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My husband and I ditched our smartphones 7 years ago. We’re never going back, and our daughter will get a ‘dumb phone,’ too.

Two people holding 'dumb phones' sitting outside on a bench.Kristen Bringe (not pictured) and her husband both got rid of their smartphones in 2017.

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  • My husband and I got rid of our smartphones in 2017 to combat phone addiction.
  • We’re never going back. It’s had a positive impact on our lives and our parenting.
  • We plan on giving our daughter a “dumb phone” when she’s older, too.

“Mommy, what’s a smarty phone?” my 5-year-old daughter asked me out of the blue last week.

Internally squealing from the cuteness but keeping a straight face, I answered, “A smarty phone is the kind of phone your friends’ parents have — it lets you get on the internet and take pictures.”

“Oh, okay,” she said before returning to making our living room into an obstacle course.

Despite living a fairly standard American childhood, my daughter’s upbringing includes one radical difference: her parents have weird phones. Both my husband and I switched from iPhones to “dumb phones” in 2017 after waking up to our phone addictions, and we never plan to go back. With teen screen time and social media use becoming a growing concern, I can’t help but think we’re doing her a solid by modeling lower-screen living.

As every parent has learned the hard way a time or two, our kids are watching us. Our behavior sets the stage for theirs — it tells them what’s possible and what’s permitted, for better or worse.

We got rid of our smartphones before becoming parents

My husband and I switched to dumb phones before becoming parents. We were immediately smug and evangelical about our alternative lifestyle choice. When out with friends, we’d wax poetic about our improved mental health since leaving smartphones in our rearview mirror, and exchange judgmental looks when their eyes would sneak a glance at their phones mid-conversation.

We’re less insufferable these days but no less annoyed by “phubs” — or, phone snubs — than back then. I encounter it in almost every adult interaction. Out of nowhere, Smartphone-Having Friend looks down and says, “Oh sorry, I have to . . .” and trails off. I slow my speech or stop talking completely and wait for them to reestablish eye contact. “Sorry, I had to put in a pizza order real quick,” they say. I brush it off and pick up where I left off, hoping they remember what I was talking about.

It’s a bummer. The mid-sentence phub tells the other party, “You’re not important enough.” It stunts conversations. Blocks intimacy. And it’s something I’m glad not to be doing to my daughter on the regular.

We love our ‘dumb phones,’ and our daughter will get one, too

My husband’s and my “dumb phones” text and make phone calls, among other things, so we do get alerts, but the alerts are much less enticing and urgent-feeling than the cacophony of notifications we used to get when we had smartphones. Far from being true Luddites, we do have personal laptops and one iPad at home, but aside from using the iPad for music streaming (because party we must), we store them in our home office and use them mostly when our daughter isn’t present.

Without putting in any extra effort to limit our screen use, we’ve created an environment where our daughter feels prioritized. She sees us finding creative ways to have fun, cope with boredom, and relax. She watches as we navigate public outings with our heads up instead of buried in screens and thus sees us modeling social skills and discomfort tolerance.

On top of teaching early 2000s-era life skills, we hope our lower-screen lifestyle shows our daughter that humans can survive (dare I say, thrive?) without smartphones in modern life. We hope seeing us prioritize our mental health over convenience inspires her to do the same.

We plan to buy our daughter a “dumb phone” when she reaches phone-having age. She’ll go from being a kid whose parents have a weird phone to a kid with a weird phone, but we feel the risks of early smartphone use outweigh the risks of being “othered” on account of her phone type. Who knows — with “dumb phone” use on the rise, maybe she won’t be the only weird phone-wielding teen on the block.

Read the original article on Business Insider