When should your child get a smartphone? What can you do if your child spends too much time playing video games? How can we protect our kids from the downsides of social media? Join us to talk about parenting and technology with Krista Boan, co-founder of the nonprofit Screen Sanity.
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I am Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show, as well as the director of a nonprofit creating a family.org. Buckle up guys, today we're going to be talking about handling screens and technology as a family. Our guest is Krista Boan. She is the co founder of screen sanity, a nonprofit founded in 2018, to support families on every leg of their digital parenting journey to create new cultural norms for digital health. Let me say that I love your website, screen Saturday, everyone it has. It is practical. That's what I like so much about it, it is directly practical for those. For those of us who are parenting, we sent out the we have a very large Facebook group. And we sent out, we posted that we were going to be covering this topic. Anybody sent us questions if they have them? Oh, my goodness, we were inundated. There are so many questions that people have. And I am so appreciative. Krista, you being with us today. So let's dive right in. Absolutely. All right. So I want to start with you have our screen sanity has five rules of thumb, and I want to just touch on them. I think they will be coming up over and over when we delve into the specific questions people have. So let's start. We try to always start with the basics. So let's start with the basics. What are your five rules of thumb for handling screens and technology?
Yeah, so at screen sanity, we do try to give our thoughts and our recommendations using an acronym, which is the word start, that's actually the name of the nonprofit that we were founded underneath. So the letters S T, AR T, each represent a recommendation, we have to build your family's digital health. So the S is start with yourself. The T is tables and bedtimes which just means think about device free zones for your family. The A is accountability, which is the recommendation that you install some kind of internet filtering on your kids devices. And the R is ride practice drive, which is the recommendation that just like you teach a kid to drive and a gradual, incremental way, where you give them more freedom as they demonstrate competence, that that's the same approach you should take when you're introducing technology to your family. And the T is time well spent, which is just really the idea that at the end of your life, all you have is your time and attention. And what will you look back and say was time well spent. So it's helping families connect with their children, both in the offline world, but also an intentional ways in the online world.
Excellent. The only I think that the acronym is self explanatory, except for the beginning the s, start with yourself. It is always hard, little uncomfortable sometimes, quite frankly, to look at ourselves first. And there is never any place that that is more true than in our use of screens. So I'd like to, if you could just expand on that one. And then we'll jump right into the questions.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Well, it makes sense that it's hard because these devices contain our entire life right now. Right? It's where we get our news. It's where we play out our schedules. It's where we order our groceries, it's where we make our reservations. And so it's a very complicated thing to ask parents to stop and say that, actually, your kids are watching you and you are representing the model of what healthy relationship with technology should look like. But that is where we do start because although it is important that we are available on our devices, we also have to recognize that our kids are coming into the world looking for somebody who's looking for them. You know, I love that quote by Kurt Thompson. So I'll say one more time where we all come into the world looking for somebody who's looking for us. And this became very evident to our organization as we were involved in the past few years with a local campaign to prevent teenage suicide. At one of the Teen Council meetings, we asked teenagers, what is the number one thing that parents can do to support your mental health? And their answer, put down your phones and listen to us. And so, right. But we also have to recognize that while we tend to talk about technology as this blue sky opportunity where we can go anywhere we want to go we can achieve anything we want to achieve. The truth of the matter is that we are actually being blown a very specific direction and that is the direction that tech companies have designed these products for us to go so if you've watched the Netflix documentary, the social dilemma you've gotten to hear from, you know, Silicon Valley insiders who helped design these products who share the different psychological techniques that are built to keep our attention glued to our device. SS. So we really ask parents to just stop and say, You're swimming upstream and a cultural tsunami that is coming at you wanting you to stay attached to your device. But how can you get curious about what kinds of friction you can put in place, so that you can keep your eyes focused on the things that are most important to you. So when we talk about different types of friction, you know, if you think think back to high school, or whenever you took physics, you know, friction is something that you insert into an equation to slow it down, or to put counter counter pressure against it. So with your own relationship with your device, some of those things might be just removing or turning off notifications, you know, those little tempting little deeds that tempt us to just take one peek at our phone. And then 30 minutes later, we discovered our next home Edit Project, or whatever the thing is that you know, the rabbit trail that we've gone down. So by turning off those notifications, it'll just make it that much harder for you to reach for your device. Another thing we recommend is just removing your favorite apps from your homescreen. Just make yourself click away, you know, click through one extra time to get to the things that you know, and I'll have to share with you Don, I removed one of my favorite apps about a year ago, as a little tiny experiment, sometimes those tiny experiments can lead to big changes. And I was shocked that six weeks, three months later, my thumb was still going back to reach for that app. That's how much I had become programmed and wired to keep reaching for the thing that they had trained me to reach for. So by removing that app, it helped put that friction in place. And then finally, one of our favorite recommendations is to share with parents, you know, one of the reasons I find that I'm glued to my phone all the time is because why I want my husband or my partner to be able to get access to me, if there's an emergency, I need the school nurse to let me know if my child is, you know, sick at school. And so I ended up carrying this device around the house or around wherever I am, because I want to be accessed by those most important people. But I accidentally find it's like a big bucket of ice cream that I just can't help myself, but you know, go into the bottom up. And so one thing that our team has has really found helpful is learning to use a smartwatch to help you filter out some of those relationships. So I've set my smartwatch to only allow me to get deemed if it's my husband or the school nurse. And that allows me to set down my phone and focus on the tasks that I want to focus on. Knowing that, that the most you know, the most important reasons I would need to be accessed are going to get to me through my smartphone. So those are ways that we like to, to those are some ideas for helping support your personal digital health so that your kids can also develop those relationships.
