Have you ever stopped to consider how much time you spend on your mobile phone?

And since you ask, I’m not talking about what phones were used for in the olden days — you know, talking on.

I mean browsing online, texting, WhatsApping, Tweeting, emailing, Facebooking, Instagramming and just about everything else that isn’t conversation.

I attended a seminar at the University of Bolton recently where the more negative elements of overexposure to a virtual world were laid out.

There are also lots of good things about having a smartphone, but the one question the speaker posed that stuck with me was — do you know how much time you spend on your mobile?

The answer is no. Not because I don’t care, or because I’m not interested. It’s because I know the answer will make me gasp with horror.

There are apps available to monitor your screen time, so you can’t even fib and knock an hour off a day. I was reminded of this reading an article by journalist Adrienne Matei in The Guardian this week — which I read on my mobile. In it she wrote that the app Rescue Me estimates that, on average, people spend three hours 15 minutes on their mobile every day.

Of course, if you use your smartphone for work, that amount of time is bound to be higher than if you don’t. Emailing, messaging, keeping abreast of the news and phoning all adds up in the course of a busy day. But spending approximately a quarter of the time that you’re awake on your mobile is a frightening thought.

Annoyingly, cutting down screen time isn’t as easy as you might wish, because we’re addicted to our mobiles.

I can’t imagine being without one now and this is partly because I need it for work, but equally because I’ve got into the habit of checking it all the time.

According to the article, the average phone user makes 58 ‘pick ups’ a day. This window to the world that you can hold in your hand now controls us, rather than the other way around.

According to historian Yuval Noah Harari, we are more like “hackable animals” – tracked by algorithms that “know us better than we know ourselves”.

In places like South Korea, there are mobile detox programmes, where people are weaned off their phones with the aim of reducing their screen time. The obvious solution is to turn your mobile off at night and leave it in another room, or go out without it; have some time away from it. This makes sense, but will people be able to do that? As you walk through town today take a look around.

A large percentage of the people will be using their mobile, often staring at the screen as they subconsciously negotiate people in the street or even cross the road.

Education is the key here. Perhaps children (and their parents) should be made aware of the dangers of too much exposure to mobiles at a young age and at least encouraged to ditch the smartphone as much as possible and understanding the positive benefits of doing so.

Ironically, while I’ve been writing this, I’ve checked Twitter twice on my mobile and now I’ve got to dash, someone’s messaging . . .