Mindfulness. The word itself brings a calming sense of comfort. But what does it really mean? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. In every day terminology, you can think of it as noticing what you are noticing without judgement.

We talk a lot about being mindful when we refer to a healthy diet or exercise routine. Mindfulness is a key concept in yoga and meditation. A core component of parenting is being mindful about which battles we choose to engage in with our kids, and which ones we let go.

With teens and their parents spending an average of 9 hours a day in front of a screen, perhaps it’s time to adopt a mindful attitude towards our digital life.

Studies show that social media can lead to feelings of depression and isolation. Too much screen time can lead to anxiety, anger and can negatively impact the quality of our sleep. With the ability to perform all our day-to-day necessities online, it’s no wonder we are reaching, swiping and tapping our phone over 2000 times a day.

I’m not saying not to use your phone nor am I telling you not to utilize the amazing technology we have available to us. But I do believe that how we act online, the words we choose and the way we interact with technology directly affects our happiness and success offline.  

When you see an Instagram notification pop up on your screen, do you immediately check it? When your phone pings from the other room indicating a message, do you drop what your doing and make a dash? Are you secretly checking Facebook while hiding in the pantry so your kids don’t see you? Do you feel guilty for letting your kids watch another Netflix episode while you catch up with your Newsfeed?

Here are some easy things to start doing today that will put you in control of your technology instead of the other way around.

  • Turn off notifications. Social media notifications are designed to keep you checking their app. The more you check, the more time you are investing in watching the amazing things happening in our world instead of doing them.
  • Charge your phone in the kitchen overnight. This will instantly improve the quality of your sleep. Plus, that urge to check your messages before bed or first thing in the morning will subside… I promise!
  • Limit your time on social media. Instead of randomly checking social media 10 times a day, limit yourself to twice a day. Then replace that urge to take a peek with something more productive. Read a few pages of a book, flip through a cookbook and try a new recipe or go through the photos on your phone and delete the ones you don’t need.
  • Intentionally leave your phone at home. Many parents have a hard time with this one because of the need to be available to their kids. But if your spouse has their phone (the other emergency number) or if your kids are with you, it is possible to take some time sans tech. Try just 20 minutes and then work your way up. Go for a dog walk, build a snowman, or make a trip to the grocery store. Your phone will be there when you get back.
  • Don’t take pictures. I know the possibility of missing that perfect Kodak moment is a lot to risk. However, more often than not, we are watching our kids’ lives through a screen. Take a mental picture instead. Enjoy the moment. Your kid will remember seeing your smiling face, they won’t remember the back of your phone.

You are the most important person in your child’s world and you are their greatest teacher and role model. Start being mindful with your technology and your kids will naturally follow. Engage. Be present. Be mindful.

Alisa is a former Criminal Intelligence Analyst and has worked in law enforcement for the last 15 years. She is passionate about keeping kids safe and kind online and ensuring they thrive in our digital world. When Alisa isn’t online, you might spot her in the YEG river valley with her dogs, husband, and daughter or escaping the city for a weekend of camping.  You can follow Alisa on her blog The Lotus Pageas well as on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram
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