If you’re like me, your smartphone is filled with hundreds of photos of your child. It’s also filled with endlessly frustrating puzzle games, news aggregator apps, and email and text messages galore. It’s more than a computer. It’s an addictive device that’s worse than the “crackberries” we all joked about last decade, and it’s never out of my reach. And this just might be quite a big problem for my family.
Recently studies have shown that “kids with parents who were most absorbed in their devices were more likely to act out, in an effort to get their parents' attention.” And it makes complete sense. Our kids are normally fighting for our attention every day with “Momma! Daddy!” and now they’re competing with a device. If we were served the same treatment with any toy/gadget/TV show, I’m pretty certain a time-out would be involved. It’s only when I heard an interview with Dr. Steiner-Adair when I truly had to stop in my tracks and alter my behaviour that afternoon. I literally cried when she explained, "We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don't matter, they're not interesting to us, they're not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them."
Look, I’m the first person to admit that I have smartphone addiction problems. But I know it’s not beyond fixing, and I started with a few small things last year to help curb my issues. Here is how to put down your smartphone and reduce its use daily:
1) Park my phone when I get home.
Right after I get home, I take my phone out of my handbag and park it at the charging station downstairs. I make sure the volume is on so I can answer any pressing calls, but its use as a mini computer is completely minimized during waking hours.
2) Set kids time to “Do Not Disturb/Blocking” mode.
If you have regular routines and hours in your house, then set your phone up with reoccurring “Do Not Disturb/Blocking” times. This way you can never have bathtime interrupted by a bunch of phone calls or text messages coming through.
3) When I’m out of the house, I hide the smartphone from myself.
You know that urge to grab your phone and check Facebook in some silent moment at the playground. Keep yourself from doing it by hiding your phone in your handbag. For me, it’s putting it in the zippered side pouch. That way, I have to be really aware of what I’m doing to grab it, and by that time I’m shaking my head at myself.
4) Carry a small digital camera in my purse/car to use instead of the phone.
Sometimes it’s the camera function that starts off the bad habits. I snap a photo, then I post it to Instagram, and 10 minutes later I’m still scrolling through my feed and liking things along the way. Taking photos on a regular camera may make them less social, but it definitely doesn’t diminish the quality of the photos!
5) No smartphone use in the car for anyone!
Obviously using a smartphone while driving is a big no for everyone, but I’ve extended this rule to all passengers in the car now. Unless the phone is being used to dial on Bluetooth, then no smartphone time for anyone. This is one of the best times for fun conversation, seat dancing, or just general relaxation. It’s also a great way to model how one spends time in the car to your kids, who are also unoccupied in the backseat. Teaching my daughter to stare out the window and sing along to the radio is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
What tricks do you use to minimise your smartphone use around your kids?