I admit it. I am addicted to my devices. I obsessively pick up my smart phone anytime I have downtime. Sadly, I even will do this when I am with my son. For example when we are at a fast food restaurant, or when he is bathing, or I am “playing” with him in his playroom, within a few minutes I pull out my phone. There, I said it.
I know I am not alone. It’s an epidemic really. People hardly look where they are going anymore because they are looking at their mobile device while they are walking, riding a bicycle, even driving a vehicle.
My wife and I went to a movie not too long ago. After the movie, we made our obligatory trek to the bathroom. We looked down the hall and both laughed out loud. Two men stood on opposite sides of the hall obviously waiting for their spouses. Both had the same pose leaning against the wall staring at their smartphones seemingly unaware of the other. I would have felt as if I were interrupting if I needed their attention.
I know that is how my four-year-old son feels when I pay more attention to my mobile device than I do him. Sometimes he physically lifts my face up so I will look him in the eyes. Ouch!
As parents of an adopted son, we have learned a lot about attachment and connection. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that this mobile device addiction that many of us struggle with isn’t good for forming healthy attachment and connection with our children, biological or adopted.
Studies on how our usage of mobile devices impacts our relationships, not only with our children but everyone, are just now being done, like this one—Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals at Fast-Food Restaurants.
This good article—Mom, Put Down Your iPhone and Pay Attention to Me—expounds well on the study.
I think you know what the Dirty Little Secret Is that Is Keeping You from Connecting with Your Child is, don’t you?
With some encouragement from my wife I decided on a month-long media fast. After work when I was home with my family, I turned off my cell phone (now you know why I didn’t respond to you within 3 seconds). I didn’t watch any TV, except the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and one Spurs playoff game. I closed my laptop at the end of the day except on a few occasions to do a bit of work or research, but I avoided mindless internet or email time.
That time became a Screen Free Zone.
What do you think were the results? Yep. I am sure you could list a few. I spent more engaged time with my son and wife. We actually looked at each other while we talked to each other. I can tell my son feels more connected to me. He said on more than one occasion to my wife that he was looking forward to spending time with me.
I don’t think everyone needs to do a media fast, but at least for me, it’s what I needed to disconnect from the technology. Now that the month is over, I plan on continuing some of the new habits:
- Leave my phone off and on my desk after work when I am home with my family.
- Leave email alone after work until the next day.
- Be more selective about what I watch on TV.
- Before my son’s bedtime, spend time with him, fully engaged.
- After he goes to bed, do things that don’t involve a mobile device like spend time with my wife, read (even though I do read on a Kindle), or work on a project around the house.
I know I need to take control of the amount of time and when I use mobile devices and technology, or it will control me. I want connection with my family and friends—real connection—one that happens when one looks into the eyes of another and knows each is fully present, fully engaged.