Lose the smartphone

The little boy had a Spiderman backpack and raced up and down the sidewalk, while his mother held tight to her dog and leaned against a neighbor’s fence, her head down looking at her smartphone.

Coming back from a coffee run, I drove past several small groups of moms and dad, all different ages and backgrounds, waiting for their kid’s school bus. The parents were all in a very similar pose. The children played or talked by themselves and the adults were all heads down looking at their phones.

When I got to my street, the yellow school bus in front of me came to a stop. The boy waved goodbye to his mom and jumped on the bus. I desperately wanted to get out and make a suggestion to the woman and the other parents I saw, but I thought better of it.

I wanted to tell her to put down her phone. 

My time has come and gone, my kids are all grown. However, I would give anything to go back in time and wait with them for the bus or drop them off at school. I’m not crazy though. No one likes a know-it-all, especially related to phone etiquette or parenting do’s and don’ts, so I kept my thoughts to myself.

Breaking the chain

Apple came out with the first smartphone in June 2007. Cellphones and personal assistant devices existed prior to 2007, but the smartphone took the capability to a new level.

My wife and I have made a lot of parenting mistakes, but if we did one good thing, it’s that we weren’t chained to our phones like many are now. Now I’m guilty as anyone at looking at my phone. I can pull out my phone anywhere, anytime, without thinking. When our kids were young though, I tried to limit my phone usage.

My wife handled drop-off chores much more often then I did, but one of my fondest memories is my youngest son giving me a hard time in middle school because I made him put away his phone. While we waited in my cramped car for the bus to arrive, I used the time to ask him questions:

  • Who was his favorite teacher?
  • What was his favorite subject?
  • What games did he like to play in recess?
  • Who were his friends?
  • How was his homework coming?

Say cheese

I took out my phone only to take a selfie of the two of us. He hated it, but I found that it made us closer. If nothing else, it showed him that I was interested in him. Heck, if nothing else, it showed that I cared about him more than the 2.4 by 4.5 inch computer in my back pocket. 

Oh, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I’m addicted to my phone as much as anyone. In many respects, we got lucky. My wife and I were late to the phone game. We always seemed to be behind the latest and greatest technology. We weren’t addicted yet, so it wasn’t the problem that it is today.

Feel for parents

I have sympathy for parents, and I know I’m making a big request, but it can pay back huge dividends. The more we showed our kids that we cared about them more than work or the latest social media trend, the closer we got over time.

So, I may not be the coolest dad, but I speak from experience: smartphones are great, but sometimes all a kid wants, is mom or dad.

15 thoughts on “Lose the smartphone

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  1. I have a rule at my dinner table: no phones. What amuses me about this is that my mom who is 83 has a hardest time with this rule. If the text chime happens, she just instinctively reacts to get out her phone. And I wouldn’t describe her as chained to the phone – it’s just conditioning. Yes, we all need to put our phones down! Love the questions you asked your son!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny Wynne, but the questions I’m asking my son when he texts or calls home from college now aren’t all that different. How are things going? How are you feeling? What’s your favorite/toughest class? What do you love/hate about college? Tell me about your friends? Finding time to chill? And yes, I have to admit, I’m probably the one who is the worst about putting down my phone. I can be really annoying about it if I don’t watch! We had the same rule about dinner. It’s a godsend! I’m always surprised when we go out to eat and I see others – heads down. We’re all so busy, if we didn’t have that rule, I might have never known what was going on in my kids lives!


  2. This is a great post, Brian, and a very important topic. I didn’t have a smartphone when my children were growing up, so they got my attention most of the time. As you said, today, it’s so different. My son is one of the worst smartphone addicts (as much as I love him). When he and the children, 9 and 7, come to see me, I can guarantee that Tom will be messing about on his phone, usually making the excuse that it’s his work when I know it’s not. Sometimes, I can’t resist saying something like, “could you please put your (mild expletive) phone down and pay some attention to your children.” That usually has the effect of him looking up briefly, and then off he goes again.

    On one occasion, I was at the local library, where they were running a father and child session. A little boy was playing and wanting to show his father what he’d made, but sadly, the father just continued to tap, tap, tap at his phone. What sort of message does that give to a child?

    I could be better with my phone too. I check it quite a bit at home, but then I live alone, so it doesn’t affect anyone else. I don’t have it on the table at a cafe or restaurant or even if I’m at lunch with a friend. That’s the height of rudeness when someone has gone to the trouble of preparing a nice meal. I’ll stop here as I’ve written more than enough. It’s a bugbear of mine (as you might have guessed!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your library example is exactly the reason why I hate smart phones. It makes my heart cry. And yes, I’m just as bad as anyone, but I do try to put my phone away and not pull it out unless I really need to! I’ve tried to limit my notifications so that I don’t check as often! Tech is supposed to help us, not rule us!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I chuckled at your bus stop observations…I’ve seen the same…parents in clumps waiting with their kids but with heads down, into their phones. I remember SOMETIMES hating the idle chit chat with other parents and I wonder if some engage their phones as an avoidance technique. Love your post and don’t disagree a bit with your wisdom. Thanks, Brian! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you put it like that – Idle chit chat – I completely understand. I can’t believe I forgot about that, I hated idle chit chat at the bus stop, practices, school events. I was just never good about it. I didn’t mean to be anti-social, just wasn’t my thing. And yes, I did bury my head in my phone to avoid some of that! Ha, ha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re better than me Victoria! I run from it. Real, honest, authentic conversation – love it. Silly chit chat about the weather or Sunday’s football game or The Bachelorette or the latest episode of Survivor – I’ll pass. I stutter and stammer like I’m giving an important presentation. Just horrible.

        Liked by 1 person

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