HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: Relax. It's fine to look at your phone in front of your kids.

Our phones have become implements of self-flagellation. That, my exhausted friends, means they are sticks with which we beat ourselves. And mine’s an iPhone 6+ so, you know, it hurts.

We are living in a strange moment in history. Yes, there’s an odd, troll-headed man in the world’s most powerful job and men in blue ties are arguing about “The Gays” taking their marriages away, but there’s more than that.

We’ve been handed the most important invention of several generations. The smart phone is a truly magical device that can show you a photograph of anything you ask it to within seconds. Think about that. A dodo. a mouse with a human ear on its back. Kim Kardashian balancing a champagne bottle on her bum.

It’s the tiny genius who can tell you everything about any topic your curiosity can conjure and connect you instantly to any person, relative, stranger or movie star. It holds EVERY TELEVISION SHOW that has ever been made and EVERY SONG that has ever been written. And it fits in your hand.

Power and influence, pleasure and lust. Entertainment and torment. All within pinkie reach.

And yet we’re constantly being told not to touch it too much.

Listen: The hosts of Mamamia Out Loud discuss nomophobia – the genuine fear of going anywhere without one’s phone. (Post continues after audio…)

Just leave that thing alone. Put it down. Lock it away. TURN IT OFF. 


We’re scrambling to catch up with the effects on our addled brains of having way too many possibilities at any one time, so we are imposing rules on the the device. We’re trying to tame the phone. To wrestle back some self-control in the face of its wily seduction.

Rules like:

Don’t look at your phone when you’re out to dinner.

Don’t look at your phone when your partner’s trying to tell you about that essential meeting they had this morning.

Don’t look at your phone in the movies.

"Tea... sofa... all that's missing is my phone." Image: Supplied

Don't look at your phone before you fall asleep at night. Or as the first thing you do in the morning.

And certainly, don't look at your phone when your children are looking at you.

But our resistance is futile.

The thing is, our phones are infinitely interesting. There is very little they can't do. I didn't think they could make me a cup of coffee but they I discovered Deliveroo and Hey You, and now I have nothing.

Our children - okay, okay, my children, I know I'm out on a limb here - are interesting.

They are seeing every facet of the world for the very first time. Their laughs, their grins are genuine, always. They reach for our hand instinctively. They trust us. They are the most beautiful things we have ever set eyes on and they think we hung the moon.

Image: iStock

But they're still not as interesting as your iPhone.

They know this, the children. That's why they're always, always trying to steal your phone. It's a direct threat to their existence. And it has Angry Birds on it.

I - like every guilt-ridden ABC-watching parent - watched a video recently where primary school kids talked about how it felt when Mummy or Daddy were looking down at their phones instead of down at them.

"It makes me sad," says one little guy. "My Dad doesn't even listen any more."

"It makes me feel angry," says another. "Like I'm being ignored."

Nice try, kids.

You only want us to put our phones down so that you can pick them up.


We can't put our phones down now, little ones. The genie's out of the bottle. The ship has sailed. The fat lady has sung.

We have had our eyes opened to a world where we can be constantly distracted and we don't want to return to a reality where we have to actually listen to you telling us about that problem with Ms Fanshart and your former best-friend Lola. Why would we? A new Outlander trailer has dropped.

Alas, have these ungrateful small people considered that we might actually be looking at our phones because we're doing something FOR THEM?

Most mothers I know are on their phones because they're arranging doctor's appointments, sorting play dates, trying to source a very particular brand of lunchbox that is BPA-free and recyclable. Life is complicated, children, and your needs are many. If we didn't have phones to look at, we wouldn't have found that maths tutor you're tormenting, and you wouldn't be wearing that Pixie Bow in your hair.

So parents, shake off the guilt around looking at your phone. You're helpless in the face of a seismic cultural change of incomparable scale.

And also, cat videos.

Do you have rules about looking at your phone in front of your kids?  

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