By Michael Foust, Writer in Nashville, Tenn.
Perhaps I should have seen it coming. My 5-year-old son and I were getting on our bicycles, preparing to take a leisurely ride down the road, when he gave me an ultimatum, “Dad, don’t get on your phone one bit.”
A dozen things entered my mind. Can I go 30 minutes without looking at my iPhone?
What if, during one of our stops, I want to check my email or look at the latest news on Twitter, or even open the Weather Channel app when I see that dark cloud on the horizon?
“OK,” I said.
So for 30 minutes we rode down the road, had a pleasant time, and I survived.
Humans always have had distractions from the more important things in life, but I sometimes wonder if smartphones — through the marvel of technology – have compiled every distraction possible into one handy handheld device.
That TV show or sports team or music group you loved years ago, that you thought was an addiction? That was nothing. There was an end to it — to the TV series, the sports season or the CD. Eventually it got old. It didn’t go on and on and on. Not so with social media and the Internet.
Friends always are posting. New apps always are being introduced. Hilarious and bizarre videos always are being captured. And that TV show or sports team or music group you were addicted to years ago? They’re all on there, too.
Whatever your hobby or craze or temptation, the smartphone is right there, ready to help. I am a news editor and writer, so my interest is current events.
Smartphones are that wardrobe from the C.S. Lewis books and films: There’s good and plenty of bad, and before you know it, you’ve spent hours in another world. For inquisitive people like me, they’re amazing – and addicting.
I’m beginning to ask myself more and more often: Do I have to know everything about everything, right then and there? Should I give every person in the world the right to interrupt my life at any moment of the day?
The answer to those questions is, of course, “no.” There is another question I also have to consider: Can it wait? To that, I’m beginning to answer “yes.”
I’m learning I need to set more limits on my smartphone usage. Here, then, are six reasons I want to use my iPhone less and less around my kids:
1. It’s what my children want and deserve. No, every second with my children isn’t a Hallmark precious moment, but I’m sure I’ve missed some special moments while staring at that tiny screen.
2. I don’t want to raise children addicted to technology. I want to set a good example. Our society, after all, already is a slave to the latest technological gadgets. I don’t want my kids to remember their father as the one who stared at his smartphone while at the kitchen table, the couch or on the mower.
3. It allows me to devote my full attention to my children. This seems obvious, but when I’m on my phone, I’m not involved with my kids. If I choose ahead of time that I’m not going to be on my phone, my mind is ready to think of topics of conversation — like birds and worms, or planes and trains (my oldest son, after all, is 5).
4. I won’t regret it. Smartphones as we know them are only six years old, but I doubt any of us will get to the end of our lives and say, “If I could do it all over again, I’d spend more time on my iPhone. And post more stuff on Facebook.” My children are all 5 and under. I’m living in the days that I’ll one day treasure.
5. Because iPhones are addictive. Sure, I’ve had 15-second sessions on my smartphone, but I’ve also had 15-second sessions that turned into 5- and 10- and 30-minute stints. That’s the nature of social media and the Internet. Apps nowadays literally are advertising their product as being “addictive” and a great “time-waster.” No thanks.
6. Because it’s good discipline. In the Christian life, it’s wise to, at times, deprive ourselves of earthly things we might really, really want, like using the smartphone when we’re around our kids.
As Christians, we should work to reshape our sinful nature so that we no longer strive for earthly things, but eternal things (Colossians 3:2). We are to really, really want Christ.
Of course, the iPhone has benefited my family life in many ways. There are times I can play outside with my kids or can go somewhere with my family only because I have an iPhone.
I don’t have to stay tethered to a computer waiting for that important email. Those times won’t change. But in other instances, I hope to act differently.
I only can speak for myself, but for the sake of my family I am going to seek to put my iPhone down more and more.