“I will play Lego with you in a minute.” *said while staring at a screen*
“You want me to read that book again? I will do in a sec.” *said while staring at a screen*
“Can mummy just take a break from playing hide and seek for a bit?” *said while reaching for a phone*
“Why don’t you just watch some cartoons for a little while?” *said while reaching for a phone*
“You look so cute in this photo.” *said while immediately uploading to social media*
“Can you just do that again, this picture is blurry.” *said while trying to get a perfect picture for social media*
Does any of this sound familiar? Do you feel like there is an extra person in your family? That extra ‘person’ being not a human who actually needs and craves your attention but a technological device that somehow seems to steal so much of your time. I am going to be completely honest, I feel like I am living as part of a family of 6. This family set up appears near enough nuclear on first appearances but it’s true make up goes like this: Mummy, Daddy, child 1, child 2, Mummy’s phone and Daddy’s phone.
Is it time we put our smartphones down?
How ridiculous is that? I feel as though our phones are part of the family and I do not mean that in a good way at all. Before any of you start worrying about my kids, their needs are not being ignored for the sake of a few minutes extra screen time. They are fed, clean and LOVED beyond measure but sometimes they have to share me with their attention seeking rivals, the smartphones. My phone is like my third child: I always need to know where it is, I would freak out if I didn’t know where it is, I need to check in on it every 5 minutes or so and there is absolutely no bloody way I would leave the house without it. Also, I love it. Not as much as my kids obviously but, yea, I love that shiny piece of metal and plastic quite a lot. Like, loads actually.
I am starting to accept though that this love I have for my phone is not healthy. I feel about my phone the same as I feel about that cake I always have to have when I go out for a coffee. I love that cake (usually a blueberry muffin), I see that cake staring at me from the counter and I just can’t ignore it. I know that I shouldn’t have the cake, I am not actually hungry and, you know, sugar is bad and all that. I know that if I eat that cake it is going to taste amazing but the sugar rush will soon wear off and I will be left feeling lethargic and unmotivated, probably a little bit guilty too. I know it is possible to just ignore it, turn a blind eye, buy my coffee and sit down without so much as a second glance at that damn cake tempting me from the display. But I never do it. I always buy that cake and it is the exact same thing with my phone. I know I don’t need to check it all the time, I know too much screen time is unhealthy and stumps my productivity and I know if I look at it while I am supposed to be spending quality time with my kids that I am going to feel guilty about it. Despite this knowledge I still find myself countless times a day sat in a daze scrolling my life away, hopping from one social media account to another, reading blogs, checking the news, looking through photos before finding myself back on Twitter and the whole cycle starts again. Somehow “just one episode of Paw Patrol today!” all too often evolves into half an afternoon sat inside while the TV babysits and I am sucked into the grasps of my smartphone while it tries to satisfy my completely unappeasable social media cravings. This is not OK and I have decided I need some kind of smartphone rehab, or maybe someone needs to just confiscate it while I am asleep – I do fear being parted from my extra limb may just send me over the edge though.
Am I the only one who is spending too much time on my phone when I should be concentrating 100% on my kids? It’s 2017, a time where primary school children have smartphones and parents pretty much rely on Google to help them get through the day so I think the answer to this pondering is obvious. I did a Twitter poll just to check though and I am not surprised with the result at all.
Yes only 61 people answered the poll but I am confident the result would have been near enough the same if 1000 people had answered it. With the urge to share our every moment with the internet no matter how big (‘We’re getting married #weddingbells ‘) or how small (‘Just ate a sandwich #lovelunchtime’) and the way our phones can makes us immediately feel connected to so many people, it is not surprising we are spending so much time on them and that time is sometimes moments we should be spending with our kids. I wish I could be like the 5% of parents here who say they never use their phone around the kids, I would love to be that disciplined and I really am going to try harder. I have no problem how others wish to spend their time or with the parenting decisions they make but I personally am not happy using my phone so much around the kids any more. As a blogger I feel like I need to constantly be tweeting, writing, taking and uploading photos and endlessly engaging with followers but in reality none of that is important. For those who’s blog is their business then it is easier to justify, you are spending time working on your livelihood to provide for your family and it is good for your children to see and know what it is like to work hard. But if you are like me, someone who blogs for fun or someone who doesn’t blog but loves social media then sometimes it is hard not to feel guilty when you trade another verse of The Wheels on the Bus with your baby for a quick scroll through your Instagram feed.
I miss the days where I could go for a coffee without feeling this almighty urge to place it in good lighting, style the shot with something and upload it to Instagram, wasting another 5 minutes while I am there by adding in 30 relevant hashtags and deciding what filter to use. I would love for my kids to do something for the first time or do something hilarious and not feel like I have to share it on social media. The day I can go 24 hours without picking up my phone and getting lost in a maze of Facebook updates, tweets, Instagram feeds and other pointless time wasting internet fodder will be a very good day in my eyes. At the moment though my fingers start to twitch if I go more than half an hour without checking what’s been happening on my phone. It turns out the fear of missing out (FOMO for the cool kids) is a real thing and it is really friggin annoying.
I am obviously not a smartphone hater, I love how the internet has brought the world together and I am pretty sure there is no way we could be without it now. The sense of solidarity that comes from becoming a part of online communities is amazing and although you may sometimes be lonely, there is always someone online who knows how you feel and is happy to chat. There are obviously so many other benefits to the internet too but I really think it is important for everyone, especially us parents, to limit our screen time. How can I ever possibly tell my children to spend less time in front of a screen and that life is for living not for experiencing second hand through a phone when I don’t live by the same rules? How can I tell my 3 year old to stop wasting time watching rubbish on YouTube when I am guilty of doing the exact same thing? American author Corine Dehghanpisheh has written a children’s book that perfectly helps introduce the idea of limiting screen time and enjoying technology free moments together as a family.
My Toddler Life – a children’s book with an important message
#BabyLove My Toddler Life is a children’s story book with a very important message for the digital age that we live in, a time where children growing up will never experience life that is not shared with technology and smartphones. My Toddler Life is a simple story aimed at very young children ( I would say around 2 years old) that tells the story of a little boy who finds his Mum’s phone. When Mummy finds her son with her phone she is not happy but then starts to show him all the photos she has taken and shared online before telling her little one they should put the phone down and play instead. That’s what I want to start doing more of, putting the phone down and playing with the kids instead. My Toddler Life shows us through the illustrations of Mummy’s smartphone pictures just how quickly times passes and that we really should try harder to spend quality time with our little ones as before we know it they won’t be so little any more and we will be the ones lecturing them on the amount of time they are spending on their own phones. I think My Toddler Life is a good book for helping parents to start talking about screen time with their toddlers and showing them that there are way more exciting things to do in life than staring at phone. So many more amazing things.
I am not about to go cold turkey, delete my social media accounts and chuck my phone in the bin but I really am going to try my best to stop using my phone so much, especially in the day. I am hoping by doing this it will help remind me that my phone doesn’t need to rule my life and also help instil good habits in my boys as they grow up too. What do you think? Do you feel like you are using your phone too much around your kids or do you think you have found a good balance between life online and life in the real world? Parents of older children, do you struggle to get your children to step away from the screen or do you think they have a healthy attitude towards screen time? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.
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