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Small business owners attest, it can feel like you’re literally attached to your smartphone.

While the constant connectivity brought by mobile devices can mean never missing out on a sale – the flipside is a little more sinister.

An initiative started by the CEO of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), Jack Manning Bancroft –  is aiming to change the culture of never switching off.

Bancroft says smartphone addiction is so pronounced that it has given rise to complaints of ‘phantom vibration syndrome’ or ‘ringxiety’ – the sensation when you answer your vibrating phone, only to find it never vibrated at all.

In turn, Fone Free Feb aims to change that dependency, and reclaim a portion of the time that is spent constantly connected to smartphones and devices.

Fone Free Feb is gaining attention amidst an emerging backdrop of global research that suggests constant technological stimulation and a lack of ‘down time’ can have profound health and social impacts.

A 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology report surveyed 1,800 college students and workers across 18 countries, including Australia, and found that 60 percent of Gen Y compulsively check their smartphones.

Over two out of five survey respondents said they would feel “anxious, like part of me was missing” if they couldn’t check their smartphones constantly. Two out of three reported to spend equal or more time online with friends than in person.

Australians are some of the worst offenders. The 2013 Telstra Smartphone Index found that Australians are among the highest ranked connected countries in the world for smartphone use, behind China and South Korea, but ahead of the US and UK.

Fone Free Feb CEO and Founder Jack Manning Bancroft is keen to stress that “it isn’t about getting rid of technology, but making sure that we control technology, not the other way around.”

“Often we are so constantly connected to our phones that we’re not present in the moment. We fail to truly connect with the people and environment around us. We miss that magic one liner at the dinner table, that subtle smile mid conversation, or that amazing one-on-one connection with the live musician,” Bancroft said.

“The scary thing is that we might actually be losing our capacity to be bored. And out of boredom comes creativity, and that’s where some of the great dreams and ideas throughout humanity have been born,” Bancroft added.

Across the country individuals are now signing up and pledging time off their phones. Bars and cafes are setting up Fone Free zones, while businesses and schools are signing up to be a part of the first National Fone Free Day on Feb 21. Every minute spent ‘Fone Free’ raises funds for Australian charities that promote good health and wellbeing, including CanTeen, Royal Far West and YMCA.

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