Have you ever looked around the room and realised EVERY SINGLE PERSON is looking down… at their phone! I know this topic of conversation has been making the rounds in the media lately, with many arguing both the positives and negatives for the change in our communication styles due to technological advances (for example: Gary Turk’s “Look Up” video, or it’s corresponding negative rebuttal). Believe me, I am just as guilty as many others when it comes to focusing way too much attention on my smart phone! I have often found myself sitting on the couch looking at my phone, with MH sitting and gurgling away to herself on the rug at my feet, and the LM engaged in imaginative play in his “kitchen”. I know it’s wonderful to have times when our children can play independently, but shouldn’t I also be basking in this peacefulness and admiring it from the outside in? Or better still, putting my time to productive use by doing something creative myself (eg. baking – which I love!). I know, I know… herein lies the problem. Smart devices can also be creative and productive and a very resourceful use of one’s time. Connecting with people via our devices can also be of absolute benefit, as can the opportunity to shop online, etc. I fully appreciate these good points, my personal struggle is more the timing with which I find myself giving my attention to my phone… In situations where I feel it may actually be creating a negative perception for my children about what is “normal” when it comes to communication. It’s this feeling I am not at all comfortable with.
So all extremist viewpoints aside, my fear is that we as a society are losing sight of the basic skills required in human communication – general courtesy, respect, eye-contact, physical empathy, etc. I suppose people could argue that communication is simply changing and I need to “get with the program”, but I struggle to see how such physically alienating behaviours can be a good thing? We’ve all seen the posts on Facebook about “Being an 80’s Kid” or “Living in the 90’s” where outside play was the norm, we rode bikes, made “cubbies”, and helicopter parenting was unheard of. It’s this physical level of human interaction I’m frightened my children will not have the pleasure of knowing or experiencing as they grow-up. Kids don’t “hang out” in the street with other kids anymore (I’m hoping you understand my context), some of us barely know our neighbours (and don’t really want to). I fear we’ve simply lost sight of our innate ability to connect with others on a physical level and as a result we are (as a society) in danger of losing the ability to empathise and genuinely “be” with other people.
It’s a tough topic to write about because I am so very aware of how diverse peoples opinions around this issue (or non-issue) are… So, with all of this in mind, the questions I’ve been asking myself lately have been: How can I make this change in “smart device” communication sit comfortably for me? What examples am I showing my children in day-to-day life? What can I change in my own behaviour to ensure my children know what I value in communication? I realised that whilst I can’t control everyone else, I most certainly can control my own behaviour around what I am physically role-modelling to my children. A very powerful (and “common sense”) realisation! Then I thought about how my HF and I could do this and hold each other accountable, without arguing endlessly, for the benefit of both ourselves and our family… And it was this challenge we decided to put to each other:
Are we able to commit to putting our technological devices down (be they smartphones, ipads, ipods – whatever!) for those times of the day spent with our children, and in social interactions with others, when our our quality time and attention is absolutely deserved?
And our answer was simply… YES!
So how about this for a plan, we are going to:
1. Place our devices on the kitchen bench (in an allocated spot) and leave them there – ignored and unattended! If a device needs to be looked at, we must do so standing at the kitchen bench (to make it uncomfortable – no more lazing on the couch, laying in bed, etc).
2. Devices can only be looked at when all activities with the LM and MH have been completed. Note: we have agreed this includes phone calls (people can leave a message and we can phone them back), however this obviously may need to be on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the call and what we’re in the middle of doing.
3. After the children are in bed, devices remain on the kitchen bench and can be checked as required.
4. Smart devices can be placed on charge, but are not to be used, in the bedroom.
It’s only 4 simple challenges, right? But I know that as much as I want for this to happen, I also know it’s going to be extremely hard to put into place and maintain. I guess what we’re hoping is that sooner, rather than later, it will feel more a “chore” to check our devices, rather than the all-day-every-day default behaviour it’s inevitably become for us. Our goal is to improve and enhance the quality and amount of time we devote to our children, and each other, and extend that experience to those we socialise with (in that our smart devices will no longer make public appearances unless absolutely required). What do you think? Is it unrealistic? Can we do it? I’m not sure, but I’m sure as heck going to give it a try! I look forward to providing you an update soon.
EDITED (31st July, 2014): I recently saw this post on Facebook and couldn’t believe what I was reading (but then strangely, I could believe it!). If we didn’t need proof before as to why we should be putting down our phones and paying attention to the company, atmosphere, and life happening all around us then we certainly have it now… This is most definitely my biggest DISLIKE of the modern world. Article link: http://themetapicture.com/people-kept-complaining-this-restaurant-sucked-look-what-they-found-out/