After I’d been playing trains for nearly an hour (yet again), I glanced over at the kitchen bench longingly.
I wondered if my friend had responded to my text message, or if the email I’d been waiting for had come through. I thought about the birthday present I needed to order and the Facebook live I wanted to watch. I felt a pull to quickly pop over and press the home button to check for notifications.
It wasn’t the first time that day that I’d felt that pull.
Connecting, finding dinner inspiration, capturing moments, answering questions, paying bills, listening to music, exercising, shopping, scheduling, navigating, working, reading, learning, keeping records. Our phones do it all.
It’s no wonder we feel like they’re an extension of ourselves.
For mums in particular, our phones are our connection to the world outside our house, our way of getting things done without having to physically go anywhere and a source of answers to anything that concerns us while we raise our little ones. For many of us, they also provide flexibility in our work, so that we can be around more for our children, and still earn an income and progress our career. Our phones provide us with incredible convenience and are akin to personal assistants.
But what starts as convenience and an asset, can easily become a huge distraction.
You might just want to take a quick photo of something cute your child is doing, and you notice a Facebook notification. While you’re checking Facebook, someone messages you. And then you remember that you wanted to post the photo on Instagram, with a funny caption and hashtags. Before you know it you’ve gone down a rabbit hole of phone functions.
As I was replying to a text message, my three-year-old son started tapping my shoulder pretty hard. He’d been trying to get my attention to show me the elaborate traffic jam he’d set up on his train tracks. He’d already tried to get my attention by saying excitedly, ‘mum, look’ and I’d distractedly replied ‘hold on’.
Now he was frustrated.
And deep down I didn’t feel good about it.
Let’s be clear, I’m not saying you should never use your phone around your children.
They’re a part of life for good reason. But I am aware that my son often has to compete with this device for my attention.
My phone is NOT more important than my son, or the other people in my life.
So, I’m trying to find a balance so I can get things done, and also connect properly with the people I love.
What about you? Have you ever had a moment when you thought that you should put down your phone and be present?
How healthy are your phone habits?
Studies have found that people tend to underestimate the extent of their phone use.
Did you know that every day, the average person swipes, taps and pinches their smartphone display 2617 times and uses their phone for 2.42 hours! That’s average.
If you’re unsure about your phone habits, here are some questions that may help you identify if you’re a little too attached to your device.
- Check your phone as soon as you wake up?
- Feel stressed when you go somewhere without your phone?
- Check your phone in bed or just before going to bed?
- Use or check your phone without any real reason?
- Feel like you have to check your phone the moment you get a notification or message?
- Check and use your phone when you’re interacting with others in person?
- Feel compelled to use your phone while driving (apart from Maps)?
- Think you couldn’t live without your phone for a few days?
While you might not be ‘addicted’ to your phone, even the most well intentioned person can find that their phone can get in the way of them really being present and connecting with the important people in their lives. In fact, being too attached to your phone can also affect your wellbeing.
The impact on your wellbeing and relationships
Here are 7 things worth considering:
1. Less sleep
The light from our phone screens can confuse our brains into thinking it’s still daytime, making it harder to fall asleep. Experts recommend that we turn off our screens at least an hour before going to bed (I hardly ever do this!) and avoid using them during the night. In fact, light exposure can push back sleep time twice as long as coffee! (Night mode is useful to reduce this effect.)
2. More stress
50% of people use their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. You can actually feel more stressed by starting the day with all the emails and messages that need to be dealt with. A study has shown that even just having a phone can make people feel more stressed!
3. Poor posture
Texting can place up to 22.7 kgs of pressure on your spine, depending on the position you assume. That’s an average 7 year old!
4. Physical danger
1 in 10 of us use our phones when crossing the road or driving. Enough said!
5. Less connection in your relationship
Overall, 1 in 5 Australians admit to arguing with their partner at least monthly over their phone use. When you’re on your phone, you aren’t really connecting.
6. Kids feel unimportant
A recent study of more than 6000 children in multiple countries, showed that 32% of children felt unimportant when their parents where distracted by their phones.
