6 ways we can disconnect from our phones and get family time back
You’ve spent half an hour driving through traffic, hauling kids out of the car and into their swimmers. Finally, you sit down while they have their swimming lesson and get a well-earned break from your busy day. You take out your phone and quickly check that email. You soon realise that 20 minutes have gone by and you’ve gone from email to Facebook to goodness knows what on your phone.
You look up and realise your child has been waving at you after mastering backstroke, something he’s been working towards. You smile widely and immediately feel a pang of guilt. How long has he been waiting for your attention? Were there other times he looked up and saw you absorbed in your phone?
You know what – we all do it. Being a parent is hard and sometimes getting a few minutes of reprieve in our phones is sometimes the relief we all need. But you’ve got to admit, the phone is addictive. We all know how too much screentime is bad for our little ones, but we might forget too much phone time is bad for us. You get so absorbed in what’s going on that little screen that you forget to focus on what is happening in the here and now.
Plus there have been studies to suggest that spending too much time on our phones can have an adverse effect on our kids 😱. So what should we do? How do we break the cycle of phone addiction, particularly when we’re with our kids? Here are a few simple ways we can disconnect from our phones and get family time back.
Take control of your phone
Who doesn’t love hearing that ‘ping’ when someone has liked an insta photo or responded to our Facebook comment? They’re designed to make us want to click or swipe and thousands of hours of research has worked out the best way to keep us tethered to our phones. Fight back with a few of these tips:
- Remove all notifications. You don’t need to check Instagram every time someone likes your picture. Save the browsing for a time that suits you.
- Go greyscale. The colours are pretty and make you feel good but they also make you want to stay on your phone for longer. There are easy tips to quickly turn your phone to greyscale.
- Charge your phone away from your bed. That way you don’t wake up and grab the phone as the first thing you see.
Leave your phone somewhere during the day
Some people call this having a device box, others just have an area where their phone stays during the day. If you’re spending the day at home with your kids, instead of holding your phone as you wander around, leave it somewhere out of reach. Maybe that’s the kitchen bench, maybe it’s in your bedroom. Feel free to have the volume turned up so you can be contactable but try to keep it away from your body to ensure you’re not tempted to grab it during a particularly boring play dough session on the floor.
Don’t try to document everything
We see our friends’ photos on Facebook and Instagram and they look like they’re having such wonderful lives. “Look at little Johnny completing his first puzzle! #genius” “Laura and Mummy having some cuddles on the couch. #lovethiskid” The thing is, we survived our childhoods without capturing a photo a day (sometimes we’d be lucky if we got a photo a year). I often wonder – in the future, will anyone really want to look at this many photos of a childhood? We all take thousands of photos of our kids and I bet we never look at some of them ever again. So, we can probably resist taking photos of all the moments. Kid has a cute face with ice-cream all over it? Great! Enjoy the cuteness and don’t feel guilty for not capturing it every time.
This is a campaign that common sense media have been working on and it features a hilarious video by Will Ferrell. Check it out.
This campaign is probably more aimed at families with older kids but it’s a good habit to get into while our kids are young. It’s so important to have at least one time a day where we all connect as a family and catch up on our day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be dinner – if breakfast is when your kids are less feral, then go for that! The important thing is family time and setting up good habits for the future. And making sure our kids aren’t building meth labs in the basement (watch the youtube video if you don’t get this reference!)
Just like discipline, it works better when both parents are on the same page. It might be time to have a frank conversation with your partner about how both of you use your phones in front of the kids and how you both could do better. It doesn’t really matter what you’re using the phone for either -kids don’t care if they’re reading an academic paper or watching cat videos on YouTube. Come up with a solution that you both agree on. Maybe it’s to only check the phone while in another room (or the toilet – that seems to be popular among some men 😝 ). Whatever you decide is a personal preference between you and your partner.
Delete social media or give yourself a small window
Some people can completely delete social media on their phones and only check it on their computer. If you can do it, good on you! I haven’t been able to wean my social media addiction but instead, I give myself a window. I check Instagram once a day – when I’m brushing my teeth at night. For a few minutes each night, I scroll through my feed, like as many things as I can and flick through stories. It means I still feel connected but I don’t feel as tethered to my phone as I used to be. I’ve heard of other people saying they only check on the bus on the way to work or while waiting for school pick up. Giving yourself a limed time is a great way to still feel connected while not letting yourself get sucked into the vortex for hours at a time.
Do you have any other tips for disconnecting from your phone and having more family time? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook/Instagram pages (in your social media windows of course 😋)