Here’s a scary new stat: according to a new Baylor University study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, the average female student spends 10 hours a day on her cell phone, with male students only slightly behind at eight hours. You KNOW that means they have to be texting and staring at their cell phone during times when it’s horribly inappropriate, such as while driving, in class, at work, etc. Ten hours! Think about that!

The next time you go out to dinner, take a look around. It’s becoming a common scene at restaurants for every single person sitting at the table—Dad, Mom and all the kids—to have their noses buried in a cell phone. A Disney commercial shows a family at one of the parks with repeated scenes of their 14ish-looking daughter paying no mind to anyone, not talking, not interacting, but engrossed in her cell phone. At the end, she texts her dad, who’s standing next to her, “Best vacation ever.” Everyone smiles and the parents are relieved. Seriously? When did texting someone who was standing next to you become acceptable for thanking them? What about looking them in the eye and connecting? I suppose it’s no worse than texting a birthday greeting or e-mailing someone a sympathy card. My grandmother would roll over in her grave.

Of course, it’s a rampant epidemic that you can practically guarantee is leaking into your organization. Not only does this make your employees distracted and therefore horribly unproductive and unfocused, but if you have employees who drive or operate heavy machines, YOU can now be held liable if they are checking company e-mail or doing other work on their phone and crash or harm themselves or someone else because they were distracted. And, of course, it can’t be helpful for employees to constantly be checking Facebook or Pinterest or playing Candy Crush during WORK hours when they’re supposed to be productive, serving your clients.

Since the holidays are about getting together with the ones we love, how about actually being present with them? I wonder how many family dinner tables in America are mostly people sitting at the same table, ignoring each other because they’re too busy texting someone who isn’t there, playing Farmville or doing some other unimportant, unproductive online activity. So many people are NOT where they are. They can’t seem to actually sit and TALK to a person. Engage with them. Be attentive. Listen. I see this more and more with teenagers who don’t know how to introduce themselves or have a polite and meaningful conversation. Many can’t write because they’re so used to communicating in 140-character tweets. Obama caught hell (rightfully so) for having his cell phone out, taking a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. The Kardashian clan were caught checking their phones and texting at the Music Awards during the moment of silence held for the kid who was killed in Ferguson, MO. Utter disrespect. But where does it end?

I have a strong recommendation: put your cell phone someplace that cannot be accessed when you’re working. Turn off all digital distractions such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., etc., etc., when you’re engaging with your kids. Break out a board game. PLAY. The next time you’re talking to your spouse, look them in the eye and listen. If you’re talking with someone on the phone, get away from your computer. Just turn your chair. They can TELL when you’ve stopped listening because your eyeballs are glued to your e-mail.

 

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