Research shows we cannot really multi-task. What some of us are good at (particularly women!) is uni-tasking at a fast pace, constantly switching attention from task to task. While that skill may be helpful at times, and most workplaces will encourage it as you will appear busier and make the boss think you’re more productive, it is really a hindrance when it comes to relationships. It’s like there is always a presence in your home, intruding into your space either coming between you and your husband, not allowing you to be fully immersed in role-play with your toddler, or taking your attention from your daughter’s performance at the school play. It’s like you’re there, your body may even be pushing the swing in the playground, but your mind is not quite there. The lights are on but there is nobody home.
We are creating digital “orphans” in our modern and progressive families. The way we are choosing to use our attention towards digital “noise” means our kids are hungry for our attention and energy. Kids are great at picking up when you are pretending to listen, they will call you out on it too. I work with parents with tiny babies and these vulnerable beings can’t really communicate how lonely and helpless they feel when they are trying to get your attention but fail to secure it. Babies in particular have a strong need to be seen and felt by their primary attachment figures. It’s as though they don’t quite exist without the other to help them feel safe. Babies need to know there is an adult who is attuned and paying attention and will be able to meet their needs.
It’s not that iphones are bad and we should all unplug from the internet. There are so many benefits to be had from this virtual connectedness to information and people online. The problem is that we haven’t yet found a balanced way to responsibly use this new “toy” and for the mental wellbeing of our kids I hope we learn it fast.
Here are some tips for reducing time spent online:
- Don’t pick up your phone in the mornings until after you’ve had your shower and breakfast.
- Check Facebook and other distracting apps such as Instagram and Twitter only twice a day. Give yourself 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon and stick to it.
- Change the colour of your screen display to grey – it makes the phone overall less appealing.
- Disable ALL notifications. It makes a huge difference when you have to manually check information: and keep to twice a day whenever possible.
- Agree with your other half to place the phones on a shelf or separate room out of reach. Less tempting to check for messages compared to when it’s vibrating in your pocket.
- Put the phone on airplane mode 30 minutes before you go to bed – why not have pillow talk with your other half instead.
- When you have “quality time” with your baby or older children show how much you value that opportunity by leaving the phone elsewhere. Do you really need your phone when you go down to the playground?