Before I was a mom, I had all kinds of ideas about how I would parent. No television. Limited processed foods. And I certainly wouldn’t stand for a tantrum in the grocery store. (Hah! I was so funny back then.)
Now that my son’s 20 months – and I’ve been living in survival mode for the past couple of years – I’m happy if he’s content, even if it means he’s eating goldfish crackers while dancing to an inappropriate top 40 song.
All of my naïve parenting plans have gone out the window and I don’t feel bad about that. One thing I did not consider, though, was my screen time in the presence of my kid. And I need to make a change.
I’m going to be honest, I often find my face in my phone when I’m hanging out with my toddler – during play time, bath time and even dinner time. I justify this because I have to do my banking, my work is on my phone, and maybe I have to Google my kid’s rash, or cough, or whatever ailment he has that day, before he goes to bed.
I think I became more dependent on my phone when he was a newborn. I had a million mom questions that only the internet could answer, and I would multitask and search on my phone while breastfeeding. I also needed to connect with other adults (shout out to my mommy friends group chat) for support, advice, and let’s be real – sanity.
Now, I am trying to fit in a full day of work (no more consuming than being a stay-at-home parent) and take care of my son’s needs, with a very limited window to handle anything in my own life. Parent problems, right? This means I’m trying to check out the news, make an online purchase or post an adorable Instagram photo during my time with him – on my phone.
But what does this look like to my son? He’s at a critical stage of development, absorbing everything like a sponge, learning how to interact with the world by reading my social and emotional cues. I’m not talking about my Facebook post with emojis. I’m talking about my real, physical presence.
Early Childhood Development research shows that babies and toddlers need a responsive environment where they can emotionally bond with caregivers and interact with the physical world around them. When I’m buried in my phone, he might as well be learning to interact with a wall. He feels unimportant and ignored.
I’m not saying that I’ve neglected my son, but I think I can do better for him. I’ve set a goal to stay off my phone during our time together. For me, this means physically leaving it in another room so I’m not tempted by every ping, buzz or glance. I’ve decided that I don’t need to live tweet my life or document every precious moment with a photo (hey brain, it’s up to you to store those memories now). Maybe my kid will unlearn that a smartphone is a trigger for saying the word “cheese!”.
What is your relationship with your favourite device? How does it impact your kids? I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs to do a check in here. I’d encourage tips for ditching the device in the comments.
If we don’t make these changes when our kids are little, I think we might be impacting their development, perception of the world and their own dependence on these almighty devices. At the very least, we won’t have much traction in telling our kids to put their own phones away at the dinner table.