The Big Picture

The No Phone Zone


Many, many years ago when my oldest two children were little, we lived at the edge of a cotton field just outside of Memphis. We had two kids, one car, and few neighbors. Almost every day I would take the kids on the 3/4 of a mile walk down the gravel road to the mailbox in hopes of hearing from the latest editor to whom I had sent a submission.

Life was simple. Because we had no car during my husband's work hours, there was nowhere to go, and with our very limited budget, there was nothing to buy. As Bethany and Tiger put it, they had a cotton field and a mud puddle.

Fast forward eight more kids and thirty years. We have two cars, Internet, cable, iPods, iPhones, an XBox, and a PS4. Have you gotten your iPhone yet? Could you tell me where the self-control app is located?

I don't want my kids to remember me always looking at my phone while they are talking to me. From this day forward, I am going to be more intentional about it. Here are my on purpose, No Phone Zones:

•mornings before school

•afternoons after school

•any time the family is hanging out

•dinner time and just before bed

While I’m at it, let me toss in some boundaries for gaming. Though I’m never completely happy with the amount of time my boys spend playing video games, these few rules seem to make the difference between addiction and self-control.

•no games before lunch

•no more than an hour to an hour and a half a day

•skip games completely twice a week in the summer

•no games at all Monday through Thursday during the school year

•no graphically violent games until they are older (depends on the kid, but somewhere around thirteen)

In her book, It’s Always Something, the late Gilda Radner tells a story about her cousin's dog who got tangled up with a lawn mower and lost her hind legs. The dog was expecting a litter of puppies, Radner writes, and they thought for sure she would have to be put down. But surprisingly the vet said no, the puppies were fine; she could deliver them.

The dog eventually learned to walk without hind legs: step, step, scoot; step, step, scoot. The time came; she delivered the puppies. She nursed them and weaned them. When they learned to walk, they all walked like their mother: step, step, scoot; step, step, scoot.

No, there's no self-control app on that screen, only inside of me. If my kids are going to learn social media boundaries, it must start with me. For just like those puppies, we all know that kids grow up not to do what we say but to do what we do.

Margie Sims is a writer and mom of ten who lives with her family in Fairhope. This is an excerpt from her book Launch: Preparing Your Kids for Takeoff, releasing in October.