Living in the moment, not through a screen
“Ok, Mom. If we are going to Itasca, I don’t want anyone on their phones. Phones stay off and put away.”
This is rich, I think. My 8-year-old son, who is constantly sneaking screen time, is laying down the law on screens. We are getting ready for our annual visit to Itasca State Park with my side of the family. It’s where the Mississippi begins! It’s a childhood favorite of mine- a place I cherish and want my kids to know and love, too.
“Well, I think you are right in your idea,” I say carefully, wanting him to know I am supporting him. “Remember that we will need our phones to get a hold of each other, because we are staying in separate parts of the park.”
He considers this. “Yeah, good point.”
“But I think what you are getting at is that you don’t want to see us all staring at our phones. We should be where we are.”
“Exactly, Mom. Like, we are in nature! Breathe! Look around! You don’t just sit there staring at a screen!”
Aside from wishing I was recording the conversation to use in later situations, I appreciate his thoughts about this. He’s right.
Adults talk a big game when it comes to screen time, but how many of us actually practice what we preach to our children? Take a look at this chart from the Pew Research Group. Parents say that teens are distracted, but teens say the same about their parents, and there are indicators throughout the study that adults certainly do their fair share of using technology to distract themselves. Socialmediatoday.com found enlightening information to see the average time spent on social media, and how its use ranks among time spent during daily activities.
The hypocrisy isn’t hard to detect; children can smell it a mile away. I know my husband and I are guilty of telling kids to get off the screens while we scroll through feeds on our own phones. Lately, I have made some changes to my screen consumption to help model self-regulation for my kids:
- I let my phone charge in another room while I am sleeping. The benefit is twofold- I spend less time mindlessly scrolling, and my eyes and brain are protected from stringing out its activity, and I can sleep better.
- I use my iPhone’s audit feature, “Screen Time.” Each week I receive a report showing how much time I was on my phone, and what sites I was visiting. There are other apps as well that can measure and report. Seeing the time I spent, without really thinking about it, has made me more mindful about how I choose to spend my time.
- Facebook doesn’t live on my phone. Twitter does, for now. I have Instagram too, but I don’t interact with it as much. Just unplugging from Facebook has been a breath of fresh air.
- In waiting rooms, or other times when I am waiting for an appointment or a friend, I keep my phone out (in case someone is trying to let me know they are late), but I don’t engage with it. I try to do this in front of my children, too, to show that they don’t need to be entertained every minute.
- I installed a “Self-regulation” app on my MacBook that will block me from certain sites for a determined time period if I am feeling easily distractible. It helps me stay on task and focused on my work. Sometimes, I find myself not even logging into the social media sites at the end of the day. I don’t miss it.
Overall, the changes I have made have been beneficial. Sure, I miss the occasional online meme or lively discussion, but I have found that I sleep better, pay closer attention to what or who is in front of me, and I’ve become a better listener. My true hope is that my kids learn from my example and learn when they should take breaks or adjust their usage.
Besides, there’s so much else in real life to engage with, like nature and fresh air.
Want to try your own self-audit to measure the amount of screen time you regularly get? Try this self-audit tool and challenge yourself. The data might surprise you!
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