Smartphones have revolutionized the way we communicate, do business, exercise, and so much more. It is hard to imagine a world without these amazingly connected, helpful devices, especially in a post-pandemic world. There is a tradeoff for all of these digital conveniences.
A study from 2021 found that the average American adult spends over five hours per day on their smartphone. This means, on average, we check our phones between 60 and 80 times each day. This fact did not surprise me as much as it probably should have.
It’s probably safe to say we are all guilty of this at some level. As a coach, I cannot count the number of times I’ve witnessed a parent miss a great play/shot/block by their son or daughter because they were looking at their phone during a game. Even smaller moments at home may go unnoticed due to a distracting text, disruptive chirp, or some other interrupting notification. We often talk about technology addiction in children, but as adults, what message are we sending our kids when we are always pulling out our phones?
I am not suggesting that everyone is addicted to their smartphone or that we should all go back to the rotary phones of the ’80s. There are ways to help control some of these bad habits, so you can have a healthy phone/life balance.
Prioritize Time with Your Children
Set aside time each day to spend phone-free time with your kids. Ideally, leave your phone at home and take them outside. Go on a walk, hike, or bike ride. Play a game of basketball or catch. Can’t go out? Play a board game or cook with them. Find an activity each day that you can do where you can set your phone aside.
Putting your phone away for an hour or two sounds easy, but it is harder than you think. The average person would check their phone 12 times during that two hours. If you can’t bear to leave your phone behind, or you don’t feel safe without it, make sure you turn off your notifications, so you can enjoy the time, distraction-free. You can use the Focus feature such as on iPhone, to eliminate pings, calls, and notifications from everyone, except a few key emergency contacts.
If you do need your phone during this time, clearly explain why you are using it. For example, “Let’s use this to look up the ingredients we need for this recipe.” or “We should call Grandma for her opinion.”
Use Social Media Off Hours
We love our peeks into our friends’ lives, but those glances shouldn’t take away from your life. Choose a time during the day when you plan to check social media, instead of checking it frequently throughout the day. Pick a time while the kids nap, after they leave for school, or after they fall asleep to get your Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook fix.
Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact is extremely important when having a conversation with your children. It shows them that you are present. Whatever you two are talking about is more important than the rest of the world around them. It is difficult to make good eye contact when you are staring at the screen in your hand. Be mindful of this, and put your phone down when speaking or listening to your children.
Combat Distractions with Apps
Kevin Holesh, a software developer in California, recognized the impact his smartphone was having on his relationships. He created “Moment” to combat the everyday distractions of our digital devices.
Moment “helps people disconnect from their phones and get back their time.” The app uses a coaching model to help teach you better technology habits. You start by selecting your goal or goals. Some examples are “Get More Family Time,” “Sleep Better,” and “Stop Wasting Time.” From there, Moment will monitor your usage and provide tips to help you achieve your goals. Moment even offers a family option that allows you to track your family’s usage across a variety of devices.
Parents can use this to set screen time limits in addition to monitoring usage. Moment Coach is a paid feature inside the app that takes things to the next level. The Coach add-in allows you to select courses that are designed to help you re-imagine your relationship with your phone. The classes are anywhere from three to 14 days. I’d suggest starting with the Phone Bootcamp class. According to the website, Moment Coach users “gain an hour back each day by following simple strategies.” And those who completed the bootcamp saved an average of 12 and half hours during that time.
Another great app for this is Space – Break Phone Addiction. The app’s motto: “Find your phone / life balance.” Users start by taking a quiz to determine their interactions with their phone. From there, you can set goals around usage and share your progress via social media. Users who pay for the Pro version of the app gain access to short courses that help you manage your screen time. This is available for both Apple and Android devices.
It is a fact that our society’s reliance on digital devices is increasing. Adults are effortlessly and unintentionally forming bad habits when it comes to how they use these devices. Awareness is the first step toward correcting the problem.