Being present with children is one of the most important things we can do! When a child looks into our eyes and smiles, we smile back. When they point to a tree, we say “yes, I see that tree. Doesn’t it have beautiful leaves?” We need to interact frequently with children, play “hide-and-seek” or “peek-a-boo,” read a book together, or just talk to them like they are real people! Children are in the moment and we need to be in the moment with them!
We hear a lot about how early experiences shape us. But how does having present and responsive adults shape a child’s social development? Does it affect their empathy towards others? Or does it affect a child’s self-esteem and how they feel about themselves?
I remember as a child, if I said “look mom,” most of the time my mom would respond with interest. But as parents living during a new technological age, we are constantly distracted with our smartphones! How often do we not even hear that “look mom,” or we say “hold on just a second” because we are distracted in our own technological worlds.
In an article from the American Psychological Association, it examines some of the many negative effects of parents’ cell phone use on their children’s lives. For example, caregivers who were absorbed in their devices were more likely to respond harshly to their children, sometimes physically, or with a scolding tone of voice.
It is ironic that I am writing my first blog post about not being too distracted with technology. I am not going to lie, this is a struggle for me as well. But here are some ideas I have come up with to help with limiting cell phone use around children:
- Have a certain time of the day when we turn our phones off (or silence and put it in the other room), to play with our children. If we feel like it would help, let others know what time of day that is so they are not freaking out that they can’t get a hold of us!
- Have a 24 hour “smartphone sabbath” once a week (I got this idea from the APA article I mentioned before), or maybe an 8 hour day or half day if 24 hours is too long.
- Make mealtimes a time to connect with family, no phones allowed!
- Use a camera other than our phone cameras (I find this makes me only take photos and not get distracted with editing or texting the photo right after taking it).
- Set up phone time restrictions.
- Restrict certain sites on our phones and give the password information to a family member or friend
- Turn off blue light on our phones, or make the screen appear only in black and white. This is supposed to make the screen less harsh and less addictive according to this NY Times article.
Thinking back to my teaching days pre-Elliot, I found it easy to stay away from smartphones because it simply wasn’t allowed at work. But the distractions I did struggle with as a preschool teacher were talking to other teachers, taking too many photos of the children for our parent blog, or getting too focused on a project that it was hard to pay attention to other things going on in the classroom. As a parent, I am also often thinking about what I am going to make for dinner, how I am going to get chores done, and the huge list of to-dos for the day or week. Sure, there are times when it is OK to let Elliot do his own thing as I get chores done, etc. Or sometimes I try my best to include him in what I am doing. For example, when we shop for groceries, Elliot and I have lots of conversations about all of the vegetables in the produce section. But I really believe that it is important to have intentional times throughout the day where I am fully present, interacting, and playing with Elliot. I should feel honored when I am invited to join Elliot in what he is doing and experience what it is like to be a child once again. This is why I am passionate about Early Childhood Education. Children’s work is just as important as adult work, but children sometimes need our help to meet their goals. They need us to help them access materials to learn from, they need us to talk to them, read stories to them, and sing to them. They also need us to help them access and explore nature!
Think back to when you were a child…. When did you need your parents, teachers, or other significant adults in your life to be present with you? I would also love to hear from parents and educators on what strategies they have used to be more present with their children at home or in the classroom! What has and hasn’t worked for you? Please comment below 🙂