Okay, so now let's get into this the specifics in the way we're going to outline this show, or approaches, we're going to start general and just talk about digital health, then we're going to talk about screen time. And then we're gonna get into the nitty gritty of smartphones, video games, social media, and I hope we have time to touch on porn, pornography as well. So just for everyone listening, know that we're going to start general, and then we're going to get to the specifics. So one of the things that is unique about our audience is that we talk to foster adoptive and kinship parents. And what that means is that very often, particularly well, in all situations, the children coming into our homes, have, as somebody said, they've already gone down the slippery slope of having had very few boundaries associated with technology. So they're coming into our home. And now we're in the situation, we may have some decent boundaries. But how do you read it? How do you establish boundaries with a child who has not had those boundaries?
Yeah, those things are tough, because it is definitely easier to start with tighter boundaries and release them gradually. But sometimes if those boundaries have been released prematurely, you know, the the devices that are in those kids hands are very, very powerful. And so the purposes that we see that they serve a lot of times are for acting as a pacifier. So emotional regulation. And so those kids sometimes have also at the same time that they've been handed devices to help support the parent who is in crisis or who's going through trauma. They've accidentally robbed that child of the ability to learn to emotionally regulate through challenging situations, or even just through the opportunities to be bored. And that's actually something that we see across the board with with the next generation is that boredom is extremely uncomfortable for kids and And sadly, the truth about that is that boredom is actually the functions in a way that once we can get through the discomfort of being bored, it opens the door to deep creativity. And those are the types of things that actually heal our anxiety and those those things that are giving us trouble. So I would say, just be aware that the thing that your child attached to, is really playing on a natural relationship that they that they've been craving. So if they are, you know, the reason that they're craving their device is to help them stay calm, is to hopefully help them stay connected. And so the first thing I would just say, is to give that child so much grace and understanding that this was not something that they chose for themselves, but that really they they, once that device gets into their hand, that they are really being manipulated at the hand have those same kind of algorithms and things that are being built into the device to exploit their attention as well. So this child is, is being exploited as well.
And one thing I would I would also just throw out because this is something really kind of specific to our audience, is that some how you handle it is really highly dependent on the age of the child, as well as whether the child is going to be a very temporary fixture in your house, or whether they're going to be long term. And you may not know that at the beginning. So especially if you're talking with a teen entering into a dialogue, I like what you say about trying to educate them on the fact that you're being manipulated in ways. But you also may have to give some on your boundaries. Because when if a child first comes in, we're focusing on security and attachment and throwing a huge number of don't immediately in their face is tough. So I'm just going to suggest that it on some level, we're going to have to that's really going to be age dependent, and that it may be something you have to work up to.
Yeah, I love that. And I would just also encourage any kind of change that you do make, if you're kind of looking for where to start, just look for that the spaces where that behavior change is really happening. We know that when kids are overstimulated or overly attached to their devices, that's when those meltdowns start to happen. And so, you know, set out this kind of structure that says, you know, as long as the behavior is, is staying calm, then you know, we can set our timer for however many minutes. And that's another tip is just letting your timer be the bad guy so that you don't have to be and kind of renegotiate
Yeah, I think that's a great question. So we really encourage you to think about the whole process of introducing devices into your kids lives as a learner's permit, that we would never put a kid on a road, you know, without having given them lots of thoughtful coaching and instruction. And so when they are young, we tend to think of the learning to drive a phone process, the same way that we learn to drive a car, we start in the backseat, right, where we're watching our parents drive, we're seeing what they what they model for us. But that also means that that you do have high visibility, that there is nothing private. And I do think that that's important at those younger years, because unlike our childhood, where we were on a playground with a fence drawn, or you know, drawn around us and recess teacher to keep track of the bullies, you know, the kids playground these days is infinitely open to any kind of predator, any kind of darkness that could reach them. And so it really is important that you are following along all the places that they go in the digital world, because you can take you know, just like sailors, you know, will tell you that if you were just one notch off of the direction that you think you're going you'll end up in an entirely different place. And that is absolutely true in the world of technology, it you know, it's exponential, the amount of harm that can happen rapidly.
