Your Phone Is Not A Babysitter

Three of my kids recently had the chance to be extras in a Netflix series that is coming out soon. It was a lot of fun for them, and they got to meet a wide range of people from varying backgrounds. We spent 3 days on-location, with not much to do other than schoolwork and a lot of waiting.

I think this is a good thing. Waiting creates boredom, and boredom creates an opportunity to practice beneficial life skills like patience, creativity and self-reliance. I am constantly amazed by my kids and their ability to make the most out of any situation. What makes it challenging for them is when other kids have different boundaries. We run into that a lot, because we usually have the most strict boundaries of anyone we know.

Our poor kids.  🙂

While waiting to be on-camera, one young boy in particular seemed whiny, impatient and disruptive. He wouldn’t sit still for any length of time, he complained a lot, and he seemed unable to control himself. He was 8 years old. The only time he was quiet was when he had an iPhone in his hand. My kids were having a difficult time not standing and watching over his shoulder. The iPhone was in his hands all day long and I was left wondering…where were his parents?

The Phone as a Babysitter

It seems like I see this more and more often – a phone or tablet used to pacify and entertain children while the parents sit idly by on their own device, or talking with friends. And hey, I’m all for getting together with friends, or having a little down time to unwind. We do that too.

But the best time to do this is not when you have an opportunity to interact with your kids, or at least give them an opportunity to figure out how to entertain themselves. Bottom line: your phone is not your babysitter – nor should it be.

Kids, by nature, are creative. I can no longer count the times that my ‘bored’ kids have produced brilliant pieces of artwork, wonderful LEGO creations, intricate couch-cushion forts, and mud pies Gordon Ramsay would be proud to serve.

Maybe not that last one, but you get the point.

Listen, I’m all for technology. I really am. It’s what pays the bills at my house, and what entertains my family from time to time. It has wonderful benefits. And I think kids need to know how it works in order to succeed in the marketplace in the future. But let’s not let it take the place of necessary tools vital to our kids development.

They Might Have Fun

Back to this kid at the Netflix set. I finally found the mom, after hours of wondering if she existed. She had been sitting across the tent, on her phone. After speaking to her for a few minutes, she told me that she was glad he was hanging out with my kids. Usually, the only way she can get her son to be quiet is to let him play on his iPad or iPhone. He typically plays for 6 or more hours every day.

What was different about that day? Well, after a while I made my kids stop watching him play on the phone. They decided they would run around and play and chase and meet other people. And guess what – they were having FUN!

Did you know fun can be contagious? The young man put his phone down and followed my kids around for hours. And had a blast. His mom noticed and came to find out what was different. She seemed genuinely surprised at his attitude. Overall, he seemed like a different kid to her.

An Attitude Adjustment

One of the side-effects of play that we notice in our kids is an attitude difference. Whenever they are on a device for an extended period of time, it seems they are more cranky, more irritable, and generally less fun to be around. Maybe you have noticed the same with your kids.

When they are playing device-free, they get along better, they laugh more, and they are more respectful and cooperative. Some of the best times they have had together is when they are outside on the trampoline or running around the cul-de-sac with neighbors.

While technology can be fun and entertaining, like all things, it needs moderation. While we have found what works for our family, it may not work for all families. I would encourage you to find that balance for your children. Even better – talk to them! We have had many wonderful conversations with our kids about the differences in their attitude when in front of a screen for a long time.

Kids are smarter than you think. They know when things aren’t quite right. And, believe it or not, they know they need boundaries set for them. 

What works for your family? How have conversations gone at your home surrounding technology use? What rules do you have in place? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. Michael T Scanzello November 19, 2016
    • Jay November 21, 2016

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