The Teenager’s eye was twitching. Her beautiful face had become distorted.
She could see it. Almost close enough to touch. Connect. Send a message on.
It was her mobile phone. And she wasn’t with it. Daughter Two as well. Stripped of their most vital possessions.
A holiday rule had been introduced. Part of the day was to be phone-less. It was like I’d asked them to shave their heads.
My first suggestion was to leave the devices behind when we went to the beach. They gave me the look. The one that Dads everywhere know. The ‘Thanks, but that won’t be happening in this lifetime’ look.
They explained that they had to take i-phone photos. Hundreds of friends were waiting. There would be action shots in the surf, and glamour shots on the sand.
These images would be posted immediately onto social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and WhoGivesaFlying. Ok, I made one of those up.
Everything is about photos and videos, being shared as quickly as possible. No phone, means no sharing.
With the beach off the negotiating table, I moved to meal time. Surely there was no need to have the phone during a holiday dinner?
No can do, they chorused. It’s prime-time to receive messages from friends. They’ll stay in our pockets. You won’t even know we have them with us. Promise. Because I was waiting for my own message, I didn’t push the issue. And yes, I see the irony there.
I wasn’t giving up. We were watching favourite DVDs each night before bed. It would be done without electrical devices.
It was an outrage, they cried. We HAVE to check stuff. You just DON’T understand.
We compromised, and they survived. With sneaky peeks, as I visited the fridge. And we all enjoyed the movies, fully focused.
My quest to reduce phone use was hard enough during a week of sun and surf on holidays. What chance do we have at home?
Parents everywhere are fighting the same battle. Our kids are addicted, to devices that were invented to promote talk. But they’re conversing less. It’s all about internet data, in the palm of a hand.
We’re not much better. My phone never leaves me. You’re probably the same. The constant link to work. Up-to-the-second info from around the world on Twitter. Monitoring the exploits of friends on Facebook. Do as I say, not as I do..
In the holiday tavern, I saw a couple sitting at a table near the bar. Both in their fifties I reckon. Both with i-pads. Their heads were buried in them. They’d gone to the trouble of going out together. Yet they could have been in different suburbs.
It’s hard to see us screen-saving our kids, when most of us are just as bad. If our phones are getting smarter, then we must be getting dumber.
Back to The Teenager’s twitching episode. It came late in the day, during a game of cards. We’d finally come to an agreement, that any activity on the balcony would be phone-free. Keen to hear the end of my campaign, they had agreed.
It meant that as we made up our own poker rules, and certain family members cheated, we were talking. And laughing. Without disruption.
There will be those of you without kids, or with children long gone, who will be scratching heads. Yes, we could ban the devices. Banish them to a mobile wasteland.
Trust me when I tell you it’s more complicated than that. Their phones are such a part of how they exist. The social fabric is so very different from when we were young.
For better or worse, we need to help them stay connected, without shutting everyone else out. And to save the sanity of parents all over.
For our part, we’ve working on sticking with our holiday plan at home. More phone-free time. Device-free zones. Baby steps, but it’s a start. No more living life on hold.