Today I’m pondering: How does our device use impact our children?
Let me be clear: This is not a diss on technology, devices, or the habits and choices of others. I like my phone and computer; I use them every day. I’ve got no stones to throw. Rather, it’s an offering to consider the impact of our choices (and we always have choices, whether we like the choices or see that we have them or not — and yes, we have choice in how we use our devices).
On the walk home from dropping my kids off at school yesterday morning, a dad and daughter were walking in front of me. The child was three or four, holding onto her dad’s hand and walking a little behind him. He had an earbud in one ear; he pulled out a phone and began to look at it as he walked. During the time I was behind them until they reached their car, no words were spoken between the two. I wondered how the girl felt. I also wondered — had it not been for holding hands, would he have remembered she was there?
When I went to pick up my kids from school yesterday, I walked toward the school and noticed that every parent I saw waiting in a car was looking at a phone. I passed another parent on the sidewalk: she had her head bent forward, looking at her phone.
We worry, stress, agonize, and try to figure out how to help our children’s feelings of overwhelm, not feeling good enough, depression, and anxiety. I’ve heard many parents lament the lack of connection they feel with their kids or how they wish social media didn’t pull their child’s attention and/or become a place of FOMO and comparison. They so want to help.
What if a hard look at our own choices and behaviors had the potential to turn the tide?
Changing our own behaviors is way easier than trying to change someone else’s (spoiler alert: we can’t make someone else do/believe/feel something), so let’s look at how we’re accomplices in creating an environment where devices are king, the ding of a message on a phone takes priority over what is in front of us, and the number of likes on our social media posts require frequent checking.
What are the choices we’re making? (Honesty is key here.) How much time are we spending on our devices (like actually spending — every time we pick up our phone and look at it)? What do we do first thing in the morning — pick up our phones and scroll through email and Facebook? How about last thing at night? At the dinner table, where do we put our phones — on the table? When we find ourselves with a few minutes to spare or start to feel bored, what do we do — get our our phones?
(Maybe you’re saying “Robin: An important message arrived that I had to deal with!”. Okay, maybe one did. However, I challenge you to take a hard look at the true importance and urgency of most messages/emails/updates. How many must be answered RIGHT NOW — really? Truly? Really and truly? Treating everything as urgent and MUST DO RIGHT NOW — what if that is more of a learned habit than anything else? When we treat everything as a fire, then everything will seem and start to feel like a fire. Just something to consider.)
When we’re the tool in our device relationship, we can take a guess at what our kids are seeing and learning. If we’d like to see a different landscape for our children, perhaps it’d be useful to be more of a model of what we’d like to see.