Perhaps I should have seen it coming. My 5-year-old son and I were getting on our bicycles, preparing to take a leisurely ride down the road, when he gave me an ultimatum.
“Dad, don’t get on your phone one bit.”
A dozen things entered my mind. Can I go 30 minutes without looking at my iPhone? What if, during one of our stops, I want to check my email or look at the latest news on Twitter, or even open the Weather Channel app when I see that dark cloud on the horizon?
“OK,” I said.
So for 30 minutes we rode down the road, had a pleasant time, and I survived.
Humans always have had distractions from the more important things in life, but I sometimes wonder if smartphones—through the marvel of technology—have compiled every distraction into one handy handheld device.
Whatever your hobby or craze or temptation, the iPhone or Android phone is right there, ready to help. Smartphones are that wardrobe from the Chronicles of Narnia books and films: There’s good, and plenty of bad, and before you know it, you’ve spent hours in another world.
I’m beginning to ask myself more and more often: Do I have to know everything about everything, right then and there? Should I give every person in the world the right to interrupt my life at any moment of the day? The answer to those, of course, is “no,” but there’s another one that I also have to ask: Can it wait? To that, I’m beginning to answer “yes.”
I’m learning I need to set more limits on my usage. Here, then, are six reasons I want to use my smartphone less and less around my kids:
1. It’s what my son wants. His two younger siblings probably do, too, but they can’t verbalize it yet. And I’m sure my oldest son isn’t the only child in the world like this. No, every second with my children isn’t a Hallmark precious moment, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few while staring at that tiny screen.
2. I don’t want to raise children addicted to technology. By that, I mean I want to set a better example. Children do everything that we emulate. If we stare at our iPhone or Android phone all the time when we’re around our children, there’s a good chance they’ll do the same, too, someday. Our society, after all, already is a slave to the latest technological gadgets. I don’t want my kids to remember their father as the one who stared at his smartphone while at the kitchen table, at the couch and on the mower.
3. It allows me to devote my full attention to my children. This seems obvious, but when I’m on my phone, I’m not involved with my kids. If I choose ahead of time that I’m not going to be on my phone, my mind is ready to think of topics of conversation—like birds and worms, or planes and trains (my oldest son is 5, after all).
4. I won’t regret it. Smartphones as we know them are only about six years old, but I doubt any of us will get to the end of our lives and say, “If I could do it all over again, I’d spend more time on my smartphone. And post more stuff on Facebook.” My children are all 5 and under. I’m living in the days that I’ll later treasure.
5. Because smartphones are addictive. Sure, I’ve had 15-second sessions on my smartphone, but I’ve also had 15-second sessions that turned into five- and 10- and 30-minute stints. That’s the nature of social media and the Internet. There’s always something you didn’t know, and you didn’t know you didn’t know it until you logged on.
6. Because it’s good discipline. In the Christian life, it’s wise to deprive ourselves of earthly things we really, really want, like usage of the iPhone or the Android phone when we’re around our kids. As I type this, I really, really want a pizza—and lots of football on TV. Neither, though, are good for me in the quantities I desire. As Christians, we should work to reshape our sinful nature so that we no longer strive for earthly things, but eternal things (Colossians 3:2). We are to really, really want Christ.
— by Michael Foust
Foust is the father of three small children, a writer and editor, and blogs about parenting at www.michaelfoust.com.