I love my iPhone as much as anyone. I use it to connect with colleagues and family over apps like Voxer, Facetime and email. I’ve snapped countless photos of memorable family moments. I use it to listen to music when I run and catch a movie when I’m traveling alone. But there are some truly wonderful iPhone features that we smartphone users have ignored for far too long.
1) The iPhone’s tiny dimensions will enable your toddler to be a toddler.
Your iPhone is an amazing tool that gives parents more mobility and more freedom of choice than any generation of parents who’ve come before us.
When you walk into the restaurant, you’ll see many parents leveraging iPhone’s PBS Kids app to pacify their young ones so that they can grab quiet moments together that their own parents may never have enjoyed. Yet using this pacifying power deprives kids of physical movement that thousands of evolutionary years have taught their bodies to need.
When your kid decides to take off from the table, you can decline to use this pacifying power and instead leverage the phones amazingly miniature dimensions to put it in your pocket, take your kid’s hand, and take him outside to play.
Moreover, while you treasure watching your kid run up-and-down the street and into your arms, your spouse can use her amazing iPhone’s calculator function to settle the bill and leave a generous tip for all the help your waiter provided with your rambunctious kid during the meal.
2) The iPhones’ headphones will help you to tune into the amazing sounds of nature.
This is how it works. Go on a run or a brisk walk while streaming your favorite music through your iPhone earbuds. Keep this up for a couple of miles. Eventually, slow back down to a walk or even find a bench or patch of grass on which to sit. Detach the ear buds and use their amazing flexibility to wrap them up. Unlike the old ear phones with the over-the-head bridge, iPhone ear pods fit nicely in your pocket.
That’s when you’ll hear it. First, a few birds chirping. Then maybe some branches moving in the wind or the sweet voice of a young child laughing. Though the music that pumped through your ear buds is sublime, the natural sounds you hear when you’re able to put them away will positively touch your soul like no others.
3) The iPhone lock button is sometimes even better for capturing life’s images than its camera.
This one is not for the novice smartphone user. It is a real power move for someone who has already had an iPhone for some time.
When my iPhone was new, I was addicted to the social media-camera integration that allowed me to snap a photo of my kid’s first bike ride and post it to Facebook, inviting comments from friends around the world.
Over time, however, I’ve discovered that the button at the top of the phone is sometimes even better than the button on the camera for capturing gorgeous and memorable moments. The key is to take the phone out of your pocket when you see your child having a great time. Get ready to click on the camera app, and then click the lock screen instead. The home screen will go black. You’ll look up and see with your eyes what you otherwise would’ve been looking at through the camera screen. Commit the scene to memory.
A week later, you may not remember the image, but using the lock button will have forced you to remember how the scene actually felt. And it’ll remind your child to remember that feeling, too.
4) The do not disturb function will dynamically protect your quiet time.
This digital version is far more dynamic than even the fanciest do-not-disturb door signs at luxurious hotels. It is also far cooler than the button on the side of your phone that allows you to manually mute your phone at a performance or meeting.
Do not disturb is located in your settings application, and its granular features are amazing. You can schedule it to regularly stop making noise during sleep time, kid’s homework time or at family meal times. Worried about a critical call? Don’t worry, you can add exceptions for specific people or behaviors. So family from overseas can interrupt your sleep if you’d like.
I now program my phone to go into do-not-disturb mode at 5:30 PM on Friday. It doesn’t mean I’m out of touch, just that I engage with my work on my own terms and timeline, and that my family gets dedicated time as well.
5) The password function will help you teach your kid to appreciate books.
In a moment of extreme exhaustion, after 10 minutes of hearing your toddler beg for access to your phone, you’ll likely give up that password and buy yourself a bit of parental downtime. But even if you were weak, the really cool thing is that you can change the password. Your kid will incessantly complain of boredom until you nearly break. But eventually, if you don’t give up, and if you persevere and refuse to share that new password the way you might endure to train for a triathlon, you’ll have a magical moment that will outshine the greatest athletic high.
That is the joy of a child learning to overcome boredom through effort and imagination instead of through passive entertainment consumption.
My son, having learned that my wife and I would not easily relinquish our screens to him at a restaurant, used to grab his Star Wars Encyclopedia even before he learned to read. At that moment in dinner when I might previously have had to abandon my wife to accompany our toddler outside, he pulled the book out of the bag and quietly read through it while we finished our meal. Unable to actually read much more than R2-D2, he learned to love thumbing through the book to look at pictures and form stories in his head about the different characters. Had he simply been able to turn on Angry Birds, he may never have experienced this joy.
The well-used iPhone password function had delivered both vindication and one of my most joyful parenting moments.
Now who says using a smartphone in front of our kids has to be about setting a bad example?