I’m Not Going to Let Technology Rob My Children of Their Father


The internet is amazing.

I know this is probably completely obvious to most people, but stop and think about it for a moment. We have the world in our pockets. What used to occupy entire rooms now fits in your back pocket, or on your wrist. We can share videos, browse Twitter, and livestream news from ten thousand miles away, all from a device roughly the size of a deck of playing cards.

There are apps for everything: want to organize your meal plan for the week? Schedule soccer pick up for the season? Start a group photo album for that trip to Disneyland? All it takes is a trip to the app store and a few minutes to set up.

With all these tools that aim to make our lives easier and automate more things, we should be the most laid back, least stressed out, least busy generation in the history of the world, right?

Yea, I didn’t think so.

If you are like me, with an addictive personality, it’s very easy to get sucked into this trap. My wife and I like to play this game called “please tell me why this song is in my head.” It’s exactly what it sounds like, and the songs are usually incredibly random. The other night, the song in my head was “Killing me Softly” by The Fugees. As we were laying in bed, I casually remarked that I couldn’t remember who the third member of The Fugees was. She said she had no idea, and we went to bed.

And I could not get it out of my head. The answer was six inches from my head. So naturally, I dove in. Not only did I find out who the third member of The Fugees was (it was Pras) but naturally I ended up on Wyclef Jean’s wikipedia page, scrolling through his albums, learning all sorts of useless trivia that I will never need to know.

What’s the point of that story? Technology is amazing, but it is incredibly addictive.

Now, if my loyalty to the web was only limited to the waning hours of the evening, and only had an impact on my sleep, that would be one thing, but sadly, it has way more of an impact than that. I’ve found myself on multiple occasions hearing my daughters chime out over and over, “Dad, look what I made” and me responding with a “that’s awesome” all while never looking up from my phone. Whether I’ll admit it or not, what is on my phone screen at the time is more important than my daughters.

A few years back, we were at a beach house on the Oregon Coast. The beach in Oregon is freezing most of the time, so we were mainly playing in the sand, watching movies, and eating a crazy amount of snacks. At one point in the weekend, our oldest daughter, who was four at the time, came up to me with my phone and said, “Dad, can you teach me how to Google.”

At that point, I started wondering, what were we teaching our girls? Were we teaching them that anything worthwhile happens on our phones? Or were we teaching them that life is happening right in front of us? My daughter had no idea what Google was, she just knew that she’d heard me talking about it, and obviously had seen me glued to my phone, so she wanted to do what I was doing.

Now, I’m clearly not anti-technology. I understand that there are times when what’s happening on your phone is important. A breaking news story (that does not involve a Kardashian,) answering an urgent email from the office, or looking up directions or checking traffic. These are all important. Clearly there are times when we need to be on our phones.

But I wonder if our kids are growing up more used to seeing the back of an iPhone than they are seeing our faces?

This isn’t as big an issue for my wife. Her mentality is just to not be on her phone, and for her, it’s that easy.

Oh to have that kind of non-addictive personality.

For myself, I’ve tried taking a few simple steps that I think have been incredibly helpful for me, and have helped me be much more present in the lives of my family.

First, as much as it is possible, I try to put my phone away when I get home from work. This doesn’t always look like powering my phone off and putting in a drawer, but it can be as simple as plugging it in on my nightstand so that it’s not near me until we put the kids to bed. At one point I found myself spending dinner time browsing Twitter and Instagram, and my wife very lovingly said something to the effect of “this needs to stop.”

I also conned my family into getting me an Apple Watch for Christmas. It’s only been a week, but what started off as a luxury purchase that I could use to help me get in shape has turned into something that I already feel is helping me be more present. I can browse Twitter from the watch, but it is cumbersome and time consuming, so I don’t. I can browse Instagram, but I don’t because again a 2 inch screen isn’t exactly ideal for a photo sharing app. For me, it’s a watch, a run tracker, a way to manage my to-do list, and a text message reader. Well worth the price.

Maybe you don’t struggle with this. Maybe this article isn’t something that you need to read. Maybe you’ve got the phone/life balance figured out. If that’s the case, carry on. You’re doing great.

If you’re like me though, it takes some effort. The draw of the iPhone screen is tempting. There is so much information out there, and so many ways to make your life easier. One more app, one more article, one more celebrity to follow. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves starting to trade our real relationships for internet “relationships.” We start to trade our messy, chaotic lives for ones that perfectly filtered and curated. We can spend so much time trying to convince everybody else online that we have things figured out that we miss out on what is happening all around us.

This week, make an effort to disconnect. Turn your phone off for an hour and play a game with your kids. Put it in a drawer and go on a hike, or play soccer in the front yard, or just watch a movie together as a family. It will be hard at first. You’ll wonder what you’re missing. After all, there are photos to like, news to read, and things to retweet, but I promise, all of those things will be there. All day, every day, they will be there. Our kids will only be kids for a precious few years, and no retweet is worth missing out on that.