When I was a child I lived in a two story home with my parents and three siblings. Around 7 o’clock, my mother or father would ask the available to child to “go get your siblings for dinner.” We then ran to the stairs and promptly yelled at the top of our lungs, “DINNER!!!” My parents then scolded “Don’t yell!
Walk up the stairs.” But here’s the real kicker, if all of us kiddos were upstairs mom and dad didn’t walk up to get us; no, they stood at the base of them and yelled up as well. No wonder we always ignored their instruction and screamed for one another instead of walking up the steps. We followed our parents’ lead.
I tell this story because as a Tech Director I am often asked by fellow teachers, administrators, and even parents how they can curb a child’s smartphone behavior. The best advice that I can give (and the hardest for adults to follow) is to model the behavior that you expect from a child.
If you want your child to have conversations during a meal, then all phones (not just theirs) should be put away. Pick a designated location that they are stored, preferably outside of the room so that a ding or a buzz won’t distract. If you are going to dinner, bring *one phone* for an emergency. All of the others stay home. The present phone doesn’t sit on the table, it should be put away. I like to zip mine up in a handbag so that it’s not readily available and I can’t pull it out if tempted. If you think that the distractify culture isn’t a problem at restaurants, check out this article written by a New York restaurateur that outlined the impact of cell phones on restaurant turn over.
In addition to meals, pay attention to where else you use your phone. A recent article in the Washington Post reported some disturbing trends in adult use of smart phones; nearly 1/3 used it during a child’s recital or production and more alarming more than 1/2 used it while driving! Likewise, how often in a long assembly have you snuck in a quick text or checked your email (I know I’m guilty of this)?
The reality is that children do learn what they see. Just as we teach children to be courteous (say please and thank you, wait your turn, etc), be sure that you demonstrate and model appropriate and respectful use of your smartphone: don’t read email/texts/social media at the table, don’t use your phone while you’re driving, and certainly do not ignore a child or student (at ballet recitals, school plays, or assemblies) in favor of the device. Not only does this demonstrate to them what courteous smartphone use it, it will provide you some weight when you correct their behavior.