Do Parents Need a “Media Diet”?
What are we and our kids missing when we are “plugged in” to a screen rather than each other?
I have become connected to my phone….more than I ever would like to admit that I am. I didn’t always have a “smart phone”, but I now can’t imagine not having constant connection. Because of this, I have frequently caught myself on my phone at times that are truly inappropriate. My love affair with my phone and constant “connection” may just be a bit out of control. Evidently I am not alone, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s Internet Trends report, those of us with smart phones check them every six and a half minutes or 150 times a day. Wow, what could I get accomplished in that amount of time, or better yet, what conversations am I missing out on?
As parents, we need to show our children that they are more important than our email, twitter, or Facebook pages. It is really difficult to be fully engaged when our phone is between us and our child or even our husbands! I do worry about the relationships that this generation of children may form in the future, will they be based on a screen or true engagement?
So, as guilty as I am of being too attached to my beloved smart phone…how do I break away?
- Stop and ask….do I need to look at the phone right now? Unless there is an emergency phone call, there is no reason to disengage from your husband, child, or friend to look at a screen. The here and now….the real in front of you always trumps a screen.
- Acknowledge that there is a rush when there is a “like” on a Facebook post, or a new follower on Pinterest and there might even be a bit of anxiety when you ignore the urge to check your phone. Move on, the moment of the present will give you more of a rush than a look at a screen will ever give. I have found if I ignore the temptation and direct back to the here and now, the urge to “check” leaves quickly….kind of like the urge for chocolate!
- Remember that even if you are not totally enthralled with a game of Candyland at the moment, showing your child that you feel being with him is important enough that the phone is not in your hand will build a relationship that hopefully will result in your 13-year-old feeling comfortable sharing with you in the future. Paying attention when your child is young results in a relationship that is solid during those teen years. I am glad I didn’t have to deal with this temptation as a young Mother.
- I am trying to set specific times during the day to check my phone, not just when a whim hits me. This may decrease the number of times that I check my phone when my family is around. Phones should be turned off during dinner hours or family time. Nap times may be a good time to “check-in” or if necessary to check in when children are with you, think about a timer to keep you focused on work for a short amount of time. Telling your child that you will be on your phone or computer until the timer goes off gives a specific ending time for you and your child.
- There are times when you do get sucked into the world of the smartphone….then you need to say “Hey, I am sorry guys….Mommy is putting the phone away, I am back.” Then truly be back. You can handle the separation from your phone, there will be no permanent disability if the phone is not connected to you. It is much easier to handle that separation than a separation from a child because he or she never received the attention needed for a relationship to thrive.
I remember spending the morning at a park when my children were young. Often our conversations were about the birds, or the clouds in the sky, or maybe even the ants on the sidewalk. On my afternoon run the other day, I saw a young Mom pushing her child in the swing with one hand and texting with the other. Her eyes were on her phone. She had her child outside enjoying the wonderful afternoon, but she was missing the best part, the joy of engaging with her child. She was missing her child’s giggle and the opportunity to tickle her child’s tummy as she swung forward and to kiss those little toes as they reached the sky…..moments that a phone could never match, and moments her child will truly miss.
As I think about my own new obsession, I realize that there are times that I am missing out on wonderful conversations with my husband, or a moment of peace and silence without stimulation, or even an uninterrupted enjoyment of a sunset because my phone “pings” telling me that I have a message, or a new follower. That moment of “rush” when I hear the phone can never be as good as that moment of engagement that I miss. My smart phone has not made me a better wife, mother, or conversationalist….it has only spread me thinner. I pledge now to be a better steward of my phone…so my relationships in life are not with a screen, but with those I love. You have a tougher challenge as young Moms because screens are a much bigger part of your life with your children than I could ever imagine when my kids were young. It will take a real effort and plan to keep those screens from “stealing” those moments of parenthood that can never be replaced. I am going on a diet this week….a smart phone diet, want to take the challenge with me?
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.