Smartphones, like most technology, are both a blessing and a curse. We’ve never had more access to information — literally at our fingertips — than we do today. But because of this, many of us struggle to keep and maintain a proper balance between our work (or online) lives and the real lives we’re living relationally in front of us.
I will admit that I struggle with this. It’s really a love-hate relationship. I love that I can access my email in mere seconds, that I can look up the pediatrician’s phone number from my car, and get directions on the go.
I hate that I feel the need to incessantly check my Facebook feed or see how many likes my latest Instagram post has received. My two-year-old pretends to talk and surf on the phone, for goodness sakes! This is not an inherent behavior. This is a learned behavior.
Our children learn from what they see us doing. “Do what I say and not what I do” is not a very effective parenting method. They are learning their screen habits from us. Terrifying, isn’t it? And while our faces are buried in our phones, I can promise you that we are missing out on some truly magical moments! We have to learn to look up, put our phones down, and unplug.
Keeping Balance with Your Phone as a Mom
We have to model appropriate screen time behavior.
No devices at the dinner table is always a good start. So is turning off the TV when no one is watching it. Admittedly, this is a hard one for us. I feel like our TV is on constantly. But constant white noise causes distraction and prevents the real and meaningful conversation from occurring. Try starting the habit of putting devices away and turning electronics off for certain periods of the day and see how much more connected you feel to your family.
Good habits aren’t created overnight.
Keeping balance with your phone will teach your kids to do the same. Don’t want your kids to be phone zombies? Don’t be a phone zombie yourself! Set time limits for everyone in the household — from the oldest to the youngest. Whether that’s 5 to 10 minutes first thing in the morning to catch up on the evening’s events and emails or a specified amount of time at naps or before bed — make a plan and stick to it! Do the same for your children, from that first educational game on the iPad to taking the electronics away at bedtime in high school. It will ultimately make a huge difference.
Consume media together.
Get involved with what your children are watching. Watch TV or YouTube Kids videos together. Play games together. Monitor what social media your children have access to — assuming you allow them access to social media at all. This is a great opportunity to share your values and your beliefs with your children. Talk to them about what they are seeing. And by all means, don’t be afraid to get outside and away from screens entirely! Go to the playground. Go for a nature walk. Play Barbies or dress up together. Whatever it takes. Just get involved!
Keep distractions to a minimum.
Put your phone on “do not disturb” during family time. Hide your phone from yourself if you must. Literally, put it in another room when your kids walk in the door from school. Facebook is not more important than what happened in their lives that day. If you have problems with incessantly checking your phone while driving, put your phone in your purse in the backseat or trunk of your car when you’re headed somewhere. Make it harder for yourself to access and absentmindedly surf. Intentionality is the name of the game! Just like it would be with any other addiction we might battle.
Turn off work when you can.
Do you really need to be accessible at all hours of the day? For most of us, the answer is no. As a small business owner who works from home, I get it. It’s hard to draw a definite line in the sand and say this is family time, or this is work time. It’s not usually that black and white. But you have to make an effort to do so, or I promise you your family life will suffer. Your children will suffer. Schedule your work time. Time block emails, phone calls, and social media management. Trust me, I am a work in progress.
I am no expert. But I know that when I take the time and effort to balance my phone usage, it tends to make a world of difference. So why not give it a try? Our relationships with our children — their future successes as independent, functioning members of society depends upon it. Motherhood is a responsibility, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.