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2/6/14blog post

dr. mom's unknown addiciton

By: Dr. Melissa King

The other day my smartphone took a swim in a clean toilet, no less. The swim was accidental. A valuable lesson for Audrey, my 4 year old. Although I appreciate her taking care of personal hygiene by blowing her nose and washing her hands, the bathroom is no place for electronics, especially the back of the toilet.

Unfortunately, the better lesson learned was for me. This lesson blossomed from the painful withdrawal that I experienced as I spent the next 24 hours without my smartphone.

Prior to that day, I dismissed the idea that I might have an addiction to electronics. I am the person who regularly frustrates family and friends (mostly my hubby) because I do not answer my phone nor do I respond quickly to text messages. (I usually cannot find my phone that quickly and who wants to talk to this distracted mom anyway, being interrupted by children all the time!) So, those close to me often resort to contacting Jeff if they need me urgently. I liked to think that I spent my time more actively engaged with those around me.

Confession – Jeff and I HAVE spent a few date nights buried in our phones- usually catching each other up on news or our social circle’s media updates. We laugh at the picture of quality time that we present.

But addicted?? I could not imagine the glazed over, hyper- focused, unaware of surroundings stare on my face, that same stare that I have started to occasionally see in my own children when they have had too much electronic time. I could easily put aside my smartphone and return to the good old days of home telephone and occasional computer time… or so I thought. My husband had the need for all of the newer gizmos and gadgets-not me, I told myself.

As we went to bed, I apologetically told my husband that we could either not replace my phone, since it was my lack of supervision that precipitated the loss, or we would replace it with a “simple” phone since we are still in contract. I ABSOLUTELY did not want to spend a small fortune replacing my smartphone. I didn’t REALLY need it anyway.

The next day I did fine waking up to my husband’s alarm on HIS cell. I spent the morning playing with the kids and completing household chores. I started feeling proud of myself because I was hardly missing my phone at all. As a matter of fact, my children seemed to be missing it more than me.

Then, I wanted to speak with my husband about plans later in the week. Hmm… no cellphone, no texting, no home phone. Ah, I remembered my computer! I would email him- problem solved.

And then I needed to look up information about the YMCA schedule, a page that I have saved on my phone. Ok, computer again.

But then I thought, am I going to get out in this subzero snowy weather to take the kids to the pool since they were home from school? What if I slid off the road? Would anyone stop? Would anyone consider that I may NOT have a cellphone? Possibly not, so we decided to stay home.

I am embarrassed to admit that the reality of the challenges in living without my smartphone began to set in!

All day I reached for my absent phone. My contacts, my easy access to my email, my to do list, my grocery list, easy access to recipes- so many things that I needed on my phone. There was nothing that I couldn’t solve in a different way. However, it was a challenge and more of a challenge then I anticipated.

Yet, it gave me time to think, time to analyze my seemingly dependent relationship on electronics. I had time to realize that even a little time away from electronics is refreshing. I realize that we live in a world filled with technology and our lives benefit from this technology so often. However, we also see reports describing the decline in relationships, communication skills, and problem solving caused by the hours of using this technology.

Although we are always accessible, doesn’t that also mean we never get a break from others? Although we can share things about ourselves, our lives, things we read, does it mean that we always should? How often are we just reading one more email, finishing just one more level on a game, or just lost in social media news feeds that we miss the chance for our child to tell us a story, color with them, or play that game of cards? And then, how can we wonder when they are too engaged in their screen to tell us about their day or even come to the dinner table – and from whom did they learn this unacceptable behavior?

I must confess, we did replace my phone with another smartphone. However, I walked away from the experience a little more enlightened, a little more reflective and introspective.

There is a National Screen Free Week in May when each of us, all of us, should take time away from our electronics and spend time analyzing our relationship with electronics and, more importantly, each other. I urge you to check it out and I will be speaking of it more often between now and then. Who is up for the challenge??

By: Melissa King, DO “Dr. Mom Sqaud”

Dr. King is a general pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s and the mother of two kids. As part of the “Dr. Mom Sqaud,” Dr. King blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. King!