Rob, With the constant connection available on my smartphone (email, texts, social media, etc), I have lost my way. I notice that when I’m distracted or multi-tasking, it gives my children the approval to do the same with their smartphones. I’m trying to set better example for my family.
I’m really trying to work on not just “being there” physically but actively engaged when with my family. Can you give me tips on how to succeed on this?
From a Dr. Rob blog reader
Thanks for your response. You have identified a very serious concern, which is shared by many parents, and it’s a problem for me too. Last week while I was with my granddaughter, my son had to constantly remind me to put away my iPhone.
Constantly checking email, Facebook, ESPN.com, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. while with significant others is rapidly becoming an epidemic. Like many behaviors it is a mixed bag. Sometimes the Internet can bring us joy, as when we connect with our family through Facetime or text messages. Yet at other times, it can be a source of annoyance, disconnecting us from our loved ones. Here are a few tips, which may help.
- When with others, leave your phone in the car, or at home, or in a drawer – someplace out of reach, out of sight, and out of sound.
- Remove all social media apps from your cell phone so you only check social media when you are on your computer.
- If you break your own rules, have a negative consequence. For example if your kids catch you on your cell phone when you are with them, you’ll have to pay them a fine of one dollar per incident.
- Set a kitchen timer for at least 20 minutes when you will not look at any electronic media.
- Ask yourself how important is it ever that you have to be reached immediately. Would it really make a difference if you responded to a message an hour later vs. immediately?
- Recognize that by checking your phone while you are with your children, you are creating a habit for them, which will be extremely difficult for them to ever break.
- Similar to the ‘out of office message’ standard message, consider a ‘with my family’ messages so others will know that you will not be accessible until a later time.
- If you are in a leadership position, communicate with your direct reports that you will not be answering messages after work or on weekends. If you want to get serious, fine them for emailing you on non-work hours.
This is just scratching the surface. I’d like to know what tips others have in disengaging from electronics in staying fully present with their family.