Picture the scene, kids are playing at the park. Mum is having a quick scroll through Facebook when a shout from someone snaps her attention back to the park and she realises her two year old is moments away from being struck by a massive swing.
Shame. Embarrasment. Guilt.
Crisis averted it made me take a good hard look at how my smartphone useage is affecting my parenting.
Has your child ever asked you to put your phone away? Have they said ‘no’ to more pictures? Have you missed something they said because you were on the phone? Any close calls because your attention was on the phone? Most of us now rely on our smartphones as an information directory. We use them for shopping, banking, social interaction and even directions. It’s safe to say that without my phone I am completely lost. In an age where we are permenantly plugged in, basic etiquette has gone out the window. People think nothing of looking at messages while they talk to you and corresponding using text speak. How often do you simultaniously watch tv and check your phone? Ask the kids to ‘wait a minute’ while you finish replying to a message. Are you ever really focussed on one thing anymore?
But how is our growing smartphone useage affecting our parenting? It doesn’t take a genius to see that being on a smartphone means that you are taking your attention away from your children. And while no one expects us to be solely focussed on them 24/7, when we consistantly make them compete for our attention the non-responsiveness has got to have an impact on their emotional functioning. How would you like to be faced with such psychological withdrawal? I hate it when I’m speaking to my husband and I know he’s ignoring me!
Studies have shown a direct correlation between device useage and infant social emotional function – and I won’t lie, this frightens me.
So what can we do? Well to begin with you have to believe that there is a problem. So many mums I spoke to about this subject told me they were rarely on their phone through the day, but funnily were the first to reply to messages on social media and the ones to post the most pictures of their days. Like any addiction (because yes, believe it or not that is what it is becoming) you need to admit you have a problem before you can go about resolving it.
Start looking at how present you are day to day. Simply being there isn’t enough. Social media can fuel anxiety and increases stress. We become overwhelmed by the volume of information available and it can become impossible to focus our attention. Checking symptoms on google, speaking to people on message boards, looking up directories of things to do even. All these things might seem important but ask yourself if you need to do it right that minute. Or could it wait until later?
Cameras. My husband will release a massive sigh when I start taking pictures on days out. If it’s not on Instagram did it even happen though?? This i something I am struggling with. I LOVE to share my life online. This means taking a gazzilion pictures. So how do I change this? Well I started by stopping. Not necessarily stopping taking the pictures but stopped posting them all. It’s ok to have pictures just for us as a family.
Cameras on smartphones are a filter for reality. They can stop us partaking in the moment. Taking a snap of a romantic moment, a baby snuggle or family day out is taking away your attention from that moment. So going cold turkey isn’t always possible. But maybe try having days out where you maybe take half the pictures – if you are anything like me this will be a complete struggle! Camera pictures are like my habit. I’m challenging myself to break it slowly. I live in fear that one day in 30 years I will be showing my grown up kids pictures of an outing that I have fond memories of and they run rund and aay they hated that trip because I wasn’t really involved I was always just on my phone.
Can you leave your phone in another room for part of the day? I have started to wean myself off slowly. I allow myself to check my phone only when the kids are playing away with something or I’ve told them it’s my five minutes peace – I sometimes treat my stay at home mum time as a job, I take breaks!
Social media breaks are good too. I will come off for a while whenever it starts affecting my anxiety because I know that it will have an affect on the kids. I also try to stay off it during family time and holidays. As a blogger it’s doubly hard as posting is promoting so I try to schedule as many facebook posts as possible and only tweet and Instagram once the kids are in bed.
Another indicator that you may have a problem is if you start having more superficial connections to people online than in real life. Last weekend I bumped into a lot of people at a local event, many who I connect with loads on social media. They like and comment on my blog, social media posts and even message me to chat. But only a tiny proportion of them had actually had anything to say to me in person. Many muttered a quick hello and walked past as if we barely knew each other. If real time connections are becoming infrequent and you rely more heavily on your social media presense then it’s time to take a hard look at why.
Smartphones are getting increasingly more intelligent, while we so not. My retention skills are rubbish and I believe that comes from never having to know anything. I can find out anything at the click of a button. Out a walk the other day me and the kids collected leaves and came home to do some crafts, getting a book out for the kids to identify the leaves was fun – yet someone told me there was an app for that! Course there is! Sometimes it really is good to go offline and back to basics though.
Are you a smartphone addict like me? Do you worry about how it affects tour parenting? Do you have any good tips to share?
We are off on holiday this weekend and I am going to try to be more present.
Lets’ s see how I get on!