023: How to Stop Looking at your Phone and Why It Matters // Dr. Katie Penry, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Are you wondering how to get off your phone and be more present with your kids? 

The very fact that you’re here reading this tells me that you are an intentional mom. If you’re like me, you want to be as present as you can with your kids, but the phone is such a distraction (and sometimes a necessity!) that it can be hard to know how to navigate it! 

Do I promise myself to never be on my phone when I’m with my kids? As much as I like that, it’s not very realistic, especially as they get older. So how do I realistically get off my phone more? 

If you find yourself in this same conundrum, you’ll love reading the takeaways from one of my 3 in 30 podcast guests. Dr. Katie Penry is a licensed clinical psychologist and mother of two young children. She is the queen of helping moms understand the brain research behind why we need to look up from our phones and engage more with our little children.

And, the great thing is that she doesn’t just tell us WHY to do this, she also tells us HOW! 👏

Before we dive into her takeaways on how to get off our phones, here are some mind-blowing facts from Katie on why engaging with our kids (always, but even most importantly when they’re under 3) is so essential:

  • Almost 80% of your child’s brain development happens from age 0-3 years, through consistent verbal and non-verbal interaction with their parents
  • When you look at your baby and attune to who they are and what they love (essentially, when you and your baby react to each other) Harvard Psychologists call this “Serve and Return.” This is crucial to brain development! 
  • Daniel Stern, a renowned American psychologist, found that 70%-80% of the time that your baby is alert, he/she is looking at you.
  • Babies are born able to see the exact distance from their biological mother’s eye to nipple. 

Katie also said, “Parents act as mirrors for their children. Children learn who they are in the reflection of another person’s watchful gaze.” 

Is your brain exploding like mine is? 🤯


Okay, one final note before I jump into the takeaways from Katie. Katie and I both feel strongly that most mothers are doing their best, and our purpose with this conversation is NOT to make you feel ashamed about your phone use! Instead, our goal is to give you some information to get you thinking so you can make decisions that best fit your life and your family. 


Three Takeaways on How to Get Off Your Phone


1.  Set aside sacred spaces where you will not use your phone. 

Rather than trying to limit your phone use by setting arbitrary time limits for yourself, intentionally choose spaces and places where you commit to not using your phone. This might be at the dinner table, at the park, or when you’re nursing your baby. Intentionally protecting these spaces will help ensure you’re staying present with your kids when it matters most. 


2. Tell your kids what you are doing when you are looking at your phone.

It’s inevitable that we will need to use our phones in front of our kids sometimes. When this happens, narrate outloud to your kids why you’re on your phone. You might say, “I’m sending some text messages regarding the class party I’m organizing for your Halloween party.” or “I’m paying the electricity bill right now.” You can even say, “I’m exhausted and am going to give myself 15 minutes to scroll on Instagram.” Doing this models for your kids a healthy phone relationship, and it also helps them know that you’re not checking out when you’re with them. 


3. Use your phone’s non-notification settings to help you be present at important times of day.

 Make sure you’re taking advantage of your phone’s non-notification settings. Set up “do not disturb” times during important times during the day and turn non-essential notifications completely off.  Setting these boundaries will help you stay more present in your life, and it’s also really good for you! If you’re worried someone will need you during this time, remember this counter-question to that, “What if no one does?” Give yourself permission to get off your phone on a regular, scheduled basis. 


Save this summary to Pinterest so you can use it later! 👇


3 Ways to Get Off Your Phone Around Your Kids. Episode 114 with Dr. Katie Penry. 3 in 30 Takeaways for Moms Podcast with host Rachel Nielson. Top Motherhood Podcast.
Infographic depicting How to Get Off Your Phone Around Your Kids with Dr Katie Penry.

















>>>Have these takeaways from Dr. Katie Penry on how to get off your phone got you thinking? How do you navigate your phone when you’re around your kids? I’d love to hear in the comments below! 




Related Episodes like this one on the How to Get Off Your Phone:


About Our Guest:

Dr. Katie Penry strives to help parents be more attentive and effective. She graduated with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College in Illinois. Her residency was completed at Mississippi State Hospital – one of the largest inpatient facilities in the USA. There, she served as chief resident. She then acquired postdoctoral training at Brookhaven Institute and most recently,  completed training at Harvard’s Brazelton Institute in Newborn Behavior Observation. 


Get in Touch with Our Guest:


16 thoughts on “023: How to Stop Looking at your Phone and Why It Matters // Dr. Katie Penry, Licensed Clinical Psychologist”

  1. Rachel Pennington

    Wow! Just wow! I am a grandparent of 6 grandkids under the age of 7 and this was so helpful for me! Thank you for this wonderful podcast! I love listening to you! What great work you are doing!

    1. Rachel Nielson

      Thank YOU for the incredibly kind comment. I’m so very glad to know this was helpful. It means a lot to know that people are listening!

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  3. Brittany Phillips

    I’m so slow to this Podcast world but have been motivated to get connected since learning that you were starting your own segment. I just listened to my first ever podcast and it was yours!! Oh I loved hearing your wonderful voice again. Thank you for your inspiring words. I’m excited to get some more eye to eye contact with my kiddos!

    1. Rachel Nielson

      Oh that makes me so happy!! Yay! Welcome to the podcast world! I’m so glad you chose to start with my show!!

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  11. Help, HELP!! I know this is an older episode, but I just listened to it in 2021 and I really want to sign up for the Look Up challenge. I’ve signed up 3 times, but no email ever comes. Her Instagram is not active. Is this still happening? Does anyone have old emails sent that could be forwarded? I feel like I’m a day late (or 3 years late!!) But want to take part!

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