A Low Tech Summer Parenting Hack
I spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways “the screens” affect my family’s well being (she types from a laptop while Netflix streams in the other room). If you are parenting kids spread far apart in age, you know that limiting screen time looks very different for a toddler, then it does a tween or teen. There’s just so much to consider.
I could (and probably will) write volumes on how I’m working on setting realistic boundaries for my family and myself in terms of screen time. But, I’ve been practicing a little “life hack” lately that seems to be working, so I thought I’d pass it on.
This Summer, when you are out and about enjoying shorter activities (the park, summer concert series, library, etc.), leave your phone in the car. Yep. Leave it. Better yet, leave it at home.
Or, not. If you are perfectly happy with where you are personally in terms of screen time, then rock on with your bad self. But, if you’re looking for an easy way to practice a little low tech time, try leaving your phone behind.
I mean, obviously practice common sense when it comes to electronics in warm temperatures. I lived in Texas for several years, so I get that there are limits to what even the hardiest of smart phones can endure. And, know your surroundings. I’m personally comfortable leaving my phone out of sight, in a locked car, in a public place. But, maybe you’d rather not. That’s OK too.
I’m not talking hours while you’re at the beach or the zoo. What I’m suggesting is that you leave your phone in the car for shorter outings. Here’s why:
This isn’t really about the kids. Yes, it would be great if we were more present with our children. It’s about us. It’s a manageable chunk of time (maybe 30 minutes) where we can unplug. Bring a book or journal if your kids are older and require less supervision. Or, take the time to be bored and let your mind wander. Think of it as a reset. How many of us have said that we don’t have time to meditate, pray, journal, etc.? How much of our time is spent mindlessly scrolling?
But then again, it really is about the kids. Not in the sense that your children require constant interaction with you. It’s about modeling the art of doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong. My kids understand that there are times when mom and dad have to check work email or talk with a client. Be honest with yourself. If you absolutely need to send a time sensitive email, then by all means.
It’s a good reminder that not every activity needs to be documented. I love taking pictures of my children playing. The VAST majority of the pictures I take of hikes, playgrounds and picnics never make it to social media. If you have fallen in the habit of instagramming every outing with your child, leaving your phone in the car may be worth trying.
It’s an adaptive practice. It doesn’t require a day long or week long technology fast. If you know you’re expecting an important call from the plumber, take your phone. If you go to the park 5 days a week and you’d like to listen to a podcast two of those days, great! If your Great Aunt Agnes bought your daughter a cute dress and you want to snap a pic, awesome. Take your phone.
For me, this little hack has been helpful in reminding me of all the times I mindlessly pick up my phone when I’m out with my kids. To be clear, I am absolutely not a purest with this rule. But, it’s been a helpful little practice that I thought I’d pass along.