12 April 2013

Communication is key to mindful smart phone use when the kids are around

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Balancing work and family has gotten more complicated now that your email is with you everywhere you go.

Amy discovered a simple, respectful way to check her work email while spending time with her kids:

I'm not sure if this is a hack exactly, but it's improved my ability to balance being present with my kids while also being somewhat available to deal with work on my smart phone.

If I'm with my kids, but I need to check my work email, I say out loud that I'm taking out my phone to check my work messages but that I will be putting my phone away again in a minute. That way, my kids know that I'm not just randomly browsing on my phone, and I feel a bit more accountable to put the phone away again when I'm done.

It's fine to just poke around on my phone sometimes, but without paying a bit of attention to when and why I'm on my phone (letting my kids know out loud), it's easy to spend my time in ways that I really don't enjoy.

I think Amy's hack is extremely important. While in general I'm not a fan of multitasking (and I rarely check email on my phone), I do recognize that sometimes it's unavoidable.

I'm also a believer in the importance of letting our kids see the breadth of work we do, both paid and unpaid. In essence, every day can be "take your kids to work day."

Just a little communication with the kids in this way gets across a number of important things:

  • Family time is precious, and work inturruptions, while sometimes necessary, should be explained.
  • Smart phones are today's rabbit holes: one can easily fall in. By speaking up, you make a public commitment not to lose yourself to distraction.
  • You're modeling the conscious use of time...so important for kids growing up surrounded by electronic attention-grabbers.

Do you have rules (or even your own private guidelines) about using your phone while the kids are around?

Also: I thought hack was fascinating: this family attaches phones to roles (work vs. home), not people.

Your comments

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I really like this. My 3 year old has started asking me to put the phone away, and I feel so guilty when I hear her say that. I think this tip will help me.

Its a great point that Amy raised here.. I think you give a message to your kids when you spend too much time on your phone, that family time is not very important.

I've been doing this with the phone and the laptop at home, which is easy for my 3yo to understand because she has "work" that she needs to do quietly at her Montessori preschool, so she gets the idea that I need a couple of quiet minutes to do my work.

I see it as a sign of respect, too. I would do the same with a friend who was over here, rather than just ignoring them and pulling out my phone.

I really enjoyed reading this, probably because I completely agree with Amy! While I don't have my own kids I'm always babysitting my nephew! He's only three but he notices whenever I'm on my phone and gets upset. One time he even hid it! Now, I just keep it turned off when I'm around him but I feel like this hack is a very practical way to address this issue. Thanks!

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