And yet, it does seem to me that that your kids are going to leave your home at some points, right? And if you're still Yes, overseeing everything when they're leaving for this is an extreme example, but they're leaving for college the next day. It's the the learner's permit is at some point they're driving without you and you want that to happen before when you're still around when they can you've got some oversight even though it's not so how does that there's it's just the gradual decrease. So by the time the idea is that by the time they leave your home for whatever they're doing post secondary, that they're they should know How to Navigate online without you watching everything is that am I understanding that correct? Yeah,
absolutely. And the path to get there is just to introduce one thing at a time and to just take your time and take it slow, rather than handing them a fully loaded device or giving them full access to a private online life, right, allowing them one thing at a time, and then building trust through that through that experience. And so maybe you start off with, you know, a limited device like a walkie talkie, or a, you know, a smartwatch when you want to increase that independence for your child, but you still want to kind of keep in touch and monitor them. There are kids specific devices that are built now that allow them to increase their independence, while still giving them safety. But the goal absolutely is that as you keep introducing new things to them, that you are moving them along, toward a process of maturity of self regulation, and a healthy relationship with their child. So maybe you when it's time for a smartphone, you know, strip it down all the way to its most basic features. And then as you begin to add those features in start with one to one texting, try that for a few months, learn through those, those experiences, because even one to one texting can have you know, blips and, you know, it's like an onion, you know, layer after layer of potential challenges. But then you might add in photos, maybe now we're texting photos, and we're seeing what happens when a friend sends us a photo of something inappropriate. See, did they come to you? Did they talk to you? Are you in relationship about that? Then maybe you add on group texting, and you walk through, you know, all of the complicated layers of what it means to ghost somebody? And why did this? Why did that comment there, make this person so angry, and they left the group and then then you're adding on, you know, one social media app at a time. And eventually, you know, through those interactions through those experiments, you are building trust with them, so that eventually you can feel confident that, yeah, they're gonna make mistakes in the online world. But they mostly have that scaffolding and that structure in place to know kind of what to do when those mistakes happen. Okay. Is this conversation
today timely for your family? It certainly is for mine. Thanks to our partnership with the jockey being Family Foundation, we want you to know that we have other free online courses that are also directly relevant to your experience as a parent, these courses are on the creating a family.org online Parent Education Center, you can go find that these free courses at Bitly slash JBf support, that's bi T dot L y slash JBf. Support. The next question, we got several variations on it. And it's basically handling different rules from their friends. And one mom was saying that her child's friends at school have access to pretty much everything Facebook fortnight, Tech Night, whatever. And they've had this for a while. And while she is clear in her own rules, she also worries that her child is being left out since kids do share a lot online. And she says that she her daughter was called Weird last year because she didn't have access to all this, her daughter is nine by the way. But she said so we don't want to hurt her self esteem, or for her to lose the few friends that she has.
It's so challenging. This is a very, it's a very hard topic to challenge for your kids alone. It's a very hard topic to be the only family doing things and intentional way in a sea of people who are doing it a different way. But I think you know, the number one most important thing is that your child is in relationship with you and that they have a picture of the why they know why we are doing it differently than other families and that they feel equipped to be able to share some of those things. You know, our family knows that when young children have tick tock and that the algorithms can just keep you on phones for too long. And then you miss out on opportunities to connect as a family and we choose that. So equipping them with the why to be able to share with their friends is one thing. I think another bigger, broader passion of ours is recognizing that it's important for us as parents to get on the same page. These these kiddos, you know, they I can't tell you how many times we've we've had a session of parents and you know, one, one parent has raised their hand and they've said well, I gave my kids Snapchat and you know, fourth grade, because they told me they were the only ones who weren't on Snapchat. And another mom in the room raises her hand and says, I only gave my kids Snapchat because your kid told me that they were on Snapchat. I only gave my kid a phone because they said that you had a phone. Well, we only had a phone that was stripped down or it was a play phone. And so it's really important for us as parents to talk to each other and create community and shared norms about about what how do We want to handle sleepovers, can we all get on the same page that, hey, if if we all decide that we're going to check in our phones and a basket at sleepovers, then we all feel more comfortable sending our kids to each other's houses. And actually, our organization is designed with lots of resources to equip you, if you are in a situation where you are feeling like I'd really love to have this conversation with grandparents about pornography, but I just don't know how to start that conversation. It's an awkward conversation, I don't want to shame them or blame them or accuse them. Grab one of our blog posts, grab one of our books, and just hold it out and say, I was reading this and I just, I'm curious what you think and start a conversation, because the more that we can get on the same page, the less we will have to battle that FOMO that fear of missing out or that we are the only one. And so that's a really critical part of what we believe will help change our culture.
Okay, so what is a reasonable rule of thumb for how much screen time a child should be allowed, let's say by age, and then we need to talk about what's considered screen time, because that also differs. So let's talk about is there a rule of thumb for how much screen time is good for kids to be online? Depending on what age?
