“Put That Cell Phone Down Now!”

Posted on July 20, 2017

As much as we look forward to breaking the monotony of our daily routine over the summer, a new routine can be extremely challenging for parents. Yes, we get a break from the daily grind and the emotional load of school-year life, but when kids have more free time, we can be overwhelmed and confused with the headache and heartache of their over-use of mobile gadgets and pretty much at a loss at how to deal with it. What’s a giant issue during the school year seems to escalate into a monster over the summer. In the last month alone, most of my parental coaching sessions and workshop discussions have revolved around the “mobile beast.” Here are some of the comments I’ve heard:

“I’m so tired of my own voice saying, ‘Put that cell phone down now!’”

“It’s a losing battle! I give up!”

“I’m tired of competing with the mobile. It has way more to offer than I ever will!”

“I’m through struggling to find creative distractions from their mobile devices.”

“It’s an addiction: I have it. My husband has it. My kids have it. I don’t know what to do!”’

The struggle is not just real, it is surreal. Here’s why:

  1. We are the first generation to have to monitor mobile-device usage. Our parents never had this problem. And with no guidelines on usage nor information from the manufacturers on the hazards of over-use, we are left to figure things out on our own. Moreover, the information online is excessive and fear mongering. Often it seems too much to tackle.
  2. This struggle is as much ours as it is that of our kids. While we are quick to draw boundaries around our children’s mobile-phone use, we find every excuse in the book not to manage our own. Stay-at-home moms confess that they can Candy-Crush for hours while their kids are at school, and working moms admit that after hours they use work as an excuse to catch up with social media. And despite common sense, many parents use their cell phones during dinner and while driving their children around.

So what can we do?

  1. Fire-up your parental instinct. While we might lack specific instructions from experts and mobile-device manufacturers, we can definitely draw inspiration from new research pointing to the repercussions of short-term and long-term cell phone over-use. Educate yourself and your kids. This will help put the very first brakes on. As a parent, the well-being of your children is not just your job, it is your responsibility and obligation. Parenting is loaded with unknowns, and this one is no different. Seek professional help if you need to. There are more parenting coaches and professionals today than ever before. But keep in mind that nothing trumps your own parenting instinct about getting the process started.
  2. Lean on your parental intuition. There are two things to remember here:
    a) Monkey see, monkey do. You have to set the stage and take the lead. Follow the guidelines that you draw for your children. In order to be role models, we have to be good rule models.
    b) You know your kids best. Use your intuition to draw guidelines and boundaries. And, yes, they will be different for each child, because each child is different. No one knows them better than you.
  3. Be patient, disciplined, and flexible. Realize there will be a transition period. Habits—especially addictive ones, like the use of technology—cannot be discarded in a day. Your children will kick, scream, and resist, no matter their age. You are the captain of the ship, however, and you will have to ride the storm out with patience, discipline, and tenacity. You might even have to modify and update your guidelines. In order to lead children we have to be flexible—that is, to be able to bend without breaking. As singer Jimmy Dean once advised, in order to get to your destination, be ready to adjust your sails in the direction of the wind.

This small effort will definitely beat the amount of energy you spend on the repeated and often unfruitful, “Put your cell phone down now!’