Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with my smartphone. It’s become an important part of my everyday life and I can’t live without it. But I absolutely hate that I can’t live without it.
If it’s by my bed when I wake up, I’m drawn to it like a magnet and I will, without fail, pick it up and waste a solid 15 minutes (or more) checking 3 different emails and daily news headlines before I actually start my day.
And I hate that.
I mean, I’ve never been one who feels the need to own fancy gadgets. I’m literally the last to get any kind of new technology.
Sorry kids, you’ll have to talk to Google or Alexa at your friends’ houses.
I didn’t get my first cell phone til I was a sophomore in college, a good year or two after my friends had gotten phones. And then it was a used Motorola flip phone my cousin’s husband gave me for free.
And I even special ordered old-school cell phones for years when all the phone stores only carried smartphones. But I eventually succumbed. And over the last few years I’ve gone from largely ignoring my phone, to feeling like I need a 12-step program to escape it’s clutches on my life.
I’ll mindlessly pick it up while waiting in the pickup line at school, watching my kids play in the park, or while sitting at home as my children try to engage my attention.
And I’m not alone in this.
On average, we check our phones somewhere between 80 and 150 times a day. That’s bananas.
While it’s not great for anyone trying to live a balanced and fulfilling life, as parents, smartphone addiction is a MAJOR problem. Because it interferes with our capacity to be attentive parents. It hurts our kids and interferes with our joy.
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. Um, that’s terrifying, right!?!
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?
So how do we overcome smartphone addiction so we can get our life back and nurture our relationships with our kids?
FIRST: RECLAIM YOUR LIFE WITH A SMARTPHONE DETOX
1) Turn off all push notifications
Seriously, 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 tendency to waste time on your phone (ie like most everyone), I promise that this will significantly reduce your screen time.
I’ve never been much into FB, but I can’t help but waste 30 minutes doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on the app. I realized that when I had down time, I’d just scroll. Such. A. Waste. I deleted it and got a chunk 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?
4) Keep it out of 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! This 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 not after my morning routine.
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. Keeping your phone out of the bedroom is very helpful in having a phone-free morning routine.
DEDICATE YOUR SMARTPHONE TO SAVING TIME & 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. .
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). It’s hard to keep my information readily accessible unless I put it in my phone.
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.
BE THE MASTER OF YOUR PHONE
Don’t let your smartphone get in the way of enjoying your children and using your time efficiently. Let your smartphone work as an aide to living well and not an obstacle to happiness.
You’ve got this, mama.