Just last week, I was at Wrigley Field in Chicago taking in a ballgame. Before the game started, a mother and two boys, elementary school aged, took a seat in the row in front of me. Right after sitting down, the two boys each pulled out a smartphone and started playing games. I thought maybe they would put the phones away once the ballgame started, but they never did. They were both on their phones for the entire game.

(Before I keep going, I understand that you may have already read many articles on how smartphones are ruining our society or how people need to just put their phones away and enjoy life. So I guess if you’re tired of hearing about that, you don’t have to continue reading.)

OK, back to my vent. It amazes me that someone could spend what I’m sure was a lot of money on tickets to a Major League Baseball game only to ignore (or allow their kids to ignore) everything happening around them. I use this family as an example, yet whenever I’m watching games on TV these days, I always see fans in the stands on their devices during the game – sometimes right behind home plate while a pitch is being thrown. It’s not just about the money, though that’s a big part of it. It’s about missing out on experiencing life.

I’ll admit that I’m guilty as well. I felt my phone go off in my pocket throughout the game and checked it a few times between innings, worried that I would miss an important message from home or work. I think this shows how much our society has changed in such little time due to smartphones. How did we survive just 20 years ago without them?

When email first came out, it was considered good etiquette to try to respond to an email within 24 hours. Now we think something is wrong if someone hasn’t responded within a couple of hours. Or we could go back even more and think about what life was like before email and cell phones. Business still got done. People were still able to communicate. It just took longer than it does now. Our devices, as convenient and handy as they sometimes are, have made us impatient and anxious to the point that we can’t even enjoy life. It’s ironic: Smartphones connect us more in one way and disconnect us in another.

A couple months ago my family went on a cruise, and we opted not to pay extra for Wi-Fi access. As a result, we spent several days without the ability to play online games or check our email. A couple days in, a restaurant at one of our port stops offered Wi-Fi, which allowed us to briefly check email. I was worried that I’d missed a lot, but I really didn’t. My inbox was filled mostly with junk advertisements, with a couple of messages that could easily wait to be answered until I got back from vacation. Again, when we were back on U.S. soil and driving back home, there was nothing in my inbox that couldn’t be resolved when I got home. I’m glad we didn’t pay for Wi-Fi access, because it was a memorable trip that included lots of fun activities. My memory of them would be marred if I had been worrying about my email; instead, I had no choice but to not think about it.

Circling back to the ballgame example, I think we as adults have an obligation to teach today’s youth the importance of not relying too heavily on our handheld devices, either for business or for entertainment. Today’s youth don’t know what life is like without them, and one day, those of us old enough to remember will be gone. If we don’t learn how to use smartphones in moderation, I believe our society will be more anxious and unhappy as a result.

So, whether you’re hearing it for the first time, the 10th, the 100th or the 1,000th, there’s a good chance you need to hear it again: Put down your device! At least learn how to use it as sparingly as possible. It’s amazing what you’ll be able to see when you’re paying attention to the world around you.

Brian Johnston lives in St. Joseph with his wife and two children. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/brianjohnstonwriter.