Disconnected while being connected?
Often times, in my counseling and mediation practice in Topsfield, MA, I help teens and parents compromise on cell phone usage. There are key areas that may cause conflict in negotiating this slippery slope, phone usage at meal time, shut-off time at night and usage on family vacations. Every family is different and it is not my place to set the rules but to help each family find solutions that work for them. Most of the families are able to come to agreement. And for the teen the reward of sticking to the agreement can be continued use of the cell phone. It is important that parents are also able to limit their own cell phone use during the times they have asked their child to do so.
Negotiating cell phone usage can not only be problematic for teens and parents but also for couples. It is common for me to see this issue arise when working with couples. Again, it is an area that can be successfully resolved if both people are willing to be open-minded, creative and willing to compromise. When couples are willing to engage in therapy we drill down the cell phone problem and often discover the cell phone was a symptom of a larger problem.
Consistent connection with “the world” can contribute to exacerbated anxiety symptoms and increased feelings of loneliness. Along with the recent studies highlighting the many benefits of meditation there has also been articles touting the benefits of unplugging. I have become aware and concerned with my increased use of my cell phone and aware of my rationalizations, “I am using it for work”, is my current favorite. I don’t want to be a person who is constantly checking their phone and I want to break what is starting to feel like a dependence. So here are my self-imposed limits:
• No phone an hour before bed and no phone usage in bed even if I wake up and have difficulty falling back asleep or have difficulty falling asleep from the get-go
• No phone, or other electronics, except music, during meals, even if I am eating alone
• No checking email or FaceBook when I wake up until I am out of bed, animals are fed and I have meditated. Whatever has happened in the last 8 hours can wait.
• Increase phone calls, decrease texting.
• One weekend per month spent unplugged, no TV, no cell phone (except to make and receive calls & use of the GPS) no music, no news, no laptop. This weekend will be scheduled at the beginning of each month.
I will check back with you at the end of the year to let you know how I am doing. I encourage, challenge each of you to examine your own electronic usage and consider making changes. Let’s engage with the world, ourselves and our loved ones differently.
~Katherine Ryan, LMHC is Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a family mediator practicing in Topsfield, Massachusetts where she enjoys helping adults, children and teens become unstuck.