Yeah, that's a great question. And those questions are related. So the recommendations for the amount of screen time are changing overnight, obviously, they were kind of at one place before the pandemic, and then the pandemic happened. And then it was like, okay, that that's not realistic. And so, and even, you know, between families, different families have different needs, they have different ways of operating, we've got blended family split, we got all kinds of family situations. And so I think we have to be really careful about putting that pressure on ourselves to hit a magical number of screentime minutes, or a list of apps to download or list of apps to avoid. And instead, I would invite your listeners just to take a deep breath and reframe how you think about screen time, try to think of this, this time in their lives, their childhood, heard as an opportunity to grow muscles, healthy habits, that they are going to need the rest of their lives to be able to navigate in an increasingly digital world. So these are things like being able to put your phone away at night and sleep through the night, right, being able to set your phone down without having a meltdown so that you can have a family meal. Those are the kinds of things that are actually going to be more important when it comes to I'll have parents asked me how many, you know, what do you set your kids screen time limits, and I'll say, You know what we actually, we focus more at our house on bedtimes and device free zones, because just that's you know, this generation is living in a world where everything is happening online. And so then that kind of maybe segues into your second question is, how do we teach them to think about the time that they are online, because not all times online are created equal, right. And so what we really the easiest way, I think, that we know to explain it is to just really focus on times when you create, and times when you connect, and minimize the times when you're just consuming right like a food pyramid. Those are different kinds of nutritional value. So time is when you create what might be you know, doing your schoolwork might be building or drawing or using technology to imagine or make music times when you connect. Those are times when you are experiencing reciprocity. So a lot of our kids and our online life right now consists of one directional messages that are streaming from our social media feeds or from whatever, that anytime that you can choose online interactions that involve a back and forth conversation. Like we try to encourage parents to think of it like a tennis match back and forth. Those interactions do an amazing thing in the human brain. They release the hormone oxytocin, it's the hormone that is, you know, you probably talk about oxytocin a lot. But oxytocin is this amazing bonding hormone. And another benefit that it has is it acts like a PacMan and it eats up cortisol in our bodies, which is the stress hormone. So anytime you can do FaceTime, zoom, when you are talking back and forth with somebody using technology, that's a totally different thing than just going down a rabbit hole of binging on tick tock videos where there's nothing healthy or productive coming from that. So you're the
recipient only. And you're just a passive recipient for some for the streaming. So how do you handle when the question is handling any form of screen time when they see the parent sees negative behavior coming for what feels like any amount of usage, screaming, yelling, crying, whining, not wanting to let go the device things such as that How do you handle? You mentioned earlier that this is a sign that the child has had too much. So at this point, and let's don't make it specific to any type of device, whether or any type of screen, whether it's a video game or a phone, let's just say in general, if your kid is not able to stop gracefully utilizing it, what is that a sign of? And how do you handle it as a parent?
Yeah, I mean, it's a sign that their brain is overstimulated. And it needs it needs a break, their brain needs a break, their brain needs to calm down. And so you know, I will just share if it's okay, I'll share a personal journey that that I've been on with my own kids. And I actually haven't ever shared this. But my, my son got really attached to video games when he was young. And I didn't, it kind of crept up on me, I didn't really realize how attached he, he was until we started having these tantrums and these meltdowns and our experience, I had to remove that completely from our home for several months, to allow his brain to just break that attachment to that device. And know that we talked a little bit earlier about how that's not necessarily realistic for some of the kids and the families who are listening. But giving his brain that chance to reset also gave us a chance to reset in terms of casting a vision and developing a roadmap for where I wanted to him to head when it came to video games. Because I you know, I know, once he leaves my house, he can play video games anytime. And every time you know, all the time when we hear stories, actually a lot at screen sanity of college freshmen who are not making it through their freshman year because of gaming addiction. Yes.
Or porn addiction, either one. I mean, they're both are but but certainly gaming is and kids just not leaving. We hear that as well. Right. So we tried to leave in the room, I should say,
yeah, so I've tried to take the long view with him to say that this isn't just about me managing this tantrum, this is actually like a built in skill set that I'm going to have to teach him which is this self regulation. And so what we did then was we started very incrementally, experimenting, okay, let's try 15 minutes on your device, I'm going to set a timer. If we can turn the timer off, and you don't have a meltdown, maybe next time we'll try 20 minutes, and so on and so forth. And so we got to a point where you know, he can have 45 minutes of you know, his video game, I can set the timer and he can log off without a meltdown. The next step for us then was, Hey, buddy, I want you to set your own timer. And I want you to show me that you are aware of your need to stop yourself before you get to that meltdown point. And so we've gone through that process. And now it's really to the point where he can say Mom, can I can I game? And I can say have you done this, this and this? Are you okay? You know, do you have the free time to do that? And he says yes. And I say, Okay, go do it. And he goes, and he sets his timer, and he knows that that's a way to take care of himself. Because he's beget, he's learned to identify, when I go beyond that limit, I felt crummy, I feel zoned out, I feel like, I just feel like I'm gonna melt down. The other thing is teaching them strategies to when they do get beyond that point, how to reconnect their mind, to their body. And so we always encourage when you are logging off video games that you do so through putting a hand on their shoulder, and engaging with touch, and also allowing them to finish up the level that they're on being respectful of, they've really invested some of their mental energy toward this. And, you know, let's let's be respectful of them, let's have a mutually respectful relationship. But then afterwards, making sure that they go outside and run around or do some push ups something to reconnect and re re establish mindfulness for them after they log off.
