Supporting our Teens With Screens in the World

Casey: Welcome to the Parenting Teens with Positive Discipline audio summit, I am your host, Casey O'Roarty, certified positive discipline trainer, coach and founder of Joyful Courage. This audio summit is designed to dig into the principles of holding the foundation of positive discipline while navigating the very real and messy experience of being a guide for our teenagers.


Special thank you to Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott, authors of Positive Discipline for Teenagers and the Positive Discipline Association whose mission it is to create a peaceful world by teaching Adlerian social and emotional life skills for respectful relationships. All the guests you will hear on this audio summit have extensive knowledge in positive discipline and have or are currently raising teenagers themselves. Thank you for listening and be sure to join us in the Joyful Courage Parents of Teens Facebook group for more discussion about this particular interview.  


My guest today has requested to come on anonymously to protect the privacy of her children. She is an outstanding parent educator and trainer who speaks regularly to schools, parent, groups and teachers as a mother and certified positive discipline lead trainer her passions include bringing joy back into parenting and creating communities filled with dignity and respect. Drawing from a wealth of real life stories, she connects with her audience her warmth and compassion help create a trusted safe space for learning. Our guest has been teaching P.D. since 2001, providing thousands of adults with the tools to become more effective and joy filled in the demanding role of guiding the young, whether as a parent educator or a caregiver. Her training includes a certificate of professional studies and Adlerian psychology and her gifts include being observant compassionate and intuitive. She's grateful for her many mentors in her work, particularly her family. I am honored to be in conversation with her. She is a dear friend and mentor to me. Thank you so much for being part of the audio summit.


Guest:  I'm thrilled to be here thanks for having me.


Casey: Can you talk a bit about your experience with parenting through the teen years with positive discipline?


Guest: Can I sum that up by saying, "Buckle up, buttercup?"


Casey: Yes, you can.


Guest: It's both a tremendous time, there are so many positives and so many great things about adolescents and for parents it often doesn't seem that way because there are so many fears about survival and safety and you know, here is this part of you that's going out into the world unfettered and you know, you just, you're losing the control that you have over this independent human being and that's the way it should be but it's really hard.


Casey: Was it you that said to me when they go out in the world it's like your heart has gone out in the world? Was that you?


Guest: Might have been. I've heard that. I have said that. It is, you know, they just kind of walk right out your body.


Casey: They do, oh my gosh. And so today we're going to-


Guest: It's also important to remember that they're, you know, my own beliefs, they are not yours to start with, you're stewards and that job is very, very personal and very difficult and we kind of forget around the boundaries and adolescence is a lot about reminding us of those boundaries.


Casey: Yeah, will you share, I'm going start with that, will you share a little bit what you like to talk about in your classes around boundaries and what it looks like as they grow through the ages and stages and how it looks in the teen years years?


Guest: Sure, you're talking about the fence thing.


Casey: Yeah.


Guest: So when our kids are born they need us for everything and we hold them tight and pretty much we hold the baby in our arms and we have our other arm extended and we can make a big circle as a boundary. It's like they're never very far from us in terms of their needs and our responses, they are very close and then they grow up and they start to toddle and they need more space and we have to push that fence out a little bit to give them room because without it they don't grow as well.


They don't discover what they're capable of, they don't become competent and as they grow, you know, then they're elementary school age and that fence has to get pushed a little farther away yet and there are still lots of rules and lots of things that, you know, help them, support them in their development but we keep expanding the field which they can play in and so that they have the opportunity to have life experience and learn more and then they're adolescents and by the time they're adolescents, you know, they're driving there that's more than a playfield, that fence is a way the heck out there and sometimes we can barely see it and and that, you know they have this really big arena to play and that works for a while and then you know, they're teenagers so that fence is a boundary that we impose and we think it's pretty secure but they come with ladders, shovels and wire cutters and that is actually part of adolescence.


That is appropriate for adolescents. It leads to mistakes. Mistakes can be opportunities to learn. We hope that they have, are lucky enough and have established values enough so that they don't do something that's irreversible. But that's that's the role of adolescents.




Casey:  What I appreciate about that visual is that the the ladder's and the shovels and the wire cutters are appropriate for them to be, appropriate tools for them to be using, like that is a part of the learning is the pushing up against, the knocking over, the testing of that boundary.


