A few months ago I finally joined the world of smartphone users. I had become the family phone recycler — taking ownership of old phones when others decided to upgrade. And though I cannot say that I wasn't excited to trash my old duct-taped, recycled phone, there are a few things I miss about its simplicity.
I realize an article could easily be written on the benefits of having a smartphone as well. Having picture and video capability with me always, as well as Internet access when out and about is a huge plus. While I never think I'll go back to a non-smartphone, nor do I hope to persuade anyone to, here are some observations I've made in comparing my non-smartphone life with now, in hopes to have some reminders in order to be a smart smartphone user.
Kids not asking to play the phone
"Mom, can I play your phone?" has become a common question around the house, and I cringe at how often my 3-year-old asks me that. It was never an issue with my non-smartphone that had pretty much nothing on it and was definitely not "cool." A recent study found that up to half of children use a smartphone or tablet in some form before their first birthday. The hard thing is how easy it can be to give it to a child, and I've needed to set guidelines for when and how much they can use my phone.
Easier to be present in the moment
I remember about a year ago being at a sporting event for my son. I looked down the sidelines and was surprised to see so many adults looking down at a phone instead of at the game. One parent even had in headphones and was streaming a movie. Of course, there are urgent things that need to be taken care of, and the key is determining if something is important enough to distract me from what I'm presently doing. I don't want to miss what is really important for a trivial distraction. Child development specialist Dr. Jenny Radesky discusses this troubling trend with parents, and how important face-to-face interaction is, instead of face-to-phone interaction.
Naturally limits time on social media
Social media can be a great outlet in our lives and a good way to keep up with friends, family and what is going on in the world. However, it can also be addicting. Before having a smart phone, it took the effort of sitting down and getting on the computer to spend time on social media, and therefore, was only checked generally at quiet times when I could get on the computer. This naturally limited it to just a few minutes a day. With a smartphone, social media sites can be checked anywhere, anytime, and it can be hard to leave them alone.
When finally looking into getting a smartphone, my naïve non-smartphone self was shocked at the cost. Some deals seemed really good, until looking at the small print and seeing how the cost of the phone was disguised into the monthly payment. While several plans make having a smartphone quite reasonable now, the initial cost of getting the phone was enough to turn me away several times. It may be worth it in the long run, but when comparing it to my non-smartphones it was a hard purchase to make. And, of course, then there are the upgrades and the constant need to get the newest, biggest and best version of the phone. Oh, and I learned the hard way not to go over on data usage.
The example we are setting for our children
While this age of exploding technology is the world our children are growing up in, and it can be a good thing for them to know how to navigate these devices, adults play an important role in guiding the use of technology, including smartphones. If I expect my children to listen to me and have limits to technology use, then I should be setting the example. If they see me with my phone every spare minute I have, and I'm not listening or interacting with them as I should, then it will be easier for them to do the same.