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A Parent’s Guide: Being Smart About Your Smartphone
On average, we check our phones somewhere between 80 and 150 times a day. Many of us can’t function without our smartphones and we get anxious when our cell phone isn’t close. As parents, this is a MAJOR problem. It interferes with our capacity to be attentive and awesome parents. It hurst our kids and interferes with our joy. We need to be smart about how we use our phones by not letting it waste our precious time.
Smartphones are a serious threat to the parent-child bond.
Research suggests that parents distracted by smartphones may impair their children’s ability to form proper emotional processes. That’s a really big deal. When our cellphones buzz or ring, our attention is immediately diverted. This trains our children. At the sound of a cell phone alert, our children immediately disconnect from us. They then often engage in misbehavior to refocus our attention back on them.
But what happens next? Do we realize our error and put our attention back to our children? Or are we so distracted by our phones that we are impatient and short-tempered with our little one–our little one that is literally crying out for our love and attention?
Ask yourself honestly
How often are you glued to the tiny screen in your hands while you ignore the most precious thing in your life? Really think about it.
If you are like most people, that question could make you feel very uncomfortable.
I’ve never been really techy when it comes to phones. I held out until I would have literally had to make a massive effort to special order one of the old cell phones in order to replace my dying dinosaur phone (that merely texted and made calls). So in late 2014, I gave in and got a smartphone.
Listen, I am NEVER at the forefront of technology. When making the switch, I figured that a smartphone–despite its increased capacity–would probably not have any impact on my life. Other than the maps. I was excited about the maps.
And it didn’t. At first. Then slowly (and inevitably, I suppose) I discovered the various wonders of a smartphone.
I started checking Pinterest, Facebook, or Apple News when I had to sit around waiting (like pumping milk, breastfeeding, waiting rooms etc). Suddenly, I realized that when I was into my tiny screen, I was completely ignoring my kids. So I decided to make some simple changes like deleting time-sucking apps like Facebook, and stopping all push notifications. Making the change was hard. As someone who would have never thought I could be attached to a phone, I started to get really attached.
But smartphones are not the devil. While smartphones can have a serious negative effect on our lives, they can also be helpful and time saving. As busy moms, saving time helps us to be happier! We need to be smart about how we use our smartphones.
First: Reclaim Your Life With a Smartphone Detox
1) Turn off all push notifications
It can wait. It can all wait. I used to get push notifications from a news source, then suddenly I realized that every alert was giving me crazy anxiety. People got along perfectly well for a long time–even in this age of technology–before push notifications.
2) Delete problem apps and apps you don’t use
Delete time-sucking games and social media apps. This is probably the step that hurts the most. Deleting Candy Crush was extremely difficult for a friend of mine. But deleting it immediately improved her life. If you have a tendancy to waste time on your phone (ie like most everyone), I promise this will significantly reduce your screen time. Honestly, I’ve never been much into FB, but I can’t help but waste 30 minutes doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on the app but peering into other people’s lives and watching stupid videos. I realized that when I had down time, I’d just scroll. Such. A. Waste. I deleted it and got part of my life back.
3) Create phone-free times and zones
Locate your problem times and problem locations. When and where are you most likely to check out from your kids and sink deeply into the tiny screen in your hands? I realized that if I used it when I was nursing, I was missing out on sweet interaction with my little one.
4) Keep it out if the bedroom
Screens around bedtime interfere with good sleep (and sexy time). If you use your phone as an alarm, but find yourself checking it at night or first thing in the morning, get an actual alarm clock. They still make them! It will help your sleep and save you time. I do use mine as an alarm, but I am pretty militant about not looking at my screen in the hour before bedtime and after my morning routine (for more on getting better sleep, check out my post here).
5) Unfollow people who aren’t your friends or don’t lift you up
You don’t need a clogged newsfeed and you don’t need negativity in your life. Simplify your life and keep it positive.
6) Unsubscribe from unwanted email or podcasts.
Get rid of your digital clutter and save a bunch of time.
7) Don’t look at your phone until after your morning routine
Looking at your phone in the morning can suck up prime time to get stuff done. Make your mornings amazing and keep your phone out of it. Keeping your phone out of the bedroom is very helpful in keeping this habit.
Second: Dedicate your Smartphone to Saving Time and Improving Your Life
It’s totally possible that a smartphone has absolutely no value in improving your life. As a history professor, I can say that people have been pretty successful and pretty happy for a really long time without them. But that being said, I do think that some smartphone functions can be really useful:
1) Use scheduling and alerts for important reminders
I do not have a great short-term memory. With deadlines, classes to teach, and 4 small kids, many things slip my mind. I religiously use my phone calendar app to schedule alerts for things like deadlines, appointments, and when my children get out of school early. These save me.
2) Organize yourself with list apps
I am a huge fan of writing down lists on legal pads. Problem is, I have about a dozen legal pads hiding around my house (oh yes, my husband loves it). The list I need is always nowhere to be found, so it’s hard to keep my information readily accessible unless I put it in my phone. I keep my master grocery lists, to-do lists and important notes in my phone. One place with all my important info has been a huge timesaver. Personally, I like Wunderlist and Evernote.
3) Use apps that help beat smartphone addiction
With the alarming rise of smartphone addiction, the market has ironically responded with some really helpful apps in limiting wasteful smartphone use. Here are some to check out.
How long can you go without using your phone? Can you follow through with the above steps and start deleting and unfollowing? What apps help you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments or at erin (at) theincrementalmama (dot) com.