Did you know that the average age a child gets a cell phone is now 10 years old!(1) That means that by the time a child reaches the 4th grade they are already up to speed with all the latest smartphone technology. It is interesting to know that the children get cellphones so early, especially when I can still remember the days when cellphones did not exist. The first cell phone that I got was in college and it could only text and call. Now, children have smartphones in elementary school. They can text, call, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, watch Netflix, and even play an unlimited amount of games in the App Store. It is such a nice distraction for bored kids and parents who are juggling a lot. It is easy to hand our kids a cell phone to entertain them, over hearing them cry out due to boredom. Phones are such a great tool for parents. Also, some kids get lost and cell phones can be a great tool for the kids to reach their parents in emergencies. As we can see, cell phones are clearly useful but can we find a balance between our wants and our necessities? Are we using our Phones order they using us?

We love our Smart Phones

So cellphones, technology, and apps are not all bad for kids. However, it’s not just kids who are using the phones. It is us millennials who are obsessed when them as well. Have you seen that the new iPhones are coming out this fall. Get ready for the huge lines and waiting times. Are you on a waiting list? There are so many of us adults who are crazy for phones! Rightly so! Phones are fun and sexy! The feeling of taking a phone out of the box and into the palm of our hands is like no other feeling. It’s shiny and new! We look at the speed of the operating system and new features. Heck some of us don’t care about that computer talk and we just care about the colors! Does it come in Gold, Blue, or Jet Black! Whatever it is that we love about phones, it’s a strong feel to desire the newest model. We can’t blame kids for loving the little black screens because we love them too!

We really love our Smart Phones

With so much technology in the palm of our hands, how do we continue to relate to each other and stay connected in person. The phones have access to social media and communication forms such as texting and calling. If these apps are for communicating with other people, how is it that it seems everyone is so distracted? Have you ever had lunch with a girlfriend when the phone rings. Usually, our friends will answer the phone and start having a conversation in front of us. This interrupts the conversation at lunch and stops the communication in person. Then, we are sitting there twiddling our thumbs. Sometimes, we even take out our own phones and start texting someone else. We take pictures of our brunch or mimosa and start posting on Instagram, checking in on Facebook, or Snapping the scenery at the restaurant. It’s so addicting to feel that comfort of our phones that we are doing something instead of just sitting and waiting for our friends to finish their own conversations on the phone. This is especially true when we have to wait in line for something! So BORING! We have to read on our phones, listen to music, or check out the latest Hulu original! What’s my other options? Stare at the back of people’s heads in front of us?

Can we still think of the feeling of not having anything to do in our hands?

Still although addicting, there is an inkling inside that tells me that something is off. There is something missing when we are always on the phone. If you are a true millennial, you may remember a time before cell phones. It was a time when we had to call ahead of time and tell our friends when and where to meet. We had to remember directions in our heads and also read a book or take a portable cd player if we were waiting somewhere. Sitting and staring at times when we got bored. We had to play mental games to stay entertained in class, work, or any other place that requires waiting around doing nothing sometimes. Can we remember not having that feeling that we must be connected at all times? Is it possible to imagine not being able to be contacted by your husband or boss 24/7? It may be a scary thought but we as a species have actually been doing this for years and years! Therefore, it’s not all a scary to think about not having a cell phone. If we as humans have done it in the past, we could do it again. The good thing is that we don’t have to be with out a phone again. We don’t have to and nor should we! In fact my challenge to us today is to take a moment and think about how we can balance our cell phone life and our in person life.

Smart Phones are Brand New!

How can we remember the days without a cell phone and also incorporate a cell phone into our lives. Frances Jensen who is the chair of University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman school of Medicine says in a Time article, “What this generation is going through right now with technology is a giant experiment, and we don’t know what’s going to happen!” Honestly, all this cell phone stuff is new to our species. Which means, there are no rules! There are no exact social etiquettes! We are making up everything as we go! Our own experiment! There’s  no clueto exactly what our society is doing with cell phones and if cell phone distractions affect our brains or emotions. Science is studying it but guess what! We are the test group! We all are!

