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COVID-19: How to "Parent" Your Phone

03.28.20 | Life Application | by Christian Cooper

COVID-19: How to "Parent" Your Phone

    Let’s talk about that dysfunctional relationship you're in. No, not that one; I mean the one with your phone. 

    I hate to break it to you, but chances are you have an unhealthy relationship with your smartphone. In fact, research shows that many of us suffer from a literal addiction. Here are some scary stats: 

    • The average person touches their phone more than 2,500 times per day and uses their phone for almost three hours per day (over an hour of that on social media)
    • 75% of people sleep next to their phones, and 90% of people check their phone immediately upon waking
    • People who spend more time on their phones are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation, loneliness, anxiety, increased stress, and decreased attention spans
    • Teenagers who spend five hours a day or more on electronic devices are 71% more likely to suffer suicidal thoughts

    In the past few months, I’ve been on a mission to limit the time I spend mindlessly on my phone. And the more I learn about digital wellness, the more committed I become. The change in me has been overwhelming. I’m healthier. I’m more present in the moment, and I’m more present with others. My attention span has increased. I spend more time with Jesus and am more in tune with the Holy Spirit.

    John Mark Comer wisely said, “Our time is our life, and our attention is the doorway to our hearts.” So, as we navigate our new schedules and limited social interactions during this pandemic, I want to caution you not to enslave yourself to that device in your pocket, on the table beside you, or (gasp!) the one in your hand right now. Below are a few practical ideas to help you ‘parent your phone’: 

    1. Put Your Phone to Bed

    At night I put my phone on Do Not Disturb and place it in a drawer at 9 PM (one hour before I go to bed). The neuroscience behind this habit alone is incredible.

    Spoiler alert: You will sleep better.

    2. Make Your Phone Sleep In

    Try not to engage with your phone for a set time once you wake up and not until after you spend time with Jesus. Don’t let your phone set the emotional or spiritual equilibrium for your day. Begin the day, instead, with prayer and scripture. 

    Spoiler alert: Your devotional time will get better.

    3. Put Your Phone In Time-Out

    Set aside times each day where you won’t use your phone at all. In addition to an hour at night and in the morning, I try to make all my meals and the first two hours when I get home from work phone-free. 

    Spoiler Alert: Your spouse and your kids will notice.

    4. Give Your Phone a Sabbath

    For one full day each week, turn your phone off or on airplane mode and put it away in a drawer somewhere. Notice how much better that day becomes.

    Spoiler alert: Society won’t collapse because you can’t answer texts for 24-hours. 

    5. Limit Your Screen Time 

    Thankfully, Apple has built software into your settings to help you track and limit your screen time. Start by setting a goal of limiting your screen time by 33%.

    Spoiler Alert: There's irony in telling your phone not to let you use your phone.

    6. Set Social Media Limits 

    Build a social media limit into your screen time (15-30 minutes). Or, only check your social media at set times each day, like in the evening. Orrrrr… take social media apps off your phone entirely, transfer it to your computer, and schedule set times to check it.

    Spoiler Alert: You don’t need to see a picture of Linda’s cobb salad at lunch.

    7. Leave Your Phone Home Alone

    Before you run to the grocery store or walk your dog (pretty much the only things we can do outside the house right now), ask yourself, “Do I absolutely need to have my phone for this?” If not, leave it behind. Don’t worry; it won’t burn down the house while you’re gone.

    Spoiler Alert: You don’t need to take a picture of your cobb salad at lunch.

    8. Mute Your Phone

    You can’t always mute your kids. But you can mute your phone. Go into your settings and turn off most of your notifications. Start with disabling email, news apps, and social media notifications (they’re the devil).

    Spoiler Alert: That email with a 5% coupon for Michael’s isn’t urgent.

    9. Delete and Consolidate Apps

    If you only keep the essential apps on your phone, you’ll be much less likely to waste time on it. Take a few minutes to delete all those apps you never use and consolidate the ones you do into organized folders.

    Spoiler Alert: If you don’t have 43 games on your phone, your nephew will stop asking to see your phone. 

    10. Turn Your Phone Sunny-Side Down

    This is the simplest and easiest habit on the list. Any time your phone is on the couch, on the table, or on your desk, turn it face down. By doing this, you’ll be less likely to impulsively look at it during the day. 

    Spoiler Alert: You don’t really need to check the time every 2 minutes. 

    I challenge you to put some of these habits into practice. Then, notice how much more quality time you seem to have in your day. You’ll be surprised by the positive impact lower screen time has on your emotional, physical, and spiritual life.