According to my iPhone’s new Screen Time app, I spent almost 40 hours on my phone last week.
I don’t even know what to think about this.
First I tried to justify it.
I use my phone to listen to the radio, which I often have playing in the background. Maybe that’s why? And my coaching work is phone based, so surely that falls under the “productivity” category, and productivity is a good thing, right? And 5 ½ of those hours were spent texting, which is communicating with my friends and family. You don’t expect me to do something drastic like actually calling them, do you?
But then I remembered something that made me realize how bad the situation is. I wasn’t on my phone for an entire day on Wednesday. It was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and my phone was turned off in the bottom of my bag all day.
Oof. Any way you cut it, This is bad, folks.
It’s time to redouble my efforts to spend waaaayyyyy less time on my phone. This is an ongoing struggle for me, but now I’ve got a new tool to work with: Apple’s new ScreenTime feature, which rolled out with the latest iOS update. (Some Android phones are also getting a similar update called Digital Wellbeing.) ScreenTime provides data on how much time you and your family are spending on your phones and what you’re all doing during that time. You can also set limits on various apps, and once you’ve had enough for a day, you can no longer access the app.
Now, perhaps you’re not yet convinced that screen time is such a bad thing. I get it. I mean, I got through this week and did my job and ran my errands and exercised and sort of played with my kids a little bit and worked on a blanket I’m crocheting. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that all of this phone time is changing my brain, and not for the better. All of the swiping and tapping and staring for a few seconds before swiping and tapping and staring all over again is making me more anxious, less creative, more irritable, and less present for actual real life.
And make no mistake about it; spending time on my phone makes it significantly more likely that I will lose my shit with my kids. And yes, I write about this connection and how to address it in my forthcoming book, HOW TO STOP LOSING YOUR SH*T WITH YOUR KIDS. (It will be published by Workman in the fall of 2019.)
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting we all burn our phones (although there are times when it is tempting). I’m just saying we need to spend a little (or a lot) less time on them. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who thinks this is a problem; there are a lot of resources out there for those of us who are struggling. Here’s a round-up of some recent posts and a new book that might be helpful.
In case you’re not yet convinced that your phone is a problem in your parenting:
Erika Christakis’ excellent piece on The Dangers of Distracted Parenting in The Atlantic.
This Romper piece reviewing recent research on how parental phone addictions may be fueling our kid’s bad behavior.
For more information about how to use the new iOS Screen Time feature, check out this piece on The Verge. Android users can read this piece on Google’s new Digital Wellbeing initiative. Here’s an article comparing the two.
And finally, here’s one parent’s write-up of how Screen Time helped her.
For more information on how to put down your damn phone:
This piece I wrote for The Washington Post’s On Parenting blog last year. Clearly, I need to go back and re-read and re-heed my own advice!