8 Ways To Be A Present Parent & Avoid Digital Distractions

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8 Ways To Be A Present Parent & Avoid Digital Distractions

May 20, 2020
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Table of Contents

Students get a bad rap for spending too much time on their devices, but with emails to answer, deadlines to meet, and social media feeds to catch up on - many parents are just as guilty. It can sometimes be tough to be a more present parent.

Digital distractions are now a daily struggle for many moms and dads. But continual chirps and dings don’t have to constantly distract you from family life. 

Ways To Be A More Present Parent And Avoid Digital Distractions by SmartSocial.com

“Mom Talk” on the Smart Social Podcast

Watch “Mom Talk” on the Smart Social Podcast as two mothers tell stories about the moments that changed their view of motherhood, and ultimately led to the creation of both of their businesses.  They discuss being in the trenches of motherhood - the good, the hard, and the in-between. 

Smart Social Podcast Hosts, April Whiting and Jennifer Zumbiel, are both mothers of four and big believers in quality over quantity when it comes to meaningful family time.  April discusses the importance of eye contact with children, and Jennifer gives her tips on “stop, drop, and fold” to give your children moments of all of you.

April Whiting is a mother, TEDx Speaker, Author, and Founder of The Screen Safe Project

Jennifer Zumbiel is a mother, Author, and Founder of Togather™

8 Parents Offer Tips To Be A More Present Parent & Avoid Digital Distractions

SmartSocial.com reached out to eight other busy parents to get their best tips for being a more present parent in today’s digital world.

1. Greet each other first thing in the morning to start your day as a more present parent

Willie Greer, Father, Founder of The Product Analyst

Willie Greer headshot
Willie Greer

Most of us grab our phones the moment we open our eyes in the morning. This leaves us no time to be thankful or mindful of the present fact that we've woken up for another day and our family remained safe through the night. 

At my home, we're practicing not checking our phones until we've gotten up and greeted each other a nice “good morning.” Sometimes we talk a little bit about random things. This feels really good because we get to acknowledge each other's presence and feel that parent-child connection first thing in the morning.

To help implement this, you could set up a charging station in your home where everyone's devices stay until you're all ready to start your day.

2. Set professional boundaries so remote work won’t interfere with family time

Suzanne Brown, Mother, Author, TED Speaker, Founder of Mompowerment

Suzanne Brown headshot
Suzanne Brown

Don’t let technology take over. Stick to your boundaries. Define what your workday looks like and stick to that. And remember that you can likely divide up your day a bit differently when you're working from home. 

Have a conversation with your colleagues and manager so that they understand your availability. That way they're not trying to communicate with you when it's designated family time. Your calendar can be an excellent way to define these boundaries. Block off family time so people can't schedule meeting time during these family blocks. 

As a team, you can agree that no meetings will happen during certain times and define general working schedule parameters to help everyone be more productive.

3. Silence phone notifications while children are present

Emily Adams, Mother, Mindset Coach, Public Speaker

Emily Adams headshot
Emily Adams

I am one of those people that love to multitask and I realized I was missing bits and pieces of conversations and my boys would call me out on it. They would say things like, “Mom you’re not listening” or “did you really hear what I had to say?” This started to bother me and I knew I needed to make a change.

I started by really listening when they talked. Whatever I was doing I would stop doing it and just listen to them. If I was on my phone I would put my phone down with the screen facing down so I couldn’t see the notifications. When I started doing this I saw that my boys appreciated it and we connected even more.

The one thing that was helpful was turning my phone to silent at all times. I struggled with this concept for a little bit as I thought about people that might need to reach me. Then I reminded myself that my boys are my priority and, if they are here with me, everything else can wait.

If I am on my phone watching a video or listening to a podcast, and the boys come up to ask me a question, I put it on pause. I remind myself that one day they won’t be here as they grow up and live their own lives.

At the end of the day, remember that your children long to connect with you. They want you to be present at all times and you only have them for a short time before they are off to live life on their own. Being present creates the best memories!

4. Set auto-responders for off-hours work emails

Jamie Spannhake, Mother, Lawyer, Author

Jamie Spannhake headshot
Jamie Spannhake

One of the many digital items pulling our focus away from our families is email from work. I can get email on my phone well past 5:00 pm.

In order to feel comfortable NOT responding to work email during family time, in the afternoons and evening, set an auto-responder letting people know that you will respond to their email either late that evening or early the next morning. 

Also let them know to text you if they have an emergency. Most people won't.

5. Schedule one-on-one time with each of your children

Shelley Meche'tte, Mother, Certified Life Purpose Coach, Women's Change Agent

Shelley Mechette headshot
Shelley Meche'tte

Any parent who has ever tried to have a deep conversation with a tween/teen understands how difficult it can be to get them to put their device down and open up or just say a complete sentence. It's much easier to stay involved and present with children in a digital age when parents use simple ways to engage.

Creating a scheduled “talk time” can help parents get a peek inside the life of their child(ren). Scheduled "talk times" will help both parent and child prepare for an open, non-judgement environment of dialogue. Topics can even be planned so that there is no need to try to think of something to say.

Make this time special, so that as you continue, "talk time" will become the family norm and a place where everyone will feel comfortable sharing in a safe space. Be sure to outline the rules, so all expectations are known.

6. Re-engage your inner child and be a more playful and present parent

Caitlyn Scaggs, Mother, University Spokesperson

Caitlyn Scaggs headshot
Caitlyn Scaggs

Identify genuinely fun and creative offline activities that do not involve digital technology at all. Go ahead, roll up your sleeves and get dirty too! Rather than seeing play and creativity as the work of children, I suggest that adults re-engage their inner child. 

For example, take your kids on a nature walk with the intent of selecting nature-made paint brushes. When you return home, use the paint brushes to create masterpieces together. You will be too busy having fun - and making a bit of a mess - to worry about anything digital. The ideas have to be fun and the activities have to be engaging or it will not work.

7. Enjoy offline family activities

Damon Nailer, Father, Author, Career Consultant

Damon Nailer headshot
Damon "DaRil" Nailer
  • Take walks -  Don’t allow your children to utilize their technology, except to listen to music
  • Play boardgames, cards, etc. - Fun games demand everyone's full attention
  • Have a picnic- You can do this indoors or outdoors. Institute a rule that everyone must put away all forms of technology so every member of the family can talk and interact without distractions
  • Watch a movie as a family - Select a movie that everyone finds interesting so it will grab each individual's attention

8. Help students pursue an offline passion

Robert Johnson, Father, Founder of Sawinery

Robert Johnson headshot
Robert Johnson

One way I remain present as a parent when digital distractions are abundant is by involving them in my passion. In my case, it’s woodworking. It’s a useful hobby to have as they will know how to make something tangible that doesn’t involve phones or computers.

I remain involved and present by watching them use age-appropriate tools. Any offline hobby that requires children to use their eyes and their hands would be a great hobby to have together. We make sure everyone pays attention, and there are no distractions from devices, to prevent accidents from happening.


Making it a habit to disconnect from digital distractions throughout the day will help parents make a better connection with their kids and be a more present parent.

Routinely brushing children off with “not now” or “I’m too busy” could have lasting negative effects and prevent your kids from coming to you when they really need help.

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