Announce the Reason Why You Are Going to Look at Your Phone

Why am I looking at my phone? I don’t know for many reasons. To find out exactly where my J.Crew order is. To find out the name of the actress who played the cook in the same movie with the guy in the other movie. To see if he’s all president . Because I haven’t looked at him for the last 22 minutes.

Who needs to know?

Your loved ones can. In the TiLT Parenting Podcast, Anya Kamenets, NPR’s leading educational blogger and author of the new book The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life , gave this advice to parents who want to look more mindfully at their phones in front of their children:

I find it helpful to have something that my friend Dana Boyd, a social media expert, suggested when you pick up the phone next to the kids just to tell you what you’re going to do. So you say, “Hey, let’s see the weather,” or “I’m wondering if dad came from work, I’m going to text him,” and make it transparent. I think this is a really great way to draw attention to yourself and help the kids understand what you are doing. At the same time, you’re not going to pick up your phone and look at your child and say, “Oh, I want to see what Rihanna is doing on Instagram.”

This is a good practice for those who have children or not. Saying something out loud makes us think seriously about it. We can get out of our bodies, hear the plan and decide that okay, maybe “checking my kittens Neko Atsume” is not the best use of my time right now. One of my coworkers says she’s going to try this at home with her cat (“she HATES that I’m looking at the phone”) and another says she’s going to be making announcements for herself throughout the day.

For mums and dads, this may be a way to use devices with children, rather than in isolation. In his book, Kamenets writes that by the age of three or four, children can “participate by adding emoticons to a text message or using voice search to ask a question.” In the past, kids watched their parents read the newspaper, write thank you cards, and make phone calls to get a phone number. They could ask questions and interact. The thing is, smartphones that let us do all of this are fine, but shutting down is bad.

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