Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 03:29 pm

Break the habit and reclaim family time!

You need to put down the phone.

Does anyone like the feeling of being dismissed? Ignored? Unheard?

Does anyone like having to compete with a gadget for a loved one’s attention?

Of course not, but this is what we do to our kids every day.

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Turns out, they don’t like feeling ignored, either.

It seems to be a national pastime, complaining about kids on screens. We see kids at restaurants staring at their phones, not interacting. We watch them walk into traffic, completely unaware of their surroundings.

We know there is study after study about the increasing concerns of too much screen time.

But what about us? What about the adults? What about our smartphone habits? Are we handling our screen time well?

Not so much.

Smartphone addictions aren’t just for our young adults

Turns out, smart phone addictions aren’t just for our young adults. Adults are equally at risk for developing bad habits.

Dependence on a smartphone can produce addictive brain responses similar to drug, alcohol or gambling use. It is a powerful habit to break.

When we turn to our phone because we feel lonely or disconnected, we have a problem. When we can’t unplug or are lost without our phone, we are hooked. When we sleep with our phone, and check it first thing in the morning and last thing at night, there’s an issue.

And now it is now affecting how we parent.

A recent study shows that parents who reported a problematic use of cell phones, including checking them often, feeling lost without them and turning to their phones when they feel lonely, reported that their relationships with their kids were interrupted. These interruptions led the kids to act out, show aggressive behaviour or turn their feelings inward.

It is a delicate balance to strike: smartphones can keep us connected and smartphones can interrupt our relationships

Technology is changing the way we interact, the way we parent and the way we connect with our kids

It is a delicate balance to strike: smartphones can keep us connected and smartphones can interrupt our relationships.

As parents, we are aware of the pitfalls of too much screen time for our kids, but we forget that we, too, are at risk for all the same concerns we have for our kids: Too much time on our phone can lead to anxiety and depression, distraction, lack of sleep, alienating others and interrupted family time.

Our kids are watching us.

We can lecture our kids ‘til we’re blue in the face, but until we model healthy boundaries with our phones, our lectures will be in vain.

We must lead by example.

The price is too high. We can’t afford to make our kids feel any more anxious and alienated. Our kids need us, our families need us.

How to model healthy screen time limits for your kids

It may seem like a terrifying prospect, so here are nine ways to help you break your smartphone habit and model healthy screen time limits for you and your kids:

1. Don’t rely on willpower alone

Consider apps that lock your phone or tell you if you’ve gone over a self-imposed limit. Better yet, unplug or turn off your phone altogether.

Without the bells and whistles, reminders and vibrations, it will be easier to resist the temptation to look.

2. Charge your phone in another room when you go to sleep

Yes, this may mean having to use an old-fashioned alarm clock, but not checking your screen first and last thing each day helps you sleep better.

Our brain needs an hour before bed without the blue wavelength light of a screen in order to signal to our brain it is time to sleep.

Consider apps that lock your phone or tell you if you’ve gone over a self-imposed limit

3. Turn off notifications

Simplifying is the easiest way to reduce temptations.

4. Sign out of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, etc. after each use

The effort to sign back in gives you a pause to rethink your choices. Social media can be addictive – all of that validation and social interaction.

You know this, but as a reminder – the social interaction with your child is more important and ultimately more fulfilling.

Call or text a friend later if you need non-kid social stimulation.

5. Leave your phone in your work bag, briefcase or purse while at home

Leave the sound on so you can hear a call if you need to. Carrying your phone around makes it easier to be distracted and sends a powerful message to your kids that your phone is your most loved possession.

6. Stop googling everything

How many times has a good conversation come to a screeching halt when someone had to prove someone else wrong or instantly search for an answer to something?

Instead, enjoy the moment, use your critical thinking skills, have a bit of fun guessing what the answer is. Finish your conversations and keep connected. Search the web after your conversation has ended.

7. Do not allow phones at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table

Connect with your friends, family or fellow diners. Meals should be non-negotiable, gadget-free times.

Meals should be non-negotiable, gadget-free times

8. Boredom is a trigger; plan for it

Make a list of things you can do when you are bored, when you are used to checking your phone: Write a letter, call a friend, finish a project, clean out a drawer, read a book, play a quick game with your child.

Not every moment of the day needs to be filled. Sometimes the best thing we can plan to do during downtime is to simply smile at someone across from us or stare into the clouds, ponder and dream.

9. Make it into a game

For every successful self-imposed chunk of time you spend unplugged, reward yourself with points.

When you reach a certain number, celebrate by taking a family trip to the park or ice cream shop. Allow your kids to get in on the fun by reminding you when you slip up, and respect them when they do.

Increasingly, our reliance on smartphones is bringing anxiety and disconnection to our lives. Break the habit and reclaim family time.

Article by T-Ann Pierce, first feature on YourTango.