Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, is full of daily insight and wisdom that promises to help you navigate today’s culture.
Have you ever noticed how culture glorifies multi-tasking and busyness? Lately, it seems we’re trying to accomplish more than ever in shorter and shorter periods of time. We buy faster and more efficient technology and install apps on our phones in the hopes of getting ahead.
In fact, some will even admit to a rush that comes from simultaneously answering emails, talking on the phone and scanning Facebook.
But what happens when we do all of this from the kitchen countertop as we serve our children their morning cereal? How is this constant multi-tasking lifestyle impacting our kids?
WIRED magazine recently explored this question. Its article, “How Multitasking on Mobile Affects Children of Divorce,” cited research and interviews that would be alarming for any parent – married or divorced – to read. For example, the piece describes how mobile users check their smartphones an average of 150 times a day. That’s once every six-and-a-half minutes!
The honest modern-day parent will admit that, sadly, our kids must often compete for our time and for undivided eye contact, empathy and attention. We probably don’t want to acknowledge it, but most of our kids have tried to tell us a story only to hear a mindless, “Mm-hmm” because we were also trying to read an email or text message.
As one of our Focus counselors explained, undivided attention is a God-like parental quality. We might not be able to see God the Father, but He certainly sees and knows us intimately. However, how can our children accept those facts as truth if their own parents, who they can see, are unconnected to them? How can a child believe God truly hears his prayers if his earthly parents can’t put a phone down or look away from the computer long enough to truly listen?
The impact of our parenting goes beyond modeling spiritual truths to our children. It also influences our kids’ physical and social development.
So, the next time you’re waiting at the doctor’s office for an appointment with your son or daughter, might I recommend you talk or play with them instead of giving them your phone? You can even read a book together.
I’ll go even further and make an even bolder suggestion:
Consider taking a temporary “phone fast” to break any bad habits that you might have fallen into. Might 24 hours, 48 hours, or even a week without a handheld device nearby help you reconnect with your children?
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--I may check my phone 6 times a day, 150 times is ridiculous I cna't imagine trying, there rearely is anything there anyway. I am not on any "social media", I check email on a computer with a big screen compared to the phone. My kids are in their 20's now and one will be 30 next year. My wife doesn't even have a smart phone. This means someone else is checking their phones more often. We didn't have cell phones until my son was graduating High School (the soon to be 30 year old), and there weren't any smart ones to be had in 2002.
Good idea to slow down and to pay attention to the kids while they are young. They won't be young for long!
--I could do without my phone for 24 hours!
--You're so right - there is a time and place, but most folks' timing and placement is thoughtless and inconsiderate, if not downright denigrating and obnoxious! Still wanna know how I really feel?
It started with the tiny invisible headsets that receptionists wear, looking straight at you while you speak to them only to discover that they are talking to someone else on the phone. A little training in courtesy would go a long way. Many have now learned the fine art of looking away until their attention can be given to the live, present human being before them.
Technology is GREAT, but like every other advance, requires consideration.
(I will admit - I still have only a DUMBphone.)
P. S. and aside -- I believe the fact that old style telephones amplified the speaker's own voice in his earpiece while the new ones do not let him hear himself, causes much of the LOUD speaking that is so inconsiderate of others around.
OK, I'm done for now! THANKS again for your ministries!
--Very good points. I certainly could be more available to my kids, however, I'm don't own a smartphone and I check Facebook at most once/week, and sometimes once/month.
My problem is getting the kids away from their video games. ;-)
--Oooh well I'm totally convicted by this! Good for you other responders who don't have a problem with it, or own a smartphone to multitask with. I like to think this isn't me, but I'm sure if I kept a record I'd be shocked. I've been feeling the need to put the phone down and this was just the thing to inspire me to get started!
--Jim, I'd like to take longer to comment but I'm busy trying to tweet you, like you and Focus on the Family on facebook and sign up for your weekly newsletter.
--It's always harder to go back, once you've let yourself have something. When my husband and I got married, I quit my job and we learned to be content with one income, so when our children came along, I could stay home with them, without the stress of learning to live on less coming at the same time as getting used to being a parent.
For a very similar reason, I do not have a cell phone or any social media account. My children, mostly grown now, went to great pains to secure cell phones for themselves, and they are enslaved to them. The amount of godless junk they receive into their minds through their phones and social media has severely stunted their spiritual growth as well. Twenty-six years of homeschooling from a Biblical perspective went down the tubes - or should I say got lost in cyberspace - and the younger ones especially are saturated with cultural 'me-ism.'
But I keep reminding myself that God is in control, and He can use their slavery for a good that I can't see. Meantime, I honestly feel more 'free' than my kids are, and I'll stick with that.
--I have often noticed at the restaurants that there would be, say for example, a family of four in which everyone at that table would be looking at some kind of mobile device, be it a phone, video game or tablet. They would look so disconnected from each other even though they are all sitting at the same table. No eye contact or any words would be exchanged for minutes until the food comes.
I think that all families would benefit if they, at the very minimum, spend their meals together paying full attention to one another and engaging in some kind of meaningful conversation and acknowledging the presence of one another. It sends an important message to one another that they are more important to one another than some manmade electronic device that takes their mind off of each other.
--This learned this lesson very early when my 13 year old was about 3 years old. I was doing the dishes and she was talking to me, asking questions and talking about something that happened at pre-school. I was answering her but not looking at her. so she started pulling on my shirt and when I looked at her she said "look at me I need to see your eyes". So from that day forward whenever she wanted to talk, which was quite often, I would put aside or stop whatever I was doing and have a face to face conversation with her. I have found that to be useful as she is going through adolescence where there are times she seems to not even want to be in the same room with me. But whenever she wants to talk, I give her my undivided attention. It was not easy to do this as many things did not get done or were delayed, but I think that it is important for our children to know that they count. Also, we have not been driven by the technology boom, we all have very basic phones and plan on keeping them as along as we can.
--A "phone fast" is a great idea. We might even make phone free Sundays a habit for every week.
I think Christians should re-shape the cultural expectation of multi-tasking, and instead put first priority on the ability to focus on a task at hand. I taught a class of teenagers this recently, and I am going to keep on encouraging them not to let anyone pressure them to multi-task.
This is the only way we have any credibility telling teens to NOT text and drive.
One thing that works for me is to keep texts as a "privileged domain" of the immediate family, and anyone else that texts me should only be for a really high priortiy message. Some folks I've talked to say they get so many texts now they are drowning in them. My texts are mainly with my kids and husband.
Want some more examples?
The addiction to e-connectedness can be so bad, one person I knew misplaced his phone, and wouldn't leave his apartment until it was found, because he couldn't imagine leaving home without the gadget.
I sat next to a lady in a class who checked her voice mail on her phone while the class was going on! People don't realize how the sound carries to their neighbor.
Thanks, Jim Daly , for the challenge!
--Social media has such a grip on our culture. What would happen if we did without it for a week?? No texting, no tv, etc, etc. We might actually talk again and get to know each other, go for walks, eat together. Just my opinion. . . .
--I don't own, nor do I desire, a cellphone/smartphone. I check emails once, maybe twice, a day on my computer at home. I don't have any children at home anymore but I do have a grandson (18 months) whom I adore and am glad that I can play with him without interruptions from such things. I intend to keep it this way because I feel the world has grown "cold and unfeeling"!