I use to spend way too much time on my phone, and you probably do it too.
But by altering my daily habitual routine I successfully managed to come out of its dangerous trap.
“Most people check their phone every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications,” Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, tells CNBC. “We’ve built up this layer of anxiety surrounding our use of technology, that if we don’t check in as often as we think we should, we’re missing out.”
Rosen’s research has shown that besides increasing anxiousness, the compulsion to check notifications and feeds interferes with people’s ability to focus.
With that said, all of us suffer from this habit of checking our phones mindlessly. But today I want to focus on how bad it is and how worse it can become if we don’t come out with a solution to restrain our growing kids from using mobile phones.
I am sure, all those parents who are running their households as a nuclear family would understand this better. What happens when you come back from your office, especially if both the parents are working?
You want to relax and wish your kids to mind their own business without disturbing you. You want them to remain engaged. But what do they have to keep themselves engaged with other than the electronic gadgets you have at your place, most easily available being the mobile phones.
What happens when your friends come over to your place?
You want to interact with them and your young kids would just not agree to leave you in your space with your friends. You hand over your mobile phones to somehow manage them to keep them away. Over a period of time, they realize and hence manipulate you to give up, especially on all such occasions.
What happens when you are driving and want to engage in a conversation with your spouse, with your young kids sitting behind?
You hand over your mobile phones to keep them away from disturbing you.
What happens when you wish to complete your pending office work and want your kids not to disturb you?
You hand over your mobile phones to avoid them from disturbing you.
All of this happens when you want to stay free or when you want to engage in something extremely important.
What about those moments when you have nothing important to do and you still keep checking your phones every fifteen minutes.
You are in a way displaying an unwanted, dangerous and simply useless habit in front of your kids, who over a period of time start emulating you.
This is a situation with which all of us are getting hugely impacted. But have we thought how to disengage our kids from getting into this habit and hence save them from the enormous amount of harm it can cause?
I think we should. And therefore I am listing a few ways which can help you and your children from the growing menace of mindless use of mobile phones.
- First thing first, check how many hours as parents do you spend with your kids without any gadget. Start taking out time, at least an hour every day, and engage with them. You can engage them in an outdoor activity, any sports, game, or just take them out in the kids playing area and watch them play. Mind it; you too will have to leave your phone behind at home. If outdoor activity is not possible every day, engage with them in an indoor game like board games, chess, carom, or simply guide them on how to do better coloring, painting or telling them about some interesting book from the Goodreads list.
- Once you are back from the office, try keeping your phone away, in an out of reach area. If your job demands to check emails or messages frequently even after office, try maintaining a schedule. Check your phone every one hour for five minutes and then keep it away. If your job is not so demanding, put off all the notification buttons, alerts and turn it into ‘only a phone call’ mobile to receive important incoming calls.
- If you want to reduce the mindless checking of phones every fifteen minutes, reduce your social media network use to only two applications and that too use only every two hours.
- To keep yourself and hence your kids away from the mobile phones most of the time, we should first understand what all as a device it does for us. It is basically a device that has transformed into its current state from being a calling device when it was first invented. So it would still be required for that.
As a text messaging device also it should continue to serve us, although we can use laptops if the message is professional and does not require an immediate or a quick reply back.
The smartphones these days provide us apps that help us watch movies on live streaming or may be downloaded ones on the video player. We can restrict ourselves and watch anything that is a movie, a show or a web series only on our smart televisions. This would not only keep us away from our phones for two-three hours at a stretch but also reduce our chances of watching shows altogether because our mobility would get reduced. We would hence reduce our total screen time also.
For young children, the excessive screen time robs them off required physical activity and much-needed sleep. Being head down on the screen while watching it might be harmful to their brain development. A Dan Siegel of Mindful awareness research center thinks it may impede language and social development as well. It says it can delay expressive language in 19 months old.
We use music apps to listen to music on the go, which I believe we can continue to do so but under strict discipline. We should not keep our headphones hanging, especially those Bluetooth wireless headphones which come these days. It leads to extensive use. Not many of us know but bluetooth wireless headphones have potential health risks because of chronic EMF exposure and can cause cancer, genetic damages, neurological disorders, learning and memory deficits, and reproductive issues.
We use phones to check the time, set alarm, check the calendar and trust you me all of these can be used otherwise also. You simply need to have a wristwatch when you are traveling, a wall clock at home and office, a table clock to set alarm and a physical calendar on your study table at home and office to plan your days, weeks or months.
We use phones to access the internet for checking e-mails and browsing the internet for various reasons. Again this too cannot be easily replaced. But yes, we can always maintain a discipline of using laptops and mobiles as per the requirement of the internet, with an objective in our mind to keep the use of the phones at the minimum. Avoiding their use at home or keeping it to the least minimum would help us greatly.
With e-commerce at its extreme high, most of us these days shop online, which has again exponentially increased our screen time. Be it the clothes, gadgets, books, shoes, grocery items, everything can be ordered online. And because many of us are in a habit of doing window shopping, we do that online also. Try shopping through your laptop, and your screen time on the phone and the overall screen time would get significantly reduced.
- If you are in a habit of reading books through your kindle reader or some other eReader, stop doing that and instead read physical books. Not only read but read out to your kids through physical books. This too would keep them away from phones and hence reduce the screen time. Use eReaders when you are traveling and don’t want to carry the weight of physical books.
- Help your children cultivate the habit of engaging in a physical game in the playground and not on video games on phones. Although there are scientific studies that claim that playing video games can change the brain regions for attention and visuospatial skills and make them more efficient but there is something which we ignore, a kind of an addiction known as internet gaming disorder. It is something that makes functional and structural alterations in the neural reward system and increases our cravings as it does in any other harmful addiction.
I believe these tips and reasons would help you in some way and make your life better and healthier.