Guest: And often, you know, parents put fences where fences shouldn't be, so I mean, there's more than, one you have to kind of look from the many sides of it, you know, sometimes I don't think you should be able to do that and your kid needs prove to you, you know what, I am capable. Because we forget, sometimes we don't notice how much they've grown.


Casey: Right or fear shows up and kind of hinders our ability to see what they are capable of.


Guest: I would say that is very accurate. Fear shows up. I think that in adolescence, in particular, the fears just grow tremendously because because they have so much more independence because we can't protect them like we'd like to.


Casey: Right. And today we're going to talk about teens and screens, teens and their relationship with screens and this is so big and really this is the first generation to grow up with cell phones in their hands and I do some volunteer work in town with some elementary age kids and it is amazing to me how young the kids are who have cell phones in their pockets. It's like "Oh God, scary" and what I think isn't often highlighted enough is that we parents are the first generation of parents navigating what feels like this huge seemingly out of control challenge. So when you're out in the world working with parents what are you hearing from them around screen?


Guest: Actually, it might surprise you that I hear both sides of the story. I hear, "You know,  my kids are going to have to learn to navigate this. I want them to build the skills. Let's, you know, I'm not going to take screens away from them" and I hear, "Oh my goodness, you know, my kid's going to be addicted to screens and I'm terrified" but I hear kind of the whole gamut. I actually think that there are some great opportunities that this tech has  offered us and I think that that sometimes can get lost in the fear and having said that I think that it's really important to pay attention to the fears, to the dangers so that we can manage it and not kind of throw our hands up and say "Oh well, this is just what everybody is doing, you know." It's like, well, you know, as my mother used to say "If Sally jumped off a cliff, would you jump off the cliff too?" Different day.


So the challenge here is how do we manage that, those extremes, how how do we do that, you know, lots of ways and-


Casey: Well it's a messy, it's like so messy, like the extremes are almost easy, right, the extremes of like, "Well everybody's doing it. They're aware, they're around, we can't really enforce anything so have at it" versus, you know, "We're just going to have to go live off the grid." And be really controlling, right? Which, good luck with that, that's a really lovely, I try.


Guest: That's particularly hard in adolescence but I think, you know, this is a really hard challenge, one, every kid is different, every parent is different, every kid is triggering their parents' own stuff in ways that they probably don't even know, it just comes that way. The adolescent brain and that changes it's going through, you know, from the chemical changes to just the necessity of individuation and all of these things raise parents' fears and honestly, we don't have many problem solving resources when we're in fear and so we as parents when we get put in a place of not being as capable to manage the things that we need to be more capable of managing.


Casey: Yeah, tell me more about that, so tell me more about that.  Expand on that.


Guest: You know, I don't know if your listeners are very familiar with flipped lids but that's-


Casey: I'm going to say yes they are.


Guest: OK, so as we approach flipping our lid, as we get into more and more and more fear, the resources of our our body chemistry says we go more into survival mode, into "How do I protect" and as that happens our reasoning functions disconnect so they're less accessible. So as we're in more fear we have less reasoning ability. I mean, I'm sure that you've had a moment or two, I have with my child, where, you know, you're just like, "I can't talk right now because I'm going to only say things that are going to be hurtful not helpful."


Casey: Right, yeah, I've had, I think, maybe one or two.


Guest: Today.


Casey: Right?


Guest: Sorry.


Casey: Yes, true, yeah. Yeah, definitely.


Guest: I mean, I don't I want to make something that, you know, is a normal biological response and I think parents ifs we can be aware of that we can have a little bit more management of it and welcome to, I have a cat in the house.


Casey: Hi kitty. That's OK. That's good. Yes and I do love and this came up in another interview with Kelly Pfeiffer, actually, the whole personal growth and development and the awareness and mindfulness and recognizing you're in fear when you're in fear and the things that we can do for ourselves in that place I think it's a really rich conversation as well. Coming back to, so the screens, I love that you highlight that there are some really amazing opportunities for developing skills and growth that exist because of technology and there's the dark side, right and there's and I know, I think, it's you know, the audacity that I think, you know, for me to be, I think that we can really cover so much in like 45 minutes is hilarious because there's social media, there's video games which is have just come into our my family's world, thank you Fortnight. Right, porn, sexting and you know, and never ending texting it's, there's, where do we even start? I feel like so many of us just don't see what's coming with screens and things spin out of control before we know what's happening and then it's damage control.


