How to stop looking at your phone

I listened to insanely powerful podcast the other day and just have to share it with others. It was an episode in the “3 for 30 Takeaway for Moms” podcast series. It’s title was, “How to Stop Looking at your Phone and Why it Matters So Much”.

I’ve written before about how guilty I feel when I catch myself mindlessly scrolling through my phone when I’m with Amelia. I know deep down that all of my attention should be on her, but phones can be so darn distracting! So sometimes I fall I into this trap…& I hate it. So, when I saw another mom post about this podcast I had to listen. It was everything I needed and more. It was a wake up call.

Dr. Katie Penry, a licensed clinical psychologist talks about children, their development, and how being on your phone impacts that. Here’s some interesting facts!

-Almost 80% of your child’s brain development happens from age 0-3 years, through consistent verbal and non-verbal interaction with their parents

-Look at your baby and attune to who they are and what they love–react to each other–Harvard Psychologists call this “Serve and Return”

-Daniel Stern, a renowned American psychologist, found that 70%-80% of the time that your baby is alert, he/she is looking at you

Think about that…..almost 80% of your child’s brain development happens from age 0-3 years through consistent interactions with their parents….& 70-80% of the time that your baby is awake, he/she is looking at you.

After I listened to this podcast, I put my phone down for an entire evening….& played purposefully with Amelia. We interacted, she looked at me so many times for approval or for my reaction, I made purposeful eye contact with her….this sounds ridiculous when I type it, because quite frankly it is….it felt so intentional, yet so right, and for that reason I felt so much guilt. Why have I ever allowed my phone to distract me from these precious, meaningful interactions with my daughter who needs my attention so much right now? For her brain development for god sakes!

You may have the image in your head of me just laying in the couch, constantly on my phone whenever I’m with her. This is not the case. However, occasionally, I was allowing my phone to win my attention over. Ugh.

What I liked most about this podcast was that Dr. Penry recognized that we can’t just throw away our phones or never use them again. We are very much in a society where they are needed, and can be used for positive things. Really, what she was saying, was just to simply lay some ground rules. Here they are…

1) Decide on some sacred spaces and places where you will not use your phone. (This matters more than arbitrary time limits for yourself). For example, she said you could choose while you’re breastfeeding, at the dinner table, or at the playground

2) Tell your kids what you are doing when you are looking at your phone. This holds you accountable for ONLY checking your email if that’s what you vocalize you’re going to do

3) Use your phone’s non-notification settings to help you be present at important times of day. I didn’t know this about our phones but you can set limits on screen time and set times that you don’t want to receive notifications

Dr. Penry tells a story about a two year old on the playground who was going down the slide for the first time. Instead of being present in the moment with her daughter as she went down the slide, this mom recorded it on her phone. Understandable, I’ve even been guilty of this (recording Amelia’s first steps). Instead of looking at her daughter, she looked at her daughter through the screen of a phone. A missed opportunity for connection. It makes total sense that our children are looking to our phones as a means to be seen. We so often look at our children through the lens of our phone that they’re picking up on that. No wonder why children are drawn to our phones…!

I’m not saying to never use your phone. What I’m saying is simply to be present with your child when you are with them. They really need you, for their development. In that one evening, I was shocked by how many times Amelia looked at me for approval. How sad that previously I had missed some of those moments because I was looking down at my phone and not at her. Moving forward, and making changes is what matters now!

I invite you to take the #lookupchallenge with me. Here is the link: 7 day look up challenge

Put down your phone, be more connected to your children, stop passively engaging your phone and be more purposeful in your actions!

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