AUBURN, AL (WXTX) - According to a recent Time Magazine survey of 5,000 international cell phone users, 84 percent said they could not go a single day without their cell phones. Fifty percent of Americans sleep with their phone like a teddy bear or a spouse, and 20 percent check their phone every 10 minutes.
In this Fox 54 special report, Elizabeth White follows a close-knit Auburn family who took our digital diet challenge in an effort to disconnect and connect.
The Garrett family's five-day digital diet kicked off ironically with a YouTube Video called Disconnect to Connect.
Mom Elizabeth Garrett says their family is super close but admits they are guilty of turning to their phones and missing out on something they may say or do.
Elizabeth's Facebook passion is not social but service oriented.
She volunteers for The Lee County Humane Society, takes and posts pictures of adoptable animals, trying to find them homes.
"I only post twice a day but the rest of the day I am obsessed with watching what happens to the post, how many likes, shares, comments I get," said Elizabeth.
Kate rarely talks to her friends on the phone, but sends them more than a hundred texts a day.
"Sometimes I think we wish we would have never given her a phone," said Elizabeth.
Kate earned her phone by making good grades. She's only allowed to use Instagram and NetFlix, but watches more than three hours of shows every night.
Dad Joe is a self-professed news hound and follows the news on his phone, while son Wheeler plays football on Xbox.
"Mostly I hope they can see the value of more family time and less digital time," said Elizabeth.
"Clearly there are people distracted by their cell phones," said Chris Correa, clinical psychologist at Auburn University. "There are people who would like to make changes but have a hard time doing it and it's a bad habit for sure for some. It impairs their work, school or relationships."
Correa is an expert on substance use and addiction. He suggests users ask themselves these questions:
"One is do you have a gut instinct, this is a problem in your life? If you say yes, chances are you do," Correa said. "Another question is, are people in your life telling you this is a problem, your friends, co-workers, family? Any times is a child that says mom do you really have to check Facebook now, or dad do you really have to have that app going, if other people point it out that's a good sign. Three, how much time do you spend doing this, versus this, or how much time are you doing eye to eye contact versus screen contact?"
Back at the Garret House, it's been five days and zero digital distractions later.
"It made me feel good, I mean there were some things that were hard, but I wasn't like oh my gosh this is awful, we can't even handle it," said Elizabeth. "There were just nice, small changes."
Kate spent time away from her phone, with her friends, reading a book and with her family. She even played basketball with her brother.
Kate told us it felt good to make her brother happy by playing basketball with him.
Instead of playing Xbox, Wheeler rode his bike with his dad during his daily jog.
"So tell me what was better, playing Xbox or basketball with Kate?" we asked Wheeler.
"Basketball," replied Wheeler.
"What was better, Xbox or riding your bike with your dad when he jogged?" we asked.
"Riding my bike with my dad," Wheeler said.
Correa says the goal of the digital diet is to distinguish between what you really like to use and what's become a habit.
"When you reintegrate into life and start prioritizing what I need and what do I really enjoy and what can I get rid of, just the stuff that you have gotten into the habit of doing," said Correa.
The Garrett family is glad the digital diet is over, thankful for the lessons they learned to help bring this family even closer together.
Experts say if you find it impossible to complete a digital diet, it may be an indicator you need some help.
Recent statistics show one in ten people having a serious addiction to technology, especially the Internet.
Experts say while it's easy to let digital devices take over, in most cases the problem can be overcome.