Guest: Yeah.


Casey: What's your take on that?


Guest: Well, I feel like I've been to all those places.


Casey: You and me both.


Guest: I think really the place to start is with your values. So sit down with your parenting partner or with a good friend if you're parenting alone or just with yourself if you're comfortable with that and make a list "What are my values? What do I want for my kids? What skills? What do I want them to bring into the world?" and take a look at that list and and pay attention to which, some of those things might be your dreams rather than their dreams and it's nice to identify those and just put a little asterisk by them, but things like, you know, problem solving skills and and I want my child to be respectful.


I want my kids to have a sense of contributing to the community. I want, you know, those kinds of values. I want my child to have faith, whatever it is for you and your family, this is one of things I love about positive discipline because no matter what your values are, if you can maintain dignity and respect, this Adlerian approach is helpful for you and that's really, I think, a huge plus. And then take a look at how the screen time in any of its forms support or detract from those values and those are places that are opportunities to have conversations with your kids.


So have conversations with them, what are they doing online and this can be really tricky because how we have those conversations makes all the differences in the world, especially to adolescents who are kind of protective. They're individuating. They don't really want you in their stuff so we have to be curious. We can't be condemning. We've got to be able to get into their world or they're not going to share or they're not going to share honestly. So and then the other thing is take a really big look, a good inventory of your own screen use.


I have an example of this. So when my child was young, we didn't allow any television and this was years, decades ago so that was when smartphones weren't quite as big, smartphones weren't around in, you know, the late nineties and early 2000s. So we had rules around screen time but they were around television and we didn't have too much trouble enforcing them partly because there was some Waldorf schools involved and they supported that, so the school environment helped but what I noticed as my child became older and had more access to screens is that their attraction to screens wasn't television.


Now we used, you know, staying really limiting television time because it was my own personal belief that television tends to curb creativity, that when you read a book you have to interpret what you read and create a scene in your mind and television does that for you so what you're really getting is the director's or the producer's or the actor's view of the world rather than creating it in your own mind and I think that those are really good muscles to develop and so that was one of our family values.


And I work at home mostly and I do a lot of my work, my prep work on a computer and so my child saw me on a computer fair amount and when they became of the age of having more liberal use of screens, they had no interest in television but boy, were they interested in the computer. So I think that, you know, what we model really has has impact and it's a tough place for adults to say "If I'm going to me make sure that my kid plugs their phone in at 9 o'clock then I have to plug my phone in at 9 o'clock too."


Casey: Right or a conversation that I've recently had that I'm really recognizing I want my children to be thinking about is, you know, when we have to wait for something, whether it's in a doctor's office or we come down and breakfast isn't ready right away or whatever, that tendency to just reach for the phone.


Guest: Yeah.


Casey: And it exists in me too.


Guest: Oh yeah.


Casey: And so that's a great, that's a place that I've been purposely and intentionally looking at like, OK, I'm going and I know I'm going to have to sit and wait around at the doctors with my child and I keep my phone and it's not in my purse which is not and then I get to recognize like "Wow, this is not as easy as I make it out to be" like the tendency to want to pull it out and just scroll whatever is palpable.


Guest: Yeah and you know, when I was growing up when you sat in the doctor's office with your mom you had a conversation with your mom.


Casey:Yeah.


Guest: And I think that's uncomfortable for kids but also I want to recognize that if you,  that this is an example of a family value, you want to reflect, you want to have a chance to have some quiet in your mind and have an opportunity to reflect and these are real opportunities and we're being robbed of them. And that's a huge developmental skill. I think, the ability to be quiet with yourself and sort things out.


Casey: Yeah, yeah, definitely and so values, yes and guidelines and limits.


Guest: Yes. Yes but how do you create those guidelines and limits and you want me to talk about that now?


Casey:  Yeah, so I'm getting into like one of the tools that we have in positive discipline that if anyone is listening to the summit listens to the my podcast have heard me talk about agreements and routines and how there's a pretty specific model that positive discipline uses as far as co-creating agreements with our kids. So yeah, let's talk a little bit about that structure and that process.


