and your family use your devices, but you should also address how much you use them. Increased screen time and app usage have been linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression, especially amongst kids and teens who aren’t monitored during their tech activities. And some experts feel that higher usage rates might lead to stunted speech and language development, as well as poor eyesight and sleep disruption.
An increasing number of doctors and health experts suggest that taking breaks from tech use can be beneficial, especially when cell phone use seems to be tied to an increase in anxiety. While the world has become dependent on gadgets, it’s become important for many families to make certain times off-limits for phone and computer use. While the best way to start might be to instate a “no phones allowed” rule in the bathroom, refraining from cell phone use before bed or in the early morning can make a big difference.