Since we've already we were going to touch video games at the end, but we're talking about him now. But you the on screen sanity.org You have a video game decision tree that I think is excellent, which is more or less what you just described that you did but if you could, and we will include the link everyone in the show notes and or the course notes, but can you just briefly describe what the decision tree is?
Yeah, so the decision tree was developed by Susan Dunaway and neuro therapist and her whole job all she does is she wrote she gets kids in her office who are video game addicted and she helps reprogram their brain. So the video game decision tree is really takes you through when your child asks, Can I game? This is like if it's a yes. Then you know, you say yes for 30 minutes and if they are able, it kind of takes you through what I just articulated for you. Right? If it's a yes, if they do it without any kind of behavior change the next time it's a yes. And but if it's a yes, and they have a meltdown, then it's you know, then you go into this decision tree of like, either you know You can give them another chance, you know, to to exit off calmly, or if you can tell that the behavior is getting so escalated, you just gently, you know, shut their laptop, or whatever they're on. And next time, you're going to need to pull back the number of minutes that you do, you know, sometimes you don't have to throw the entire device out the window. Sometimes it's just all about pulling back and finding that the right number of minutes that's going to help your child stay healthy before they get to the point of meltdown.
With video games, we've received a number of questions asking, trying to figure out the balance between limiting screen time, but also recognizing that kids today are socializing through these games as well. So not wanting them to not wanting to deprive them in the socialization aspect, but wanting to control the amount of time do you have anything? You've talked about the fact that if but, but let me just ask, do you have anything to say about that tension between those two?
Yeah, I mean, that is a very real thing. It is very real, especially for boys that that is a huge place where where boys spend a lot of their time, but it cannot replace in person relationships and in person friendships. And so this is the burden that today's parents are carrying, like no other generation has had to before, which is that it feels like an easy button to let your child have that social time through video games. And it's great if they can do that. It's even better if they can also have times with those same people in person or different different people in person, because we hear a lot of stories of kids who do not become socially developed apps adapt, adapt was the word that
developed either one
Yeah, because there are only relationships are online. And unfortunately, those relationships online can lead to dark places. Not always. But it's just important to balance that out with in person eye contact, reciprocity, oxytocin, all of those things to help boost their mental health. And I know that that's hard. That means what you're doing is you're driving to more places so that your kids can get face to you, the parents are the ones who carry the burden, then if you are going to take this path, it is not going to be the easier path, it is going to be a path that involves you finding ways to get them to the places and to help them foster those relationships that will actually bear fruit in the long run.
Hey, guys, did you know that creating a family has a free monthly newsletter? Yep, we absolutely do. It is terrific. It comes out monthly, it's in your email. And right now we are offering you a free guide for strengthening and supporting your transracial adoptee if you subscribe, you can subscribe by going to Bitly slash trans racial guide, that's bi T dot L y slash. And this is all one word trans racial guide. And you will be on the newsletter if you turn out that it's not your thing, or you just don't want it, it is super easy to unsubscribe, we never share your email with anyone. And all you do is click on the unsubscribe button. So it's kind of a no lose situation. So check it out at Bitly slash transracial. Guide. All right, let's move to smartphones. It's probably no surprise to you. The top question we got is at what age should a child be given a smartphone? And then I'm going to expand that question to say what questions should you as a parent be asking to help you make that decision?
It's a hard question. Because the reality is that whether it's a smartphone, or it's an iPod or an iPad, all of those different types of devices have that same level of functionality or or capability to access, you know, the internet. And so we really try to shift parents again away from that magical age, because it's not like you're going to just be able to, you know, in whatever grade be able to hand them a smartphone, and that they're going to magically know how to navigate this powerful, forceful thing that's in their world. And so instead, we really try to help parents think through what is the process that I want to take to get my kid ready for a smartphone, which starts when they're babies. I mean, it starts when they're young, again by that that gradual introduction process,
but what do you mean by that? Go back? Okay. So at a very young age, what do you mean by not infants, perhaps, but at a very young age? What are the steps you're taking to help prepare your child to someday be the proud owner of a smartphone? Yeah, absolutely.
