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Parents are spending too much time on their phones around their kids

Parents today are being too distracted by their phones. Stats show that people log into their iPhones 80 times per day, accessing it on average every 11 minutes and 15 seconds. This frequency is impacting our ability to be mindfully present with our children. Having an “absented” parent will have unhealthy consequences for our children’s development. The classic “still face” experiment shows how quickly babies get distressed when we are present but disengaged. This has been deemed “the attention economy” and the interface with technology has been designed to keep our eye balls engaged. 

To combat this, there is a growing movement to #phonedownparentup, which is to have us put down our phone and put the attention back on our families to see what that is like for a change. We challenged Marilyn viewer Joanne Sallay, President of Teachers on Call, to give this a try, and this is how it worked out: 

"I’m a mom of two young children and an entrepreneur managing my own business. I was offered the opportunity to take a technology challenge that would test me both personally, as a parent, and professionally, as a business owner."

My cell phone challenge:

For six days, my exercise involved limited use of my cell phone. This meant no social media use, no texting, and no checking e-mails on my phone continuously. My phone could be used for talking (inbound and outbound calls) or for functional apps like google maps for driving. I was supplied with some personalized tips in advance, and I only told a few people that I was taking the challenge.  Only time would tell how it would go, and if it would prove to be a vacation or a punishment.

I have always been aware of the fact that I rely on technology heavily. Participating in this challenge would give me a chance to reflect on my routine and become more aware of my cell phone use. Working in the education field, I have seen firsthand how distracting cell phones can be for students. In this case, I wanted to observe from the parent lens the impact on me personally.

6 tips for reducing cell phone usage from parenting expert Alyson Schafer:

Here are a few of the suggestions I followed to guide me throughout this challenge.

  1. Create a schedule to check phone.
  2. Check e-mails in designated time windows.
  3. Dock phone when not using it.
  4. Try to leave phone at home for short trips.
  5. If you are integrating work and home, designate “absolutely NO phone” time.
  6. Feel empowered to use tech as a tool used on your terms, rather than being a passive victim to the temptation of a device that lures you away mindlessly.

6 top benefits and learnings

Some aspects of the challenge were harder than I thought they would be, while others were easier than anticipated.  While there were moments that I felt fidgety and restless, there were many positive results to share.

  1. I exercised and enjoyed more fresh air by taking early morning walks.
  2. I socialized regularly with my neighbours as a result of being outside more.
  3. I accomplished more tasks in less time by being less distracted.
  4. I experienced more free time, which I directed toward my family and kids.
  5. I lived more in the moment.
  6. I felt less stressed and overwhelmed by technology.

Post challenge:

As I write this blog, a few weeks have passed since I took the cell phone challenge. I am proud to report that this exercise produced positive change in my life. I am no longer terrified at the prospect of leaving my phone at home, and even do it on purpose occasionally for short trips on foot. I am texting less and using social media only when I have a specific purpose. I am also exercising more self-control by not checking my phone every time there is an alert. The biggest takeaway for me has been using technology as a tool that I control in my life, versus the other way around!

So what do you think? Are you ready to take the challenge?