This post was originally published on the Huffington Post
We all know that we are, or are fast becoming a generation addicited to our phone or device and I have little doubt that there are a plethora of posts out there about this very topic. So as part of my right of passage into the parenting blogosphere I am going to add my two pence worth into the mix…
Smart phones and or tablets are just that, they are an amazingly clever bit of kit, they can direct us in any part of the world via GPS, store our plane tickets, connect us to the big wide web at the touch of a button and can also double up as a camera, bank, book, a magazine, a TV you name it it can do it. When I got my first ever iPhone I was so busy checking out everything it could do I stopped and asked my other half, ‘um so how do I phone someone?’ . Yes I am that stupid.
I am now truely addicted to my iPhone and my iPad, you can run the world from one of these devices and it provides a crucial outlet, it is where I blog from, chat to my friends over What’s App or Messenger, where I email my dear old 82 year old granny who, yes you guessed it, has an iPad too. I spend a worryingly large amount of time glaring at one of these screens, so much so it is not uncommon that once the babies are in bed the other half and I sit on the sofa with the telly on, not watching it, faffing around on our iPads.
Shamefully I have come to realise that this screen contact time is not limited to the hours the babies are sleeping. My not yet two year old, asks for the iPad, knows how to open YouTube find the nursery rhymes she likes watching and flicks through them one by one. She can also open the photos and look through them, and when a message appears across the top of the screen, she simply flicks it off as an inconvenience. I heard the other day that more children can use an iPad before they can read and write when they start school. I do have some issues with this statistic, an iPad is after all a considerably easier skill to master than reading or writing for a four year old, but you get the point nonetheless.
I think it would be naive of me to totally forbid the use of the iPad but I do limit the time spent on it it. The iPad is out of reach during the daylight hours, neither her or I am allowed on it. The iPad resurfaces during the post bath, wind down time before bed, or the difficult witching hour, when I am placating two babies and preparing dinner for the family.
It has occurred to me however that whilst I have effectively limited my daughters screen time, I haven’t actually cut mine. Still attached to my person one way or another is my phone. I regularly check Facebook, Twitter, What’s App, upload photos to Instagram, check my stats, reply to emails. I dread to think how much time I actually spend looking at my phone and not my children. I know, saying it out loud makes me feel awful.
But shamefully my awful parenting doesn’t end there. Of late my daughter has been a little unsettled, she has been quick tempered, prone to melt downs and tantrums and she turns from a happy laughing toddler to a screaming snotty mess in a second. We have put this down to the most recent tooth (which I do believe there is some truth in), being tired, approaching the terrible twos, in fact all of those have some merit, but I think it goes a little further than that. I think I am over looking something. I wonder if the amount of time I am engaged in my phone and not wholeheartedly my kids is having more of an affect than I thought. Her brother is now 11 months and obviously also requires my attention, I wonder therefore, if she feels as though she is fighting him for my attention and when she is not fighting him, she is competing against my phone? She is only 22 months herself so cannot tell me. I discussed this with her father and we have decided that if it is the case then it is not unreasonable. After all how annoying is it when you’re sat to the table with your significant other or friend and they spend the time staring at their phone.
Now please do not get me wrong, I am not a total monster, I don’t just let my children run ragged and fend for themselves all day whilst I catch up over What’s App. We go out every day, we read books, we play in the garden or with their toy kitchen, we do have one on one time but perhaps not enough. I am also not saying the smart phone is the root of evil or the single cause of this difficult toddler phase we find ourselves in but we have decided we are going to make a conscious effort to leave all smart devices at the door. When my other half comes through the door of an evening, the left over work he has can wait till bed time, checking the footy or the headlines can wait till bed time. For my part, I will cut my phone time down, I will try keep it for nap times, bed times, emergencies etc. I am not saying I will go cold turkey (because sometimes all day everyday with two babies who don’t talk can be, dare I say it, a tad dull) but I will certainly be making a concerted effort to look at the phone less and the kids more.