Guest: So this making agreements process, I think, is one of the most valuable tools in adolescence, that and curiosity questions I think are, like, maybe my two favorite tools. Agreements look like, it's a, you know, basically a 4 step process. You start by acknowledging maybe that you have the problem and that you need their help with it and just ask, you know, "Can we sit down? Can I share with you what my problem is? Would you be willing to help me with it?" and they might be a little suspicious because that's fair because that's, you know, that's the developmental state that they're in and you just say "I'm noticing and you state your problem, as it is your problem, like 'I have a problem with your phone use because, you know, I'm not, I'm afraid that you're not going to develop these skills and I think that's really important in life and I realized that this is my problem and I'm wondering what we could do about it. Can you tell me how this is for you?'"


So you really need to stop after you tell them what the problem is for you, stop and really give them the opportunity to share their story about why they use the phone this much and you could get really, some really valid points which will really help you understand their world or you could get "You're right, Mom, I'm sorry. I'll just stop." And your job then is to pursue further and say, "You know, really, I didn't know that it was something that was so easy to stop. I thought that there was more value in it for you. Can you tell me about that?" or "I thought this and that" and then when kind of they share their side of the story, you share your side of the story and then you say so, "What do you think we could do to make this better for us for both of us?" And they might say "Well, it's not going to get better for me" saying, "Well, is there anything we can do to help this get better for me? What can I do? What can you do? What do you have some suggestions for me?" and then you just make a list, brainstorm all their suggestions and after they get 3 or 4 down, if you have one that you must add, you may add it.  


Actually, I think best if all the suggestions come from them but they, but there may be some that you have, oh and by the way, the first thing that they might say is "I don't know." Because it's risky to know at this point, right? One, they may not know but two, this can start, you know, you have to be really careful in this process, in your tone, in your genuine curiosity because any that that starts to slip away from earnest connection then it starts to feel like a set up to kids and I think that this is something as parents we get in our mind "I want this outcome" and we move towards that outcome without realizing how it appears through the lens of the adolescent. So that's what makes making agreements a difficult advanced technique, I think, that it's not the steps, it's managing ourselves through the steps.


Casey: Right and one of the things I noticed in that very first process when we talk about why it's a problem for us, something that I often do that I think allows, I mean, I don't know, I think it allows some space for them to realize, like, "OK, this is coming from a place of wanting to be helpful" is I always ask them what they notice about me, especially when it comes to screens, like, because they don't, you know, like my son who loves Fortnight and would play like every waking hour if that was what we did, you know, the problem isn't the Fortnight, the problem is that I'm on his case and so like, he gets to talk about "Well, you come in you don't give me any warning, I can't just pause the game, you know."


So I love what you said and getting into their world I think we make so many assumptions about them and about what they think and what they want and what they're moving towards that aren't always accurate. And so I just love that step of making agreements because we're gathering information and getting like our lenses, just kind of, you know, like when you're at the doctor's office, the eye doctor and they put all the different lenses on click, click, click, click, until finally it's like "Oh, now I can see better through your eyes" and then from that place we can work together towards a solution. I think it's such a beautiful piece and really distinctive to positive discipline.


Guest: And I think that it's important if we have a problem that needs to be solved and we're like "How am I going to solve this? What?" you know, we have that kind of energy about us. It's important for us to step back and move into "How can I get curious about this." Before we even start the process because if that process isn't done with really deep curiosity it can be less successful and that can be frustrating for every party. So, you know, and then once you get that list of brainstorm ideas, it's important to have them cross off any that don't work for them that they couldn't agree to and then for you to do the same, cross off any that, just say, you know, I can't do this because of this, this isn't going to work for me and if there's nothing left you've got more work to do. "Oops, I guess we've got more brainstorming to do."


If there are a few left, let them pick one and then try it for a few days or a week and pick a distinct time to check in about how is this working but also if you can, pick a distinct time to make sure the agreement is met, so you'll be off Fortnight after, you know, before 5:30 or you'll have 2 hours of fortnight a day or 30 minutes of fortnight a day or whatever it is for your family and then you're going to have to, you might have to develop some, so if it's 2 hours, how are we going to work this timer thing?" You know, because they can play without setting the timer so you're going to just tell me.


So the agreement is that you'll tell me when you're playing and we'll start the timer and then you tell me when we're done, we'll stop the timer, you know, whatever that is, so that afterwards, because the most important part of the agreement is the follow through afterwards and that follow through looks like an "I noticed" statement or in particular just what was our agreement.


