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Why We Don’t Need Our Phones (As Much As We Think We Do)

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I’ve become one of those people who talk about the “good old days.” And really, I’m just referring to the days prior to 2007. 

2007 was when Apple launched the first iPhone, and our society really hasn’t been the same since. Cell phones have evolved into “smart phones,” which is really just a fancy way of saying “mini computers.” I’m not oblivious to the conveniences afforded to us by these devices, but I do firmly believe that, generally speaking, we don’t need our smart phones as much as we think we do.

The biggest argument I hear for a cell phone is “in case of emergency.” Yet, what many would consider to be our nation’s biggest emergency, September 11th, happened back in 2001 — no smart phones. Our country was under attack, lives were lost, we were all operating on heightened levels of fear and terror and anxiety, and no one had a smart phone in their pocket.

Our children are the first generation to grow up with smart phone technology. It’s become a large part of their existence. So much so that my son’s school devoted a segment of their Back to School Night program to discussing the need for “Digital Citizenship and Responsibility.” Not just for children, but for parents too. The principal spoke of implementing limits and boundaries when it comes to screen time, and the importance of modeling appropriate behavior for our impressionable children. It’s a message I don’t think everyone was receptive to, especially the parent who sat two seats away, phone in hand, looking at Facebook.

We want our children to focus and pay attention. But as parents, are we? Are we looking them in their eyes when they speak to us?  Or are we looking at a screen?  

Just like television, families must work out limits and boundaries when it comes to smart phone usage (for both children and parents). In our house, during meal time, the phone is only picked up if it’s Grandma or Grandpa calling. Anything else, anyone else can wait until the end of our meal. Likewise, I don’t receive email notifications on my phone. I remember the days when mail arrived at my front door once a day. Then later, with the advent of email, I’d check my messages only when sitting in front of my computer. I feel the same way. Everything can wait. When I’m out with my son, he’s my priority. 

In a relatively short period of time, we’ve become quite dependent on our smart phones for a wide variety of purposes. But the “old-fashioned” back-ups still exist — watches for telling time, cameras for taking pictures. 

Smart phones undoubtedly make our lives easier. We are more connected to our families and the larger world. Many of us aren’t even putting our phones in our purses or pockets, but they’re out in our hands “just in case.” It appears that many of us are using our phones mindlessly — scrolling, clicking, and tapping incessantly.

“Mindfulness” has become a rather popular buzz word, and it means being present, in the moment, fully aware of the here and now. I think we need to apply the same principle to the way we use our phones; they need to be used mindfully. As in “do we need to look this up now?” “Does this message need to be read or sent right this moment, or can it wait?” Most times it can wait. The message will be there later. This moment in time with our children won’t be.



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