An Honest Discussion About Phone Usage As A Parent

Monday, 17 June 2019

A few hours ago, I read a post from DIY Daddy Blog (click here for the link) in which he talks about how ashamed and embarrassed he is about his daily phone usage, and how much his children have picked up on it. It really hit home for me, so I wanted to write something to spread his message to my audience too. Please go and read his post before you read mine, so you can understand fully.

First of all, I know I have a phone addiction. Yes, no matter which way you look at it, it's an addiction. It's not so much social media for me, but I spend all day watching and looking for things to watch on YouTube. I try to find long podcasts, crime stories, almost anything 30 minutes + long to pass the time through the boredom of the day, and then in between this I would check social media too. I feel like us parents all have our 'thing' to get through the day, whether it be reading, trash TV or endlessly scrolling on Instagram. 

YouTube is mine. 

This all began for me when my partner went back to work after paternity. I hated being alone, and so I found the first thing I could do to pass the time. I kept up with other peoples lives, I started my blog and my social media accounts and I made it my focus to keep myself distracted until he came home. Then I found when the baby started waking up early from naps and I was in the middle of doing something, I would become so frustrated. "For god sake, now I have to go and get him and I was in the middle of watching/doing ___". I would surround him with toys, TV and get back to whatever I was doing on my phone/laptop.

For Oscar especially (who is now 3 year old) I can see the affect this has on him on a daily basis. He will say "mammy look at me" repeatedly when he's doing something that he wants me to pay attention to. Whenever I am watching him, not on my phone, I see him looking at me again and again to check I am still paying attention, and I know that all stems from me being on my phone. It really is heartbreaking and one of my biggest regrets. 

Like Nigel from DIYDaddyBlog, I also found myself getting snappy at the kids when I just wanted to do my own thing and was being drawn away from what I was totally engrossed in. 

I remember my own upbringing, phones were only just coming onto the market for everyday folk and weren't anywhere near as advanced as they are now. We had a game of snake to keep us occupied in the car and that's about it. I do remember the TV always being on though, and it used to really annoy me when I wanted either of my parents attention and they were busy watching something on the TV and ignoring me. That wasn't a patch on what I see now though. 

Whenever I've been with friends, I found comfort in seeing them scroll on their phones too, ignoring their own children. Isn't that insane? It was like justification that it wasn't just me, and it was like an invitation for me to get my own phone out. You go to a friends to socialise and you're both sat across the room from each other staring at a screen and zoning out of reality. 

and even though I know it is a problem, fighting the battle to not have a 'quick look' is increasingly difficult. My phone is fully charged on a morning and needs re-charging before tea time, despite it actually being made to last a few days on minimal usage. Whenever it isn't charged I find myself completely irritable, wondering when it will come back on so I can get back to whatever I was doing or looking at. 

I have been extremely conscious of this lately, and me and Anthony (my partner) both decided the other day we would put our phones away for the full day to see if it would have any sort of affect on the way we speak to each other and the way the kids behave. The kids were angels and our attitudes towards each other was incredibly different. Where we normally have arguments over who does what (or who can be bothered to do what), and casually looking up from our phones and seeing the kids doing something they shouldn't be because nobody is paying attention to them, it was so much more calm and relaxed, and we played together for hours and did things we would never normally do. You don't realise the affect it actually has until you take a step back and truly observe. It is dangerous for our mental health, and for our children's mental health. 

It also truly is embarrassing to admit all of this, but I know for a fact I am not the only parent out here who is attached to their phone - it's just whether people want to be honest about it or not. 

Of course, 'normality' has resumed since then and we are back into old habits of scrolling our way through the day to pass the time again, but now I have read Nigel's post I am making a promise to myself that I will not carry on like this. It wasn't easy to go a whole day without, but I know the more I do it, the less I will feel the urge to pick it up and scroll. 

It needs to be addressed, and I would hate to think that my kids will grow up thinking I was just an absent parent because my phone was more important than them. Of course that is the furthest from the truth but I would hate for my kids to be sat staring at a screen all day, so why am I setting the example that that is okay? 

Quick disclaimer of course too, I am not neglecting my kids. They are loved and their needs are well and truly met. I am referring to that blank space of time we are just at home sat around doing nothing. And of course this isn't to shame anyone. Like anything, if you are accessing your phone a healthy amount then that's fine. If you're feeling a bit guilty though because you relate, it's probably a sign that you're more like me and obsessed with distracting yourself from reality

From now on, I will no longer be accessing my phone at all throughout the day unless the children are asleep or it is truly necessary.

If you think you have a problem and want to shock yourself, google a way to discover your phone usage. For me, on Samsung, I had to look in my battery settings. I do believe it's easier and more accurate to find out on an iPhone, though. I had spent nearly 6 hours on YouTube yesterday, by 11pm.

Let's make no phones the new norm, and give our kids the attention they need and deserve. 

Lets. Put. Our. Phones. Away. 


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