Turn that device off. Right now. Well, OK, after you read my story. We hear so much in the news about screen time, what it does to us, and what it is doing to our kids. It is so easy to get completely addicted to checking your phone, email, and social media in today’s society, but how much is necessary? Is any of that more important than being a parent? Probably not, so here are two great reasons to unplug today – even if just for a few moments.
Be a Role Model
Your kids are watching, listening, and taking in everything you do. Always. You don’t think so? Guess again. They will be able to tell you more about your last phone conversation than you can probably remember. People are complaining about “kids these days” and how they lack respect and manners all over social media. But to have respect, they need to be shown respect and shown how to respect.
You cannot expect your child to respect their teacher if you attend a parent-teacher conference and don’t even take out your earbuds. (It happened to me this fall!). I feel so bad seeing parents walking home practically dragging kids behind them, crossing streets, phone to ear, or eyes on a screen instead of their child. Sometimes these parents curse or tell their friends inappropriate stories with no regard for their listening child. Lesson learned.
If you don’t think they are listening, look at your toddler with a play phone. They will mimic you to a T! Some parents are too busy looking at a screen to notice their kids running wild or in danger. Lesson learned again.
The other day, I was at the park when I overheard a kid yelling, “Mom, look at me! I have never been so high!” The mom didn’t even look up to see her son on the monkey bars. She just gave a quick “Wow” and kept right on clicking. At that moment, I felt terrible for that kid, who wanted attention for what he considered a big achievement. Instead, his mom’s actions taught him that ignoring someone is acceptable if you do what you want.
How can we expect our kids to pay attention if we don’t bother to show them attention? Show them they matter. Listen to their stories, even if they are long and drawn out, even if you’ve heard them before. Just put the phone down and listen. Give them the time they deserve. Show them it is important to make eye contact and listen to the person talking to them. Give them practice in the art of conversation by responding and asking them questions. (Here are some suggestions about how to talk to your kids about school). You will see their behavior improve as they emulate their favorite person, you.
So, I’m not one of those “holier than thou” moms. I let my kids on electronics. I have times when I’m on social media when I should be working on something else. I’m right there with you…but I’m trying to change that. Here’s why. I recently decided that my kids and I needed a day to relax. After breakfast, we all jumped on our own electronics. Later in the day, I heard my six-year-old giving my older daughter the same attitude she’d just seen someone give his sister on a YouTube channel. Of course, I wasn’t pleased. I told them they should be screen-free for a while.
I haven’t looked back on that decision. Within a day, the girls were playing with each other with less attitude and were having fun. SCORE! As my kids played with dolls on the rug in front of me, I jumped on my phone to answer a text. My little one looked at me and said, “Mom, I thought we were screen-free. Is that important?” I didn’t know what to say. No, it wasn’t important (sorry, friend who texted me).
If they were screen-free, did that mean I had to be? No, I’m the grown-up; they’re kids. I should have privileges and rights they don’t. Do as I say, not as I do?! Right?! Not right, I thought, as mom guilt overwhelmed me. I took the phone, set it down, and immediately vowed not to return to it until they were asleep.
That vow lasted roughly an hour. It was much harder for me to stay screen-free than for kids! They adjusted so quickly, but for me, I was twitching! And for what?! To connect with people on social media that I don’t make time for in real life? To read blurbs about what the president is up to or to see pictures of what people are eating? I put the phone down again and got to business.
I got on the floor with the kids and grabbed a doll. We played for a while, had some quiet reading time, cooked together, and had a great day. Fast forward a week, and my kids thought that was one of the best days. It was a great way to connect, and I didn’t miss anything on my screen (I didn’t, did I?! someone text me and fill me in!).
So Let’s Unplug
Let’s try it. Turn it off. Just for an hour, a day, a few moments even. Go ahead, unplug. Give it a try. Play a game, read a book, go to the park, or talk a little instead. You, and your kids, won’t be disappointed! If you are, feel free to charge up that laptop and leave me a “you’re so crazy, that was terrible” comment! If you need more inspiration to unplug, read my post about going on vacation without tablets in tow!