My older daughter had a friend over the other day. In the middle of a conversation, her friend picked up her phone and started Skyping with another girl, completely cutting my daughter out of the conversation. My daughter was upset and came to find me.
It wasn't the first time that phones had gotten in the way of a visit with a friend, so I've been thinking about the issue. Our kids are attached to technology. They are the first generation to have technology in their pockets 24 hours a day, so they are the first generation to have to learn how to use it responsibly.
I have to admit I'm not always the best about leaving my phone in my pocket when I should. My mom called me on it just yesterday. Sometimes having the ability to be connected with others all the time keeps us from focusing on the people who are right in front of us.
So, we're starting something new in our house. We have a new basket on our hall tree. When the girls have friends over, we're going to ask our girls and their friends to stick their phones in the basket so they can focus on the immediate people who are here. If the girls need their phones to call someone or to take pictures, they can come ask me for them.
And I'm going to be setting some limits on the way I use my phone, too. Unless my kids are at a place where they might need me, the phone is going to stay in my purse or pocket when I'm hanging out with other people -- because I can't ask my girls to do something I'm not willing to do. We may even use the phone basket around here some evenings so we can focus on each other instead of who's on the other end of our phones.
Face-to-face relationships are important. When we let technology rob us of our ability to communicate face-to-face, we lose an important piece of humanity. We lose an important tool in the toolbox of loving others. We are commanded to "love one another," and technology can help us do that. But technology can also keep us from loving the people right in front of us. It can distract us from our face-to-face relationships in pursuit of our online ones.
Think about how you use technology and how your kids are using it. Then set some boundaries. Your kids might not like it at first, but they will thank you for it later.