Airplane mode as parenting mode


Yesterday I read “Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky”, and it really got me thinking. It basically said that while you’re around your kids and looking at your phone, you’re going to be a terrible parent. And sadly, I can 100% relate to that.

The results of the study aren’t surprising. If you are simultaneously looking at your phone while trying to parent, then your attention is divided. Humans are horrible multi-taskers, and humans being bombarded by toddler demands are even worse multi-taskers.

If you’re anything like me, I’ll start “doing something” on my phone — usually something really stupid like finding that perfect Instagram filter — when I’ll be called, poked, and pulled on by my kids to come play. And my first reaction is that I get a little annoyed because I’m trying to finish something on my phone.

And therein lies one of the stupidest parenting scenarios I could imagine: that your loving, playful kids can be an annoyance to your sacred phone time. It’s something I’ve done many times myself. And looking back, I couldn’t be more embarrassed.

“Well then, don’t pick up your phone” is an easy-to-say, obvious answer, but one I struggle with. If it’s there, I tend to reach for it. My brain is always doing 10 things at once, so Instagram, Twitter, and Pocket are big lures when I perceive even the slightest inactivity. I admit it’s a problem.

One potential solution would be to simply put my phone far away, out of arm’s reach, and up in my bedroom. While that would certainly solve the problem, it creates another — my phone doubles as my only camera. I staunchly refuse to buy anything I don’t absolutely need, so I would end up missing so many important moments. Photos are too important to our family for that to work.

So how do I keep my phone/camera close, but not be lured by the stupidity of this bad parenting scenario?

Airplane mode.

When I’m spending dedicated time with my kids, I’m going to turn my phone to airplane mode. I won’t be interrupted by calls or texts, and I won’t be able to connect to the internet.

Of course re-enabling all of that is only a tap away, but I hope it’s just enough friction that it instills a little discipline in me. That way I can still reach for my phone’s camera and capture the important moments, but not be tempted to do anything more than that.

For you techies, many devices will still maintain your GPS connection in airplane mode, which means your photos will still be geotagged and your location memories preserved. (Your mileage may vary, but the geotagging still worked on my Nexus 5.)

Yes, I fully admit it’s a bit silly that I can’t control myself from opening other apps and getting sucked into my phone while parenting. But hey, the first step is admitting you have a problem. ;)