For many millennial parents, “just putting the phone away” is not an easy option. I’ve previously written on this site how my three year-old daughter first inspired me to take better control of my smartphone use.
Today I’ve got five smartphone etiquette rules here that can help parents stay engaged with their kids, without suffering the anxiety that can come from trying to disconnect.
1. Picture your child’s future smartphone etiquette.
I’m starting with this one because this is where it started for me. My eldest daughter was just past two, talking, playing and asking lots of questions. I keep her company while she draws, plays make believe or watches cartoons. Usually my smartphone has been with me, so that I can chat with friends and family, amuse myself or play music for us.
I started to wonder how much she noticed my phone, and what she thought I was doing. I started to see myself through her eyes – sitting in the middle of what she considered a rousing game of fisher price farm, staring at a phone. What did she think I was doing, besides ignoring her?
I started to think about how I would feel when she turned 15 and wanted to be on her phone instead of interacting with me. How much would I miss her? How much would I resent it? How much would I wish I’d set better precedents for smartphone use in our home?
So from this mental exercise, my desire to reform my cell phone habits gave rise. I recommend considering the scenario yourself.
Picture your own young child, grown and using their phone around you, the way you use your phone around them. If the thought makes you uncomfortable, it may be the motivation you need to start making a change.
2. Give yourself phone breaks.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look at your phone sometimes. Lets be honest – we have them because they’re incredibly useful. If you’re able to step away and use your phone for a fraction of your baby-duty time, do so.
If you need to stay in the room, but want to use your phone, just tell your kids: “One minute, honey. Mommy needs to use her phone for a minute and then I can play.” Make it clear that you’re doing something for a defined period of time, and then you’ll be “back.”
3. When you use your phone, tell your child what you’re doing.
When I choose to keep my phone close, I tell my daughter what I’m using it for, and often invite her to watch. This goes back to setting a precedent of good phone etiquette in our family in the future.
I tell her who I’m messaging, what I’m looking for or what music I’m about to put on. This both helps her understand what my phone is all about.
It establishes a culture of open communication about phone use in our family, so that she knows she’ll be expected to share this information with me in the future as well.
4. Configure notification settings, and ask people to call.
Consider which applications on your phone need to be able to interrupt you, and why.
Say out loud to yourself “I need notifications from this App because…,” and if the reason sounds stupid, then turn them off. Most people can afford to pare notifications down to calls and text messages, and maybe email for work.
Take advantage of “Do Not Disturb” options, with exception settings for certain times of day or priority contacts.
Finally, let your friends and family know that if they need to get a hold of you to call. Its faster, simpler and makes more sense to your kids.
5. Have no-phone zones.
For me, these are the dinner table, the driver’s seat and bed.
Bed can be a stretch for some adults who use certain apps to help them fall asleep, need the alarm clock on their phone or want it close in case of emergencies.
I just don’t like the idea of my future teenage daughters in bed at night with a cell phone, and I want to be able to practice what I preach. Talk to your spouse and, if they’re old enough, your kids about when and where the smartphones go away.
For more tips on battling smartphone addiction, check out my blog post here. If you have tips of your own, please leave comments below.