Clinical psychologist, Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D. suggests that when our children interrupt us responding to an email on a phone, our responses tend to be more on edge, curt and short, compared to if we were interrupted in the midst of a task like cooking. This makes kids feel deflated, bad about themselves and like it’s impossible to get their parent’s attention.
If you’re looking at your phone while you interact, your kids also get less eye contact and attention, which is essential for emotional development.
7. Setting habits
Children’s phone and social media habits are linked to those of their parents so it’s worth examining the example we’re setting.
Of course, if you’re spending a lot of time on your phone, you might be missing out on doing more beneficial things, like being active, getting some much needed rest or spending quality time with your family.
Lovely mum, I’m not judging you. This is for both you and I. I have two jobs that I do largely online, from home, as well as caring for my family. I know that sometimes the phone is a lovely break from everything else and there are absolutely times when we need to be on our phones.
I’m not talking about those times.
I’m talking about the times when we have a choice. When we might not be making the best choice or the one we would make if we really thought about what our actions meant. Our actions speak louder than words. Our actions sometimes say ‘I don’t have time for you’ or ‘this is more important than you’. And I know that’s not what’s in your heart.
We don’t need to give our phones up altogether. However, we can reassess if there are times when we can put the phone down and invest our attention into the people we love.
How to be less attached to your phone
1. What’s important right now?
When you find yourself drawn to your phone, stop and ask: Am I checking my phone because it’s necessary or because it’s a habit? What’s the most important thing I could be doing right now?
2. Phone free times
Put your phone away, out of sight, during certain times, e.g. meals, before and after school / pre-school / daycare, kids’ bedtimes, during family activities and for the hour before you sleep. My husband and I have our technology free night every Monday night and it’s been the best thing we’ve done for our relationship since the latest addition to our family.
If you’re worried about missing phone calls, leave the ring volume on and turn all other notifications off. Use different ring tones for important people.
If you do this at regular times, you can let people know that you won’t be contactable unless it’s an emergency. Or use the do not disturb function or app.
3. Morning routine
If you reach for your phone the minute you wake, decide which important things you will do before you check your phone. For example, morning snuggles with the kids, breakfast, get everyone dressed. Or, check your phone before the kids wake up.
4. Phone free spaces
Designate areas in the house where you don’t use your phone, for example, your bedroom (use a traditional alarm clock so your phone isn’t in your hand the moment you wake up), the playroom or your child’s room. If you’re brave, you could even have a designated place where you leave your phone as you enter the house.
5. Out of sight
Put your phone out of sight, somewhere a little inconvenient, so you won’t be tempted to go over quickly and press the home button to check your notifications.
6. Reduce or delete functionality
Move apps that you find most distracting and don’t need all the time to a device that is less available, like your ipad or computer. If they’re not essential, try deleting the apps that are most distracting, for a limited period or forever!
7. Set phone time
Identify set times during the day to check your phone. It could be once every 2 hours, or 2 – 3 times per day, when it best suits your schedule and doesn’t interfere with other priorities. If you need help avoiding the rabbit hole, set a timer. When it goes off, put your phone down, no matter what you’re doing
8. Turn notifications off
Without these constantly enticing you, you won’t feel so worried about what you’re missing.
9. One thing at a time
Either use your phone or listen to your family. If two people were talking to you at once in person, would you continue to engage in both conversations? You’d probably ask them to speak one at a time. Multitasking isn’t effective when we’re trying to really listen and connect with people
10. Get some help
If you need more help with limiting your phone use, there are lots of apps available, such as:
- Moment Screen Time Tracker – tracks how much you and your family use your phones each day. Set daily limits and screen free time for you and your family from the app.
- Onward – provides a customised coaching approach to reducing your phone usage. Block unwanted sites and apps, learn your triggers and how to manage them.
So lovely, do you want to get started with becoming less attached to your phone?
I’m certainly working on it. If you are too, let’s start with a plan.
What are 2 things you will do from today to become less attached to your phone?