Today you are hard pressed to find a person under 35 that is not glued to their telephone. It is with them at all times, it is the first thing that is checked in the morning, and the last thing they look at when the close their eyes for bed. They rely upon it for news, weather, facts, socialization, gossip, "original" ideas, schedules, etc., basically they can barely remember how they functioned without it. The cost for this convenience is not cheap- yet most would give up food before thinking of "un-plugging". There are "app's" for absolutely everything- no need to cut coupons, watch shows or go to weight watchers. Some of these app's "ding" when a team scores a goal, or when a friends has uploaded to Facebook. Sounds like heaven huh? Well, not so fast.
My first indication that this may be a problem in my own life came several years ago during a trip to Boston with my children (all young adults). These "kids" have always been the best of friends and had NO PROBLEM talking.....in fact any one that knows us can attest to the fact that you are hard pressed to get a word in edgewise with them. On this day, I walked back from the bathroom and found all three on their phones, not a peep to each other! That was when it hit me- and the beginning of our "no phone zone" family policy. While there were lots of grumbles, they now will remind each other (often). I honestly hope they keep doing it forever, and with their own children. What are "no phone zones"? I'd think every family would make up their own- what matters to them. For me, it is when we are together as a group (a rarity), on a family vacation, holiday, special meal, etc. I feel that it is a way of saying "you, the people who are with me right now are important, you are not going to be here forever, or even in a few hours. I want to hear what you say, or I want to be able to see your face when you tell me a story. I want you to feel valued, and in return I want you to value me". I can do what ever I want to, and so can you- when this situation changes. Does it work always? No. Will I continue to try? Yes. Because it matters- family matters.
Be present? Yes, to be present means more than physically being next to a person. To be present you can't be doing something else while going through the motion of being with your child (or anyone for that matter). I dropped by the ball field last week and as I was searching out the bleachers, I can't tell you the number of adults that were on their telephones. Do you think your child doesn't see you? How about when they are telling you about their day, playing in the yard, or going to the beach.....are you actually WITH them? Are you talking, laughing, telling stories, or are you on your phone? You don't need to be a rocket scientist- and I can guarantee your child knows when you are distracted. In a discussion at an early childhood meeting last month, a young mother pointed out that all their child wants to do in the car is watch a movie or that when they are together the child doesn't talk to them. My suggestion is to keep trying- keep talking- keep being present. If this child has been "ssshhh"ed since they were born, they have learned that the best way for mutual happiness is to get the attention from something/somewhere else and let the adult deal "with more important things". Or maybe you know they other kind of child, those children that are just so wanting and needing of your attention that they are willing to misbehave to get your attention, because negative attention is better than no attention.
So be mindful- I'm not asking you to give your phones away, just be sure to give that living breathing human next to you the most precious gift of all- the gift of time. Your time. You will be amazed at how their language, their self worth, their happiness (and yours), and their social skills will improve with conversation.