“Don’t you think you’ve been on that phone long enough?”
This chastising comment wasn’t delivered by me to one of my children in a passive-aggressive call to bring screen time to an end. No, this was said by my 7-year-old daughter, Mara, to me. Her mother.
When it comes to tech addiction, there are lots of stories and studies about kids and their unhealthy reliance on their devices. Parents and guardians have all been made aware to some degree the need to monitor our kids’ screen time. Numerous research studies, medical papers and even chats with our kids’ physician and/or educators have some mention of limiting the amount of time we let our kids spend in front of various devices.
But what about the parents monitoring them?
A recent survey of 500 pairs of parents and teenagers found that 4 out of 10 teens thought their parents had addictions to their devices, according to a recent New York Times article.
In fact, the article states that 52% of parents thought they were spending too much time on mobile devices, which nearly doubles the findings from 2016. Those teen numbers are trending in the opposite direction — 39% said they spend too much time on the devices, compared to 61% in 2016.
Based on these numbers, I can see why kids are showing some concern.
I fully admit I’m on my phone a lot. I don’t even know how much exactly, but a conservative estimate off the top of my head would be somewhere in the neighborhood of three to four hours each day.
But before you chastise me, let me give some context. I work from home, my kids go to full-day school and I am the de facto house/family/life manager. The No. 1 tool in juggling all of these balls is my phone. Calendar? It’s on my phone. Email? On my phone. Teacher/parent portal? You guessed it — it’s on my phone.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you or make excuses by stating that those are the only things I use my phone for, because they’re not. My phone is also my catch-all connection to the world outside my parenting world. I enjoy reading the news, reading novels, watching funny cat videos, perusing social media and texting with friends who, like me, can’t get two minutes of peace and quiet to actually have a grown-up, real-life conversation.
But these things are also what slowly eat away at the “free” time in my day.
About a month ago, Mara had a talk with me about spending less time on my phone. It was humbling and sobering. At first, I thought it was a knee-jerk response to her having recently been told to get off of her tablet, but then she came across me fully engrossed in my phone about a week after our conversation about me scaling back my screen time.
“I thought we talked about this,” she said.
I found myself scrambling to show her that I wasn’t absentmindedly surfing the Internet but was, in fact, reading an award-winning novel on my downloaded public library app, Libby.
“I guess that’s OK, but you should read a real book from the library, not some phone book,” she said.
Who knew a first-grader could be so stern — and so right? They say kids say the craziest things, but they also say the wisest words just when we need to hear them.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.