We’ve all suffered ‘smartphone amnesia.’
One minute, you’re checking a date on your smartphone calendar only to find 10 minutes have passed and you’re watching a Facebook video of a cat on a tightrope.
Hiding in the bathroom to fire off a quick Insta post (#hidingfrommykids #mumlife) is the new ‘hiding in the pantry to eat a Freddo in peace’. It’s easy to think our kids don’t notice, so absorbed are they in their ‘own stuff.’
Not so. Our kids DO notice our scrolling thumb and slightly not-there expression. And they don’t like it.
Out of the mouths of babes
At least that’s the feedback from a group of of seven and eight-year-olds at a primary school in Louisiana. Their teacher, Jen Adams Beason, set her students the task of writing an essay about ‘something they wished had never been invented’.
You can probably guess what emerged? Yep. The mobile phone. Four out of the 21 students had pretty strong feelings about the humble cell.
“I hate my mum’s phone and I wish she never had one,”is what one student wrote. “I don’t like the phone because my parents are on their phone every day. A phone is sometimes a really bad habit,” said another. Yep, they don’t pull any punches.
“I hate my mum’s phone and I wish she never had one.”
And parents are weighing in with shock and surprise. “”Wow. Out of the mouths of babes! We are all guilty!” Tracy Jenkins says, while another parent commented what a timely reminder it was, “That is so sad and convicting. Great reminder for us all to put those phones down and engage with our kids more.”
The ability to be constantly connected means it’s incredibly easy to spend significant amounts of time on your phone. The average Aussie adult spends five hours and 34 minutes ‘connected’ each day, at least according to the most recent We Are Social 2018 Digital Report. And the bulk of it? Yeah, it’s spent on social media.
Having the functionality of a laptop in your back pocket has been a game changer. Our smartphones mean we can work remotely, reply to emails on the hop, update our status will pushing a swing at the park, and even evade the loneliness that can come with parenthood. But it also means that often when we’re with our kids, we’re really not.
Why parents need to put the phone away
Parenting expert Michael Grose, of Parenting Ideas, says mobile phones have invaded family life. He tells Mum Central smart phone use is rampant and kids know exactly what’s going on.
“I’ve seen parents pushing prams while on their phone,” he says. “Your attention can only really be in one place. If that’s the phone, what are you missing – and your kids missing out on?
“Developmentally, seven and eight year olds are pretty aware. At this age, they’ll suddenly start to look outwards and pick up what’s happening outside of themselves.”
How parents using phones can set boundaries
So how can we keep our scrolling under control? According to Michael, it’s all about boundaries. He advises that certain times of the day should be ‘phone free’, including family meal times and first thing in the morning when kids are in need of some focused attention.
“It’s difficult as a lot of parents work and go into ‘work mode’ early” Michael says. What he suggests is the simple strategy of being conscious of ‘work’ and ‘home’ time.
“Be really conscious that when you’re home, you’re ‘home’,” says Michael. This can help keep the two parts of your life in separate spheres and also removes the “I need my phone for work,” excuse.
It’s a timely reminder of how precious our time and attention is to our kids. They want us, not the version of us reflected back of the screen of a phone.
And if it’s your teenagers’ phone use that’s out of control, take a look at this smart phone contract that aims to wean them off mobile phones and back into the real world.