On the two days a week I spend at home with my children I barely check my phone – on purpose.
I made this decision after noticing that checking my phone created a spiral effect; my four-year-old would immediately ask for the iPad and my 16- month-old would snatch the phone from my hand and parade around the house chatting into an upside down mouthpiece.
It was kind of cute until I really thought about it.
Step outside your behavior and observe
In a recent post for The Philly Voice, writer Amy Wright Glenn said after feeling instantly “defensive” when her six-year-old son complained she was phone addicted; she decided to listen.
“If I could step outside of my own defensiveness and clearly make note of my phone use, what would I see?
"You think I'm addicted to my phone," I restate his observation. "Right?"
"You are!" He nods. He's engaged again. "Tell me more," I inquire.
"You look at it too much," he states. "How does that make you feel?" I ask.
As Amy goes to on say, our phones are not just for communicating, they’ve become a pit-stop for adulting in general; a quick and easy way to keep up with life. We can bank, do work and even grocery shop from the palm of our hands.
Smartphones wreak havoc on mindfulness
But according to Niobe Way, a professor of applied psychology at New York University while it may feel efficient this “always on” mentality removes us from reality.
Niobe told The New York Times: “It takes us away from the present moment, no matter group we are in…When kids see their parents head down, they emulate that action. The result is a loss of nonverbal cues, which can stunt development.”
Text neck is now a medical issue
And the negative effects are not just physiological; “text neck” has become a recent medical issue. Apparently, the gravitational pull on our head and neck, when we bend our neck to check our phones puts an added 27 kilograms of pressure that “leads to the incremental loss of the curve of the cervical spine” – in other words, terrible posture.
And according to social pyschologist Amy Cuddy, our posture is emotional; standing up straight very literally improves our mood by heightening testosterone and cortisol flow to the brain.
Need any other reason to put the phone away? Didn’t think so. So how do we better manage our phone behavior consistently?
Practical strategies for limiting parental phone time
At our place my phone sits on the kitchen shelf during the day and I allow myself a couple of quick glances while our children are either eating lunch in the other room or asleep. Everyone else in my life has come to know me as a person who is slow to reply on certain days of the week, and I’ve learnt to be OK with that.
Here are the three rules Amy set for herself:
1. Unless I'm in need of using the map app, I will put my phone in the back seat of the car. No more phone in the front seat with me.
2. I will carve out a 2-3 hour blocks of time each day wherein I put my phone down, turn it off, and not look at it once. I figure if there's a national emergency, my neighbors will knock on my door. I do not need to be "plugged in" every moment during daylight hours.
3. When we go to our nearby park, or when we go for walks, I will purposefully leave my phone at home. This way I can more fully feel the sun's warmth on my skin and take in the day – sans electronic interruption – with my boy.
Are you conscious of how much you check the phone when your kids are around?
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