We are at a crossroads with smartphones. We have to make an important decision. We have to decide if we're going to let them control us or if we are going to grab them by the arm, swat them on the butt, and say, "Now listen, you're getting too big for your britches. You are living in my pocket and I'm paying your monthly service fees, so you're going to follow my rules. And if you don't, you're going to bed without a charge."
Just like kids, smartphones need boundaries. Here are five boundaries you must put in place if you want to take back control of your smartphone.
1) Don't let them interrupt:
"Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, watch me!" your smartphone says as it beeps and buzzes with text after tweet after Facebook notification.
"Honey, just a minute. The grown-ups are talking," you say to your phone. Would you let your 4-year-old interrupt a conversation? Of course not! You're not raising a rude child. Don't let the silicon screamer interrupt a conversation either. Commit to finishing a conversation before checking the text. It can wait.
2) Only let them speak when spoken to:
My grandpa used to say, "When I was a kid, you only spoke when spoken to." That applies to smartphones, too. Put it on silent -- all the time. What about emergencies? This is where it gets really cool. Kids aren't allowed to call you at work any time they have a silly question or just want to say hi. They have rules they must follow. Your phone needs rules, too. There are lots of ways to silence your phone except for certain numbers like the day care, your job, spouse, elderly parents or kids. Here is how to do it for the iPhone and for Android.
3) Get a sitter:
Sometimes you need to have some mommy-and-daddy (or mommy-and-mommy, or daddy-and-daddy) time. Before cell phones, when you went out to eat at a restaurant, you would leave the number of the restaurant with anyone who might need to get ahold of you in an emergency. That still works today. Leave your phone at home for at least one social event per week. Smartphones are okay to stay home by themselves, as long as they understand not to open the door for strangers.
4) Give them a bedtime:
It is important that kids get adequate sleep, but another benefit of kids going to bed early is that it gives the grown-ups some time to themselves. Smartphones need a bedtime, too. Put them to bed (outside of the bedroom, in case you want to have sex) at a reasonable hour. Then they will be all charged up (pun intended... carefully planned, actually) and ready for a new day tomorrow.
5) Make them run errands:
"Go give the mail to mommy," you might say to a child. Kids love passing along messages or running small errands. Smartphones are great for that, too. Set up your phone so that you can send emails but can't receive them (here's how). This is wonderful. If you think of something you need to tell someone or something you can't forget to do, just send an email or send yourself a reminder. That's it. You're done. No need to deal with the incoming email until it's time to do so. Email sent and you're back to living your life.
Technology wasn't invented for technology's sake. It was invented to make your life easier. It's supposed to help you spend more time living your life and less time sustaining it. Use it that way. Time is all you have. Use technology as a tool to enjoy more of your time instead of an obligation that takes you away from living your life.