The Four Words That Changed My Cell Phone Habit


cell phone addictionI think that by now, most of us have seen that viral Facebook post about a second grade student who wishes his mom’s phone had never been invented. “If I had to tell you what invention I don’t like I would say that I don’t like the phone. I don’t like the phone because my parent is on their phone every day.  A phone is sometimes a really bad habet [sic]. I hate my mom’s phone and I wish she never had one. That is an invention that I don’t like.” Heartbreaking. The note concludes with a picture of an X’d out smart phone and a sad little kid face saying, “I hate it.” Tears!

“Oh, that poor kid,” I thought to myself when I read the story. “Luckily, mine don’t feel that way,” I consoled myself. In fact, my husband and I make a concerted effort to keep our own screen time to a minimum when we’re around our kids.  Part of this is because if we are looking at our phones, our kids will inevitably stop whatever they’re doing to come over and see what we’re looking at. Another reason is that we want some insulation and plausible deniability when our kids reach the age when all their friends have smart phones of their own. I don’t want them to think it’s “normal” to always have your face glued to a screen, and I want to be able to say “that’s just not how we do things in our family.” Finally, we want to be present in the moment, and spend quality time with each other when we have it.

Of course, I am living a lie and this aspiration of a phone-free existence falls into the category of “I want my children to be better than me.”  I want them to have the ease of a smart phone, without all the draining pointlessness and distractions that detract from enjoying real life. Because let’s be honest, at this point in my life, my phone addiction/dependency is real.  I’m constantly connected, to the extent that I feel a sense of pride if I am able to wait in a three-minute line without checking in on my phone. Any new emails? Any interesting stuff pop up on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter?  How about an update on news stories? Quick game of Dots or Wood Puzzle (don’t look them up, they’re like crack). It’s pathetic, really… I fully admit that I have issues.

Perhaps because I can admit I have a problem, I have made some rules for myself in the hopes that at least my addiction might not pass on to my offspring. 

  • No smart phones at the table. 
  • No ignoring the kids while I’m reading something on my phone.
  • No telling them “just a sec” as I stare at a screen. 
  • I try to be selective about when I pull my phone out to take a picture or video (and am considering getting an old-fashioned DSLR camera). 
  • I don’t automatically look something up on my phone if I have a question. 
  • I started getting a paper version of the New York Times delivered to the house on Sundays, instead of reading it on my phone or tablet. 
  • I’ve started borrowing library books instead of always downloading to my Kindle. 

I’m trying, I’m really really trying. Has this been easy? No. Do I always succeed? Hell no. Just this past weekend, days after reading that sad second grader’s note, my own three-year-old put me in my place.  We were at the park, and I was pushing him on the swing. I was behind him, using one hand to push… and the other hand to scroll down my Facebook feed. I thought he was having a great time, and I was getting my internet fix! Win-win, right? No. He was actually watching my shadow; he knew what I was doing and knew that I wasn’t really engaged in our playtime. 

“Mom!  Put your phone down!” I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I am reading into it, but he sounded so sad and disappointed in me. It makes sense; who wants to feel like the person they’re with would rather be doing something else? I felt horrible, knowing that he could sense that I was half-in on our time together. He was right. I told him I was sorry and immediately put my phone in my backpack. I kept pushing him, this time making him laugh hysterically as I tickled him and made funny noises with each swing. 

Obviously, we can’t always be 100% engaged with our kids. And honestly, I tend to think it’s healthier for children to learn to play by themselves without their parents always being involved, but I’ve got to listen to my kids if they let me know that they crave more interaction. These are precious moments, and we can’t waste them by making our little ones compete with a screen.

So, I apologize in advance if you don’t get an immediate response to your text, or if I don’t know everything about the latest Tweetstorm. It just means that I succeeded (at least for a while) in turning away from my phone and tuning into reality.


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Lorrie lives in Cupertino with her husband, two small children, crazy dog, and obese cat. Originally from the Chicago area, Lorrie headed west in 2010, and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring the Bay Area, and finds that even after six years, there is always something new to discover. Lorrie is a licensed and practicing attorney in both Illinois and California. She is proud to represent employees in all manner of work-related disputes, and partners closely as Of Counsel with Caffarelli & Assoc. Ltd., a Chicago-based firm. When she is not working or chasing her kids around, Lorrie likes to tinker with home improvement projects, walk around on sidewalks and trails, zone out on the internet, and “Netflix and chill.” She also likes to run, and aspires to one day make it to a yoga class.


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