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The use of devices in our family has been a slippery slope. In the early days, it was fun to watch our son’s reaction to the multitude of colours, characters and stimuli bursting from the screen.
It was amazing to watch as he deftly navigated his way around the screen to access different apps. We definitely felt we had a whizz on our hands. Hahaha!
Then, sometimes, during a busy day, I just felt like a break. Let’s face it, they are an effective baby sitter at times.
Next thing we knew, it became a habit.
Devices (particularly the iPad) are like a drug to my toddler. He is often focused on his next fix. If he sees someone else using one, he needs to have it. When he uses them, he sweats and becomes irritable afterwards… and when we try and pry the device out of his little hands, all hell breaks loose with the ensuing addictive rage.
We got to this point by not being present.
Without ignoring our devices altogether, what are we to do?
For me, it started with noticing.
Noticing when I tended to pick my phone up.
Noticing how I responded to a beep, buzz or update when was in the middle of something with loved ones.
Noticing whether I was glancing at my device when in the presence of beautiful, real-life human beings.
A bit like meditation. It is not about controlling one’s thoughts or trying to stop them… it is about having more awareness about when the thoughts arise, their quality and how we might respond to them.
During early motherhood (complete with joys and limitations), it is easy to feel that Fear Of Missing Out- also known as FOMO. Hopping onto Facebook or twitter helps us alleviate the FOMO.
For me, my phone enables me to ‘check out’ of being present at times of difficult feelings. It’s a sort of ‘walking away’ without physically leaving the room.
Therefore, as with everything the solution starts with us. First, we need to manage our OWN relationship with technology and FOMO. Then we can do the best we can with our kids.
Somehow, it is not even about controlling our children’s access to devices. It’s about showing our child what it looks like to live a balanced life with devices.
As always, it comes down to the annoying fact that it is about our own behavior first.
With that in mind, here are some top tips for device wrangling.
1. Be intentional: Set yourself an intention of how you want to tackle the balance of technology and never ending stream of social media happenings in your OWN daily life.
2. Be flexible: Release the guilt of not always living up to those intentions or limits that you set yourself. We can always begin again but new beginnings only happen with awareness.
3. Set boundaries: no devices during dinner, after 6pm, on Saturdays, in bed etc.
4. When the phone beeps… How do you choose to be present? It takes discipline. Can you lengthen the duration of time between the phone beeping and you attending to it?
5. If you reach for your device during difficult moments, what else can you do? Breathe consciously, drink a glass of water, connect with the feeling and be kind to yourself.
6. Enlist others to help you with your overuse of technology. Ask your partner to call you out if it seems like you are using your device too much. (Your kids will no doubt do that without being asked)!
Devices and technology are here to stay, so it is about creating a healthy balance around their position in our lives. When we take care of our own reactions to them, we can more creatively and effectively help our kids regulate their own behavior with them.
How about you? Do you find devices overwhelming in your household? What would be one small change you could make to change your relationship with them- other than throwing them out the window?