My attitude began to change when I made the decision to break the habit of mindlessly picking up my smartphone.
I became a new grandmother and I wanted my granddaughter to say: Grandma loves me more than her phone.
And I am trying hard to show her that that’s true.
I learned years ago how to make people feel like they are the only one in the room. Use eye contact and listen closely.
It seems impossible to give someone our undivided attention in a digital world. There’s so much noise around us and it feels like there’s no way to stop the distractions.
I almost forgot that “gift” I had, the ability to listen well and make someone feel like they’re noticed. My phone was constantly competing with that skill and I was completely unaware that it was happening.
Eye contact and listening closely are not necessary skills when texting, emailing, posting, tweeting or playing games on the Internet.
Now that my kids are adults, I find myself reflecting on those times when I spent hours looking at my digital devices instead of talking and listening more often with them. I didn’t think about my own tech use when they were children, even though I carefully regulated their time on the computer or when watching TV.
My family, and probably yours, too, could not have predicted the negative side effects smartphones could have on hearts and minds. I feel guilty for not being responsible with my own tech habits when I got my first smartphone.
Thankfully, a number of experts and scientists are beginning to speak up and inform others how technology is changing us today. I established Smart Digital Kids (SDK) to provide resources for parents to raise kids who will use tech intentionally, not mindlessly.
I want my granddaughter to be self-aware of her actions and to use digital devices responsibly and creatively. She’ll be looking at me as an example of how to communicate offline (eye contact and listening closely) as well as online.
Our behavior (personally, professionally, and ethically) should not differ whether online or offline. But rediscovering the specific skills necessary when communicating offline can give digital kids an advantage in the work place.
Practicing and mastering such communication skills* may also heal kids’ hearts and minds.