How can we keep a balance between our Phones and our Lives

It should be then that we must think about how we should treat cell phones. Let us come up with our own rules. A very wise woman once told me, “I own the cell phone and the cell phone does not own me.” Therefore, we get to dictate our own rules around cell phones and the cell phones cannot control us. We have the power! Literally, there is a power button on my phone! Millennials at least are the last generation to know both sides. We know about life before and after cellphones. This new generation only knows life with cellphones fully ingrained into society. We have a unique perspective to come up with a plan of use. Here are some suggestions

1. Put the cellphone away at the dinner table:

Look, we all know family and friends are important. Consider that the time that we spend at this moment is fleeting and lost forever. The relationships that we make now are important and who knows what could happen to the person sitting across from us tomorrow. If we spend our days on our cell phone ignoring our husbands and children, when will this time be returned to us. It never will. We can also play a game with our friends and put the cell phone in the middle of the table. Who ever picks up the cell phone first during the meal has to pay the bill!

2.  Multitasking is impossible:

There are studies now suggesting that the human brain was never meant for multitasking In fact, it is now known that we do not do two things at once but we switch very fast between the two tasks. Therefore, our brains might actually be doing much much more work to switch back and forth than to just focus on one thing at a time. Try having a set time each day for tackling emails and text messages. Try coming home from work and spending a few mins on the phone instead of the rest of the night. Then, use the rest of the night to spend with our kids or watching our favorite television shows uninterrupted!

3.  Try a cut off time:

Try turn your cell phone off or on silent at a certain reasonable hour like 8pm. Some of us need our phones for work but we may still be able to tell our bosses that we would like to be contacted prior to 9pm. We can actually just turn off the notifications for text and calls at a decent hour or just stop responding to any non urgent calls, texts, or emails. Some phones have emergency modes that allow a call to come through if someone calls two or three time in a row. Play around with your phone settings or a pick a reasonable time to stop answering the phone. This will free us up to focus on what we like to accomplish at home.

4.  Keep the phones out of the bedroom:

There are studies now suggesting that the light from the cell phone is causing our brains to think that it is still daylight. This means that our bodies naturally do not realize that it is time to sleep. If we get insomnia or trouble falling asleep, try keeping the cell phone use in the bed to a minimum. Try turning the brightness down or reading a physical book instead of a tablet/phone. Our bodies will thank us when it can naturally know that it is dark and time for bed.

5. Free our minds:

Have you ever taken a cell phone or social media vacation? Have you noticed that your mind feels a bit freer. This is the information age which means our brains are getting overloaded daily. Every cat video we watch or meme we read is stored in our memories Every article we read and text message we answer is all information getting rattled around in our heads. Remember how we feel when we are in nature and taking the scenery all in. This free feeling can be achieved daily, if we spend a little less time soaking in so much information. It will free our minds to relax a bit or process our thoughts, emotions, and memories.  Read more about mental health and information overload.

6. Enjoy the moment:

Cell phone are super super fun! Taking pictures and capturing the memories are awesome! Snapchat is live and Instagram is a collection of our favorite memories. Try soaking in the memories and take a mental picture sometimes. This is the last and only time we will be alive. Take in all that life has to offer by enjoying the scene, the music, and use all your senses. How does the wind feel and how does the cake taste? The phone is fun and addicting. I know! Try taking pictures at the beginning of the event and then putting it away. See if you didn’t enjoy the party or event just a little more because you were really there completely and not distracted by the phone. Did you fight your shyness by sparking a conversation instead of pulling out your phone? Maybe we talked to someone we would not have otherwise! We can make memories that last a lifetime. Some things like joy, excitement, happiness, scents, tastes, and ambiance are priceless and a picture or video cannot capture it. Enjoy the Moment and Seize the Day!

(1) According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Influence Central, Clinical Psychological Science (TIME magazine Nov 2017)

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