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We continue to fight with our teenagers about being on their phones when we’re together. My husband’s constant glancing at his phone isn’t helping. Is this just a modern problem I need to learn to live with?

A while back I learned two new words: “portmanteau” and “phubbing.” I found “portmanteau” when I was looking up the meaning of “phubbing.” A portmanteau is a new word created by combining the sounds and meanings of two others. In the case of “phubbing,” the combined words are “phone” and “snubbing.” What’s happening in your home—and in the homes of everyone I know—is that we’re all snubbing the people around us because of our addiction to our phones.

Some will say we’ve always had distractions. Remember Dad hiding behind his newspaper, or the brothers forever watching TV, or the sister who wouldn’t take her nose out of a book? And really, isn’t this just the usual suspicion of any new technology rearing its head? Maybe. But the cellphone just turned 50, the smartphone is several decades old, and modern hyperdistraction took hold when social media came of age around 2009. So it’s not a new problem, and we now have solid research that suggests our phone use is making us—especially young people—more lonely, more depressed, and less trusting of each other.

In my house growing up, everyone knew the TV was off during mealtimes. It was so clearly communicated and consistently applied that we never thought to question it. Maybe a place to start is establishing a new rule for your household: no phone use by anyone during mealtimes.

When the use of something interferes with everyday life, something’s not quite right and deserves attention—your undivided attention.

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