What happened when I stopped using my smartphone in front of the kids
Nobody needs more guilt in their lives, especially parents, especially now. But when it comes to how much and how often we are glued to our phone, small tweaks can make a huge difference, as Amanda Cassidy discovered recently.
We know that the amount of time we devote to our phones has a significant impact on our health and relationships. It gives us bad posture, isolates us from our family group, disrupts sleep, increases irritability and can even trigger depressive episodes in some. In short, the benefits don’t really outweigh negatives.
Related: Simple hacks to make your morning routine with kids so much easier
But for many, having instant access to the Internet and our phone is essential for work and even to maintain important relationships like if you have a sick parent, a demanding client, a need to stay connected.
So how do we get the balance right?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I find myself distracted especially around my children. I hear myself saying things like ‘just let mummy send this text and I’ll listen’.
It was only when speaking to psychotherapist, David Kavanagh where it really hit home. He spends a lot of time dealing with those who have damaged their relationships through internet addiction — both children and adults. He didn’t mince his words
“Get off your own smartphone and talk to your children. Interact with them, play with them, understand them. There is a concerning lack of time being devoted to children without the distraction of the internet.
We keep it with us at all times, scrolling through while the kids play, we interact sporadically, distracted. How can we expect kids to open up to use and tell us what is really going on when they are distressed if we are always too busy looking at Facebook and Instagram?
Don’t kid yourself that you have to keep an eye on the news or ‘it’s work’ at the end of the day, the kids just see themselves as less important.”
I have a good friend who wrote recently about how if smartphones were books nobody would bat an eyelid. It is true that we read a lot while on our phones but I don’t think it is actually that straightforward.
I’d liken it to a parallel universe that we get sucked into. We joke about the rabbit hole but an hour can pass with us motionless, staring into the tiny rectangle in front of us and any distractions make us bristle.
I considered coming off things like WhatsApp and Instagram completely – my usual extreme reactions but, like many, I felt like I needed to stay connected in order to organise playdates, be part of the school online groups, for work. So what could I do?
Out of sight
I decided to hide my phone – to keep it out of sight. If my children figured that all adults do was stare at their phone and tell them to shhhhhh, what kind of message was I sending and how hypocritical I’d seem when it came to them sticking their heads into their phones in the future.
Logistically it isn’t as difficult as I thought. My phone stays on silent in the car or in the other room if we are in the house. I’ll pop in and check it once an hour or so to make sure I haven’t missed important calls.
If I’m expecting a call or delivery, obviously I’ll keep a closer eye on it. I miss calls but guess what? I just call them back (again, in another room).
My husband has started doing the same. We’ll jump on in the evenings to catch up on well, everything one does on the internet, but we’ve started forgetting about the phones a little. Out of sight really is out of mind.
It isn’t for everyone but it has changed our lives for now. We are no longer as much of a slave to this little screen. My children don’t see me looking away from them, murmuring responses while I admire someone else’s world.
I no longer want them to feel less interesting to me than what’s on the end of a tiny flat-screen.
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