As a mom of a toddler, and a new mom of two kids, I am all too familiar with the smart phone dilemma.
If you have remained immune to this dilemma, let me fill you in. It's when you give your kid a cell phone so that you can keep them entertained when you need to get things done, aren't feeling well, or just straight up can't mama at the moment. I am more than a little embarrassed at the amount of time my toddler has spent on a phone in his short life.
I will admit that my son is very (and I mean very) familiar with a smart phone. He loves to watch videos about colors, counting, and the alphabet. He loves to look at pictures of our family. We've even downloaded some of his favorite movies on the phone for him to watch while we travel (or sometimes when we're at the mall, out to dinner, or sitting on the couch). *sigh*
The truth is, the phone is EASY. It's almost criminal how most kids will turn absolutely silent and agreeable when they're watching a re-run of Teletubbies.
So, if your relationship with the phone is as complicated as mine is, then you're probably also looking for a way to cut back on that tech time and try to replace it with something else.
So...how the heck are we supposed to do that, mamas?
In our family, we are far (I mean like really far, mamas) from perfect, but we have been working on this problem for several months now. If you're looking for a little bit of help, then keep reading for a few things that have helped us with our little guy.
Out of sight out of mindHere's the deal-- for the most part, if your kid doesn't see it, they won't think about it. So that means that if your phone is right in their face (whether you're checking your email, calling the plumber, or checking Insta stories) they're most likely going to want to take it from you. If you've been as bad as our fam, and gave your kid their own phone/tablet to use, then you should probably put that away. And don't take it out. If your babe has been glued to the phone for the last few hours/days/weeks, then you're gonna have a bad time. If your little one can talk, they'll probably be asking for it all day, but just stay strong and either ignore the request, or say something like, "Lets play without the phone!"
Come up with alternativesI know, I know. The whole point of using the phone in the first place is to keep your little one focusing on something so you can focus on something. But if you want to keep phone out of their hands, you need to replace it with something else. Try tactile play like using play dough, or even water (in buckets or cups), on the porch or in the backyard. Try coloring books, sensory/quiet books, or even puzzles. Keep in mind that these activities will not be as mind-numbingly engaging as the phone. I know. Annoying. So just be willing to switch it up for them between each activity to give yourself some time to get things done.
Don't let the meltdowns get you downIf you have a toddler, I'm sure you have been presented with this scenario--a tantrum in a public place that is so incredibly embarrassing that you would do literally anything to end it. Immediately. Wanna know a quick way to shut down the screech that is a 2-year-old in line with you at the checkout? You guessed it! The phone. My solution to this problem? Deal. It is probably the hardest part about having a toddler, but don't let their meltdowns get you down! You're not a bad mama, you're not to blame, and guess what? Every other parent in the world has had a kid that's had a meltdown in public. So take it with stride, and do your best to roll with the punches (literally if you've got a thrasher). I can tell you from experience that handing over the phone at the first sign of trouble will ensure an even bigger tantrum next time when you choose not to hand it over.
Maximize sleep timeThis one is truly tough, mamas, but if I can do it you can do it. You've gotta take advantage of nap time and bed time. I know, I know. This is devastating. But the truth is when you need to have more than a few minutes of uninterrupted time, you need to use the time when your child simply isn't around. I use nap time to get any phone calls out of the way, and to get work done on the computer. Once he goes to bed, it's easier to finish up any chores that didn't get done during the day, and if that means you're going to bed a little bit later, then welcome to mamahood, mama.
Make it work for your fam
The truth is you have to tailor these tips into your own life and schedule. In order for any of these to work in our home, we've had to keep the TV available so that I can do things like nurse our newborn, use the bathroom, or get something to eat. If you need to use the phone for a certain amount of time during the day, go for it! My advice is to keep it short and consistent. We have often used the phone for 30 minutes during the evening while I am making dinner so that I can... you know... make dinner. The hope is to cut back on the overall time your child is on the phone, so if they can come to expect it at the same time everyday for the same amount of time, you can usually keep it in check. The phone can be an awesome tool for so many things as well. For instance, it can give our kids something to do when we travel, they can use educational apps, and of course, they can keep in touch with their grandparents. But if they get too attached to the screen, it can be hard to get them to engage with other kids, learn how to handle their emotions without resorting to the phone, and could even keep them from developing on track with their language or vocabulary.