With all the distractions in our lives today, it’s time to think about how disconnecting might benefit you and your family.
Do you or your spouse have limited interactions with family members while on your phone? Are your kids always on the computer or watching TV? Do they prefer the iPad to playing outside with each other? Do you feel like you can’t spend a couple of hours without checking your phone?
It might be time. Time to live a more unplugged lifestyle. Time to disengage from modern day technology that we consider essential, and engage more in quality family moments. Time to put down your phone…but maybe wait until you finish reading this to know how to do it successfully!
I had my own watershed moment when I realized that my daughter noticed how much I was attached to my phone (and she’s not even 14 months!). She would always see me with it, holding it, looking at it, moving it closer to where we were playing. She would constantly reach out for my phone (and push the home button repeatedly so it would disable), and that’s not one of the things that she needs to be learning at her age. Kids are very impressionable, and my daughter caught on quickly to how glued I was to my phone. She wanted to be just like mommy, and mimic what mommy was doing. It was at that point that I realized: I have to change something.
Not only is it “bad” for me, for how I want to be spending my family time, but it’s been shown time and time again to have negative effects on children at a young age. Extended screen time for kids has been linked to cognitive developmental delays! Even if you are not allowing your children to watch TV for hours, we still don’t fully know the effects on their development, and they learn best from their parents. Your bad habits can soon become theirs, too.
Let’s start with where you’re at now. Take a minute to reflect on how much you’re plugged in – whether it’s your phone, iPad, laptop, computer, TV or any other screen that garners hours of your attention at a time. Come up with an estimate of how often and how long you’re “plugged in” to these devices. Try to include each time you check your phone, whether it’s a quick check to see who messaged you, to see who just liked your photo on Instagram, or to see if that email alert was from work – it doesn’t matter. Add in every little thing, as each couple minutes can really add up. Ultimately, this is the amount of time that you’re not engaged socially and emotionally with the people around you.
Now think about the important things in your life. What comes to mind? Is it family, work, making money, traveling, faith, experiences, or something else? Try to prioritize your top 3, on how important they are to you. My top 3 would be my family, my career, and faith, in that order.
And now to bring it all together: That total that you just came up with, the total amount of time that you spend plugged in, is the amount of time that you could be spending engaging with your top 3 priorities. That 30 minutes here and 5 minutes there could be time spent playing a game with your kiddo, or sitting down with him while he eats his snack. These are valuable moments that are easily missed, but that you can’t get back.
I know that I spend too much time at work for my liking and I’d rather stay home if I could swing it financially! So when I come home, I want to be present with my daughter. I know how hard it can be to put your phone down and not look at it for a couple hours. But it’s worth it, in order to spend quality, uninterrupted time with my family. I don’t have many hours in the day between the time I get home from work and bedtime, so I want to make sure that my daughter knows I am there with her and for her, fully engaged and fully present. I’m not distracted by other things that are less important. Emails can wait; paying the bills can wait. What cannot wait is seeing my daughter grow up, each and every day, and cherishing our time together.
How to get started: just like smoking, I would recommend against going cold turkey (don’t throw your phone out the window just yet!). Find a starting point. Everyone is different, so what you are comfortable and capable of doing is going to be different. For some of you, maybe a 30 minute time frame is all you can do at this point. And that’s perfectly fine. For others, maybe you’re shooting for a 3 hour chunk. Find a time every day that works for you (preferably not when you’re sleeping) and stick to it. Like a diet or work out plan, have someone else keep you honest and hold you accountable. Then shoot for increasing this chunk of time by 15 minutes every week. Get to the point where you don’t “miss” your phone, when you can be fully engaged in what you are doing with your family, and not worry about what is waiting for you on your devices.
>>But I need my phone in case daycare/my spouse/my doctor calls.
I’m not telling you to turn off your phone; I’m merely recommending a short term siesta from having your phone on you, attached to you, like an extra body part (my father used to call it my “pacifier”). Leave it in another room, plug it in, or put it somewhere out of reach where you won’t be tempted to look at it every time you hear that “ding!” sound. If it’s important, they will leave a message or call back later.
If you’re in a semi-emergent situation, you can still leave it nearby to hear it ring, and answer when it does. There are always exceptions to the rule. If you absolutely need to answer a phone call, then great, keep your phone nearby. But don’t make these exceptions a habit.
>>But I need my phone for work!
Do you really? Do you really need to read and respond to emails at the exact moment you receive them? Do you really need to be available for 16+ hours a day? For most professions, you can wait an hour to respond, maybe even a few hours, or until the next day. If you are an on call doctor (which you’re probably not, because why would you be reading this…), then maybe figure out a different ring tone for business vs personal calls.
>>I only check my phone that often to see what time it is.
Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Get a watch, and use that as an excuse to go shopping for a nice watch that you’ll wear every day. Or even a high-tech watch that you’ll use while working out! I feel naked without my watch, and have grown into the habit of looking down at my wrist instead of pulling out my phone.
In the grand scheme of things, you’re really not missing much, if anything at all. My husband is a guy who is more of an optimist, seeing the glass half full. I’m still learning, as I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum in more of the ‘realist’ category (but he calls it pessimism). On this issue, let’s learn to look at the positive: what you will gain. Not only the quantity but also the quality of your interactions and experiences with those that you love will flourish.
And with our modern day advances like DVR, Netflix, and other on demand shows, electronics really can wait!
Need ideas for things to do, to get your family out of the house? Check out 8 things to do this fall!
I’d love to hear from you!
What are you most attached to? What is going to be the hardest part for you?