Tis the season of new beginnings, resolutions, and goals. From losing weight to drinking less, many of us have likely set a resolution or goal for 2023. Sarah and I have actually been talking about a goal we’d like to have for our family. Well, it’s really a goal specifically for us and it has to do with our phones.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but far too often our family of four is eating dinner around the kitchen island and either one of us, or both of us are on our phones. Responding to a text or email. Glancing at an article. Checking out a “breaking story.” And in a moment of tremendous candor, when either Sarah or I call the other out in love and grace, both of us tend to respond with a more defensive posture.
Phones. I’m not telling you something you don’t already know from the buzzes, pings and alerts of your life. We are a people tethered to our phones. Since we have a 5th grader (who does not currently have a phone), I’ve been asking around about the topic of kids and phones and timing and restrictions and all of it. I’ve had these questions and fears ringing (pun intended) in my head for quite sometime and then I read an article from The Reformed Journal titled “Anxious America” by author and entrepreneur, Jeff Haanen. In his article acknowledging and responding to the mental health crisis plaguing our country, he cited rise of social media and smartphones. He wrote:
Not only has social media led to growing political division due to an inability to effectively communication, but studies have also found that overuse of smartphones actually warps teenage brains, causing anxiety, depression, impulse control problems, and sleep disorders. Dr. Jean Twenge, author of the best-selling book iGen, has found that this generation of teens, when compared to teens in the 1970s, are less likely to go out with peers, more likely to say they feel left out or lonely and more likely to report they don’t enjoy life. These rates went up markedly since 2012 – the first-year smartphones hit the market.
Our goal is simple. Less phones. No phones while eating dinner. No exceptions. No phones for the handful of minutes Sarah and I get each day touch base and connect with each other. And if we do need to be on our phones, then we can do so not in the presence of each other and the boys. This last goal was mine because I’m seriously afraid of what kind of memories Will and Bram will have of me. I’m horrified thinking they might look back and say “Yeah, Dad was always on his phone.” I’ll let you know how it goes and please feel free to hold me accountable.
As we begin a new year, I think we all need to seriously consider our relationship to our phone. How might we be able to put them down a bit more often so we might be present to the people and places of our lives? What if we received more joy and smiled a bit more hearing the laughter of a friend or the touch of a child over the blinking lights of our phone? What if we cared more about the “likes” we get in conversation with friends over the “likes” we get on social media?
I certainly don’t claim to have all (much less any) of the answers to these questions. However, as a minister, husband, father and friend, I think they are important issues to think twice about. Jesus didn’t instruct us to stare at screens and see new life. He said: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed away, LOOK, the new has come.”
May we look up throughout this month and be reminded of God’s goodness and grace.