• I recently found myself sliding down the slippery slope at home of interrupting conversations and only half-listening to stories as I answered texts, checked emails, and inadvertently gave everyone else priority over my family. I had a general rule for myself to not go online or answer texts or calls, barring an emergency. But when the phone rang how could I tell if it was something important or something that could wait? And when I got a text with a short question it seemed natural to just answer it. Who would it hurt if I just quickly checked emails for follow ups regarding work issues that might have been sent after leaving the office? Over time I found myself leaning more and more toward answering the phone, the texts and the emails before my children went to bed.

    Now when I get home from work I put my briefcase down, turn the ringer on my cell phone off and find my children

    What message was I giving to my children? I was showing no etiquette at all, and was teaching them that it is OK to be distracted when others are speaking to you and sharing their thoughts and feelings. I realized that it would not be long before my children would have their own phones and computers, and I know that I will not look kindly upon them texting while I’m talking. So I figured if I intended to one day enforce a ‘no tech’ rule during family time I had better get used to it and set that pattern early.

    Now when I get home from work I put my briefcase down, turn the ringer on my cell phone off and find my children. We do homework; have dinner, bath and book time, and then goodnights. When the kids are in bed I go back to my briefcase and turn my cell phone ringer on, plug in my computer, and re-connect with the digital world.

    My new resolution to turn it off has not made everyone happy. Family and friends get annoyed when I don’t answer immediately, and hassle/tease me about screening my calls. You know how that sounds– the barb delivered with a smile. But I can live with that. It turns out that – here’s a news flash- I own a cell phone for my own personal convenience, not for others’ convenience. I don’t pay the bill and carry it around so that everyone else can reach me the moment they want to. I have made peace with the idea of physical peace. No ringing/chiming/dinging noises interrupting the natural noise and pattern of family life during some protected times of the day.

    Our children are being raised in an age and environment where technology and communication are fast and furious. We are all on laptops/ipads/smartphones, on telephones, text messaging and constantly in motion. There are two aspects of this begging for attention. First- manners. Second- the breakdown of quality time.

    If you’re willing to take a small step, try leaving your phones in the car when you go to the park/beach/party with your children

    –Breakdown of quality time. If your children are telling you stories about school, and the day, but you interrupt to answer your phone, or check texts or emails, what message are you giving? You’re telling your children that they are not as important as whatever else you have going on. It is OK to interrupt on occasion, because, let’s face it; in real life we are all sometimes interrupted. Unfortunately, for most of us, interrupting has become the rule and not the exception.

    –Manners. Looking at someone when they are speaking to you is a fundamental of manners. Where has this gone of you are looking at a screen? Engaging in a conversation and responding appropriately is vital to effective communication. Even seasoned multi-taskers don’t communicate well while on a phone/computer.

    There are wonderful aspects of technology. And I’m the first one to say how much I love the ease and efficiency of email and text. Having a phone available at all times can be extremely convenient and gives us all a sense of security when traveling or when away from our children. But as I look around, and look in the mirror, I’m not so sure that I like what the price of some of this technology looks like. So I’m on a quest to be sure that I learn, and teach my children, how to own the technology and not let it own us. If you’re willing to take a small step, try leaving your phones in the car when you go to the park/beach/party with your children. And if you can overcome the choking sense of panic, if you don’t let it rule you and make you run back to check or grab the phone, you will discover that life can be wonderful and peaceful when it is filled with face to face conversations and experiences.