I'm about to get really honest here. No one likes to admit their personal struggles, and this post opens me up to judgment from other moms, and probably a lot of teasing from those who know me. I'm hoping that my honesty will give me a level of accountability. Maybe you share the same difficulties as me, and we can work together!
Ok, here goes. I think I'm addicted to my smart-phone.
The epidemic of screentime addiction
There's been a lot of articles circulating about the dangers of excessive smart-phone use by young people. Bullying sneaks into the safety of our homes, constant comparison brings dissatisfaction, apps steal time, and even the light emitted by the screens disrupts sleep patterns. I've known all this for years. We have taken steps to ensure that our children have regulated screen time and limited access to social apps.
But who's regulating the adults? The new trend in tech awareness is that parents are becoming too dependant on their phones to get through the day. I think that I am one of them.
I ALWAYS have my phone on me. Part of that is practical. My husband and kids need to be able to reach me. When I'm babysitting, I keep in contact with the parents through my phone. Yet, my smart-phone is about so much more than calls and texts.
I absolutely love having a camera with me 24/7. (How many times in my teens did I wish I always had a camera handy?!)
I use my phone to pay bills and check emails.
As an author, I use my phone to stay connected with readers through social apps and my blog.
I have a Kindle app on my phone, so I use it to read books, a lovely option when I'm waiting for an appointment or on a kid's class.
I keep connected to family and friends through our personal social media pages.
I use Google to look up information All. The. Time. (One of my most-used apps!)
My maps app gets me where I need to go with the least amount of wrong turns.
I use my calculator more than you'd think!
My kids' teachers use an app to keep me in the loop.
I use Pinterest to look up new ideas for decor, cooking, and organization. As I walk around my house, almost every room has a project inspired by a pin on Pinterest!
My phone is my timer for cooking, my alarm clock, and reminds me of appointments.
I feel like I need my phone, and maybe I do. I'm not trying to get rid of the thing, but I must become more aware of all the ways that my phone uses up my time and even drains my mental health.
What is the problem with screentime anyway?
Maybe you're reading my list and wondering where the problem is. Chances are, your phone time looks similar. The problem lies when I feel like I need my phone to de-stress. The problem grows when I can't sit with my own thoughts without feeling bored. The problem becomes disgusting when my phone is the last thing I look at in the night and the first thing in the morning. The problem is wildly out of control when my kids come to talk to me, but I'm staring at my phone.
I'm pretty aware of my own emotional/internal workings. If I've been having a tough day and I eat a lot of chocolate, I can literally feel the chemicals beginning to work on my brain. I physically recognize that flood of “happy” hormones. I get a similar rush of happy feelings from my phone if I:
learn something intriguing
connect to a post, article, or video emotionally
feel connected to people through chats, “likes”, groups, or forums
When one of these three events happens to me, I feel less stressed, more happy, and for some strange reason, productive.
If I get on my phone and run through my usual apps and don't get one of those three “hits”, then I will keep going and going in subconscious desperation to find what I crave. I will begin to feel frazzled instead of relaxed, which drives me to stay on my phone. Hmmm, not good, right?
On a day where I'm feeling tired out (which, let's be real, is common!) I do quick checks on my phone in the middle of other activities like cooking supper or folding laundry. When I try to not peek at my phone for an entire activity, I feel deprived and frustrated. That was the final signal for me. I am hooked on my phone.
So now what? I actually do need my phone. I can't just toss it out. But this emotional dependence I have for my phone is hurting me, and I know it's hurting my family. I want to set a good example for my kids, and I want to connect with them. I don't want date nights to involve peeking at my social media apps, or to struggle to watch TV without simultaneously using my phone. (It's crazy!)
I decided that it was time to get healthy about my phone use. If you are also struggling with scheduling downtime from your phone, maybe these steps will work for you! I've been doing them for two weeks now. Some days are harder than others, but they are helping!
Pick your phone time.
I picked 3:25-7:30pm to take a screen break. That is the after-school hours up until the younger kids are in bed. I chose this time so that in the moments when the kids are tired and stressed, I am present and ready to be there for them.
Make your phone work for you.
I set an alarm on my phone to go off at 3:25pm. Then I open my phone and change my wallpaper screen to a reminder picture. That way, when my habit kicks in and I pick up my phone, I'm instantly reminded to put it back down! I save this reminder photo in my favorites so that I can change it quickly without getting distracted. I added the text “Chase their hearts” to remind me why I'm doing this. Scroll down for a couple of free lock screen pics that I made for you!
Plan your alternate de-stress tools.
This is so important! Breaking a habit is tough, and you're going to need something to fill the gap. I find hot drinks soothing. I also might read a book, talk to someone, or wrap up in a blanket. (Do we ever outgrow the comfort of a snuggly blanket?)
Remember why you're doing this.
Why do you want to have less screen time? Go and do whatever that thing is! I make sure to get in some after-school snuggles with the kids, we all have a healthy snack, and I spend some time catching up with what's going on in my kid's worlds. I also am actually productive, instead of getting a fake productivity emotion from my phone surfing. I tackle a bit of housework, help the kids do their homework, or check something off my to-do list.
There is one more step, and I think it's the most crucial: Enlist God's help.
The times where I'm really struggling to take a screen-break are the times where I'm trying to do it on my own strength. Habits are powerful things, and I know that the evil one uses my weaknesses to distract me from what really matters. I need prayer to beat this addiction. When that alarm goes off, I need to pray for God to help me. It really makes a huge difference. Why go it alone when God is willing to come along side you?
How has less screen time benefited me?
It's been two weeks of less screen time. I feel more connected to my family. I am more present and involved. I am sleeping better and waking up more refreshed. My house is cleaner, and supper usually ready on time. (Score!) My kids are better behaved because they don't need to make a fuss to break mom's focus on the screen.
I admit, I'm still struggling with the phone habit. When I've got nothing to do, my first instinct is to look at my phone. They say that 21 days is the minimum to form a good habit. Little by little, I know this will get easier.
So there we have it. Now you know. I am “that” mom. The one who struggles to get off her phone. I hope you'll extend me some grace as I try to find a healthy balance. Smart-phones are a wonderful blessing for education and connection! The goal here isn't to villainize technology, but to learn to use it in the right way.
I continue the conversation in this post: Kick the Need to Wake-up to Your Phone!
If you're in the same boat as me, I get it. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat! (Just remember, not during your screen break time, haha!)