The research continues to pour out and it is not pretty. We read about the teenagers that are spending nine plus hours a day on their phones. We hem and haw in righteous indignation, monitor phone use, take away technology for the weekend, limit iPads and video game systems, and say no to YouTube. We are the parents and through it all, our silent addiction continues and we model the behavior, techniques, and similar time consumption.
Our own silence is a well-kept secret and if not a secret, definitely something we do not feel like acknowledging. I was made aware of this unexpected phenomenon when I last wrote an article about ending my affair with my iPhone and it got very few likes, so few that it made me wonder if it was just total crap. It wasn't though. Instead, I wondered if it had it been so eye opening that people skimmed my words and then moved on, not wanting to address their own relationship with a temptress device.
Teenagers spend one third of the day on their phones but no one is doing research on the time their parents are engaging in the same behavior. I would bet it is even more. I sit now, writing at a breakfast place in a large city, and I observe the family in which the mother is embedded in a screen while her children eat quietly, her husband sits too. Her silence breeds silence and even worse, breeds the behavior that parents claim to loathe. I get it. I really get it. As much as I try to leave my phone at home now, I still feel like I need a nicotine fix when I have been away from it for a few hours (ok, ten minutes).
This epidemic is not pretty to talk about and makes people feel uncomfortable, aware of their own guilty ridiculousness. It is particularly trying for the ones who recognize their guilt in a cycle that they do not have any intention of breaking. Again, I have been there and every day is a struggle. A conscious choice of when to interact with the phone/computer/virtual lifeline that beckons my mind to engage in email, more texts, calendar checking, etc. There is no end in site and I realize what the life of a workaholic may resemble, the concept a far away error until I stared at my hands deftly manipulating the small device.
I have to constantly monitor myself. The phone stays home often if we go to the playground. I put it away during morning breakfast and send off and in the evenings. I keep it on airplane mode so I can only take pictures. It does help but it is really hard. I'm no expert but I know I don't want to glimpse away my whole summer. Some day they will be grown and we will be left with abandoned devices that ate up their childhoods and taught them where to focus their own attention and the cycle begins again. Or, you can consider making a small change, liking my tale is a good first step and definitely not an admission of guilt.