A swimming teacher wrote of her horror and dismay at parents sitting on the sidelines of their child’s swimming lessons, eyes glued to their smartphones, oblivious to their child’s struggles and achievements.
My immediate reaction: So? They’ve quite possibly spent all morning, or all week, or every waking (and many sleeping) moment of the past five years watching their children, talking to their children, listening to their children, tidying up after, cleaning, feeding, disciplining, cuddling, teaching and just generally BEING WITH THEIR CHILDREN.
Why begrudge them a nice half hour to tune out?
And really, if they weren’t surfing the web on their smartphone, they’d probably be reading the newspaper. In fact, they’re probably reading a newspaper on their smartphone. But who cares. Leave them alone.
Recently I’ve started to worry about my own spiralling smartphone addiction. It’s a deep, fascinating and irresistible vortex where the ‘just one more post’ hunger is fed by the ‘You might also be interested in…’ section conveniently located at the bottom of every online article. Let’s face it, reading a funny story about how somebody else hates watching Dora for the fifty-billionth time is far more interesting than actually watching Dora for the fifty-billionth time.
I had started sneaking my screen into some rather unlikely situations.
‘Would you like me to get the play-doh out for you?’ Reading the news on my phone while supervising the kids creating the the next big thing in blob sculptures.
‘How about we play outside now?’ Checking Twitter while pushing the swings.
‘Sure, I’ll sit beside your bed until you fall asleep.’ Updating my Facebook status about how I’m so tired I’m worried I’ll fall asleep on the floor.
It was clearly time for a smartphone detox.
I’ve tried to kick the habit altogether. I put my phone away for a whole morning while I focussed on housework and the kids.
It went well until we hit a quiet patch. I sat down for a few minutes, got restless, wandered around in circles, sat down again. And turned on the television. Because that’s better than a smartphone.
I gave up, retrieved my phone and read a compelling blog about how everyone should detox their life and live without technology because it’s better for your mental health. Mm-hmm…
I’ve decided to compromise with the great wild Google yonder. It is certainly pleasant to have an uninterrupted couple of hours to get other things done and spend time with the kids. However if, like me, you think that your screen time is well-earned ‘me’ time and you’re not prepared to give it up entirely, I’ve come up with a few innovative tips on how to start your mini smartphone detox.
1. Freeze your phone
It works for credit cards, so why not phones? Before you go to bed, pop your phone in a watertight plastic bag, immerse it in water and place in the freezer. (Check the manufacturer’s advice first to ensure it can handle being in ice…).
In the morning, take it out, place it on the kitchen bench and watch the ice melt. This should give you a decent period of time before you can even think about updating Facebook about how annoyed you are that you can’t check Facebook yet.
2. Lock yourself out of your phone
Ask you partner to change your password before going to work. Have them call you during their morning coffee break to give you the new password.
3. Give your phone an outing
If your phone can’t handle being frozen, you don’t have a partner or your partner can’t be trusted to a) remember your new password and/or b) remember to call you before you implode from screen withdrawal, take your phone to the local pool.
No, don’t throw it in, that’s a little drastic (and possibly permanent).
Hire a locker for a couple of dollars, entrust it with your phone and take the kids to the park. No sneaky peaks at the latest red carpet trends while the kids topple off the slide.
4. Let your kids play hide and seek with your phone
This only works if you still have a landline – otherwise you may spend the rest of the month desperately searching through dirty laundry and sock drawers trying to find your phone.
Make sure you turn the ring tone up REALLY LOUD before you send the kids off to hide it. When your time is up, call the phone from the landline to locate it.
5. Download some really great kids’ apps
We’re talking Dora on an adventure to rescue the Angry Birds from evil Big Ted and Jemima. Find some really great games for the kids to play and I guarantee you’ll be lucky if you ever get a chance to use your own phone again.
6. Smartphone lock up
This option is for the diehard smartphone addict. Purchase yourself a high-tech safe with a time delay function. Set the timer for 120 minutes. Lock.
Unless you’re Macguyver, this should keep you separated from your phone and bonded to your ankle-biters for the duration.