“My Mom is always on her phone”
Those are the words I hear after every presentation I give to students. At the end of my talk, I always ask the kids “when it comes to technology, what habits do your parents have that you wish you could change?” That is always the top answer.
Whether you believe it or not, you are the most important person in your child’s life. Our kids may be way ahead of us when it comes to streaming, downloading and snapping but they depend on us for our wisdom and guidance. They depend on us to model a healthy relationship with technology so they in turn can reap the benefits technology has to offer without being controlled by it.
Even though our phones allow us to connect with anyone at anytime… should we? Is our relationship with our phone bringing too much convenience to our life at the expense of our own wellbeing and therefore our children’s wellbeing?
As human beings, we crave new information. Even the thought of a new notification, message or email, causes our brain to secrete dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel good. Our phone allows us to be constantly connected to the internet which in turn allows us continuous access to new information. New York Times best selling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Nicholas Carr, states the internet "allows us to live in a perpetual state of distraction and interruption.” This constant state of distraction actually interferes with the ability to transfer short term memories into long term memories. A process called memory consolidation which is required for learning.
Learning creates wisdom and our kids rely on us for our wisdom.
Some may argue that they don’t spend long periods of time on their phone. They just use it when they have a spare moment. A quick scroll through Facebook or a game of Candy Crush isn’t a big deal. Well according to Dr. Cal Newport, a computer scientist and author, this can permanently reduce your capacity for concentration. When our attention is constantly fragmented, it can have long term effects on our ability to think deeply, be creative and focus.
Deep thinking, creativity and focus allow us to better guide our kids through the obstacles life brings them.
So while it isn’t possible (and I’m not suggesting it) to completely disconnect from your smartphone, it is possible to take back control. To pay attention. To realize that when you wake up in the morning and sit in silence instead of immediately checking Instagram, you are choosing to be more focused. When you go for a walk and leave your phone on the counter, you are choosing to be more mindful. When you drive your kids to hockey and leave your phone in your bag at the red light, you are choosing to be a good role model. You are taking control over your phone and choosing to have a healthy relationship with technology.
Our kids have infinite opportunities to connect with the world but are they able to connect with us? We just have to start the conversation… ask your kid the question… “am I always on my phone?”