Here I am sat in my usual spot at gymnastics whilst my youngest flings herself off things with a big smile on her face. I have brought my laptop to write this very post, as it is here that I noticed something alarming that has caught my attention ever since. I don’t usually bring my laptop here, but in this instance I felt I must. Usually I am watching my daughter and giving her little hand signals through the window to let her know how she is doing. Right now, I am looking around and there are twelve adults here, ten of them are head down, thumbs busy, in their own world of mobile technology. Their child could be performing the most amazing skills right now, but they won’t know. Moment gone.
Unfortunately this is not uncommon.
How often do we find ourselves alone, in a waiting room, a train station, a coffee shop, even walking around town and the first thing we do is get our security blanket out and start scrolling. I get it, it is a boredom, habitual, lull in a moment act that over time has developed into full on dependency. The next time you are about to reach for your mobile to fill that void. Stop. Stop and look around you and you will see what I see here at gymnastics. If you do this, you may feel like I did. Something has to change. I mean, what do we all look like for a start? Is this really what we want our children to think is acceptable?
OK, you might be forgiven for flicking through Facebook and twitter when your child is in a club. After all, its a little down time isn’t it? But this epidemic goes deeper than that. It has entered our homes and I worry about the messages our children take from this. At what point is it ok for our children to try to hold a conversation with us whilst we are looking at our phones, no eye contact to be had. What does that say? What in the name of God are we trying to teach them? That a person they have never met, and probably never will, a person that we probably have never met either, is more worthy of our attention than they are?
I cannot tell you how frustrated I get when I am having a conversation with my husband and he is checking his phone, important email or not…. His actions tell me that the email is more important that what I have to say. Granted, sometimes this may indeed be the case. Nevertheless, it has been known to infuriate me. I know I am not alone. It is possible that this irks me for the simple fact that I was not brought up with mobiles. Our children live in a very different world now and I worry for them that they won’t even consider this to be rude behavior unless we teach them.
So I am stepping up. I am making changes. We have new house rules and they are simple.
No more sidelining
I am guilty of being in the middle of a text conversation or email thread and in response to a childs plea of ‘Mummy, can you…’, I respond with, ‘Yes, hang on, just a minute, I am just…’
Just what? Just re-emphasizing that you are lower down on my list of priorities than a friend of a friend that may or may not be having a cocktail at Café Rouge?
We limit screen time for our children, but maybe we need to be limiting it for ourselves. You know, lead by example. Show them what interaction can be. When the kids get home from school, my mobile is going away in a drawer until both kids are in bed. Buzzfeed quizzes, Facebook and Twitter scrolling, emails… the lot. It will all still be there when my kids are in bed, content that they have actually been listened to, not heard, but truly listened to. Eye contact, questions, reflection and all. Sure, it may be hard at first, hard but necessary.
Sounds off and turn over
At the weekends in my house screen time extends for us all, but I know that my kids are happier out in nature and playing board games as a family. The togetherness is what they love. How often do we go somewhere for the kids, but have that little intruder with us, poised to check it in response to any ping, ring or if you already have your sounds off, lighting up. That is not togetherness. I actually think that most of us, me included, respond to a ping or a screen lighting up faster than we do to ‘Mummy, can I have…?’ So silence the trill of the beast, what right does it have to interrupt sacred family time anyway? It can all wait.
Limit pictures of days out
When we have our togetherness time, the mobile will only come out for pictures. Just a couple of snaps to mark our day. Not heavily orchestrated pictures to depict a perfect family life, which by the way, my kids hate. ‘I thought we were at the park to play mum, not to take perfect pictures for Facebook.’ Don’t we all fall short of this? Who are these pictures for anyway? Isn’t it better to get the firsthand experience of togetherness time rather than looking at the day through the mobile? Why do we choose to do a job (Video/Pics), for other people (Facebook) rather than be there, first hand and present. Are our Facebook friends that important that they get the VIP treatment above us? You are there, experiencing family time, so why not be there 100%
No tech at mealtimes
We have always had this rule but I have noticed things sliding, and not from the children. If one of us has the mobile nearby we all, without exception, have a different mealtime. One of us is elsewhere in mind and so how can it be the grounding part of the day it is intended to be? We can fool ourselves that we need to have it sat next to us just in case, but why? A mealtime at our house last 15 minutes or so. Is anything that pressing that it can’t wait and allow you time to be immersed in your family.
I am not unrealistic. Mobiles are an amazing invention. I couldn’t live without mine for sure, and since I have started blogging it is like my right arm. Interestingly, on a blogging Facebook page a fellow blogger Tom at http://www.theunlikelydad.com rejoiced in the fact that he had banned his phone from bathtime routines for his son. He gave his son his full attention. The comments that followed were ALL, without exception, reiterating his frustration at feeling controlled by his mobile. This epidemic is widespread.
A mobile is a tool a blogger can’t do without, and there are countless other jobs that require you to use a mobile. I get that there may be times when you are waiting on something really important, but maybe we should be asking ourselves the question, ‘Is this email important enough to possibly make my child feel they are not a priority?’ If the answer is no, then put it facedown and walk away. Trust me, the gains you will make will only compound the decision that people can wait. The world won’t end.
I would love to know your thoughts on this. How do you control device demons in your house? Do you have any tips? If so, please share, we could all do with support in this. I am signing off now and going to cheer on my little gymnast. I will let you know how we get on with it.
Thanks as always for reading,