Do You Model Unhealthy Tech Habits?

Family Matters on 09.29.11
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Photo: Laura St. John

From generation to generation, we teach our kids healthy habits. Eat right. Exercise. Brush your teeth. But when it comes to your technology habit, you could be setting a bad example -- without even knowing it.

Are You Hooked?

Picture this. You are playing with your kids and you hear your phone's familiar chime -- the one that means you've got a new message. Do you check it?

When you interrupt what you're doing to check a new message, you're silently implying to your live, pint-size audience that the virtual message is more important than what's going on at that moment. You also become split -- half of yourself enters the virtual world while half of yourself stays in your real-life world.

My worst habits are texting and checking my email, but I don't want to be a half-mom to my boys! I know I'm in the wrong when my 1-year-old wants to grab and eat my phone, or my 5-year-old's voice grows louder with each "Mom, Mom, MOM!!" I snap out of it quickly, and put that phone away, out of sight, so I can be 100 percent real-life mommy.

The Tech Addiction

The definition of habit made me laugh (at myself and other habitual users I know). A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. Ha! Ok, yeah -- almost involuntary message checking -- that's me. And by just looking around, I know I'm not alone. 

We can't totally blame ourselves about our tech habits. We're living through an exciting technology revolution, right? As it continues to unfold, and we are handed technology with new bells and whistles, we develop new habits. They're just not always good ones.

How to Avoid It

The simplest way to avoid setting unhealthy technology habits is to unplug during times that deserve your full attention. For me, that means no technology allowed near the table at dinner time. It also means leaving my laptop closed and my phone put away during the precious few hours of family time each night.

Setting a tech boundary like this helps foster a good routine each night for my kids, and it helps me disconnect and unwind from a busy day of work. It took me just a few weeks to change my technology habits. I learned that all of my new text messages and emails -- even the ones marked urgent(!) -- will patiently wait for me.

Challenge Yourself Today

Monitor your tech habits for one day. If you are not sure if you are modeling any unhealthy tech habits, fast-forward a few years ahead. If you shudder at the thought of the teenage version of your child doing what you're doing -- such as checking his phone while eating dinner, or even worse, while driving -- then you better break your unhealthy tech habit now! 

 

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