Casey:Yeah.


Guest: When they haven't kept to that agreement and when they do keep to that agreement, even if you need to remind them by saying "What was our agreement?" you definitely say "Thank you for keeping our agreement," even if they storm off in a "You're the meanest mom in the world!" You know, you just stay calm. Staying call during adolescence maybe, you know, the superpower I want most.


Casey: Right, right, because I think we fool ourselves and I think we can fool ourselves into thinking that we've made this agreement and everybody agrees and great and there shouldn't be any pushback and don't give me any lip and da da da da da, right and then so all of a sudden we're mad again.


Guest: Let's dispel that belief right now, that is not the way it will go, right, eve. I mean, you know, maybe once but in general and that's one of the things that I think parents have inappropriate expectations. So, especially in adolescence, especially around screens, when you make an agreement you're going to have to remind them, expect that you're going to have to remind them nearly every time, you know, phone gets plugged in outside your bedroom at 9pm, at 9:15, "What's our agreement?" "OK, just a minute" at 9:18, "What's our agreement?" OK I'll put it in and then I'll just stand there until it's done.


Casey:  Are you spying on me? Have you come to my house? Are there hidden cameras?


Guest: Because at some point you want, you want to give them the opportunity to be successful on their own but you know, there's a reason we don't get 9 year olds driver's license, they don't have the reasoning, they don't have the height, they don't have the life experience to make the kind of snap decisions you have to make while you're driving a car. It's outside their capacity, their developmental capacity. Screens are that way for adolescents and even many adults, you know, here's a device that is created to ensnare our nervous system. It's created, I mean, this is the purpose is to create, "I want your attention because that is how I can create an economy around you."


Casey: Oof. It's brutal to look at it like that. It's so true, I'm in full agreement but oh my god. Guest: It's so true, and here we are giving 7 year olds smartphones and there's a big push to not give kids smartphones until they're 14, which I think is great but honestly, I don't know that they should have them even then, I mean I get it, I get it, I'll take 14 over 7 any day. But they're a device that invites so many dangers and not to say that they don't have value also, but the dangers we don't have a good handle on and we kind of refuse to acknowledge that and I don't know if that's because of the powers that be are so interested in commerce but I think it's something that parents are going to have to say "Hey wait a minute" because nobody else is going to.


Casey: Well and I think it's just like any boundaries, any boundary that we set, like, you know, the pushback and the push against and I mean, it's real and you know Juliet Asku came on my podcast one time to talk about toddlers and the word she used was relentless and I think the same word can be used with adolescents and teens, especially around teens, or especially around screens, because it's just that, you know, "One more minute" or the example you gave about putting the phone in the in the hallway. I feel like we create the agreement and it's always "Well, how about 9:15? Well, how about we start doing it at 9:30? Well, how about..." and there's never, like, you know, in my mind, I'm screaming "Just be glad with what it is" and you know, meanwhile, she's like, "Nobody has to do this, you're the only parent that makes their child put their phone away." Right, you know, and I'm like "I don't really care. Just don't argue"


Guest: And it's not true.


Casey: And it's not true, that's right.


Guest: But do you remember when you said that to your parents? "You're the only parent that makes me do this. I'm the only one who can't go."


Casey: and I remember sneaking, like we had to be off the phone by 9 o'clock every night and no one was allowed to call after 9 but I mean, I did plenty, I was plenty sneaky, right, and then to assume that somehow I would have teenagers that it would never cross their mind to you know take advantage and be sneaky, I mean, who am I right now? Yeah, it's so surprising.  Shocking.


Guest: I often had a little internal mantra try to call me down that said "What were you doing at this age?" OK, they're not doing that, they're OK.


Casey: That's a good point, that's a good point and you know, you talked about development and skills and early on that this technology there, it's not all a terrible thing, right and we in positive discipline were encouraged to keep "what are the skills they're learning?" in mind and when we think about agreements around screens and technology, no matter how often we're tweaking and playing and returning to, on one hand, it is, we create these agreements to limit their time on the screens but it's also about developing skills and tools that will support them as developing human beings in the world, so what are some of the skills that we can, you know, kind of pull out of that, the experience of being in the co-creation of creating agreements that are really powerful for development here.