So, again, going back to the driver's Driver's Ed analogy, right when our kids are little, they're riding in the backseat. They're watching what we're doing. So something that you're doing when you're little is not only being mindful of ways that you are limiting their access to the online world. So maybe you choose like gated sites like PBS Kids, rather than putting them on Tik Tok or YouTube, which uses algorithms To drive them different places, you are limiting their access to the online world when they are little.
So this is mean you're giving them a tablet to entertain them at some point, and you're choosing what's on the tap, or you're giving them your phone because you're in line someplace, and you need to entertain them.
Yes, and but on the other side of that is that you're not just limiting it, but you're using that time to narrate for them out loud the activities that you are using your phone for unhealthy ways. So I'm going to the store to grab some prescriptions for Grandma, do you need anything, are you out of cereal. So helping your kids build a bridge and have insight into the ways that you are using your phone when they are little, then as they get older, and they need more independence, we talked about you know, those the smartwatches that can allow you allow them to be contacted by you know, 10 friends or 10 people who you pick with like limited, you know, amounts of messages that they can send, and then gradually giving them maybe you'd go with a first phone, that's what our family has done their first phone companies on the market like gab or pinwheel, we have a first phone comparison chart that you can download on our website at screen sanity.org That kind of lists all the different products that help you take this gradual, intentional process to releasing your kid into the digital world. And those those types of phones, they don't have access to social media, they don't have access to the internet, but they do allow your kids to start texting to start group texting to start photo texting. And then when you're ready, you know getting a full blown smartphone, but stripping it down and then kind of gradually giving them more and more from a young age is really, I think a more important thing to think about, then exactly what age your kid might magically be ready for a smartphone.
Okay, so other your you would not be then supporting the weight toy movement? Are they Am I understanding that correctly?
The wait until eighth movement is an amazing organization. And we are so grateful for the work that they have done. But we do think that it is a more nuanced question that has different and honestly the wait until eighth movement, the magic of the wait until at the moment it says I can't do this alone. And I'm going to need to talk to other people in my kids school to say let's do this together. It is a brilliant organization. The thing that also exists outside of wait until late though is these other devices. So you can say you know, I'm not going to give my kid a smartphone until eighth grade. But then you can hand them an iPod and all of a sudden they can also find their way onto the internet and you know, have a porn addiction. And so it's really not as simple. Unfortunately, as just as picking anything
that connects them that is so true. And anything that connects them, including and honestly, so many schools are giving a kids now a tablet as part of their education. So and that's happening in first grade. So it's whether it's a phone or whether it's a tablet, if depending on what it connects to. It's That's right. It's not there's not much difference. Okay. All right. The National Council for adoption, hosts the nation's leading conference for adoption professionals. That conference is coming up this year in St. Louis from June 28th. Through the 30th. You can earn social worker CEE, you can learn from experts working in all fields of adoption, and you can network with fellow professionals from across the country. Register now for the best rates visit adoption council.org/conference. That's adoption council.org/conference. All right. So now let's move to social media. First of all, what are the pitfalls? And then generally, how can we protect our kids? And well, first lesson, we'll save the how we can protect our kids. What are the pitfalls of social media that parents need to be aware of?
Can I reference an article that was released in December?
Absolutely, of course.
So there's a researcher His name is Jonathan hight Hai Di T. He is a social psychologist who has really been closely following the trends that are happening and the decline of mental health for our youth. And then at the same time, the increase of exposure to particularly social media and particularly for adolescent girls, you know that the problems that we discussed earlier with video games, they can happen, of course, across all genders, and so can problems with social media. But in general, the trends that we tend to notice is that video games tend to be something that boys become more drawn to. We talked about the social, the social draw for that. And social media tends to be what the girls find themselves where they find themselves in peril. A lot of those issues come from, you know, comparison, that whole comparing body image comparing like counts go posting, there's just you know, Jonathan Hite in this recent article just talked about how, you know, if we put our kids out, we physically took their bodies and we put them into outer space, their bodies would not grow normally, they would not form normally, they wouldn't be able to grow healthy bodies. And he basically said, in 2012, when we took our kids and we put them into social media, it was like throwing them into outer space, socially, they have not been able to experience the same normalcy, this. And so when we interact with our kids, something that we share is that only 14% of them have ever had a helpful conversation with an adult about technology. And I think that that attests to this generational gap that exists between our experience as teenagers, and what they are experiencing. And there are a lot of things that are the same, we are still not getting invited to the dances, we are still not getting, you know, making the basketball team. But the difference is that now, kids are seeing it everywhere. And they're exposed to it online. They're getting caught in the middle of all kinds of mixed meaning making through all the conversations that happen about those disappointments. And at the same time, they're growing up without the emotional connection to an adult, or a parent to process those normal teenage experiences with so we've kind of put them in a situation where they are under a pressure cooker, with nobody to process it with. And so, you know, a survey last last year showed that 44% of American teenagers say that they are persistently sad or hopeless. And so all of this obviously, is compounded by the fact that we are coming out of a global pandemic. But it also is compounded by the fact that we as adults have to recognize that there is a generational gap that they don't know how to talk to us about the things that they are experiencing online. And so that's really where organization exists is to try to help parents step into the arena. And stay curious, be a safe place. Recognize that these experiences are so different and stay educated. And in the game, as you are trying to help grow these grow these kiddos up into healthy adults,
you know, in their most I think all actually of the social media have an age limit. I think it's 13 across the board. But people are not other parents are not following this. So and we've talked about age limits before with you, you're saying it's less important about the age. And it's more important about how we're introducing it in the process of the analogy through Driver's Ed, you know, where we're letting them absorb. And so do you take that approach with social media? or should there be an age limit?
