With more than a million shares on Facebook, perhaps you have seen this sign pop up on your feed.
A daycare in Houston, Texas posted this strong message for parents to put down their cell phones and pay more attention to their children. Although the message has been met with both positive and negative reactions, it has started a conversation about just how do parents balance their technology usage and connecting with their children.
It is without a doubt that the smartphone keeps us connected to work, paying the bills, breaking news, social media, and much more. It can actually be hard to just put the phone down and unplug for a while. According to Kleiner Perkins Cuafield & Byers’s Internet Trends report, smartphone users check their devices every six and a half minutes, translating into 150 times a day. In an additional poll by the HuffPost/YouGov, fifty percent of people between the ages of 18-29 actually take their phones with them to the restroom.
Think about your own cellphone usage, do you fall in either of these categories or worse? How do you put the phone down and back away? Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you to disconnect and go hands-free.
1. Apologize to your kids Acknowledge that you have been a victim of the digital world black hole and tell your children that you are sorry. Let them know, even if you have to quietly endure smartphone withdrawal, that you are there for them first and foremost.
2. Create a cellphone routine for everyone First and foremost, turn off those blessed notification dings so that you won’t even know when a new email or message comes through. Create a routine that allows everyone to have “screen time” and then get off. Whether it is by placing all devices in a lock box, or simply turning them off, let everyone in the house know that at a certain time, we will unplug and do so. Spend quiet time together, do homework, watch television shows together or have routine family game nights. Once children have gone to bed, then pick up that smartphone and surf away. Make time with your children count, they won’t be at home forever.
3. Know when too much news is too much Being able to stay up-to-date with breaking news in real time is a technological marvel, but it isn’t always a good thing. A constant barrage of challenging news can have a negative affect on you emotionally and physically. Know that it’s okay to take a break from what is going on in the world, it can actually be a good thing.
4. Prioritize You may have no interest whatsoever in hearing about the newest Pokemon card or how your daughter and her sworn arch enemy showed up at school in the same exact outfit, but instead of half-way listening and typing away feverishly on your phone, while grunting a “oh”, “wow”, “really?” in the midst of pregnant pauses, simply put down the phone and listen up. Your kids want you to be involved and if they confide in you, they want to know that you are listening and that they have your full attention. They don’t want to compete with your phone. Fight the temptation to steal a glance at the screen, the story won’t last long and then you will all be off, happily enjoying screen time in peace.