How at odds does this sound? Especially when in the media we regularly see articles about the benefits of unplugging because researchers believe parents are spending more time on their phones and engaging with technology than they are engaging with their own children.
But I believe plugging-in can be just as beneficial as unplugging and here’s why…
Plugging-in (charging our devices and interacting with them) has now become a task that most of us do at some point in our day if not multiple times a day. Just like cleaning our teeth, drinking and eating. Research has told us, for a while now, that if we attach ideas or actions to menial tasks we will be more likely to recall them and they will become habit.
I choose to take these moments of ‘plugging-in’ as an opportunity to be mindful of my engagement with my children, rather than buying into the guilt society puts on parents today when they engage with technology. It is a part of our world, whether we like it or not and isn’t something we can easily choose to separate ourselves from. By doing so I change my use of technology from a negative into a positive.
Being a stay at home Mum and running my own small business, I cannot choose to ‘un-plug’. But I can be mindful of my technology use and how this may be received by my children, as well as what behaviour I am modelling to them as appropriate.
Every night when I plug my phone in to charge I take a minute to reflect on the day. Not on how much I got done or what task I forgot about, not on what I wore or how I felt, I take those few minutes to think about my kids and what moments I had with them that day. Did we play together and was at least some of this play directed by them? Did I give them time to tell me a story? Did I give them a cuddle? Did we laugh together?
Equally throughout a day, if my children are with me and I need to respond to someone via text or email, answer a call etc. I verbalise to my children what I am doing. If possible I let them engage too- take a phone call on speaker-phone so they can participate or if not appropriate to do so, simply let them listen.
If I need to reply to an email or text, rather than doing so with out comment and risking my children feeling ignored and like they take second place to a device, I explain what I am doing. Then when I am finished I strive to re-engage with them, listening, interacting whatever they may have been seeking when I was completing the task.
The reason I choose to feel no guilt around this use of technology is because long before phones, ipads and apple watches existed children had to wait, listen and show a level of patience while their parents wrote a note to themselves, had a conversation with another person etc. Advances in technology have simply meant that these everyday moments have been replaced with a more efficient form of communicating and organising our lives.
This technology will continue to play an integral role in our children’s lives so I believe it is important to model for them ways in which it can be integrated into their lives in positive ways, enhancing their ability to connect and communicate rather than replacing this human connection.
Essentially by changing the way we think about the act of plugging-in, it can actually become an opportunity to connect with our children.
I do not believe that any parent gets it right all the time. But what sets parents on the path to good parenting is the act of reflecting - taking a moment to consider what worked, what didn’t and then considering how you would do differently next time or the next day.
So tonight when you plug your phone in to charge, try taking a moment to reflect on the day. Whether you’re content with how it played out or if it is a little confronting in regards to how much you engaged with the kids. Acknowledge it, consider what you would do the same or differently the next day, and move on.
Try it the next night too and before long it will become habit and hopefully allow you to see the positive side of technology rather than letting yourself buy into the guilt.
Your hands-on helper,