Recently I was in a local coffee shop and noticed what appeared to be a father and middle school aged daughter seated with one another before school. I was struck by the fact that the two of them almost said nothing to one another and instead were both engrossed in their phones. This went on for at least 20 minutes until they left. I'm sure you have seem something similar. I've been guilty myself.
Lately I've been making a conscious effort to not be on a screen when I'm with my children and instead pay attention to them. Common Sense Media has a push right now with PSA encouraging parents to Make Room for #realtime, perhaps you've seen it. This takes effort.
I have noticed an increase in the amount of times I'm stopped at a light while driving and there appears to be a parent and child in the car next to me not talking, with the child looking at a cellphone screen. My wife and I are trying to keep the space and time in the car as opportunities for conversation and limiting the amount of screen time that is taking place. A related article in yesterday's Washington Post shows the importance of quality time, not the quantity of time, we spend with our children: Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity.
I also see more and more movies being played in vehicles for kids in the back seat as cars are arriving and departing in school parking lots, grocery stores, or other places that are close enough to home that it's likely was just a short errand, not a long road trip. In our family, we have reserved the screen entertainment in the car for really long road trips. We hope to increase the opportunities for conversation as well as allow for some down time. We think that limiting the amount of time kids expect to get entertained will benefit them in the long run.
I always enjoy receiving a good parenting tip from others who have experience and insight. A colleague of mine, Kelli Whiteside, is an elementary media specialist and parent of three children, some older than mine. Kelli and I have co-presented on the topic of Parenting Tech Savvy Kids a few times over the past couple of years. One of the tips I have heard her talk about is a phrase they use frequently in their family to remind one another to pay attention to those around them versus being distracted by a screens/device:
Be where your feet are.
She says this simple phrase is a great reminder to all in her family be engaged with one another in conversation and attention, not just physically share the same space. I think this is a great reminder for families as well as for everyone. Be where your feet are.
So, are you where your feet are? In a coffee shop with others? In your car with passengers? As a spectator at your child's events? At home at the dinner table? It's an intriguing question, and not just one for parents and children. Are you where your feet are during a meeting? While at work?
Have a tip to share? Please do!
FYI, a link to my collection of other tips and resources can be found at tinyurl.com/CyberResources.