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Should we follow Lily Allen – and let our partner control our smartphone? | Arwa Mahdawi

Should we follow Lily Allen – and let our partner control our smartphone? | Arwa Mahdawi

An annoying thing about being a parent is that you have to consistently model good behaviour. You can’t just shove crisps in your mouth and stare at your phone when you need a break.

I’ve always spent an unhealthy amount of time staring at my phone, but I didn’t worry about my habit until I had a toddler. The thing with toddlers is that they have more sophisticated surveillance techniques than Facebook. Even when you think they’re completely absorbed in emptying the contents of your cupboards on to the living room floor, they know when you’re looking at your phone and not at them. And, according to various alarming studies, this guarantees a lifetime of therapy bills. One 2023 study, for example, found parental phone use is associated with “still face”. This means that you look like a depressed robot while scrolling – and it can affect a child’s emotional development.

Still, it’s worth remembering we all have the power to unbreak our brains. The singer and actor Lily Allen and her husband, David Harbour, have come up with a novel way of doing this. In a recent Sunday Times interview, Allen said she has stopped her daughters from using a smartphone until they’re 14 and that she is also using a kids’ phone (Pinwheel), with no social media or browsing capabilities. Her husband controls what apps she is allowed to use and she does the same for him.

I haven’t tried this approach, but I have discovered my own antidote to spending too much time on social media. I’ve dramatically curbed my addiction because I can’t bear scrolling past images of unprecedented suffering in Gaza – more than 10,000 dead children and imposed mass starvation – interspersed with chatty tweets about the Kardashians. My Twitter habit may be broken, but so am I.

Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

Source: theguardian.com