Baby's Cell Phone Obsession

Last year around this time, we had a similar challenge to this week’s #bebetter52 challenge, which was to take timeouts from your phone. I remember writing an Aly’s Angle and taking a picture. The finished photo is a visual that will stick with me forever. I had two-month-old Cooper lying on her back on my lap. While she stared up at her mama’s face, I held the phone between us and pretended to text someone.  The text on the picture read, “I never want my daughter to know the back of my phone more than my face.”

It has been a year, and I feel my sensitivity to the overuse of phones has grown increasingly.  It is a subject to which I have given great thought. I notice families out at dinner with the children glued to their phones. I have made a new commitment to be absent from the phone while playing, feeding and bathing Coops. This is not easy, and I haven’t been 100% perfect at it because I essentially work from my phone. The only way this is possible is to separate work and home as much as possible.

I feel young parents have been told kids should have limited phone and/or “screen time,” and most of my friends seem pretty committed to the cause. But what I have noticed is the lack of limiting their own “screen time.” How can we expect our children to detach from the phone when the very thought of not checking a new text message increases our heart rate and produces anxiety?

I know many adults struggle with how to detach from their phones. I, too, struggle, especially when it comes to work text messages. I hate falling asleep with unanswered texts or waking up to them. Much to my chagrin, I have been guilty of sending text messages without even looking at the time. Once,  I pressed send only to realize I had just texted my high school seniors past 10:30 p.m. Totally unacceptable on my part.

I understand moms feeling the need to be connected in case their children or a doctor calls, or when a work related call might happen.  This week I thought, “So what if someone calls and I do not answer it?  I’m sure within an hour or so, I will check any missed phone calls and promptly call them back.” All week, I set my phone in a completely different room, and I even tried out the “do not disturb” feature on the iPhone which stops all notifications. It was liberating.

It has been intriguing watching Cooper’s natural instinct to want to reach for my phone.  I bring her into bed in the morning to nurse, and if she sees it, she stretches for it with a little whine. Is there some sci-fi-like force attracting her to the device because she seems to know how to click the buttons without ever being taught? Curious as to her baby fascination with the phone, I goggled it. Tons of articles came up.

Suggestion to parents from the article, “Baby’s Cell Phone Obsession”

I want to return her gaze with my eyes and smile, not the back of my phone.

I want to return her gaze with my eyes and smile, not the back of my phone.

Limit your own use.

The article points out that “most problems can wait until your child is in bed or you’re back in the office.” This is so true, yet if I remember something I need to do on my phone (check bank, weather, email, text, etc.), anxiety floods me if I don’t do it that second. Maybe I think the task will never get accomplished if I don’t get on it immediately. This week I placed an old-fashioned pad of paper in the kitchen so when these ADD thoughts entered my brain, I could simply write them down in a list.

Be Consistent.

“Letting your toddler play with your cell phone at the grocery store to prevent a candy aisle meltdown, but not at home, will only confuse and frustrate him.” I had honestly never thought of it that way, but it makes complete sense. I reflected on the moments I have let Cooper play with the phone. There are only two moments: one, in her carseat while kids’ music plays on Pandora, such as 52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs. She dances with it in her hands until she throws it somewhere in the back seat and then whines for it until we get home. Recently, I  play the music on it without letting her hold it;  two, when we Facetime her “dada” or other family in Maui and Oregon. The second she hears the Facetime ring, her face lights up, and she says “dada.” Is that a good use of the phone? It feels like it.

Engage your toddler in stimulating real-life activities.

"Toddlers love to imitate their parents," says Schwartz. “Give him pots and pans for ‘cooking’ (and drum playing) or ask him to help you do the laundry with his own pile of hand towels to sort or to water the plants together with his own mini- watering can.” I love this. So all week I have tried to involve Cooper more in my daily activities. I pulled her high chair up to the counter as I made our healthy smoothies, introducing every fruit and vegetable to her before putting it in the blender. If giving her ways to imitate me helps her not reach for the phone, then I will come up with more ways for her to do so.

She helps me be present in the moment. Who needs a phone for entertainment?

She helps me be present in the moment. Who needs a phone for entertainment?

The research is real. Phones are not awesome for children’s development.  I found an article that states 10 reasons not to give children technology. I feel the first four items on the list really speak to me as a mom of a young toddler.

1.     It can change the child/parent relationship.

2.     It becomes their first addiction.

3.     It sparks tantrums.

4.     It prevents them from sleeping.

The article states, “Between the ages of 0 and 2 years, an infant’s brain triples in size. A parent’s voice, touch, and eventually play can help build pathways in their brain that aid them in learning how to bond emotionally with other people. But for children who spend too much time interacting with a screen, something different happens.

“Their neural pathways change and different ones are created,” says pediatric nurse Denise Daniels. “It affects concentration, self-esteem and, in many cases, they don’t have as deeply personal relationships.”

I am not pretending disconnecting from your phone is easy, but after researching more on the negative effects of phones, it is worth it. One of the things I love most about traveling is not having my phone service available. I feel more alive and present in the moment. I want my life to feel like that daily, and Cooper helps me with that goal. I don’t want to miss out on her little moments because I was busy scrolling. I don’t want her to look up at her mama and see the back of a phone instead of her mom’s eyes.