Putting the Phone Away

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Imagine you are talking to your boss about your career path. As you share your thoughts on this important subject, your boss doodles on his notepad. Do you feel like your future matters to your boss? Do you feel like you matter to your boss?

Maybe you are asking your friend’s advice about a substantial purchase you are considering, but your friend is preoccupied with a Rubik’s cube the whole time. He insists that he is listening to you and is capable of doing two things at once. How do you feel in this situation? Ignored? Unimportant?

Or perhaps you are talking to your neighbor about pressing community issues, and she keeps tending to her fingernails. She notices your frustration with her divided attention and tries to reassure you by emphasizing that she only needs a moment more. Do you feel any different?

How do you suppose your child feels when you are on your phone? Might it be the same as how you would feel in the other scenarios? You may think what your child was trying to say wasn’t important, but it was important to your child. So even if you tell your child that you are still listening, and emphasize the importance of quickly finishing that email, your child may still feel unimportant. There is no way around it—making an unsuccessful bid for someone’s attention hurts. It stings.

Smartphones are probably the biggest distraction we have today. They entertain us, inform us, remind us, and notify us. They also beckon for us with a seductive buzz or catchy chime. Smartphones can’t feel the sting if we disregard their summons. Yet, too often we accept their bids for attention at while rejecting those of someone who can feel the sting.

Excess attention to our phones not only impairs the communications coming to us from our children, it also compromises our communications to them. In the earlier examples, how committed would you be to listening to what your boss, your friend, or your neighbor has to say? If the answer is not very committed, then consider that children who have been relegated to second priority over their parents’ phones might not feel very committed to listening to their parents.

Also consider that children will someday have their own electronic devices, if they don’t already. We are setting an example for how to manage electronic devices responsibly. Prioritizing a phone over a person, even for ‘just this one thing,’ can be a bad example that the child learns to emulate.

So perhaps the phone should be set aside during meals. Perhaps it should be ignored when you are with your kids. Perhaps it should be put away altogether once you are home.

Is it too hard to keep your phone out of reach until your child’s bedtime? How do you know unless you try it? Can you commit to trying it for just one month? There are compelling reasons to try. Obsession with phones hurts our children, reduces our influence, and sets a poor example.

It generally take a few weeks to form a new habit. So trying it out for a month might be the start of a new habit. It might be easier than you thought. There doesn’t seem to be anything to lose.

No phones until the children’s bedtime. I’m in. Are you?

How to Properly Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “Putting the Phone Away”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date], https://www.thekindofparentyouare.com/articles/phone-away.