Put Down the Phone: Learning to be Present


“Turn your head, Mommy! Turn your head!”

This is Tera’s newest phrase. Unfortunately, she is not saying it in reference to playing peek-a-boo or brushing my hair.

She’s asking me to look at her.

To look away from my phone/computer/distraction, and look at her.

I confess: we spend way too much time on our phones/laptops. Do you every feel the tension of that struggle? I don’t think it’s just us, so I wanted to share a little bit about what we have decided to do about it.

It will probably affect my blogging, although I hope to simply become more intentional with my time and continue on with this blog.

But I’m choosing to prioritize, and if something in the blog world doesn’t get done within the parameters I have set, then it doesn’t get done. End of story.

Together, Theo and I have decided to do something about the constant pulling out of our phones/laptops. We have done similar things off and on over the years, but we really wanted to buckle down and be intentional about putting down our phones starting right now.

Our basic household rule is this: When Tera is awake, there is to be no technology on.

Of course, sometimes we have a family movie night and every so often we will put on a show for Tera. Trust me…we have those days in the Hines household. We have the days where we cannot get anything done at all unless the toddler can sit down and be completely occupied by a screen. We also have seasons of life that require a little more or less “entertainment” from outside sources. Seasons like pregnancy or even winter are a little more difficult to manage and on those days/seasons, we are incredibly thankful for  screens! However, “those days”, start to become more and more common and the excuses start to build up more and more until day after day my child is being babysat by a screen while I mindlessly scroll through my phone, stating that “I really need to do this for my blog!”

Anybody else? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

And please tell me I’m not the only one who hates it but doesn’t know what to do about it.

Theo and I spent an hour or so on our long drive yesterday brainstorming ways that we can be more intentional and put down our phones.

  • Turn off notifications. I got a new phone a month or so ago and when I downloaded my apps, I set them all to turn off notifications. This has made such a HUGE difference for me.

Image result for two types of people phone notifications

I am the person on the left. I have to check every single app over and over again until there are no little red numbers. Do you know how much time I would spend on my phone just trying to get those numbers to go away? Too much. Way too much. So I just changed the phone so that there are never any notifications sent my way. As you can see, I still have a few apps that have the notifications on. Things like Skype (how I communicate with my parents), phone, and paypal all still have the notifications on. I have found that this prevents me from obsessively checking every single app all.the.time.

Here’s how: Go to Settings > Notifications > Click on each individual app to turn off or set specific alerts

  • Accountability.  Phones are everywhere, and they can be dangerous. I think that too often we are giving our phones far too much power over our lives. As Christians, I believe that we need to be striving more to live as      people that are sharpening one another. So often it’s easy to give many excuses as to why we MUST have our phones. But let’s step back and take another approach. Let’s agree to keep each other accountable. One awesome way that I found to do this is to take a screenshot of your battery usage. Here’s mine:

Ouch. 58% of my battery on Facebook? That sounds like a waste of battery (and time).

Here’s how: Go to Settings > Battery

I would highly recommend finding someone who will mutually keep you accountable and send them this screenshot at the end of every day.

*If you are interested in being buddied up, please let me know and I would love to facilitate that. Just shoot me an email and I’ll just pair you up with a someone who goes to our church, a random internet stranger or a fellow blogger whom you can email or text daily. I would be glad to send some deeper accountability questions, too.

  • A docking station.  Out of sight, out of mind. I have found that when I plug my phone into the wall and leave it there, I have a much easier time not being on it. If I leave my phone on the kitchen counter, it’s not with me while I sit on the couch and feed Kiah. If it’s plugged into my speaker, playing music, I don’t want to interrupt the music just to scroll through IG. Ok, let’s be honest…I do want to, but it makes me pause and think “do I really NEED to be on my phone right now?” 98% of the time, the answer is no.
  • Set times.  In our discussion, Theo and I agreed that we would have set times where the phones can be on. For us, these times are 6-8am, naptime, and 8-10pm. As we talked, we agreed that there is nothing that needs to be happening on our phones or laptops between those times.
  • Wifi off/Airplane Mode/Do not Disturb. I’m not really sure why this never occurred to us before, but we have decided to turn our wifi off if it is not during set times. There is nothing online that is more important that spending time with my children. I am realizing that I do have to be creative when the wifi is turned off, though. I will want to google something or email someone “real quick”, and then I just go down the rabbit hole of Instagram. Now, I have started two lists in my planner: one is daily chores and things that do not require technology or internet, and the other one is things to do that require internet. This way I can be much more intentional with my time when I am online. First, email Grandpa. Then, work on my blog post.

Maybe you don’t struggle with the rabbit hole of social media or random apps, but struggle more with texting all your friends. You could put your phone in airplane mode during set hours of the day. In airplane mode, no one can text you or call you, but as soon as you turn the mode off, you will be able to receive their calls.

Here’s how: Settings > Airplane Mode > On

As Theo and I discussed that one, I brought up the issue of being able to take “emergency” calls. I don’t really want my phone turned off all day making me completely unreachable. I then recalled another trick that one of my friends had taught me: Do Not Disturb mode. By setting the phone on Do Not Disturb, no calls or texts will come in. We can set specific hours on it, and you can also go in and adjust who do you receive calls from. So if I am worried about emergency calls, I can still set it to receive calls/texts from Theo, my sisters, my brother, and my Mom/MIL. Pretty cool!

Here’s how: Settings > Do Not Disturb > Scheduled > Time > Allow Calls From….


I already mentioned in this post that I’m not an expert. The reason that I am writing this post is because we are struggling with it. I’d love to hear from you- what your family does to limit constant phone/computer/TV usage. I would love to hear some tips and tricks! Just leave them below in the comments, or shoot me an email!





  1. Kim Jones says:

    Gosh, I am so guilty of this. My daughter has also started making comments about how she wants me to get off my computer or get off my phone. It crushes me! These are some great ideas! Thank you!

  2. Gloryanna says:

    I LOVE this and can very much relate. I had no idea you could see where you battery usage went to! I’ll have to check into that. I also have to turn my phone off at 9:00PM just so I can settle for the night and it wont interfere with my sleep. I also try to keep my phone away from me during certain parts of the day so I’m not in front of it while I’m with my son! Great share here!

  3. Ellen @Mommy Happiness says:

    This is great! I definitely need this also! My word is Intention for 2017 which means being more present…aka putting the phone down! Thank you for these tips!! One that I have utilized as well..for being on my blog’s Facebook page and trying to post in it daily, I schedule my posts on Facebook for the week…I might sometimes post other things but knowing there is at least something being posted each day of the work week makes it easy to stay off of it (or at least that is the thought!)

  4. Esther says:

    Love this so much – it’s contagious. Thank you for taking the time to write out the ideas in so much detail. I would love to read how it changes your life and interactions with the littles in about a month or two. Would be so interesting!

  5. Jennifer DeFrates/Heaven not Harvard says:

    I work on my phone and I have to be on it often but I can be more mindful of setting it down and aside to give her time first. I have a daughter too. She gets my time first and then I work. I find setting my phone down or setting a limit on using it helps. I set a timer and then when it rings I know to turn it off.

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