I love that question. That's a fantastic question. Because the thing I would love to share with your listeners is that the age 13 is an arbitrary age that was assigned by the tech companies themselves. And so I'm not even sure that there's a ton, I'm quite sure that there is not a ton of research about what's healthiest for our kids in assigning the number 13. We know from decades of research that children's brains are still in development in those those formative years. And that the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that helps you control your impulses, make smart decisions, it is still developing until I think age 27. But it is definitely not developed by age 13. It is more developed at age 16. It is more developed at age 18. And if I think about my own experience, I got social media, you know, well, after college whenever, whenever I was, you know, a young mother, so I definitely had that prefrontal cortex in place that helped me navigate the social media world. And I still struggle with it. I still struggle with all of the complicated and so if you imagine that you don't even have you literally developmentally, you don't even have that in place to be able to navigate it. I think that there is wisdom in saying that social media, adding that into the mix of smartphones, makes it an even more intense situation for especially for an adolescent child to navigate.
So what's apparent to do how do we how do we adapt the approach that you recommend of ride practice drive up? How do we do that with social media? Because if everyone is on social media, we how fair is it? And maybe you're gonna say it's totally fair to say no, you just don't have it. But then I also go back to the fact that our role as parents is to train our kids so that when they insist on a magical age of 18, but at some point they're moving out and we It is our job to have them prepared. And I speak as somebody whose children are out of the house now and it, we really do have to prepare them. So how do we how do we apply the right practice? Dr. approach to social media?
Yeah, that's a great question. I think the first thing I would say is wait as long as you can, because you are going to be able to better prepare them when they when their brain is more fully developed to be able to think about the things that they're experiencing. I know, from personal interactions, and from the work that we do that while we think our kids will feel left out, if they are not on social media, that most in most cases, they end up feeling more left out when they do enter into the world of social media, because they are exposed to so many more situations that make them feel less worthy than they actually are. So please, do not be fooled by that. But when it is time for you to jump into the world of social media, I fully support and agree that you need to do it alongside your child. So watch the social dilemma with your kids and get help them understand like, this is the thing that we are getting ready to introduce into your life. And this is how it will change your life for sure. We have an amazing resource called the Social Media playbook. It is designed to it gives you the questions that you need to ask your kid to help them think through their boundaries to help them think through their friends to help them think through their lifelines and their support. As they get into the world of social media, the most important thing you can do to help your kids is to have conversations with them. So don't hand it to them without planning to ride along in that passenger seat as they hit those potholes and those hazards, right? So that you can have and process those, they can be learning experiences for their kids. If you're looking for an even more practical idea, it was one thing that we've heard about is just starting by having a shared family account. So maybe you open up an account for your pet and your practice, you know, posting pictures of Fido and then you have conversations about, you know, why did it take us, you know, three hours to get phyto to look the way that we wanted him to look and why didn't nobody liked that comment. And so starting with a shared account can be a great first step into social media, as well as starting with an app that allows you as an adult to be logged into your child's account so that you're staying in those conversations with them. And eventually, you're right, you're gonna want to find a way to kind of pull the feathers out of the nest so that your kid can fly on their own. So shift from, you know, being protective to being preparing, knowing that the goal is we want them to be able to do this on their own,
or their apps that will I mean, my generation, we said that our kids had to friend us. But that's a joke. Because they're can they could then curate what they allow us to see. And they can also every time that they go to a friend's house, they can create an account under a different name or just their first name or whatever, or go to the library for that matter. So that wasn't really very effective. And our kids say that's why they all left Facebook was because yeah, we made a friend. Yeah, you made this friend who it was no longer any fun once we so yeah, and they're threatening. They're leaving Instagram in droves? Because it's the same reason. Yeah. So what are those apps? And are there just easy workarounds that our kids are going to know when we won't? Oh, for sure.
