Phone Guilt

Four years ago, I wrote “Moms With Phones.” At the time, there was considerable hype in the media about parents’ smartphone usage in the presence of their kids. The guilt and the judgment associated with my own personal smartphone usage when my kids are present was amplified recently during an afternoon visit to the swimming pool. My big girls are more than capable of going into the pool by themselves and seem happy to do so. This leaves me to care for the baby on the sidelines.

With everyone occupied on our most recent visit, I felt the urge to tackle a few essentials … on my phone. I had a few messages to send. I had a couple of things I wanted to research. I needed to add to my online grocery order. As I thought of things that needed to get done, I wanted to add them to my to do list. I thought it might be nice to read for a few minutes or sort through a some photos. I had some proofreading and editing to do for my next blog post. But the guilt and the potential judgment for being on my phone in the presence of my children prevented me from accomplishing what I needed or wanted to do. At one point, I caught myself typing with my phone in my bag so no one could see that I was on my phone. This is ludicrous, of course, because I’m really not fooling anyone, and I’m really not doing anything wrong.

While trying to do something, but also trying to appear to be doing nothing (on my phone), a friend texted and asked if it was a good time to chat. It was. Remember, everyone was occupied? We joked on the phone about the potential judgment I would receive from fellow-pool attendees or even from someone who drove by on the street and witnessed me on my phone. We conversed back and forth about how bizarre the whole phone thing is now … the guilt, but, more particularly, the judgment associated with people’s phone use nowadays.

It’s incredible how much we can accomplish with our phones now … I can write, I can read an article or a book, I can listen to a podcast or to the radio, I can take and edit photos and videos, I can send text messages, I can send emails, I can shop, I can research, I can learn, I can connect with family far away, I can sell something, I can do my banking, I can set alarms, I can check the weather, I can create and edit documents and spreadsheets, I can use a calculator, my children can play a game or watch a show … the list goes on and on and on.

On the phone, my friend and I chuckled about the fact that if I had an actual book in my hand that would somehow be okay, but using my phone to read something is not. Or if I had brought my laptop to work on, in a small way, that would somehow be better than performing the exact same task on my phone.

I personally do invest a lot of effort into “respectful” use of my device when people (including my children) are present. I’m not perfect in this regard, and I do find myself distracted at times by something I am trying to accomplish when others (particularly my children) are around. And I’ve certainly witnessed what I would consider inappropriate or disrespectful use of cell phones, as a teacher and as a parent. In saying this, I suppose, there appears to be no mutually agreed upon rules of phone use in our society. Each individual is allowed to create his/her own rules and evaluate others based on their own personal standard (or tolerance level), and of course, we ALL make excuses for our personal phone use. At times, I’m just as bad for judging as the next person … condemning my husband, for example, for incessant “scrolling” on kijiji or theChive … assuming his phone use is trivial and silly … just imagine if he invested his “scroll” time into a household task or spent some time with kids … oh, how much better that would be …

The truth is … some of our guilt is warranted, and it serves us. It helps us to determine what is right and what is wrong with regard to our cell phone use, particularly in the presence of others. I personally think we should all “publish” our own set of phone rules to maintain that essential sense of respect for the people in our midst. This will help keep us accountable, while also (perhaps) granting us permission to use our phones at the pool when the kids are happily swimming. Get writing that list … go ahead use your phone to do so … No judgment here 🙂


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