Tag Archive for smartphones

The Value of a Wandering Mind

People hate to be bored, especially children and teens. Adults, though, hate being bored as well. When boredom hits, people pull out the cell phone to play a game, check the mail, read an article…anything to escape the boredom. But a series of experiments suggest a different course of action may prove just as effective if not more effective than the cell phone. In this study a group of university students were asked to sit for 20 minutes in a room without their belongings. They could think about anything they wanted to think about, but were not to sleep, walk, exercise, look at a phone, or check the clock. Before they started, they predicted three things:

  1.  how much they might enjoy waiting and thinking,
  2. how interesting or boring it might be prove, and
  3. if they might be so engaged as to lose track of time.

After the 20 minutes of waiting and thinking, each participant was asked to report how engaging, pleasurable, interesting, or boring the experience actually was.

Interestingly, the participants reported being much more engaged and interested than they had predicted. They had underestimated the pleasure and value of waiting and thinking.

The researchers found similar results when students were asked to predict if waiting would be more enjoyable with or without computer access. Then they were randomly assigned to 20 minutes with or without computer access.

Although the students predicted that having computer access would prove more enjoyable, the groups enjoyed the experience equally, whether they had computer access or not. In other words, 20 minutes of mind wandering thought was as enjoyable as 20 minutes of computer access.

In a similar vein, previous studies have suggested that allowing your mind to wander actually improves mood, strengthens a sense of connection, enhances creativity, and strengthens goal setting.

What does this mean for you and your family? The next time you’re bored while waiting in line, waiting for the bus, waiting for a program to start, waiting… forget about your phone. Let your mind wander. Enjoy the opportunity to let your mind go free. Think about anything you like. You might just find you enjoy thinking.

Let me add one more thing. Share your thoughts with your spouse and family. It will likely stimulate some interesting conversation. More importantly, you will nurture your family intimacy with that conversation… and all starts with enjoying the thoughts of your wandering mind in the “boredom.”

Take Charge of Your Smartphone Before It Takes Charge of You

Smartphone users between 18- to 24-years-old check their devices 86 times per day and half of our teens say they are addicted to their smart phone. About 45% of 10–12-year-olds in the United States have a smartphone.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, 17% of 5- to10-year-olds, 23% of 11- to 13-year-olds, and 32% of 14- to 17-year-olds spent more than 4 hours a day on a screen device. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, those numbers have increased to 44%, 47% and 52%, respectively. (See Screen Time Statistics 2021: Your Smartphone is Hurting You and 40 Eye Catching Cell Phone Usage Statistics for more.)

You might ask, “So what?” Well…the more time our children spend engaged with a smartphone or other screen device, the less time they engage in imaginative play, other unstructured play, or face-to-face interactions. In addition, “smart phones are addictive,” they impair sleep, and they increase the risk for anxiety and depression in our children and teens. (For more on the risk of unbridled cell phone use, see Why Wait.)

The real question to ask is:” What can I do about it?” After all, smartphones are pervasive in our world and our children’s world. Somehow we have to take charge of our smartphone before they take charge of us. We need to model healthy “smartphone management” for our children and create an environment in which they can learn those “smart phone management” skills as well. Here are six tips to help you do that:

