i have an addiction. i’m willing to bet lots of money that i am not the only parent with this addiction, but i feel especially guilty about it because i talk to parents as part of my job about limiting their own media use and yet, all too frequently, i find my eyeballs glued to my phone, catching up on facebook posts (sometimes worthwhile, too often clickbait or just a rabbit hole that leads to something else that leads to something else…), twitter updates, blog posts, e-mail, instagram photos and my pinterest feed. it’s one thing to allow myself to sink into this quagmire on my own time, after the kids are in bed when i know i should be doing something more productive or edifying or engaging with a real, live friend (yes, by “liking” their photos, i’m sort of engaging with my facebook friends, but if you look at that list of social media above, too much of it is engaging with online people that i don’t even know.)….. but it’s a whole different pile of awful when i’m scrolling on my screen when my kids are around and maybe even trying to engage with me. ack! this is not the kind of parent i want to be! this is not how i want to model media use! i don’t want my kids to shut me out in favor of their phones when they’re teens and this is exactly the road we’re going down!
but here’s the thing–screens are a big part of our lives. i can’t just say, “i’m going to turn off all screens whenever my kids are awake and with me.” because… that’s not realistic. i use my phone for recipes, to check the weather forecast, to communicate (texts, e-mails, phone calls) with friends who are trying to schedule playdates or whenever i make appointments of any kind, to do facetime with granna…. screens are not going away anytime soon, so how can i teach my kids to incorporate screens in to their lives in a balanced way?
i have had a lot of success in past years by issuing “challenges” to myself (especially if i can get a few friends to join in the challenge with me), so here’s my healthy media challenge for myself:
–for one week (with the hope that i can sustain this or some measure of this effort much longer than one week) i will consciously limit my phone use during the hours that my children are awake and with me.
–to keep me honest in this effort, i will say, out loud, to my children, what my purpose for using a screen will be anytime that i need to use one (“i am looking for the recipe that we’ll use for tonight’s supper.” “i am checking to see if your friend’s mom e-mailed me back about getting together today.”).
–i will use the screen for that stated purpose and then i will put the screen away when i am done (instead of “just checking” all of my social media sites for updates).
–i will tell my children about this personal challenge so they can help keep me on track.
–i am confessing this to you, the general public, my friends, whoever reads this post, in the hopes that being accountable to someone will help me stick to this. at least for this one week, so i can observe any differences.
–i may or may not post updates or progress reports online during this week because that would involve more screentime. so let’s just say that i’ll try to post an end-of-week reflection if anything really profound occurs to me during my one-week trial. or i’ll post a little something if i decide that i love it and want to continue (because i’ll still need to know that you’re all out there watching me, keeping me honest).
who wants to join me? you can set your own rules or you can use mine. i’d love to hear from you about your thoughts and experiences. let’s support each other as we fumble our way towards healthy media modeling.