It starts before the sun has even broken on the horizon.
The sleep barely gone from my eyes, I reach for my phone to see what time it is, I tell myself, even though I have a clock on my nightstand.
Emails. Texts. Facebook. Instagram.
It’s been a mere 8 hours since I last visited my inbox but it feels like a lifetime.
My coffee is barely poured and I’ve responded to six emails and liked several posts on Facebook.
It’s only 5:30 am.
I check the weather app to tell my kids how to dress and I peruse the news app for the latest political news.
I participate in the neighborhood group text about a possible delayed opening for school thanks to a few more inches of snow overnight.
Oh, and I can’t forget to keep up with my word game friends.
And so on and so on.
By 7:30 am, I’ve spent almost 2 hours online.
And I haven’t even started my work day.
All day long, my face stares at a screen. As a busy freelancer, my laptop is never far from my reach because a story is always on the cusp of needing to be written in the fast paced world of social media.
My phone is nearby, lest I miss when my kids need me for an emergency or my husband calls to chat.
When my kids get home, there’s more screen time. Recipes on Pinterest, live streaming the news as I chop veggies and try to manage homework, kid activities and last-minute work emails
before the close of business. Texts to my husband about dinner plans.
Evening falls and I find myself laughing with friends in group chat on social media or sending my best friend ridiculous memes because with five children between us, there’s just never enough
time to connect these days.
Memes sent in the spur of the moment as a way to say, “I’m still here, don’t forget that we are friends who once used to laugh our asses off in person.”
Before I know it, I’ve spent almost twelve hours online.
I’ll do it all over again tomorrow because social media has invaded every part of my life.
So, how can I expect my teens to learn responsible behaviors online when I can barely separate myself from my phone?
If I don’t say no to social media and being online, how will my kids learn to look away from their screens, too?
My teens and their screen usage isn’t the problem.
My teens are watching me prioritize online relationships and business goals over face to face get togethers and a workday with a stop time.
They are watching me text my friends instead of having meaningful conversations over the phone or in person.
And, they are watching me indulge in instant gratification when I praise companies for delivering my products to my doorstep almost instantly.
My kids are watching me glorify social media.
And I must look like a giant hypocrite when I expect that they’ll participate in screen free time on their own.
Do as I say, not as I do, kids.
We tell ourselves that we are the adults, that we know the dangers of online predators. We know how to manage our time, how to discern between reputable sites and ones that are
We tell ourselves that we can stop anytime, that we must teach our kids to respect social media because they are growing up in an internet age we didn’t have as kids.
We tell ourselves that our kids are the problem when it comes to online bullying and overconsumption of social media.
But we as parents are reluctant to take a hard look at our own social media faults.
We don’t want to give up texting or griping on Facebook about our parenting woes.
We don’t want to give up our internet habits any more than our kids do.
But, we are the adults.
We are responsible for the children we are raising in an online world.
We are responsible for helping them to learn to say no to screen time.
We have to break the habit of obsessively checking our social media apps or being the first to respond in a group text before we can demand that our teens put their phones down at the
Parents need to recognize that not every moment needs to immediately be uploaded to Instagram.
And that time won’t stop if your inbox stays full a little bit longer in favor of sitting with your teen phone free for a few minutes every day.
Open a book in front of your teen. Show him the joy of escaping into a juicy novel.
Sit quietly with a cup of coffee in front of your tween. Show her that the smell of a cup of coffee is more restorative than binge watching television shows.
Kick your feet back on a sunny day and just stare at the clouds in front of your teen. Show him that the sun on your face makes you smile a genuine smile. How many times has Facebook
made you smile the way a rainbow has?
The first step to raising children with a healthy respect for social media and the benefits of time away from screens is to give the gift of screen free time to yourself.
Even if it means playing fewer word games with your friends.
You’ll survive, I promise.