By Jenny Stricklin
Well, mommas, this could be THE BEST SUMMER OF OUR LIVES!
Problem is, there’s an unlikely culprit threatening to sink our summers. This little charmer has slipped into our pockets and our purses and our palms and become an integral part of our everyday lives. And although it’s potentially ruinous on many levels, it’s also likely not far from our reach at any given moment. So for this reason, I can’t help but admit: the thing standing in between my family and an incredible summer is…. MY OWN PHONE. I love-hate that thing so much!
Statistically, we have at least 60-80 interactions with our phone daily! It’s just so ridiculously alluring. Whether it’s social media or texting or photos or games or news apps or video streaming, our eyeballs are glued to our devices. After all, there’s a whole industry of people paid to do whatever it takes to make these apps addicting and irresistible. It’s worked!
Satan is probably belly-laughing at the way he’s managed to lull us, numb us, and steal from us with something so simple.
A while back, I shut down all social media for a whole year, after coming to grips with my own addiction. It was painfully glorious. Shocking and freeing! And while the break didn’t continue forever, it whet my appetite for more. More minutes fully present with my kids, more days unconsumed by devices, more mental rest and physical availability.
We live distracted and preoccupied – always somewhere else no matter where we are. And it’s influencing our kids. Our kids’ generation, the post-millennials, often termed the Linkster Generation won’t know a day that isn’t linked to technology. Even the youngest of our kids are learning to interpret reality through the lens of the smartphone. Which doesn’t sound so bad until Siri accidentally becomes the ultimate authority, or their greatest aspiration is getting to the next level of their video game.
Even worse, studies are finding that children with intact family units can still feel a sense of abandonment with parents that are physically present, but mentally and emotionally absent.
Heartbreaking. I don’t wanna inch close to that line. I want rich, robust relationships with my kids. I want them to feel loved and seen and known and worthy of my full attention. I want to help them cultivate vibrant lives apart from our screens.
So here are some things that have helped my family disconnect a bit from our devices:
- FOR KIDS: Maybe THE BEST way to be fully present with our kids is reading aloud to them! I can’t be doing a single other thing while reading aloud. Perfect! My eight-year-old and nine-year-old sons especially love having my full attention – probably more than the reading itself. Plus, it gives me an easy platform to pick books that fuel their imagination, shape their worldview, and help them figure out how they fit into God’s bigger story.
- FOR ME: I used to justify my social media use by saying that it let me, a stay at home mom, get out of the four walls of my house and into the world around me. But I’ve come to believe that the right books can do a much better job of that. In my year off of social media, I devoured books about men and women of faith, lives that were ablaze for God – His mission, His glory. And those books ignited a desire in my heart to seek and experience God like those people had! As a result, social media became less and less enticing. I’d found something better!
- FOR KIDS – When my kids have opportunity to play with their real live buddies, they walk away energized and fulfilled both physically and mentally, and with a noticeably reduced screen craving. So yeah, we buy a million extra ice pops and clean up a few hundred extra messes. But we prioritize community. And the return is a hundred fold!
- FOR ME – You know what I learned when I left social media for a year? No one cared. Seriously, I wasn’t missed! And it was good for me to feel that little sting of oblivion… A reminder that these thousands of “friends” are not the companions and community that my human soul craves. I need real, face-to-face friendship. And when I make time to invest in my real friendships and my real family, I am much less eager to reach for my phone, and infinitely more fulfilled.
- FOR KIDS – Seems obvious. But I’m terrible at screen boundaries. Maybe because with a bunch of young kids at home, letting the screen entertain just feels like a good and necessary go-to sometimes. Of course every family is different, but we’ve opted to save our gaming devices for short spurts on the weekends – that way I’m not having to field “can I play now?” questions all week long. And we often swap Netflix for Right Now Media kids video streaming, which is far less addictive and offers positive, Biblical messaging too. My kids actually haven’t complained about this compromise one bit! (https://www.rightnowmedia.org/ and https://inthemoment.io )
- FOR ME – Sometimes, it’s not that I MEAN to spend a hundred hours a day on my phone, it’s just habit! So I’ve been using an app called Moment – Screen Time Tracker that sends me tiny reminders of my usage time throughout the day and offers various useful settings to help me monitor and limit my screen time. Just knowing that’s there has been so helpful!
Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” And that’s just where I want to be this summer. ALL THERE. It’s gonna be the BEST!
What are some things that help you be fully present in your real life?? I would love to hear!
From Little Rock, AR, Jenny Stricklin is a pastor¹s wife and mom of five young kids who is seeking to live out her motherhood calling in a way that honors God and impacts the Kingdom. God has graciously shown her His heart through everyday struggles, foster care, adoption, and parenting a child with special needs. Out of a love and desire for community, she¹s eager to link arms with other moms as they run - and sometimes crawl - toward Jesus in an effort to follow Him in the context of family.