Yeah, there are always easy workarounds. They're always thin stares, which is, you know, a combination of the word fake and Instagram, fake accounts. And so it really comes down to making sure that you have a trusting relationship with your kiddo. And just being in it with them and not trying to control them too much, but allowing them right, and just allowing them to make mistakes. I think, you know, our kids are living under so much pressure, everything they do is being scrutinized by the world. And we mean well when we tell them to have a clean digital footprint or a good online resume. But accidentally what we're communicating is there is no room for you to make mistakes, and so be a safe harbor. One of the most powerful conversations I had this year was with a good friend who found out that her child had gotten involved in a sextortion incident. If you aren't familiar with sextortion it is where you meet a friend online his was in a gaming room called discord. You think this friend is your friend you send them a picture of your toes, they've asked for a picture of your knees pretty soon they've got a full blown picture of you not wearing anything at all. And then they began to blackmail us saying that they will share it with your whole high school if you haven't, you know if you don't send them this many 1000s of dollars. And a lot of times these these people are on the other side of the world and there's there's no way to hold them accountable and the only safety is for your kid to be able to come talk to you so you can help them and she said, looking back, I did everything I could to protect him to prepare him for that situation. But probably the number one thing I did was I said, Hey, buddy, you are going to mess up, you are going to make mistakes. And I know that. But the thing is, when you make them in the digital world, they'll come back 10 times 100 times what you expected them to be, when that happens, I will not be shocked, I will be here to walk you through it. And that was the most important thing that he could come to her and talk to her in the middle of this awful situation that he'd gotten himself into.
That is the most important message. Because our kids are going to make mistakes, not just online, but elsewhere. But But unfortunately, online. It's you know, it's forever. And that really stinks. So letting them know that you aren't going to freak. And parents think Well, that's giving them permission. It isn't. Because this this young man was it wasn't giving him permission. He was mortified and horrified. And he's still, you know, has the having to tell your mother Oh, that would be horrible in itself. So there's still a punishment associated if you're worried about that. But interesting. Well, that's a good segue into pornography. And, you know, I really, really worry again, not to over assign gender roles here. But I really worry about today's young men who are having weight, their first experience with sex, and even understanding six, or what sex what they perceive sex to be about, is through pornography. So any any rules of thumb, anything you can share about what parents can do other than being aware that it is ubiquitous, it and it is so much different from it is so much more graphic, so much more violent, so much more? Everything than what you probably imagine?
Yeah, yeah, the average age of first exposure to pornography is we've heard as low as nine years old, which is also the average age of first smartphone introduction. So it is very prevalent. Today's pornography is violent by nature. I think it's something like I have the stat here, but I think it's something like 94% of the scenes portray a man being violent to a woman. Unfortunately, this is leading to dire consequences, where kids you know, in the past, who have acted out sexual assault on other kids, in the past, the chance has been that they themselves were the victims of sexual assault. Now, the the only common thread is that they've been exposed to this violent pornography. And kids are going to mimic the things that they see in the online world and test them out. That's because they're curious. You know, that's because that's normal for them. Unfortunately, oftentimes, this can happen even within families, with siblings with cousins. And this is a trend that our friend Heidi Olson is following at Children's Mercy Hospital, she works as a sexual assault nurse examiner. And so I think just be aware that pornography is probably going to cross your path, probably, you know, Nick's the word, probably it will crush your path. And the best thing you can do is to again, have those conversations with your kids and start them younger than you think one of our favorite resources is called good pictures, bad pictures. It's a book by Kristin Jensen, you can order it off of amazon.com. There's a junior version for ages three to six. It's a gentle watercolor book, it's not going to show any kind of inappropriate material to your kids, but explains to your kids, what pornography is, why it is addictive, why that's not okay. And the practical steps that you can do if you are exposed to an image that you are uncomfortable with. And just so you know, parents, the number one thing is to look away, it's not to click away. It's not to try to get the pornography off your screen. It's just to look away, and then to make a plan about how to get yourself out of the room from pornography. But that book, you know, I've used it with my own kids younger is better, because 94% of kids say they will ask the internet for advice before they will come to a parent and ask them and so we've got all kinds of kids out there who are hearing about things at the lunch table, who are also learning that when you're in science class and you don't know the name of an insect species, you Google it. And those same kids are going home and Googling the things from the lunch table and they're accidentally stumbling into this world. And so I loved to also share with parents just tell your kids I'm your Google. If you ever don't know what a word means, I promise you I do. And I want to talk to you about this. This is an uncomfortable shift for us, for my generation, I think as parents to really have to step into this pornography conversation. But it is critical because we, first of all want our young men to have a better template for the beautiful gift that sex is. But also we want our young women to be able to say, That's not normal when I'm treated that way. And I know that because my parents have have had a conversation with me about how sex can be good and not not hurtful or harmful to me.
Thank you so much, Krista Bowen for talking with us today. Screen sanity, it's screen saturday.org has Parent Guides, trainings, webinars, study groups, you name it, they have it. And I strongly recommend the thing that I appreciate is the practical approach. Because I'm all about the practical i If the pie in the sky is good theory is good. But I think that we need we need some practical information. So I truly appreciate and Krista, thank you so much for what you're doing, and thanks for being with us today.
Thanks for having me on.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai