You guys—I need to detox, and I need your help.
I’m doom-scrolling at 6am, grabbing for the phone at every single lull, stopping tasks mid-way to give myself an “Instagram break”, and worst of all—flipping through my boring feed while my kids are right in front of me.
Are you in this boat? If so, read on.
I don’t know about you, but my addiction has gotten SO MUCH WORSE since our old “friend” Corona stopped by. I’m ashamed by how many times I reach for my phone knowing full well that I just checked it a few minutes ago and found NOTHING interesting before either.
But I’m not just talking about social media. My compulsion has grown for the news too. Never before have I actually RUN OUT of news articles to glance through on the NYT app. Sigh. It’s bad. And I can bet I’m not alone in this.
Assuming we know, more or less, at this point why this isn’t great for us (see: increases anxiety, lowers self esteem, makes us feel lonely) let’s look at why this isn’t great for our kids. For me at least, that is an even bigger motivator to kick this habit.
And then I’ve got a game plan. You might not know this about me but I’m a Challenge Girl. I love to do hard things by setting specific and doable goals for myself. And I especially love it when others join me for the ride. That’s key, actually.
If you want to head straight to the challenge and skip the WHY then click on the link at the bottom of the post.
If you’re here for the info, let’s look at the effect our phone use has on our babies and kids.
As we talked about in last week’s post, the first three years of our baby’s life is the time to lay the foundation for empathy, self esteem, and emotional development.
So much of our baby’s social development happens through mirroring. If I set up a secret camera into your home, I would probably catch hundreds of micro-mirroring moments that you do with your baby without even realizing. You mirror their gestures, facial expressions and sounds, and they do the same back to you.
And what do they see a lot of the time? Us, head bent down, enthralled at a device that must be pretty darn interesting. And then they see it again, and again and again. And soon enough, they want to mimic our behavior and do it too.
But the issue goes even deeper than just monkey see, monkey do. Through mirroring, our babies understand who they are, how to behave, and how to connect with others. When they are upset, they look to us to show them how to regulate their emotions and they eventually internalize our response. When they encounter others, they look to us to understand when they are in danger and when they are safe.
For instance, when a stranger comes up to your baby and leans over the stroller, your baby quickly glances over to you to determine how they should feel about the stranger. If they see your face tense up slightly, they feel that way too. If they see you fully relaxed and peaceful, they understand that the stranger is not a risk.
Neurological connections are being made every time your baby looks to you to gather information about themselves and the world. And, they do it constantly. In fact, our babies actually look at us 70-80% of the time. That’s A TON
But here’s the catch: when they glance over at us and they see us staring at the phone, it’s confusing for them.
Why? Imagine this scenario: You’re at the playground, your kid does a thing— jumps off the rock, slides down the pole, climbs up the slide, swings a little higher—and then glances over at you for acknowledgement.
But you’re not looking back. Your head is down staring at the phone.
At that moment, they don’t see themselves reflected back. They don’t see the loving witness that helps them develop self-esteem and self-efficacy.
We might actually look up for a minute and give a little smile, but it is incongruous with what is happening because we don’t get the full picture, and because we are distracted and spacey.
Do you want to SEE this in action? Here is a research study by Dr. Tronick that really brings home the point. Check out what happens to these babies when they feel their mother is not appropriately engaged and mirroring their effect.
These babies will do anything they can to get their parent’s reaction to be more natural. They may use charm, surprise, alarm (ie. a fake cough). If all that fails, they WHINE. Yup, we know that whine all too well. In an extreme case in which the parent is mostly disengaged, the baby eventually gives up 🙁
I’m not saying you need to be their loving witness every minute of the day. I’m saying we can do better and we know it.
And us? Well, we already know what the phone does to us. But in case you need a refresher, it can make us feel isolated, depressed or stressed. It can eat away at our self confidence and infects us with self-doubt like a trip back to our high school days.
But worst of all? It is a TIME SUCK. An hour and a half later, we realize we’ve only really seen one thing that was truly interesting. And that same hour and a half will be the one you long for the next day while you are with your kids thinking about how you didn’t get that one important thing done.
It’s summer. We want to be with our kids and have some carefree fun. That means not wasting our precious time on the f*cking phone.
So, who’s with me?
I’ve put together a well-thought-out 8 day challenge that I think is totally doable. It’s not going to be easy, but if we do it together, we can get to the other side and feel much better.
First step: Join the FB group for this challenge. There I’ll be explaining each step and how to do it. We’ll also be supporting each other. Lord knows I, for one, will need it.
Here’s how the challenge will look. It starts easier and gets harder:
Phone Down 8-Day Challenge
- Define accounts and sites that make you smile
- Categorize accounts you follow
- Log your go-to times of day
- Delete accounts that make you frown
- Six feet away (from bed)
- Song for phone 3 times
- One hour a day
- Scrap the app after each use
Join the Facebook group here to join us for this challenge and kick our habit.
In the words of Glennon Doyle, whose books I LOVE but whose SM posts don’t hit me nearly the same way and just waste my time: WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.
Let’s go. Join me for the Phone Down Challenge.
*This podcast episode of 3 in 30 inspired some of the ideas in this post