By Mary Jane Beatty, LMFT

STOP – LOOK – LISTEN.  Hey, it worked for the traffic lights!  I think it’s time to resurrect this saying and apply it to our screen time.  How hard is it for you to be away from your phone, answering text messages, looking at Facebook or Twitter, or answering email?

Our children are being raised by screens. Couples are communicating via text.  Here is a quick survey for you.  Be honest.  Today or tomorrow calculate how much time you spend looking at a screen and how much time you spend in face to face conversation at home, at work and socially.

So, “How’s that working for you?” as Dr. Phil would ask.  If you are pleased with your results you don’t need to read the rest of this article.  If the amount of screen time concerns you read on.

Wasn’t one of the benefits of electronics to make our lives easier to manage, bring us closer to one and enhance our quality of life?  I can’t image that staring at a phone or computer for hours on end will enhance our relationships or family life to a great degree.

When I go out to eat, I love to watch others. I enjoy watching couples and families who are communicating without their devices in hand. One young girl was telling her mom about the picture she drew at school. The teacher held it up for the class to see. The girl looked at her mom who told her how proud she was of her.  The girl’s look of delight was priceless. You can’t text that.

Another time I saw an elderly couple eating together.  There was no cellphone between them. Not many words were spoken, but they were communicating. He said a few words and smiled at her. His smile brought a smile to her face and they laughed about it. Twitter can’t do that.

It is getting more common for me to see children and parents looking their phones rather than at each other.  Couples are texting with one hand and eating with the other.  I don’t see many smiles at those tables.

I fear that face to face communication is becoming a lost art.

Try this and see how it works for you:

STOP – Set up times to put the devices aside, turn them off, out of eyesight.

LOOK – Look with your eyes at the person or people you are with. What is more important than looking into the eyes of a loved one: a child, a parent, your spouse or a friend?

LISTEN – Engage with your ears. Good communication requires the ability to truly listen to the other.

We all long to be heard and understood, to be thought of, and told so by those we love.

I end with this quote from John Mayer, “I wish I was the weather, you’d bring me up in conversation forever.  And when it rained, I’d be talked about all day.”