We can all Google the research and statistics around parental phone/device use and the impact on children. If you’re anything like me, this usually just increases the shame and guilt I’m already feeling without bringing change. You already know you want to stop checking your phone and be more present. You just need some ways to make the change possible.
My daughter’s imitations of me were the biggest wake-up. Pretending to scroll through something on the ‘phone’ in her hand and saying ‘Not now, Mum. I just need to send this email.’ She was asking for more and more screen time. When I’d say no, she would bring up the valid point that I was on a screen. I cannot set limits for her that I am not following myself. ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ doesn’t tend to work very well!
Signs that it might be an issue
See if you can relate to any of these:
- Using your phone or tablet while watching TV or on your computer
- Maybe even having three devices going at once
- Needing something playing in front of you while doing any activity e.g. dishes
- Many multiple checks of Facebook, Instagram or emails each day
- You find yourself in an app but don’t remember picking up your phone or you had planned to check something else when you did pick it up
- Finding yourself thinking about when next you can be on your device
- The anxious tension that builds when your device is not in easy reach
- You suddenly realise that a family member has been talking to you but you haven’t heard what they’ve said
- Losing the ability to sit and do nothing
These are all examples taken from my own life. Maybe you are like me and have made many attempts to try to stop checking your phone constantly. I found that the attempts I made were often just cutting the head off the weed. I had to get down to the roots. There are three that I have identified: overwhelm, the need for connection and habit. Each requires a different approach. Get curious about which one is active in any given moment.
Sometimes we need to evaluate our schedules and all that we have said ‘yes’ to doing. Often when we feel overwhelmed by how much we have to do, we go into avoidance. Checking your phone is a quick and easy avoidance strategy. Taking time to make sure your schedule is not overly crowded and is filled with what is most important to you is invaluable.
We also need to adjust the expectations that we are putting on ourselves. It is necessary to ask for help sometimes. You are human just like I am. We cannot be ‘Super Mum’ all the time. Assess what your priorities are. I love the ‘Lazy Genius’ approach of being a genius with the things that matter and lazy with the things that don’t.
Find some alternative ways of destressing and releasing that sense of overwhelm:
- Go for a walk
- Do some breathing exercises
- Practice relaxation, mindfulness or centering prayer
- Read a book
Sometimes I do still give myself permission to have some screen distraction time but with limits, such as a timer. I find that little mental break can still be helpful if I don’t let it be out of control.
Need for connection
This is especially high when you are ‘stuck’ at home with a baby or when a pandemic flips our lives upside down! We use social media and devices to feel connected to other human beings. Real connections can definitely be made using technology but often we settle for the illusion of it by scrolling through posts, which doesn’t fully satisfy.
Find opportunities to connect:
- In-person- either face to face or using technology- maybe through your MOPS group
- Call a friend
- Seek authentic online connections that are truly interactive and supportive. Engage, don’t just scroll.
We train our brains to check devices even if it starts out with another root. To stop checking your phone as much, you need to change the pathways in your brain.
Start with recognising what it is costing you. How many moments have you missed? What opportunities to interact with your child have gone unnoticed? What goals are you allowing to slide away?
Consider some of these strategies:
- Turn off notifications- they are designed to hack your brain to check-in
- Delete apps that are causing you the most issue- you can reinstall if there is a specific need/purpose then uninstall again.
- Using blocking or screen time management apps and settings- built into many devices these days or available on your app store. Set times of the day and how much time you will allow yourself in each app.
- Accountability- give your family and friends permission to call you out if you are breaking your commitment
- Practice silence and mindfulness to train your brain not to need the stimulation
- Set up family rules around screen use and help each other to stick to them
- Charge devices away from the bedroom.
This is a repeated process that I come back to time and again. Remember why you are wanting to stop checking your phone and be more present. Look for the root of your device use at that moment.
MOPS Australia Managing Director
Jodi spends her days sharing words of encouragement for women in leadership, finding her way through the beautiful mess of parenting and relationships, and geeking out on technology. She is the author of the book ‘Stepping Up In Leadership’, a speaker and the Managing Director for MOPS Australia. Find more inspiritment at jokoepke.com.