Are You and Your Children Addicted to Your Smart Phones?

Are cell phones consuming our lives?

I had a revealing experience the other night. My husband and I were waiting for a seat at a busy, small, locally owned, Italian restaurant.  Our wait was about 40 minutes.  Rather than talk to my husband, I found myself continually going to my phone:  Twitter, emails, texts, Instagram, photos I had taken, etc.  Then it hit me!  I need to temporarily cease and desist!  I asked my husband to take my phone out to the car.  We then had a wonderful 90 minute, distraction free conversation and yummy dinner!

We know that kids get addicted to their phones, but do we, as adults, admit that we are addicted too?  Is your phone ever on silent (with no buzz)?  If not, I want each and every one of you to consider this.  A lot of us put our phone on silent, but we keep the buzz on.  I challenge all who read this to put their phone on silent (with no buzz) for at least 1 hour a day.  I actually do it all night, and I am setting a goal to do it for an hour during the day as well…or at least leave it in my car when I go do dinner with friends and/or family.

We need to be present, with our loved ones, with our friends, and even with ourselves for a chunk of time each day.  I find myself never being present with one thing…I am always being distracted by social media, text, phone calls, and email.  We have all learned to be good multi-taskers, and that is great.  However, we need to consider shutting down the “noise” once in awhile.  I read a blog a few months ago that referenced Kenny Chesney’s country single titled “Noise.”  

Now, as adults, we are able to filter some of the negative stuff out and continue working throughout our day.  But think of our kids!  Even though their phones may be in their pockets at school, I bet most of them have the “buzz” feature on.  Every time that phone buzzes they may wonder, “Who is texting me, what funny picture is on my phone, are my friends mad at me?” And many kids are sneaking a peek in school…multiple times an hour!  

It has troubled me that so many of my students are depressed, anxious, and lacking concentration at school.  I have some school counselor friends/teachers who have noticed the same thing.  This year and last year have been the worst years ever for kids struggling…in my 30 plus years of experience.  I have lost sleep over it.  And then I went to dinner with my husband and it hit me…our kids are unable to filter out all of the “noise” that smart phones give them.  

When I was in school, most of the drama happened between classes or before/after school hours.  Now the drama is happening every minute of every day.  Kids are having more trouble getting work done in school; getting work done after school is even harder, because their phones are right there.  I am not a child psychologist, but I dare to say that our kids are more stressed, anxious, and depressed because of smart phones.

We can’t take them away completely, but here are some ideas for you and your family.

  1. Have a loving conversation about this article with your whole family…do not make it a punitive conversation

  2. Set some small goals with your family such as:  everyone put their phones in a basket (with ringer and buzzer off) during dinner time, set your phone to silent at night, leave phones in the car when you go to a movie, etc.  Some kids will fight this, but just make a group goal to try it out!

  3. If your child is abusing their smart phone get them a flip phone for awhile.  I am not a big fan of long term consequences.  I like kids to be able to earn privileges and consequences on a daily basis, rather than losing a privilege for several days/months.  Call me or email me to discuss specific issues with your child

  4. Really look at your own smart phone addiction.  You can’t help your kids unless you look in the mirror first

I don’t want anyone to feel guilty after reading this article.  There is definitely a fun “rush” of looking at my phone often at times.  I get a lot of work done because of my smart phone.  It makes me more productive at times.  Let’s just all take a good, hard look at when we can shut down the “noise” for certain hours of the day; let’s also set family goals together and help our kids see that drugs/alcohol are not the only addictions present in our lives.  

Staying organized can be a challenge for many people…including parents and students. Opening your child’s backpack to complete chaos and clutter is frustrating parent and child. Kids’ backpacks can get messy! Papers can be put in the wrong pockets, left at school, or left at home.