It’s a wonderful thing when my family gets to sit down together and eat a meal together. I would love to say that I'm not checking my phone during our family breakfast, but that would be a lie. My husband and I both are navigating between responding to our kids’ questions, and checking our phones. Sure, it's not like we're just wasting our time solely scrolling through Instagram or Facebook; we are also checking and responding to emails, reading the news, and texting family or friends. But the more we are on our devices, the more disconnected we become from the present moment…quality time with our family.
On a date night with my husband, we do our best to go wireless but of course we want to check in with our sitter, my husband wants to check the score of whatever game he is missing, and so it goes on. The car ride to and from dinner often looks like this: my husband driving listening to something on the radio, while I am scrolling on my phone.
I have a love/hate relationship with my device. I love that every time I want to know something I can pick up my phone and find out. I love that anytime I am feeling bored or lonely I can text someone or post something on Facebook and “connect” with others.
I hate the dependency I have on my phone. I can't leave my home without it. I pick it up and look at it constantly. One might even say I'm addicted to it. But when I look around, at restaurants, parks, malls, I see that I'm not alone. Maybe we all are addicted?
When we are connecting to others through our devices, we are missing the expression on each other's faces. We are missing important parts of what each other are saying to one another, we are simply not fully present. And what message are we sending to our children by doing this? We worry about their addiction to electronics, television, iPads, and yet we set the example. When I was growing up, there was no such thing as a cell phone. I think about how different my childhood and adolescence would have been if there were.
So what can we do? What should we do? Like with any addiction, the first step is to recognize that there is a problem. Acknowledge that we just may be addicts to technology. Our children may also be addicted to their devices, television, videogames, and phones. We need to set limits and boundaries. We need to take breaks from our phone. We need to start looking at each other’s faces, look into one another’s eyes, and really listen to the people we are physically present with. We need to put our phones on silent and keep them in another room than the one that were in. We need to take walks or rides where we leave our phones at home. We need to stop being so co-dependent and be more mindful and present.
These are all great tips, but we all know how hard they can be to put into action. But if we don’t do anything, we will continue detaching and disconnecting from each other, and miss important moments that are happening our lives that we will never be able to replace.
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Nicole Wegweiser, LCSW