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Why Cell Phones are Ruining Our Families

What is a teachable moment? It's learning through family. That's what Boys Town provides to tens of thousands of children and parents everyday. And that's what we'll focus on here. Stories of those who we've seen succeed, and ideas on how to help bring Teachable Moments to your home and family, too.

Why Cell Phones are Ruining Our Families
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by Boys Town ContributorMother of nine-year-old son and seven and two-year-old daughters

tags: Connecting with Kids, Family, Parent-Child Relationships, Parenting Skills

Why Cell Phones are Ruining Our Families

Teachable moments can come from a wide variety of sources, including other parents. From time to time parents write blogs for us that we think you will find interesting, useful, or entertaining. Please enjoy this post from a fellow parent.

Ok, the title of this may be a little over-dramatized, but there is a lot of truth to the harm that they are doing. For Christmas my husband and I were due for upgrades on our phones, so we packaged up our old phones and thought we could give them to the kids (7 and 9) to play games on. Sparse Internet, no phone connection, what harm could be done? Well, as President Obama just announced, there is harm, which is why he is urging parents to limit the amount of time kids are in front of screens. According to a recent article by The New York Times, it’s doing harm in a number of ways. As I read this, it rang very true for me. Here are a few of my observations on the negative effects and how I have seen them in my own home.

• Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist stated that “ children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.” I remember when I would say, “Lets play a board game” or “Lets go to the park”, and the kids would instantly run over with excitement. Now, in our post-phone household, they complain. They would rather continue to play on their phones. This makes family time not as fun in their eyes. Sadly, it turns togetherness and family time into a chore.

“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.” A huge topic that is covered a lot at Boys Town Parenting is Connecting With Your Kids. It was always hard for me to understand how parents had such a hard time talking with their kids. Now, I understand. When technology and TV are around, there is no discussion; all the answers are one word. If my kids have phones in their hand, I have zero shot of finding out what they did that day, what they liked, what they found interesting, what concerned them. How can I parent when I don’t know my child? Cell phones are distancing me from the character in my kids. If I don’t know what interests them, how can I teach them? If I don’t know what they are afraid of, how can I help them?

• The article also states that “Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important.” Last night we went for a family walk. My husband took his phone with him and was on it for the majority of the walk. It made me very sad. I felt like the Lorax warning people about using phones too much and no one, not even another parent, was listening. We are missing out on what’s important: relationships, family, and togetherness. Soon, (again sounding a bit over-dramatic) they will be gone and these precious years will be over.

So, I’m giving my family a challenge and I challenge you to do the same with yours. No technology time from 5:00pm to bedtime EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Keeping it to every night, they can look forward to things like board games and trips to the park, and not look forward to the night where they get to watch TV. This time is for everyone under the roof. If homework involves the use of a computer, it has to be done right after school. The time we spend from 5:00pm on will be in deep conversation at the dinner table, good bedtime routines, creative ideas to keep us busy, interactive and fun play. Time that I will be happy I had when they are old and out of my home. At the end of the day, I will probably never look back and say, “Gosh. I’m sure glad we got them those iPhone’s”, but I will be glad we took this challenge, whether it fails or not.