Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


5 Reasons to Shove the Smartphone to the Back of the Junk Drawer

Photograph by Getty Images

I remember the exact moment that I decided to push back against the ever-present pull of social media.

I sat alone on my living room couch scrolling my Facebook feed for the first time in days. I looked up for a second and caught a moment of beauty outside my window. A tiny little hummingbird hovered in the butterfly bush as my daughter’s favorite squirrel stood on the fencing eating a peanut that she left outside the back door that very morning. I wanted to yell to the kids to come watch nature unfold in our backyard (a bit of a rarity in Los Angeles), but, alas, they were at school. I was alone with my thoughts once again.

I glanced back down at the glowing blue light in my hands and, acting on impulse, deleted the Facebook app from my phone. None of this matters, I thought, as I removed the distractions from my fingertips. Then I grabbed my coffee and my F. Scott Fitzgerald and retreated to my patio to live among the hummingbirds for a while.

RELATED: Letting Your Kids Watch TV Doesn’t Make You a Horrible Mom

In a perfect world, of course, I would remain 100 percent free from distraction. But the world isn’t perfect, and distraction can occur even without social media. I’m a creative thinker, my friends, and sometimes the ideas running through my mind are just as distracting as updates on a screen. I have to work to find a balance that works for me.

It’s time to hit the pause on technology for a moment and listen to our children.

But I started with cutting back my social media consumption. It was a decision made as much for my own personal sanity as it was made for the well-being of my kids. The constant input found within these outlets makes me edgy. When you put it all in perspective, 90 percent of it seems completely meaningless. So why would I want to waste my own time, or my children’s time with me, on meaningless banter? I wouldn’t. And yet, I still feel the pull at times.

In the annual “State of the Kid” survey released by Highlights.com and TODAY last week, 62 percent of kids between the ages of 6-12 answered “yes” when asked if parents are distracted when their children are trying to talk to them. The cellphone was cited as the biggest distraction. We can justify our reliance on the Smartphone as much as we want, but it’s time to hit the pause on technology for a moment and listen to our children. Their social interaction skills just might depend on it.

1. Happiness can’t be found behind a tiny screen.

Sure, you probably laughed at something you saw on Facebook today. You might even have tears streaming down your face after reading yet another list of funny autocorrects between parents and kids. But is that what makes you truly happy? Do you want your kids to grow up thinking that happiness only exists behind the screen?

Teach your children to get out there and find their own happiness.

2. Empathy is best conveyed in person.

Yes, condolence cards can be a great comfort during a difficult time, and empathy can be conveyed through the written word, but if you want your kids to learn to be empathic you have to prioritize human contact.

We express so much with our facial expressions and nonverbal cues. To live in a world of screens and updates is to miss out on the best part of the human experience — connecting with others and understanding how people feel.

3. Do as we do.

If we can’t live without constant connection, they won’t be able to, either.

We can preach to our kids about the negative impact of too much screen time all we want (headaches, sleep disturbance, lack of social skills), but if we are constantly glued to our phones, laptops and other devices, our children will learn a different lesson.

It’s a lot of pressure, I know. But our kids take their cues from us. If we can’t live without constant connection, they won’t be able to, either.

4. Multitasking is overrated (and ineffective).

The bad news is that multitasking isn’t actually a thing. I apologize if that changes your whole worldview, but the brain isn’t actually capable of “multitasking.” The brain is capable of “task switching” or switching between various tasks (I was writing an email, now I’m writing an article, in two minutes I will finish the email.) What psychologists have found is that task switching is actually a bit of a time-suck. In fact, you can lose up to 40 percent of your productivity if you task switch. It’s better to focus on one thing at a time.

Carve out time to complete your tasks when your kids aren’t standing at your feet trying to tell you about their day. You will all be better for it.

RELATED: 10 Signs You’re Raising a Digital Native

5. Quality time counts.

Parental guilt is a serious emotion. It’s hard to feel like you’re giving enough, doing enough and being enough each day. Stop trying to measure the time you spend with your kids against your other needs and commitments and focus on the quality of the time you spend with your kids, instead.

Be present when it’s kid time. Shut down the distractions and focus on one thing at a time. When we focus on quality over quantity, our relationships improve and our families thrive.

So go ahead and cut the lines for a while, you’ll catch up on BuzzFeed quizzes another day.

Share this on Facebook?

More from kids