Americans, on average, check their phones every 12 minutes and spend whopping three-and-a-half hours staring at their screens.
As crazy as that sounds, let’s be honest for a moment. It’s the world in which we live. Our phones have become another member of our family, one that we would chase down if it was lost or bend over backward to fix if it was broken. Nobody is yelling, “Put your phone down!” Instead, our world is encouraging us to learn bad habits.
There are benefits to having a cell phone:
- We have something to do in the bathroom
- We can quickly call someone if there is an emergency
- Phones help us stay connected to people who are far away
- Phones make shopping easy
But there are also dangers to using our phones so much. And one of those dangers is that it pulls our attention away from our children.
Whether we know it or not, our phones have become our favorite child and it’s making all of our real children feel unloved and like they weren’t invited to the party.
Here’s the deal: Our smartphone addiction is hurting our children.
The funny thing is that all of us are concerned about our kids’ screen time and we put all kinds of systems in place to limit how much they use their tablets or the amount of time they watch tv. However, how much are we looking at ourselves and saying, “Self! You have a problem.”
If you don’t think you have a problem, let’s see if you can relate to any of these scenarios:
- Do you scroll through social media while your kid plays on the playground?
- Have you checked your fantasy football lineup while sitting at dinner with your family?
- Do you scroll through Amazon.com while you’re at your son or daughter’s sporting event?
We unintentionally have become smartphone and social media addicts while sacrificing quality time with our kids.
This is called DISTRACTED PARENTING. And it describes all of us to some extent.
So, how do we fix it? How do we put down our phone, stop the madness, and start being good examples for our children? Glad you asked! Here are some ways to stop being a distracted parent.
You have to WANT to stop
We can’t really get anywhere if you don’t think you have a problem. But you’ll be a lot more motivated once you realize that your children are watching your every move and that they want to mimic everything you do (“monkey see, monkey do”).
None of us wants our kids to grow up to be distracted parents. And, let’s be even more honest, none of us want them to grow up and have to go to counseling because their parents were always on their phones.
So, start by admitting that parents and cellphones have an unhealthy relationship.
Become aware of your phone use
Are you replacing interaction with your child with interaction with your phone?
Distracting ourselves with something (tv, our phone, or a newspaper… if you’re old school) after a long day or a long week is easy to do. We all want and need time to decompress and not be bothered by the daily grind. But our kids deserve our time. They need our undivided attention even in those moments when we might not feel like giving it to them.
Do they need our constant attention, 24/7? No. But they don’t need to see us feed our addiction at their expense.
Turn off notifications
Many people think that those notifications are for our benefit. WRONG! They are for the benefit of the company who wants you to pick up your phone and scroll passed an advertisement for men’s boxer briefs.
Turn off your notifications. They don’t do you any good. Plus, if your phone doesn’t ping or vibrate, you may be less likely to check it.
Podcast Ep. 149 Phone Addiction – Parents Need to Put Their Phones Down
Don’t bring the phone
This is hard to imagine in our day and age, but you actually have control over your phone and where it goes! If you’re going to dinner with your family, leave it at home. If you’re headed to the playground with your kid, leave your phone in the car.
It’s going to feel weird at first because you’re used to having your phone with you at all times. But try it out and pay attention to how much more interaction you have with the people around you.
Put your phone in “phone jail”
When you get home from work, put your phone in a drawer, a box, or some area of your house that is out of the way. Tell your family that you’re committed to spending time with them and not your screen. Then, watch how much more relaxed and present you become with your wife and kids. Not only will you notice, but they will notice, too.
The #1 rule, if you’re going all-in on fixing your smartphone addiction, is this: You put your phone away and don’t get it back until your kids go to bed.
Set up boundaries
Here’s the deal. Life happens and sometimes you have to take a call even during your “phone jail” hours. If you absolutely have to take a call, communicate the “why” to your child and let them know it won’t belong.
Tell them that you’re going to be on the phone for 10 minutes and that you’ll put your phone away when it’s over.
The key to making this work? Sticking to your word. If you say you’re going to put your phone away in 10 minutes, do it. Your children will appreciate knowing what to expect and knowing that you respect them enough to explain your reasoning.
Do you have any tricks for battling phone addiction? Do you agree or disagree with any of this advice? If you have anything share with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.