We have become so consumed by our digital devices that police now patrol for distracted drivers. Sometimes I think it would be great if there were patrols monitoring for distracted parenting and I, just as much as anyone else, would definitely get a ticket. Distracted parenting is pervasive and I am writing about this from the perspective as both a librarian and a parent. As a librarian, I notice parents consistently on their phones during storytime or when they are with their children looking for books. As a parent, I have found myself in many distracted parenting moments where I have tuned my daughter out just so I could respond to a text or check my email.
These moments on our devices cause us to miss out on opportunities to bond and build relationship with our family and friends. Not only do we miss out on opportunities for relationship, but we also cause our children or loved ones to feel as if they are competing for our attention. It is now common to have our phones on twenty four hours a day and many of us sleep with our phones. We wake up in the middle of the night and decide to check our email, read the New York Times or browse the newest shoes at Zappos. Yes, I am personally familiar with all of these scenarios.
I have found that many of my digital behaviors feel compulsive and in the moment it is satisfying, but I have deep regret after the fact. I realize that I have wasted a chunk of time I could have spent with my child, reading a book from my never ending pile or working on my creative writing. Many of the technologies we currently use are addictive and are causing behavioral addiction. A lot has been published about how we can help our children responsibly use their phones and tablets, but how can we expect them to be responsible if we are modeling the opposite behavior?
There are many ways to modify your behavior as an adult. In our house, we never have meals with devices at the table, but I definitely need to change my behavior in other ways. I have decided that I am going to turn my phone off after 7:00 pm each night so that I have an actual break from my device and that I can give my undivided attention to nighttime rituals. My second goal is to keep all devices out of the bedroom--no iPad or laptops. Yes, I will have to dust off my old alarm clock and read a physical book or magazine before I fall asleep.
If you are feeling inspired to modify your family's use of digital devices or learn more about digital devices in your daily life, there are lots of great books at the library! Hopefully some of the books listed below will be of interest. All books are available at www.krl.org.