It’s a big joke these days that we are all glued to our phones. But it’s sad commentary on the human condition that we simply accept that people no longer make eye contact with the barista when ordering Caramel Macchiatos at Starbucks. (I wonder if the diminishing of eye contact will have a real, societal effect. Someone should do a long-term study on that.)
As a parent, I try to limit my kids’ “screen time” (an annoying but descriptive term). Although my husband and I are both technology people—computer engineer and graphic designer—we keep the gadgets to a minimum. We don’t have iPads or hand-held gaming devices like the PSP or Nintendo DS (it’s no coincidence that when I was a kid we called it the “nofriendo”). So on that front, we are doing pretty well. Can you hear me patting myself on the back for my stellar parenting?
When my daughter abused the privilege of playing Clash of Clans on her dad’s phone, he deleted it and all the other games she had installed. I did the same, removing the kids’ games from my iPhone. The girls were mad. They got over it. Kids are flexible like that.
But I didn’t delete my games. Playing Candy Crush and Scramble was part of my daily ritual. My family regularly voiced their frustration with my phone game obsession. They argued I played all the time (even though it wasn’t all the time and I had a strict work-hours rule of not playing except at lunch time, but here I am rationalizing). Although I didn’t want to admit it, their pleas to put the phone down were legitimate. It was distracting me, and not in a good way.
It went on like this for a while, me knowing I should be more present and engaged, but really not wanting to give it up. Then one day, as the girls were completing their homework, we gathered ’round my iPhone. “Watch what I’m doing here.” I said as I bravely and ceremoniously deleted the remaining games from my iPhone OS. Removed. Completely.
I calculated that I had been spending more than an hour a day playing games on my phone (that doesn’t include time spent on apps such as twitter, NPR News, instagram and, of course, the weather app). That’s 400 hours a year. With that time back in my day, I actually picked up my New Yorker off the coffee table and read it. I organized photos. I even munched a little… candy.