Focusing on You: Put Down the Screen

Hello Readers!  I don’t know how old any of you are, but I’m going to guess that some of you-if not most-can remember a time in your life when you didn’t have a cell phone.  And if you can’t remember that, you may possibly remember a time that you didn’t have text messaging, data packages, 4G, or LTE discussions and negotiations when you signed up for your cell phone.  I’m sure you can remember the days of Nokia phones and when the Moto Razr phone was da bomb! (And, yes, I know I’m dating myself right there.  That’s the point.)

Personally, I can remember when I got my first phone, a blue Motorola phone with an antenna, at eighteen.  I was so cool!  I was eighteen with my own phone, at that was in 2001 when most kids my age (in my hometown, of course) were just starting to ask for cell phones.  Two years later, I can remember having coffee with a friend and discussing text messaging, which was a new concept in 2003, and my only response to it was “why would I ever need to type a message when it’s just as easy to call with that message?”

Fast forward to today, however.  I’m 33.  I’m on my 4th smart phone.  My husband has one as well.  We have a tablet, a relatively new purchase in our household that was a godsend for me when my phone crashed a few weeks ago and had to be sent back to the manufacturer for a few weeks.  We have two laptops (main ones, anyway) plus a desktop (a gamer-quality hard drive my husband purchased before we were married).  We have a smart television, X-Box One and 360, and a Roku 4.  Everything in our house is connected to our WiFi; we are always connected to the Internet in some way.

But, when my phone was down, I was actually surprised by my reaction.  At first I was in shock.  When we found out it was a manufacture error and it had completely crashed (much like a laptop hard drive crash), I was okay sending it off and being without a phone (even a simple one) while it was down.  Actually, I was upset because I had lost all videos and photos of Sean since practically birth (other than the ones on social media and shared with others).  But I was okay with not having my phone.  Maybe it was because I knew I could still connect using our tablet and the computers (and the television, if push came to shove).  Still, the tablet isn’t on a provider plan and won’t work outside of our home.  And, as many in my life were quick to point out, what if I needed to call for emergency personnel?

While that was an issue (since we have no landline), I was actually surprised at how easy it was to go without being connected all the time.  We went to dinner a couple of times, we went on drives, we visited friends and family.  And the entire time I couldn’t look at my social feed.  I couldn’t always browse Pinterest when I was bored.  I couldn’t search through Wayfair or Zulilly for inspiration or things I want.  And I was okay with that.

But I also noticed the use of cell phones around me.  Even before my phone died, even before I was engaged, I noticed how many parents took advantage of their time with their kids.  My husband, at the time my boyfriend, and I would go out to eat at various restaurants; no matter where we went or at what time we went, I always noticed that the kids who acted up sat with parents who stared at their phones the entire time.  Or, I would see kids stare at their parents while their mom and/or dad would be staring at their screens.  And every time I saw it I always said the same thing, “What’s wrong with people today?  Are we that socially stunted that we can’t even go one meal without our social feeds?”

Even then I had a rule: no phones at the table.  We still stick to this rule, even more so now that we have Sean, and the few times we do stray away we do so away from Sean.  To us, it’s more important to engage with each other and as a family than it is to catch up on social media.  The social feed will always be there, and no one is going to care that you weren’t connected to your feed every waking second.  But your time with your kids is fleeting.  Every day I am told to enjoy my son’s childhood while it lasts because it won’t be long before he’s too big to cuddle or to hold.  It’s the same for everyone.

And if that isn’t enough, think about what lesson you’re teaching your children.  Do you want them to spend their lives connected to a machine and remembering nothing but you staring at your phone?  Or would you rather they spend their lives engaging with the world and sharing memories of family meals and quality time with you?  To me, that’s what matters the most.  My social media friends mostly post memes and articles nowadays anyway; half the time my Facebook feed is filled with suggested posts rather than true content.  Only a handful of my friends have anything worth reading or responding to anymore.  So, who’s going to notice that I didn’t respond to their meme today?  Who’s going to care?  No one, really.

But, my son is going to remember that I favored a screen over him.  He’s going to remember my lack of words while I stared at my phone.  And, frankly, I’d rather watch him grow up than read another political message right now.  So, I urge you to put your phones down for meal times and engage your children in conversation.  Even in infancy, family meals and conversation at the table are important because they teach socialization and proper table manners.  Put down the screen and focus on what’s important to you.  If it isn’t your family, then you may want to rethink your priorities.

So, tell me Readers, what are your thoughts on your own screen time?  I would love to hear from you.

Until next time,

-BBM

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