I would like to share something a little more personal with you today, if you will allow me.
It seems almost ironic to me that less than a week ago, I posted about some of my favorite blogs and podcasts. A couple days after writing that post, I had to be on the road some for work. While driving down the interstate, I was listening to A Legacy of Faith podcast (episode 80)*. In it, they talked about taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture of parenting. What was it exactly that we should be trying to accomplish with our children? What were the truly important things we want them to learn and understand by the time they grow up? Was I allowing myself to get too frustrated over little things?
That caused me to reflect on how I was handling my job as a father to our three children, so I was already in the parenting mindset. Then the next podcast came on, and it basically slapped me in the face. It was The Hey Joe Show (part of The Light Network)**. On this particular episode, they were discussing “Distracted Parenting”. They really got into a good discussion on parents and cellphone usage. They talked about parents using their phones as an escape from reality for a few minutes as long as the children were occupied doing something else. They even gave an example of a parent on his or her phone, sitting on the bench at the playground while the children were having fun on the slides and other play equipment. While this may seem fine a normal, the parents are missing a great opportunity to make memories with their children. Come to think of it, memories are being made. The children will always remember how Mom and Dad were on their phones while they went to play.
This is where it may get a little more personal. I wouldn’t say that I’m addicted to my phone, but I have it with me at all times, even around the house. If I don’t have it on me for longer than 20-30 minutes, I go looking for it afraid that I’ve missed a call, text message, or Facebook message. While I want to justify my time on it as being things that are important to do, I find myself scrolling through Facebook way too much. If I have a few minutes sitting down, I will usually pull out my phone to check the latest updates, even if it’s just for a few seconds.
In the middle of listening to that podcast, I turned it off while I was driving. I wanted to call and ask each of my kids a question. They homeschool, so I knew they would be home and enjoy a break from school for a minute. I thought I knew the answers they would give, but I wanted to hear it for myself.
My son (6 years old) answered the phone, and I asked him, “If there is one thing that I do that you don’t like and you wish I would stop, what would that one thing be?” I had to explain to him for a second what that meant, but then came the answer I was expecting to hear, and it hurt to hear it. “Daddy, I wish you wouldn’t get on the computer as much.” I asked him, “Why do you want me off the computer?” “Because I want us to play together more.”
I asked next to talk to his little sister (who is 5). I asked her the same question. Her answer was eerily the same. “I wish you would get off the computer and your phone.” “Why do you want me to get off of them?” “I want to play with you.”
Finally, I asked my oldest daughter (8 years old). I was really interested to hear her response because she is beginning to think and communicate on a deeper level. She was given the same two questions. “I want you to get off your phone.” Why? “Because I want to spend more time with you.”
That came from the mouths of children. I am 34 years old, and just on the cuff of the Millennial generation (close enough to the edge that I like to consider myself in Generation Y). My children fall into what is now called Generation Z. Many times, we accuse the children of this generation of not being able to communicate without a screen in front of them. We accuse them of requiring constant entertainment or stimulus. However, where do we think these kids have learned it? It has come from us, their parents, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents. They see us with some type of an electronic device constantly on our hip or in our hands. It’s natural for them to assume that electronics are a central part of social interaction because they see us doing it.
As I’m sure many of you do as well, I have always justified my time on my phone or on the computer as being important and necessary. I have things that need to get done, and the electronics make it easier. Plus, if I’ve had a hard day at work, I sometimes just want to sit down and unwind for a few minutes, so doing something mindless like looking at Facebook allows me to do that.
But what impression are we leaving on the lives of our children? Are we leaving them to grow up playing by themselves? Are we teaching them that they are to leave Mommy and Daddy alone because they are always busy (even though they may really be playing Candy Crush)? Are we showing them that you should always have something to entertain you so that you are never bored? Are we showing them that personal interaction is a thing of the past?
I have made a commitment to myself that I will stay off of electronics as much as possible when I am around my family (and yes, I am typing this while I am home by myself). When I get home from work, my children and my wife (and not my phone) will get my attention. If there is something extremely important that needs to be done or handled, I’ll let them know what I am doing. If it’s a hobby or something fun that I want to work on, then I can do it when they are in bed or get up earlier in the morning to do it before I go to work. If I’m not willing to sacrifice a little sleep for it, then it probably was not that important to start with.
I encourage you to take a look at how much time you spend on your phone. If you have an iPhone and want to go a little deeper, look at the “Battery” under your phone’s Settings, and it will show you the amount of time you have spent on each app in the last 24 hours and the last 7 days. I just looked at mine, and it shows I have been on Facebook for 7.9 hours in the last 7 days. That would be 410.8 hours over the course of a year. Imagine how many times I could have played tag with my kids. Imagine how many conversations I could have had with my wife. Imagine how much work I could have got done around the house to help relieve everyone’s stress. Imagine how many times I could have gone to visit someone who was sick.
I commit now to change that. I challenge you to do the same.
* A Legacy of Faith, the Podcast: Episode 80 (http://www.faughnfamily.com/pod80/)
** The Hey Joe Show, Season 2, Episode 8 (http://thelightnetwork.tv/heyjoes2e8/)