Why do I look at my phone? I don't know, for many reasons. To see exactly where my online order is on the delivery trail. To find out the name of that one actress who played the chef in that one movie with that one guy from that other movie. To see if he's still the US president. Because I haven't looked at it in the past 22 minutes.
Who needs to know, anyway?
Your loved ones might. On the TiLT Parenting Podcast, Anya Kamenetz, NPR's lead education blogger and author of the new book The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life, gave this tip for parents who want to be more conscious about looking at their phones in front of their kids:
What's helpful for me is something that my friend Dana Boyd, who's a social media expert, suggested, and that is when you pick up your phone around your kids, simply to narrate what it is that you're going to do. So you say, "Hey, let's check the weather," or, "I'm wondering if dad has come home from work, I'm going to send him a text," and making that transparent. I think it is a really wonderful way to hold yourself accountable too, and to help kids understand what it is that you're doing. At the same time, you're not going to pick up your phone and look at your kid and say, "Oh, I want to see what Rihanna's up to on Instagram."
It's a good practice for those with or without children. Saying something aloud makes us really consider it. We can rise out of our bodies, hear the plan, and decide that, OK, maybe "checking on my Neko Atsume kitties" isn't the best use of my time right now. One of my colleagues says she's going to try it at home with her cat ("she HATES me looking at the phone") and another says she's going to make the announcements to herself throughout the day.
For mums and dads, it can be a way to use devices with your kids instead of in isolation. In her book, Kamenetz writes that by age three or four, children can "participate by adding emojis to a text message or using voice search to ask a question". In the past, kids would watch their parents read the newspaper, write out thank you cards, and call information to get a phone number. They could ask questions and engage. The point is, smartphones, which let us do all these things, aren't bad - but disconnection is.