Part One: Smartphone habit leaves families more vulnerable

Note: This article ran in the Centre Daily Times on October 12, 2011. It’s part one of a three part series. Part two is here and Part three is here.

One day I start to think about my smartphone and how attached I am to it. I imagine an umbilical cord connecting me. It delivers nourishment and fun, sweet nectar of life. Then I go outside and notice other people on their mobile devices. No one looks up. They keep typing and scrolling and surfing.

This gets me wondering. Is there such a thing as smartphone addiction? And if there is, how is it affecting our lives and families?

I begin to list the possible signs of smartphone addiction. Maybe I can come up with five. But you know what? Soon I have 15 signs, and I realize this was too easy. Too easy because I described myself.

The list is a mirror and I see my addiction in plain view.

But what’s the big deal? So I use my iPhone a lot. I start to convince myself the smartphone is necessary because I need to be productive at work. I need to be instantly accessible. I need to be plugged in at all times. Besides, everybody has one.

I begin to crumple the silly little list when No. 6 catches my attention: Your kids see you more with your phone than without it.

Oh, meddling No. 6. Suddenly the faces of my children stream to my mind. When they’re older, what will they say about me? “Dad really knew how to use his phone,” my son might say. “Dad made the most of his monthly data plan,” my daughter might say. But I don’t want them to say any of these things about me, because if they do, that means my smartphone usage made a bigger impression on them than other things. I will have failed as a father.

Instead I want them to name the adventures we had, the dragons we slew and the places we visited, all in our suburban backyard. I want them to sing the songs we sang and tell the stories we told. But most of all, I want them to say I was with them.

Absence is the great sin of fatherhood, the temptation of men with children. We don’t set out to ignore our kids, but along the way, the path diverges and we separate. This happens whether we live under the same roof or not.

Smartphones aren’t helping.

I admit that at times, I’ve been absent, my mind and heart on other things. I said I was listening but really wasn’t. I said I was watching but really wasn’t. I didn’t think they noticed me checking email but they did. I didn’t think they saw the blue flash but they did. Now I can hear them saying, “Dad loved his phone, but what about us?”

So I decide to do something drastic because I love my kids. I decide to cut the cord.

Chris Heinz is the Founder and CEO of Munyay, which creates coaching tools to help you love your life and work. He's also the Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc. and is an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation, a Certified Professional Life Coach, and a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach. Chris enjoys coaching people, writing, and speaking on the topics of engagement, coaching, and strengths. He blogs often at

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One thought on “Part One: Smartphone habit leaves families more vulnerable

  1. Way to go!!  It’s not just how your kids see this—spouses, friends, even
    a friendly face in the grocery store is ignored when one has his ears plugged and talking to someone else. I’ve also noted that people are becoming “on call for work” ALL the time now—we all need breaks from the job and from all the virtual toys. As with most things, moderation is super important.
    thanks for your thoughts, chris