As parents, there are a million different ways to feel bad or guilty. The amount of time most of us spend on our phone in front of our kids can be one of them. The good news is, changing is easier than you may think. All the details of our lives are held in our phones. Work schedules, texts, and even some relationships are dependent on having our phones on us constantly. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - it just shows how busy our lives have gotten. Here's the kicker - it can turn into an addiction without us knowing it, but our kids certainly do. It may sound extreme calling our dependence on phones an addiction, but scientific studies say otherwise. “Still, there’s plenty of research out there describing the dopamine effect—a neurotransmitter that sends pulses to your brain’s reward and pleasure centers with every new text or tweet—and the widespread addiction to that momentary pleasure, which has been compared to cravings for nicotine, cocaine, and gambling.” Kids can feel your interest shift from them to the phone - or perhaps it was always on your phone. It's okay that this happens because it's fixable.
“Demonstrate your own mindfulness in front of your children by putting down your phone during meals or whenever they need your attention.” – David Hill
Motherly.com has 3 recommendations that can help fix our phone addiction issues.
1. Take Stock of Your Actual Phone Needs
There are a million different ways to feel guilty over your parenting. The amount of time most of us spend on our phone in front of our kids can be one of them. The good news is, changing is easier than you may think. Tim Harford writes that “smartphones are habit-forming, so think about the habits you want to form.” Most adults legitimately need their phones. But, if we're honest, we don't need it every second we're at home with the kids. To help set limits, writing a list of all the activities you need your phone for can help you prioritize what's fun vs. critical while with the kids. Learn how you really use your phone while making sure it's not using you.
2. Involve the Kids in a Family Discussion About Appropriate Smartphone Use
Kids can contribute more to the conversation about what they think is appropriate screen time amounts. This will help them communicate with you when they'd like your attention and give you an opportunity to explain why you need to be on your phone at certain times.
3. Write and Post Smartphone Rules Where Everyone Can See Them
Motherly.com recommends these rules be where everyone can see them, e.g. the fridge. They’ll be different for every family, but examples might include:
- No phones out for the first hour after coming home
- No phones out until the kids are in bed
- No phones out during meals
- No phones out during a family movie
4. Give Kids Ten Minutes of Undivided Positive Attention
A super simple rule to implement in your everyday life is this: give your kids 10 minutes of undivided attention twice a day. Playing, talking, and just being with them without interruptions supports positive and emotional connections. While your kids are in front of their screens (we all are a few hours every day), make sure their eyes are protected. Learn more here.