6 Strategies for Turning Off Phones & Being More Present

Mom & Dad, put down your phones! (+ 6 tips for doing so)

Be honest, what percentage of the time that you spend with your children are you also scanning your smart phone?

Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician specializing in child development, had her curiosity piqued about this very question while living in the tech-savvy Seattle area. She noticed that more and more of the parents she interacted with at her clinic were often so absorbed in their smart phones that they ignored their children.

A few years later, she and two other researchers set out to observe the behavior a bit more systematically. She and her colleagues spent a whole summer observing 55 different groups of parents and young children eating at fast food restaurants.

Though not scientific, their anthropological observations and detailed field notes did capture a concerning trend. Forty of the 55 parents used a mobile device during the meal and many were more absorbed in their device than in the kids.

The children of distracted parents were more likely to act out in a bid to get attention, and used words like, “sad, mad, angry and lonely” to describe how their parents’ usage of mobile devices made them feel. Parents using the devices were also more likely to snap at their children when interrupted by attention-seeking behavior. That’s because the part of your brain that is engaged when you’re texting or sending emails is the ‘to do’ part, where there’s also a sense of urgency to get the task accomplished.

It hurts my heart to think that my boys (and my husband) might feel as though they are not interesting to me or not as important as an incoming message or notification on my phone. But I can see how they would feel that way because it’s exactly how I feel when my husband buries his nose in his phone when we’re riding in the car or having a quiet moment.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to break the habit. About a year ago my husband and I made a pact to dramatically limit the amount of time we spent with our phones (and computer screens) after work so that we could be more present – for each other and the boys. Here are a variety of strategies that have worked well for us.

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5 thoughts on “6 Strategies for Turning Off Phones & Being More Present”

  1. I don’t like to use my phone unless its important. When I take my kids out I like ti enjoy the time we have out. Yesterday we went out to the park and my kids played with a little boy about 2 years old like my daughter and he had poop so we went to tell his mom who happened to be on the phone and stayed at the park for almost 30 mins and still hadn’t changed the little boy. I’ve seen many parents not interested in What their child is doing and it sucks.

  2. i realize i spend alot of time on my computer. But when my husband is home he gets right on his computer or xbox. He’s a wonderful father despite that. When i feel like he’s neglecting his son. It seems to me like our son is attention deprived….and i feel massive amounts of guilt…..I feel like its my fault. My Son is spoiled rotten since he’s the only child he gets what he wants when he wants and i always make time for him. But i feel like its not enough. When i mention to my sons father that he needs to stop what he’s doing and say change a diaper he gets real irritated like “WHY CANT YOU DO IT”. Well im his damn mother. I spend every waking moment on him. I change him when he needs it i even have to stop going to the bathroom at times because he’s screaming at the door and i have to let him in. Its so frustrating.

  3. It is not only about parents, it has affected the society in general my teenage neice texts her sister in the next room, people in the lunch room are nose diving in their phones, travelers are a no-cause. We have somehow forgotten to look “outside” of the virtual world. What effect it will have on our communication patterns only time will tell.
    Overall, if we can even bring “family dinner” back to this country without TV, without smartphones, it will be a meaningful turn. Maybe people will learn to “talk” again, have manners, and find delight in company.

  4. Let’s be real, this study is totally unscientific and sounds like the researchers went into the situation with a perspective before they even started, so it basically meaningless. Your parents weren’t sitting there 100% plugged into you at ALL times. They may not have had a phone in hand to shine a spotlight on it, but they weren’t giving you every waking moment’s worth of attention. I do think it’s a worthwhile discussion, because obviously technology CAN be a huge distraction and even unsafe at times. Totally valid. But I think the discussion is always framed out like this stuff is the devil. Sometimes your kid may want to talk to you and it’s completely and totally FINE to tell them to back off and give you a minute, so you can check your email. As much as kids need to learn they are safe and loved and valued, they also need to learn the universe doesn’t revolve around them and that starts with parents not catering to their every whim.

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