When I had my first baby eight years ago, I didn’t have a smartphone. My fanciest technology was a Blackberry, which I used for work only. When I had my second baby two years later, I had upgraded to an iPhone.
The differences between my two children are immense, but the main difference as babies was their sleep habits. My oldest child slept through the night at seven weeks old. SEVEN WEEKS OLD! My second child still struggles to sleep through the night (at age 6).
Until she was two, this meant constant middle-of-the-night feeding and rocking. At some point, I turned to my iPhone during these seemingly endless hours. My greatest hope was that my West Coast friends would have good Facebook posts in the evening. While I don’t think rocking my baby with an iPhone has caused her any harm, a recent Super Soul Conversation with Oprah combined with a situation at church had me re-thinking my middle-of-the-night iPhone habit in a big way.
Oprah interviewed Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. I was enthralled by the entire conversation and plan to write about the book in a later post. Toward the end of the conversation, Oprah had one of her signature “ah ha” moments. Junger said that digital devices are starting to impact our relationships – at very young ages. He explained that it happens like this.
Young child: Crying for attention from parent
Parent: Looks at phone
Young child: Continues to ask for attention
Parent: Continues looking at phone
Young child: Starts to look at phone
Junger suspects that the child begins to think that if the phone is more interesting to their parent than they are, that they should start to pay attention to it, too.
This was a major “ah-ha” for me, especially since I was listening to the episode while my 6-year old was sitting in the back of the car watching her iPad. For the rest of the day I was super cognizant of my phone usage and I vowed not to be more interested in my phone than my kids.
The next day at church, a toddler caught sight of my purse. Along the side is a slim pocket where I keep my phone. The child saw the (barely visible) side of my phone and beelined toward my purse. He tried to get his chubby fingers into the pocket, but the tight fit and lack of coordination held him back. Hoping he didn’t know about permanence yet, I took the phone out of the exposed pocket and zipped it into the bigger pocket.
He continued standing next to me trying to unzip my purse. After a few moments, my husband took the purse and put it behind his back, yet the child stayed by my side, hopeful that my purse – along with the alluring phone – would reappear. When the next song started, I shrugged my shoulders at him suggesting the phone was “all gone” and he made his way back to his family. While I don’t know what device usage might look like in the child’s home, I was awestruck at this interaction given the insight from Junger the day before.
My phone is a key piece of equipment. As a business leader, entrepreneur, wife and mom, it is an extension of my body many days. However, I’m learning not to let it be my crutch. I’m learning to look up more than down at my phone.
What device has you hooked?
What’s your best advice on unplugging?
Where do you need help to reign in your digital habits?
In this year of meaningful connections, I’d love to help you with your struggles as well as share your advice. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your story or tips.
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