When I moved into my dorm freshman year, in a new town 3 hours from home, my dad bought me a map of the city- a real fold out map. The year was 2007 (the year of the first iPhone release). We lived in a world where printed mapquest directions helped us reach our destination and where dads bought fold out maps for their daughters.
Today, my phone reads step by step directions as I drive. I don’t even need to know the address, just the name of my destination. My maps app calculates the drive time and expected arrival with notifications of any wrecks/patrol cars reported by users. Google will even tell me how crowded my favorite restaurant/store is in real time.
The Gray Area
Technology has made parts of our lives much simpler (ex: driving directions). We are always connected to the world and our family and friends, but nothing is black and white. With instant access comes distractions. Social media easily drains our time, holds our attention, and in some moments, the new notification can feel more important than the person sitting in front of us. A moment with our child can easily be interupted by a new Facebook notification.
“By any app to run free with notifications and distract me from being fully present in my daily life, I gave up ownership of my attention. I allowed it to rob the people around me of the full attention they deserved. It still amazes me to think I allowed such a small thing to have so much power over me back then.”-Anthony Ongaro
An Intentional Online Life
At 14 months old, my daughter already knows if she holds down the home button, Siri will start talking, and if she pushes it twice a keypad shows with numbers that light up when you touch them. She knows how to work an iPhone better than my 87-year-old grandfather.
The older millennials (those born in the 1980’s like me) are the last generation that can recall the frustration of calling the movie theater for movie times, only having to hang up and call again because someone in the room started talking. Today, we can open an app to see showtimes for every theater within a 15-mile radius and purchase tickets online.
I remember connecting to the internet for the first time ever. (If you want a walk down memory lane, here is a youtube sound clip of connecting to the internet via dial-up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsNaR6FRuO0).
My daughter will never connect to the internet for the “first time”. She always has been and always will be “connected” to the internet- to the world.
Digital Minimalism and Parenting
As a parent, there are lots of things I will need to teach my daughter that my parents taught me- how to make her bed, the dangers of drinking and driving, how to order at a restaurant. However, as a millennial parent, a new responsibility is teaching her how to have an intentional online life.
And that lesson begins with me setting the example.
Digital Minimalism and Children
One of my biggest fears is my daughter thinking back to childhood and picturing me with a phone in my hand. I want to be present for her childhood. How to Miss a Childhood is a great read to bring awareness to our online life as a parent.
Here are three steps towards digital minimalism. Don’t miss another moment with your children because your phone is fighting for your attention. Teach by example how to have an intentional online life.
1. Turn Off App Notifications
There is no reason you need to know the moment someone likes a Facebook post. A comment on an Instagram photo from a friend can wait. A Candy Crush notification should not distract you from brunch with a friend. An app should not have ownership of your attention. First, turn off all app notifications.
2. Use Do Not Disturb Mode
Set a “do not disturb” schedule on your phone. My schedule starts at 8:00 PM when my daughter goes to bed. The husband and I try to spend an hour with each other distraction-free (we may just watch Netflix, but we are both there together and focused on the show instead of our phone screens).
My schedule ends at 7:00 AM. I wake up at 6:00 AM to get ready for the day and have some “me” time before my daughter wakes up, so this gives me one hour to be intentional with my time before “life with a toddler” begins.
If you are worried about emergencies, you can allow repeated calls in the settings. When someone calls a second time, this feature will override “do not disturb”.
3. Be Intentional With Your Online Time
Now that your notifications are off, decide when you will check social media and when you will not. This is a personal decision, depending on how you use social media. The only rule is that it should not distract you during your most productive times and when you are in a social gathering (whether that be dinner with family, drinks with friends, or at the park with your child).
Be present in the moment. Set a time and the number of minutes you will scroll social media. If you find yourself scrolling through Instagram on impulse, remove the app for a few days. Rewire your mind so that you only open Instagram intentionally.
What is your biggest digital distraction in parenting and how do you control it?