I Hate Myself for Putting my Smartphone Before My Kids

I never thought I had an addictive personality. I smoked cigarettes for exactly two weeks while frolicking through Europe because, well, when in Rome. I gave up alcohol without a problem when I was pregnant. Saying “no” to recreational drugs is not hard for me, even though I’ve tried them and I know they’re fun. But when it comes to my iPad and smartphone, I seriously have a problem.  

Here are the hallmarks of my addictive behavior:

I check my phone at stoplights, even with kids in the car.

The last thing I look at before bed is not my husband–it’s my iPad. 

If I wake up in the middle of the night, I check the internet for no good reason.

I interrupt playtime with my kids to look for fresh emails and texts, even when I’m not expecting anything important.

If I have to wait anywhere for more than two seconds, I start scanning Facebook, so when the supermarket checker says hello to me, I’m invariably looking down.

While watching my favorite TV shows, I’ll mindlessly play games or scan blogs, missing half the show’s dialogue and all the visual humor.

I’ve even been known to check my phone during acupuncture, when most people would be sleeping or meditating.

My compulsion to check, check, check my devices has turned me into a person I don’t even like. Sometimes I’ll walk into a Starbucks and see all the teenagers hunched over their smart phones instead of looking at each other’s faces and it makes me sad for humanity. Then I remember that I do the exact same thing. 

The worst is when I do it to my kids. I’m well aware that they are watching me all the time, and my behavior is important. That’s why I stifle my road rage, avoid curse words, and keep a positive attitude as much as I can. And all of that’s great, but when I’m pecking away at my smartphone in their presence, my kids are seeing a person who isn’t mindful and focused, isn’t 100 percent there for them and doesn’t even have the patience to wait five seconds without an electronic distraction. 

What’s more, I’m sure that spending hours staring into a blue light before bed is wreaking havoc with my sleep. I would never let my kids do that–why do I do it to myself?    

Part of the problem with a technology addiction is that I can’t quit cold turkey. I make my living on the Internet. It’s like being a married person who has a sex addiction–you still need to have sex with your partner, just not 10 other strangers you meet on a bus. I need to be able to use the internet for work. I just wish I knew how to turn it off.

I’ve heard of people doing tech detoxes–unplugging for a prescribed period of time. I can’t help but think that as soon as I was allowed back on Twitter, my compulsive tendencies would come roaring back. 

Does anyone else out there feel this way, or know how to fix it? Some days, I’d give anything to go back to snail mail and a rotary phone. Those, I could handle.

Photo: Getty