Is a Device Addiction Destroying Your Family?

This is a guest post from Justin Ricklefs. Justin is a blogger at where he blogs about reclaiming the things that matter most in business, wellness and home. Husband to Brooke. Daddy to four girls & one boy. He’s a sales executive, and writer for HuffPost Parents and You can follow Justin on Twitter @justinricklefs. If you want to guest post on my blog, check out my guest post guidelines and submit your post.

“Dad, quit looking at your stupid phone.” My seven year old uttered those words to me on a beautiful fall day while we were playing at the park.

Is a Device Addiction Destroying Your Family? guet post by Justin Ricklefs |

I should be more clear. She was playing at the park. I was playing on my phone.

Her words cut me to the core.

The irony of our 21st century social lives

There’s something incredibly ironic about social media. Oftentimes, the very thing it’s supposed to do – connect us and make us “social” – prevents us from engaging in the real world in front of our eyes.

There is a mountain of difference between being near physically and being near emotionally. Absence in presence is much more damaging than absence in body.

I’m learning that proximity does not equate to presence. And most of the time my lack of engagement is due to my eyes being fixed on a screen instead of my wife or kids.

Is it just me or dads, have you caught yourself doing any of the following in the last week:

  • Telling your kids, “hold on, daddy’s almost done”.
  • Checking your phone from your bed while you’re in it with your wife.
  • Just one more email, promise.
  • Feeling better about the comments someone left on your FB or Instagram post than you do about a nice comment from a loved one.
  • Tweeted, texted or any other social media verb while driving with your kids in the car.
  • Scrolled through your feeds during a meal with your family.
  • Posed, rearranged, and/or planned the “perfect” photo for you to upload to your accounts.

My list could go on forever. My guess is yours could too.

There is hope…and help

This isn’t a charge to abandon your digital lives forever or hit you with the guilt stick. I’m the worst offender after all.

And more than that, I believe social media has an absolute ton of value. To do good. To bring about change. To connect us to influencers and people in all corners of the world.

My hope though is that slowly but surely, you’ll start to notice the times you choose your digital lives to the detriment of your physical lives.

My hope is that you’ll begin to leverage social media for its original intent and not be addicted to it as a false sense of connection.

My hope is that you’ll find more times to leave the phone behind and be fully engaged in the present.

Three questions have helped me grow in my awareness of my problem:

Do I need my phone here?

Maybe it’s dinner out with your family or even a simple walk, but chances are you can go 30-90 minutes without your phone. I’m learning that the times I leave it in the car or on the counter, I’m much more engaged with the real conversations happening in front of me.

What could I have done instead?

If I saw a report each week of the amount of attention I gave social media, I don’t think I’d be proud of my productivity. I can make a million excuses for not being in better shape, not eating healthier, not taking my wife on more dates, not writing that book I’ve always dreamed about. But the reality is I’ve given my attention to lesser things not necessarily better things.

Who do I care about the most?

Not revolutionary but it’s a good reminder that my loyalty and best affections should be saved for those I care about the most. What was I so engaged in that day at the park when my daughter told me to quit looking at my phone? I have no idea. Sure it seemed important or interesting at the time but not at the expense of being emotionally absent even though I was physically present.

Dads, start setting the tone with your families by displaying your love for them more than your digital friends. I promise you won’t miss that much.

We’ll be here for you whenever you’re finished being with them.

Question: What one thing will you do differently today to be more emotionally present with your wife and kids? Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: laurenlemon via Compfight cc

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20 thoughts on “Is a Device Addiction Destroying Your Family?

  1. Great post guys. I have a simple practice that when I turn off the car when I get home I also turn off my phone before I get out of the car. I turn the phone back on after I tuck my kids in bed. Phone on=no discipleship with my kids. Phone on=no intimacy with my wife. Phone off leads to both happening organically more often.

  2. Great thoughts. I am an outdoor guy and get bored when looking at my phone outdoors. It doesn’t hold me long. I can do without it there and enjoy my family. But when I am inside it is a different story. I check it just because I am restless and then I get glued to it.

    Also, ignoring the phone, tablet or computer is extra hard for those of us who make money from an online presence. That’s especially when it is not a full-time income, because part-time incomes are made in the free time. So when I have free time I want to get online to do something work related. It’s harder to put a boundary up. I need to make sure I save enough of the free time for the kids by staying away from the social side of internet when they’re around.

    • Good perspective Pat, thanks for sharing. It’s not ideal, but I’ve carved out before kids get up / before work and after everyone is in bed to do part-time income stuff. Find I’m more productive then anyway when there aren’t a bunch of distractions. Forces me to be more efficient too. Good stuff, appreciate your insight.

      • I appreciate you writing down the blog. Gets me thinking about how I am spending my time. Something I need to do before I pick up an electronic device just for the sake of “looking something up” or that I am restless is to ask, “What else can I do right now instead?” Perhaps I can engage my kids in some way or just see what they’re up to.

  3. You knocked it out of the park with this post Justin (and Jackie)!

    I plan on putting my phone away from the minute I get home until the kids are in the bed. Whatever happens on my phone during that time can wait. 🙂

  4. Definitely guilty of this and it’s been gnawing at me for too long. Time to do something about it. Thank you for sharing on this important topic, Jackie.


  5. Hi Jakie (and Justine),

    Great post!

    This post could not have come at more accurate time. I have been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and The 15-Minute Marriage Makeover that you suggested Jackie and what you guys have shared is aligned perfectly with what I have been reading.

    We must give our undivided attention to our families if we are going to have a happy home. We must make it one of our primary goals in life to work on our communication and quality time with family and that means getting rid of all distractions and putting quality time above everything else.

    Thank you for sharing this.