By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Executive Editor, Parenting Content
If you own a smartphone, chances are, you love it. You take pictures of your kids, stay in touch with friends and family, keep up with the news, and text your spouse reminders to pick up milk. It's likely never more than an arm's reach away, and it probably even journeys into the bathroom with you. It's 2016, and that's totally normal.
But despite your love for your phone, you probably also feel guilty about using it around your kids too much. You've heard experts predict the end of human connection thanks to iPhones, and you don't want to be lumped in with the parents who ignore their kids during dinner because they're absorbed in Candy Crush. And while science hasn't proven anything yet, it's likely that today's parents are a bit more distracted than they used to be.
So how can we embrace modern parenting, with the magic of technology at our fingertips, while still being responsible parents who aren't too addicted to their little devices?
It's all about taking control over your phone instead of letting it control you. In a nutshell: Put down your phone.
One of the benefits of modern technology is that you can be at your kid's soccer game and respond to emails from the boss at the same time. But the experience is lost if you're so distracted by work that you miss your kid score a goal. If your job is flexible enough, decide to only check email every 15 or 30 minutes. Your boss may even OK that hour off, since many companies are realizing that a good work-life balance results in employees who are happier, more loyal, and more productive.
Phones have become so embedded in our lives that checking email or Twitter or baseball scores has become a habit. If you have any doubt about how addicted you are to your phone, try leaving it at home one day. You might be surprised at how often you reach for it (and then realize you actually can get along fine without it). To keep your phone use in check -- especially around your kids -- try creating new habits. First, disable all but the most crucial notifications that keep you constantly looking at your phone. And then, before you check your phone, ask yourself: Why am I checking my phone? If you don't have a good reason, put it down.
Be a Role Model
Don't you hate being ignored by someone who's staring at their phone? It's annoying, to say the least. And that's just how your kids feel when they see you staring at your tiny screen when they're trying to show you their new dance moves. Two tips: First, narrate what you're doing on the phone. Kids might not be able to tell that you're looking up directions to their friend's birthday party unless you tell them. Second, if you really are ignoring them while you play Candy Crush Soda Saga or "research" old boyfriends on Facebook, it might be time to rethink when and where you use your phone. If you limit your extracurricular phone time, you'll be better able to expect the same from your kids.
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