Putting Down Your Smartphone Will Make You a Better Parent

Put down your iPhone, your Galaxy, or whichever smart device you happen to favor. You’ll be happier, healthier, and will be a better role model for your kids.

We look at our phones approximately 47 times a day, on average, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey. If you’re between 18 and 24, chances are you’re looking at your phone around 82 times a day. If you sleep eight hours a day, you’re looking at your phone every 11 minutes. And those eight hours of sleep aren’t even phone-free – half of us check our phones in the middle of the night.

Here are five reasons why you need to put down your phone:

  1. It disrupts your thought processes and make you a distracted parent, friend, partner, and co-worker. If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who is looking at their phone – email or internet, it doesn’t really matter – chances are they didn’t hear half of what you said. Not only are we distracted when we’re looking at our phones, the minute we have any downtime, we pick them back up, so we never really have a peaceful moment for our brains to reset or wander (which is when all the good stuff happens!), throughout our busy days.
  2. You’re setting a bad example for your kids –  no matter what parents tell their kids or themselves, kids mimic parents. Period. If you have your phone at dinner, not only are you telling your kids that they aren’t worthy of your full attention, you’re telling them that it’s okay for them to check their technology all the time.
  3. You’re increasing your likelihood of depression and leading your kids down a path where they may feel depressed too. Studies have shown that the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that study participants who checked social media most frequently were 2.7 times more likely to have depression. This may be to be due to the comparison effect – seeing our friends doing great things on Facebook and Instagram and feeling worse about ourselves in comparison – or the time suck that is social media making us stressed out about the other twenty things we could have accomplished during that surf session.
  4. It keeps you from developing real relationships, with your kids, with your co-workers, with your friends. How can you look anyone in the eye when you’re staring down at your cell phone? How much are you really paying attention to what they’re saying when you’re staring down at your cell phone? Think about all of the time you’re wasting looking at the online news or the results of your high school “friend’s” child’s baseball tournament last weekend. Prioritize and put your family and friends first.
  5. The internet is actually addictive. You wouldn’t encourage, either tacitly or overtly, your children to develop an alcohol or drug addiction, so why is giving them free reign to the internet okay? FMRI imaging of the brain shows that, like drinking and drugs, internet use releases dopamine which produces a euphoric effect. Not only can this addiction could become a crutch for your children later in life, over time the brain adapts to make the addictive activity less pleasurable, requiring us to do more of it to get the same feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Soon twenty likes on Instagram aren’t enough and we need more.

Eighty-one percent of us spend time looking at our phones while eating out in restaurants. That means that only 19% of us are truly engaged in our dinner conversations and with our dinner companions throughout the entire meal.
Next time you sit down to dinner, leave your phone on the charger, on your desk, or in your bag. What’s the worst that could happen? You miss a work email that most likely can wait until after dinner? You miss some headline news that doesn’t effect you directly anyway? You wait an hour and a half to “like” your brother’s social media post? I promise you, he will understand. If 100% of us make it our goal to spend dinner time completely focused on our kids, our partners, and our friends, imagine how much happier and healthier we will all be.