I’m seriously considering re-prioritizing my use of social media. My son, who is now a very observant, extremely curious and insanely mobile toddler is starting to notice how often my phone works its way into our time together. What became a handy tool to keep mommy awake six months ago has now become as much of a distraction for him as it is for me. And as a mom who’s put strict limitations on screen time and has a firm No Smart Device rule in place, I have to lead by example. The only question is, how?
Social media addiction is one of the hot topics trending on, you guessed it: social media. Trendy folk prefer to take Twittercations, only to end up blogging about how good they felt not being on social media. Then, of course they immediately feel like crap within 24 hours of publishing said blog post because it only received five Facebook likes and one re-Tweet. The somewhat more balanced social media users favor Tech Shabbats, usually a weekend day set aside to turn phones and other smart, distracting devices off so time can be spent looking at the real world instead of a screen. But, does that really eliminate tech addiction, or help to justify it?
In my experience venturing out into the world of mothering there are two kinds of stay-at-home moms: The ones who spend their time on their phones, and the ones who forget their phones exist. The latter, the off-the-grid moms, have very few opinions about your parenting choices and spend most of their mommy group time working to get their kids to engage with yours. Moms on the grid are usually bringing online controversies into the conversation and spend more time telling you how to parent than actually parenting.
There are also two kinds of children. Off-the-grid moms usually produce fairly socialized, conversant kids with age-appropriate manners and a healthy level of curiosity. On-the-grid moms tend to parent socially suspicious kids who want nothing to do with strangers and see life as an endless string of wants fulfilled, even if it takes a temper tantrum to achieve the desired objective.
Now, obviously a lot more goes into parenting than social media usage. However, a social media addiction, or even an attachment to a smart device for any number of reasons, directly impacts your ability to pay attention to and communicate with your child. That, in turn, will have a direct effect on their social, emotional and psychological growth and development. Practical skills are affected as well. A recent survey indicated that children whose parents were active social media users often knew how to operate a smart device, but rarely knew how to tie their own shoes.
When it comes to social media, perhaps the question shouldn’t be about your relationship to your phone, but your relationship with your child. So I’m quitting social media, cold turkey, during the babe’s waking hours. That way I can focus on him and, when he’s asleep, I can enjoy focusing on myself.