  • Turn off the notifications. Your smartphone calls for your attention with every buzz, ding, and flash. By turning the notifications off, it will call less often. You’ll be less distracted and better able to connect with those around you. And, just to be clear, the world will survive without us responding to every buzz, ding, and flash.
  • Turn it gray. The colors of the smartphone screen invite us to look at it as well. The little red dot screams for us to click and discover who texted, emailed, or left a message. Setting your screen to grayscale can help limit this call. Specifically, some studies suggest people are less drawn to and less distracted by the grayscale screen. Try it for a week and see what you discover. You might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Enjoy a family “unplugged day.” Set aside one day a week (or at least one evening starting at 5pm and lasting until the next morning) as a time to unplug. Turn off all smart phones and other screens. While you have no technology to interfere, enjoy family time. Play a game. Have a picnic. Go for a hike. Enjoy some technology-free-family-fun. (Read Unplug for a Family Fun Night to learn more.)
  • Enjoy some screen time together. Make some screen time a shared experience rather than allowing it all to remain an individual experience. Watch a movie together. Play a game together. Watch YouTube videos together. Doing so will help teach compromise and negotiation. It will also allow you the opportunity to have fun with your child as well as the opportunity to talk with them about messages communicated on-line.
  • Encourage a tech-free knowledge search. You know, go old school. Determine to search for knowledge on one topic each week without using Google, Alexi, Siri, or other internet service. Instead, go to the library. Use a book or encyclopedia. Go to the museum, science center, or aviary to gain the information. Make it a family outing. Going old school in a search for knowledge is like a treasure hunt. Have fun with it.
  • Finally, enjoy device free meals. Yes, put the smartphone aside while enjoying a family meal. Leave the phones in another room and commit to interacting with your family during mealtimes. Talk about the day. Talk about the food. Encourage one another. Compliment one another. Enjoy one another’s company. You will enjoy doing all this and more without the fear of an intrusion by way of your smartphone’s buzz, ding, or flash. Don’t worry, whoever calls, texts, messages, or continues a streak will still be there. You can enjoy the moment of face-to-face interaction with our family.

That’s six ways to take charge of your cell phone before it takes charge of you and teach your children to do the same. In full disclosure, I got these tips from the Wait Until 8th website under Best Practices. Check them out for at least 5 other tips you can use. Plus, they offer wonderful education, advice, and suggestions about managing smartphones in your family. A wonderful resource for you and your family.

Self-Control, Smartphones, Rewards, & Success

Researchers from Freie Universitat in Berlin Germany published some interesting findings about smartphones, self-control, and rewards. Specifically, their research revealed that participants who “had a greater total amount of screen time (spent more time on their phones and tablets) were more likely to prefer small, immediate rewards to larger, more delayed rewards,” especially when screen time was spent on gaming and social media.

In addition, participants with greater self-control spent less time on their phones while those with lower levels of self-control spent more time on their phone. Altogether, more time on smartphones, especially in combination with lower levels of self-control and a preference for gaming and social media, was associated with a preference for smaller, more immediate goals. Limited self-control and a preference for smaller, more immediate goals sounds like a formula to impede success, doesn’t it? After all, success generally implies a level of self-control that enables a person to persist through struggles and setbacks, delaying the immediate, easy reward, so they can achieve the larger more challenging goal.

The authors were not saying smartphones caused or led to less self-control and a preference for smaller, more immediate goals. In fact, I tend to think that people who struggle with self-control are likely drawn to the gaming and social media apps because they offer smaller, more immediate rewards. It satisfies their need for reward without having to manage the frustration of persisting through the greater struggles necessary for a long-term reward. The gaming and social media apps may simply reinforce those tendencies. So, the question is not whether a person should have a smartphone or engage in gaming or social media—our children will do that just like we do. No, the question is: how do we teach our children self-control?

  1. Model self-control. Children emulate what they see. Practice self-control when in traffic, when in disagreements. The more children see you practice self-control, the more likely they will practice self-control as well.
  2. Build a trusting relationship with your child. The more reliable you are, the easier it is for your children to practice self-control. Follow through on your word. Do what you promise. Build a reputation as trustworthy and your children will likely grow in self-control.
  3. Give your children the opportunity to wait—it’s a gift. Receiving everything immediately will hamper your children’s development of self-control. Learning that “good things come to those who wait” and “effort over time contributes to success” can promote the development of self-control. Teach your child the art of waiting.
  4. Encourage self-control practices. When you see your children getting upset, present them with ideas that promote self-control. For instance, you could encourage them to soothe themselves: “Take a moment to pull yourself together and we can talk about it then,” Or “Take a deep breath and calm down so you can manage this better.” “I wonder how your friend feels about this?” can offer them the opportunity to take a different person’s perspective, which will help them develop self-control. On the other hand, “How does this decision fit into your goals?” encourages them to keep their priorities and goals in mind as they move through the world. This, too, will help them develop self-control. Each time you encourage your children to soothe themselves, consider another person’s perspective, practice self-awareness, or keep goals and values in mind you help them grow in self-control. (For more ideas, read Teach Your Child Self-Control.)