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5 Times You Shouldn’t Be on Your Phone Around Your Kids

Friday, 9 October, 2020

Jana Dalby

You probably have a lot of expectations of your children when it comes to their cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices — and for good reason. Not only do you pay for these devices, but you’re also keenly aware of the dangers of too much screen time.

In the middle of the endless hurricane that is parenting, it can be easy to forget how easy it is for your personal habits to impact your kids. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not effective as a parenting model — which is why it’s so important to model the behavior you want to see from your kids. 

Kids learn by mimicking the behavior they see. If you see your child mirroring your worst phone habits, then it’s time to be more intentional about when and where you use your phone. Keep it, as well as other electronic devices, put away in the following situations:

1. On weekends and holidays

Weekends and holidays are meant to be times spent socializing with others, not buried in screens. Neglecting those around you to scroll through social media, respond to a few emails, or make a quick call can give your kids the wrong idea.

It’s also worth mentioning that kids, and especially younger kids, may have a tough time differentiating phone use for work and phone use for play: They might not understand that you need to monitor your email more frequently than they need to text their friends. 

If work must absolutely be done on a weekend or holiday, try to do it when there is a bit of downtime. Even if your colleague sends you a mission-critical email when your family is in the middle of the meal, feel free to ignore it. 

Whatever the circumstances, be transparent with your kids. Make the distinction between essential and optional usage, which encourages them to do so as well. 

2. When you’re outdoors together

Getting outdoors and unplugging can be extremely beneficial for kids, but it’s just as important for you. Plan outdoor activities and experiences as a family, and make it a point to put your phone away. Whether your idea of a day outdoors is laying by the pool or hiking at a nearby park doesn’t matter; what’s important is that you spend it engaged with each other. 

Even the slightest intrusion of screens can ruin the beauty of nature — and give your child implicit permission to whip out their device. Although it’s never a bad idea for someone to have a phone with them while you’re on a wilderness adventure, keep it turned off and put away. 

3. When you’re in the car

You’re already well aware of the dangers of being on the phone while driving. But with kids, using your phone in the car at all can give them the wrong impression. 

Do your best to disassociate the car and phone use altogether. Checking your phone at stoplights signals to your child that they should do the same once they get their license. You also don’t want your kids to think that it’s socially acceptable as a passenger to ignore the driver. An engaged passenger can help the driver navigate or watch out for other cars — something your child might need in their first few years behind the wheel. 

Treat time in the car as an opportunity for a heart-to-heart chat. How was their day? What did they learn at school? Who’s the latest pop music phenomenon you’re not hip enough to know about?

4. During your child’s games or performances

This one might sound obvious, but take a look around you at your kid’s next soccer game or band concert: How many other parents are looking down at their phones?

You may think that it’s no big deal to check your phone during a timeout of your teen’s basketball game. But when there’s no action on the court is one of the few opportunities your child has to look up in the stands to find you. Ask yourself: What kind of message does it send if they see you engrossed in your smartphone?

This kind of behavior teaches your child that it’s OK to prioritize their favorite app over others’ important events. If you really want to support someone at a game, concert, recital, you have to be fully there as a spectator — not splitting your attention with social media.

5. While they’re working on homework

You remember what homework feels like: time-consuming work you have to do while everyone else is having fun. No matter how dedicated or passionate your child is about a subject, it’s tough to stay the course after a long day. 

For your kid’s sake, avoid using your phone while they’re doing homework. Not only does it make them think about what they’re missing out on, but some kids may take it to mean you don’t care about their performance in school. 

If you must use your phone while your child is doing homework, go to a different room where they won’t be distracted. If it’s at all possible for you to wait, use this homework time as a teaching moment. Prioritize school work, and agree that when their homework is completed you can both indulge in a little screen time. 

When 96% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, your kids are going to see plenty of bad phone etiquette modeled for them. Try not to add to the problem. Always lead by example when it comes to using your phone at the appropriate time and place. Just following these simple guidelines can go a long way in helping your child establish a healthy relationship with their first phone.