By Josh Chang and Aliya Huprikar, Freshmen at Irvington High School
The other night, a group of us went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. At dinner, we immediately found ourselves glued to our phones. We spoke for a couple of minutes about what we wanted to order, but everyone soon ended up scrolling through Instagram or playing a video game. After a few quiet moments, looking around the table, everyone’s head was down.
“Guys,” one of the group said. Everyone’s head shot up. “Let’s get off our phones. Here.” We collected everyone’s phones, stacking them up at the end of the table, face down.
“Let’s be engaged,” someone across the table said sarcastically. We all laughed, but there was some truth in that statement. Too often, we end up distracted by sudden buzzes in our pockets that allure us into the endlessly addicting digital world. By putting the phones out of arm’s reach, we stopped those distractions, and just like that, we started to live in the moment and have much more fun.
Someone had brought a deck of cards, and we spent the rest of the meal playing games and eating burgers. It was an awesome evening that we all truly enjoyed, one that wasn’t dominated by devices. The phone rule was flexible: we could still text our parents to let them know what was happening, and if someone wanted to show something funny online, they could, but all the small, impulsive interactions were limited.
Putting everyone’s phones together and to the side is an easy way to keep your head up during times like dinner that should be about face-to-face interaction. When you keep your phone in your pocket it’s too easy to just “glance” at a notification and get sucked into the digital world, rather than the real one. Keeping everyone’s phone in one place prevents this, and makes that “glance” a lot more public. Organizing an activity, like a card or board game, is a great idea because it’s a screen-free way of ensuring everyone is engaged. In the end, the most important part is that everybody has genuine fun and meaningful interactions with the people around them, something that is difficult if phones are in the picture.
According to a recent article in Atlantic Magazine, parent’s screen time is hurting children.
According to the article “Occasional parental inattention is not catastrophic (and may even build resilience), but chronic distraction is another story. Smartphone use has been associated with a familiar sign of addiction: Distracted adults grow irritable when their phone use is interrupted; they not only miss emotional cues but actually misread them. A tuned-out parent may be quicker to anger than an engaged one, assuming that a child is trying to be manipulative when, in reality, she just wants attention. Short, deliberate separations can of course be harmless, even healthy, for parent and child alike (especially as children get older and require more independence). But that sort of separation is different from the inattention that occurs when a parent is with a child but communicating through his or her nonengagement that the child is less valuable than an email. A mother telling kids to go out and play, a father saying he needs to concentrate on a chore for the next half hour—these are entirely reasonable responses to the competing demands of adult life. What’s going on today, however, is the rise of unpredictable care, governed by the beeps and enticements of smartphones. We seem to have stumbled into the worst model of parenting imaginable—always present physically, thereby blocking children’s autonomy, yet only fitfully present emotionally.”
Obviously we all want to be good parents to our children, but in the tech saturated world that we live in, this sometimes can be hard, especially when it is all so new, and no one is telling us what we can do. As a therapist in the Rivertowns, below are some tools I share with parents in my practice to help mitigate the above phenomenon, and be more present in their children’s lives:
1). Tell your children what you are doing on your phones. (Ie. I’m looking up a phone number, I’m writing an important work email, I’m reading the newspaper, I’m texting with Dad). Before smartphones existed, kids used to know what their parents were doing because they could see! They saw you reading the paper, or looking up a number. Now they just feel ignored, they feel that they are not a priority.
2). Don’t mindlessly scroll in front of your child! You are telling them that you care more about other people’s (often stranger’s lives), than you do about theirs. And you are setting a bad example for your kids, (that it’s okay to spend hours of your time staring mindlessly at a screen).
3). Don’t use your phone at the dinner table, when driving, when talking to people. Put your phone down and look your children in the eye when speaking to them. Model the importance of face to face communication and common courtesy.
4). Put your phone away at concerts, when out to dinner, at social gatherings etc. Model the importance of being in the moment, NOT being constantly distracted by your smartphone.
5). Don’t carry your phone in your hand everywhere you go. Put it in your purse or pocket when out and about and leave it in one place in your home such as the kitchen counter, even when you go upstairs (unless you are expecting an important work communication etc.). This shows your kids that being in the moment matters, the phone can wait!
6). If you feel comfortable with it, leave the phone in the car when you are out, tell your kids you don’t need it, you can always go to the car and get it if necessary!
6). Explain to your children that a smartphone is a tool, and should be used as such, not a toy for one’s entertainment.
Hope these tips help. Look out for more helpful blog posts from HeadsUp Rivertowns in the near future!
Yep. They're asking for it. If your house is anything like ours, then your kids are asking for smart phones. They'll tell you they NEED it, but beware. We adults can attest to our phone's addictive power.
Here are a few tips to get you through the holiday season:
Working as a therapist in private practice, I have become aware of the pervasive problem we have with kids and smartphone addiction. Teens tell me all the time that they are addicted to their phones and that they wish they weren’t. We have all heard about the latest science behind why we should be concerned about our kids and their smartphones, but we haven’t been given very many actual solutions for how to decrease the chance of addiction. In an effort to help both teens and parents, I have come up with some concrete things parents can do.
This blog post will deal with the #1 most important thing I believe parents can do, and that is to delay giving their child a smartphone. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your child needs a smartphone (ie. “I need to be able to contact her and she’s too embarrassed use a flip phone”, or “he will be excluded/she will have no friends”, “he will be left out of important school or social events”, etc.) None of these things are true. First of all, when you are beginning to give your child more independence, start by getting a home phone (if you don’t already have one). This way if you leave your child home alone you can still reach her/she can reach you. (Home phones all have caller ID now so there is no need to worry that she will talk to strangers. Teach her not to answer the phone if she doesn’t know the number). Kids need to learn to actually speak to people on the telephone, this is an important life skill! I believe it’s also important to teach our children some independence when they are out in the world. When you are first allowing him out on his own, have him take safe routes, or only go to a friend’s house, or stay in town. If he needs to contact you teach him to go into a store and ask to use the phone behind the counter, or ask a woman with children (considered the safest stranger to ask for help), or borrow their friend’s phone! When you finally feel they need a phone, start with a dumb phone. There is no need for your child to have access to the internet or apps on their phone! In fact it is the ability to play video games, use social media and access the internet that in my opinion creates the worst addiction. You can figure out creative ways to let them have music or a camera. Record players are back in style! Get an ipod nano, give them a real camera! (You can also “dumb down” a smartphone, taking off internet or ability to use apps.)
Teach them that if their friends tease them or make them feel bad that they don’t have a smartphone, then they aren’t good friends!
Allow your child’s prefrontal cortex to develop before you give them a smartphone. The younger they are, the harder it is for them to regulate their smartphone use and the more likely they are to become addicted to it. Research has even proposed a correlation between smartphone addiction and substance addiction later in life. This is serious stuff. Remember, by delaying your child’s access to a smartphone, you are not being evil, you are being a good parent, who cares about your child’s brain and social emotional development!
For more concrete ways on how to decrease your child’s screen addiction or even to raise your child without a smartphone (What?! Is this possible?? Yes it is!!), check out the website: Familiesmanagingmedia.com
What if your child already has a smartphone? Don’t worry there are still lots of ways you can decrease their chance of addiction. Keep an eye out for future blog posts where I will be sharing lots more concrete tips!