Purposeful Phone Use Around Kids


Well, it happened. One of my kids asked me to get off my phone. I admit, after answering a quick work email, minutes later I was still scrolling away mindlessly on Instagram. These little rectangles of social media, email, and calendars can really suck us in – that is what they are designed to do. And much of our lives do in fact depend on technology. Our social lives, financial lives, cameras, directions – it is all wrapped up in these phones. Regardless, it still made me feel sad that my kids were having to ask for my focus. It made me wonder how I could be more purposeful with my phone use around my kids.

The Good Ol’ Days

Growing up, our parents weren’t glued to their phones, though they were still busy with other things. The interesting thing is that we could clearly see what they were busy doing. If Mom was flipping through a cookbook, she was picking out a new recipe to try for dinner. If Dad was writing in the checkbook, he was paying the bills. If Mom was reading a book, it meant she was enjoying one of her hobbies. If Dad was checking the weather channel on TV, it meant he was deciding if we needed coats for school that day.

When I am on my phone, my kids don’t know why. Is it something important? Is it for some downtime? Is it for work? Is it….not actually needed?

A New Strategy

Inspired by this, I’ve been working on more purposeful phone use around my kids. There are times I need to use my phone, but in those moments, I have been sharing out loud what I’m doing and why. “I’m texting Dad to pick up a pizza on his way home.” or “I’m taking a few minutes to relax and read a chapter of my book on my phone” or “I’m finding a new dessert recipe for us to try tonight!”

Not only does this help my kids understand why I need my phone in the moment, but it also helps to keep me in check. Am I doing something actually important or am I looking at a silly dog video that really doesn’t matter?

Since putting this new strategy into place, I’ve noticed two things. One, I am being more efficient with my time on my phone. No more looking up from what should have been a quick text to a friend to notice that 30 minutes have passed. And two, when I’m playing with my kids, our time together is more focused and enjoyable. I can be a much better pretend unicorn who plays the harmonica with my 4-year-old when I’m not checking my email. And I can help set up the world’s most epic monster truck jump with my 6-year-old when I have both my hands and my eyes free.

I’m not perfect and I don’t plan to be, but a little extra awareness goes a long way. How do you keep your phone use in check and purposeful around your kids?


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