When I am trying to get some work done, I place my phone face down on the desk and put it in silent mode. No pings, dings or vibrations to notify me of incoming messages, emails or calls.
But it turns out, this isn’t good enough. I can still see my phone.
Studies show that a visible cellphone decreases attention and the ability to perform tasks. Just having the phone within view takes a toll on my concentration. I now place it in a drawer.
In an experiment with 200 participants, researchers found that simply placing a mobile device on the table or having participants hold it in their hand was a detriment to their conversations. Any time the phone was visible, the quality of conversation was rated as less fulfilling than conversations that took place in the absence of mobile devices.
Family time is especially vulnerable. When children see their parents constantly on the phone, it sends a message about priorities. Dr. Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, recently commented about the impact of “half-there” parents at critical times of the day such as before and after school:
This should be a cell-free zone for everyone—no Bluetooth for parents or devices for kids. The pickup from school is a very important transitional time for kids, a time for them to download their day. Parents shouldn’t be saying, ‘Wait a minute, I have to finish this call.’
Make the choice to put your phone away when you are with another person, be it having dinner, driving somewhere, watching a movie, or going for a walk.
So, when it the best time to use your phone? When you are alone.