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The most dangerous things you can do with your smartphone

The most dangerous things you can do with your smartphone
© Dave Bredeson | Dreamstime.com

Modern life is filled with technology horror stories and cautionary tales, and quite a few of them revolve around our ubiquitous phones. From selfie-related injuries to distracted driving accidents, smartphones have been in the thick of quite a few avoidable tragedies.

Here are some of the most dangerous things you can do with your smartphone. If you’re guilty of any of these, then it’s time to rethink your habits and look at how you can take a safer approach to your phone use.

1. Not securing or backing up your private data

Now that we increasingly rely on our smartphones for the critical aspects of our lives, obviously, smartphones aren't just contact directories anymore. We also store precious pictures and videos on them as well as important files. You never know when you're going to lose your phone, or even worse, have it stolen. We store so much important information on these handheld gadgets that the thought of losing them is frightening!

That's why it's so critical to back up all of the essential data kept on these amazing gadgets.

Click here to learn how to backup your Android or iOS device.

Note: However, if you have more than one gadget that you want to back up (like most of us do), nothing's better than a cloud backup service that offers unlimited backup for PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Android devices - all within a single account. That's why we recommend our sponsor iDrive. (Click here and remember to use promo code Kim to receive 50% off.)

2. Using your phone while driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shared some sobering numbers from 2015: There were nearly 3,500 distracted driving-related deaths and almost 400,000 injuries in the U.S. that year. The NHTSA also said about 660,000 drivers are using their phones during daylight hours alone, which adds up to a huge potential for accidents.

It’s not just about texting, but also about checking your email, answering calls, holding the phone up to your ear, or inputting GPS queries while you should be concentrating on driving. So what’s the best way to keep from joining the NHTSA’s grim statistics?

Ideally, you won’t use your phone at all. Otherwise, be sure to go hands-free so you’re not fumbling with your gadget while behind the wheel. Click here for some tips on avoiding the temptation of distracted driving, and tech that makes it simple.

3. Taking unsafe selfies

Love them or hate them, selfies are here to stay. But selfies are a responsibility as well as a privilege. There have been plenty of viral images of adrenaline-seeking selfie-takers posing on the edges of skyscrapers, but there have also sadly been reports of tragic deaths due to people attempting selfies in unsafe situations. The city of Mumbai even declared a set of “selfie-free zones” in 2016 after two selfie-related deaths.

While it’s easy to blame the selfies themselves, there are underlying issues involving carelessness, distraction, and daredevil attitudes. Carnegie Mellon University scientists studied the causes of selfie deaths and hope to come up with a technology solution that will help prevent dangerous selfies.

Establishing no-selfie zones in hazardous areas may help, but it also comes down to the selfie-taker staying aware of the surroundings and not taking unnecessary risks in quest of a fancy photo.

4. Texting and walking

It’s not just texting and driving that can be dangerous. It’s hard to keep on eye on your phone screen and simultaneously navigate a busy sidewalk or cross a street. You may have seen some of the many YouTube videos showing people texting and then falling into a mall fountain, bumping into other pedestrians, or stepping out into streets without checking for traffic. It even has a name: “distracted walking.”

Distracted walking is a growing issue. Honolulu recently adopted an ordinance banning smartphone use in crosswalks in an attempt to make its streets safer. If you need to use your phone, then pause and step off to the side or just wait until you’re someplace safe before sending that text, playing the next round of your game, or checking your email.

In a similar vein, walking or biking while wearing headphones and grooving to loud tunes on your smartphone can be dangerous as well. You’re blocking out important cues around you, such as car horns, sirens, or bicycle bells. Turn down the volume, leave the earbuds off, or use bone-conduction headphones when you’re around traffic.

5. Unquestioningly following your GPS

Having GPS on our phones is a wonderful convenience. We can figure out where we are, get turn-by-turn directions, and never be lost again. But maps and directions don’t always include construction updates and road hazards.

Recent history is littered with vehicle incidents attributed in part to drivers following GPS directions that didn’t pan out. There’s also the danger of letting your GPS directions distract you, which was a reason cited in a fatal August accident in Georgia.

Fortunately, our digital maps are always improving and we can now get better traffic updates than ever. You can follow your GPS, but don’t leave your common sense and road smarts behind. Click here for seven Google Maps tricks only the pros know.

Bonus: Accessing public Wi-Fi

We always warn you about the dangers of connecting to public Wi-Fi. Criminals and hackers are constantly looking for ways to exploit people on the road who often rely on free, wide-open Wi-Fi networks.

Crooks use public Wi-Fi to spy on unsuspecting users who join the network. Or, sometimes they even create "honeypot" networks, which are fake networks designed to steal your information.

Still, even though the risks are so high, many people use public Wi-Fi networks to check their bank accounts, purchase merchandise and complete other tasks that they'd prefer were private. It's a good time to review how you use public Wi-Fi networks and the precautions you need to take to stay safe.

Click here for ways to stay safe on public Wi-Fi.

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