Guest: Yeah, because I think this is one of the places where our parents can say "Gosh, you know, I am doing something that's appropriate for my child. I am doing good things." You know, some of those, there's a sense of responsibility, there's problem solving skills, there's communication skills, there's defending your position, there's negotiation, there's, I don't know how to say this, I'm just having a brain fart at the moment, excuse me, but you know, it's like, it's explaining your position so that the world can see from your perspective. Really, so perspective sharing.


There is commitment, there's responsibility, there's, you know, what's it like to, it's practice for what's it like to be in a long term relationship with somebody and have those relationship skills. It's so rich, it is so so rich and if parents can keep that in mind it can take maybe a little bit of the pain of that and it's just such a big effort on parents part, I mean, I think, I think there are some myths about parenting which is that if you do it right, things will be fine. Myth number one, one, there is no right, two, every kid is different and what we can do is really instill our values, it's really about instilling our values and doing the best we can with that.


Casey: Yeah. What were some of the challenges that you faced with screens when your children were home?


Guest: What did you say earlier? Porn, sexting-


Casey: Gaming.


Guest:  Exclusion. I think, what have I missed? I think that was, you know, I think we hit most of them and it's a real challenge. I'll share with you that, you know, one of my stories to share is that when my teen was I think 15 or 16 they broke a phone. And my policy, this isn't often other people's policies but my policy is if you want a smartphone you buy your smartphone and I'm not buying you a smartphone and they broke their phone and were kind of phone-less and kind of desperate and I had an old flip phone.


And so I gave it to them and they used it and I noticed that after they were using a flip phone that the plug in thing at night went a lot easier and I thought, "Oh, I'm so glad the smartphone thing is gone, you know, this flip phone is working really well" and then one morning when they were in the shower I needed something out of their room so I went in the room and got it and as I turned around and walked out of the room I noticed there was a smartphone in the bed. And I went expletive, expletive, expletive.


And I picked up the phone and I took a deep breath and I just walked into my office and started kind of going on with my day. And they came out of the shower and walked into the office and looked at me. And I just took a deep breath and I said "Anything you want to say?" and they said something that I won't repeat here but they did, they called themselves a bad name.


Casey: OK.


Guest: And I said "Well, it's not really what I was thinking but we are going to have to talk about this but this is not a good time. I'm too upset." It was all I could do to just kind of not either scream and yell or break down in a puddle crying, you know, and I had so much shame about being so stupid that I didn't know this was going on.


Casey: I think that's, I just want to pause you right there, I'm so grateful for you too for speaking that because I don't think that we realize that powerful experience of being fooled. Or whatever, those are the words that came to my mind, that the power, the hurt is really deep shame. So thank you.


Guest: And it's not just shame, I mean, there's this deep sense of hurt that, you know, that you think you're building a relationship where finally there's some trust, in a relationship where trust has been broken so frequently that you just don't even know what to do about it and you know you feel like, you know you feel like a loved one of an addict who's yet again betrayed you and or betrayed themselves. So it turns out that it took me 7 to 10 days to get calm enough to know that I would be in a space where we could have a conversation that was helpful and not hurtful and interestingly enough the conversation was actually delightful.


So, you know, sitting down, "How do you want to have this conversation? What do you want to talk about? You know, tell me how this happened. Where did you get this phone? Did your friend give it to you? Where did you get a smartphone?" and they got this kind of twinkle in their eye and I was like "Uh oh" and they said "It's your old Windows Phone" and I went "What? Because I looked at the phone and I did not recognize it" and they said "Well, I wiped Windows off of it, I installed Android and it became my phone. I took the SIM card out of the flip phone, I plugged the flip phone in every night and took it the school with me every day so you wouldn't know, right."


Casey: Very resourceful.


Guest: Exactly. I am still pissed about all this but I am also proud, right, you know? It's like, how can I have, I mean, I now have evidence that this child has resources, that they have problem solving skills, that they think to solve a problem, all that needs to happen in their life is for them to be motivated to do that in a way that is socially acceptable.


Casey: Right. That's the goal.


Guest: Right.


Casey: And I think that, screens are, you know, because of the fear factor and all the, all the bad, all the bad things, all the fear and the fear of the bad things and the possibilities, I think, screens also become the first thing that parents want to take away to teach a lesson and so I would love to talk a little bit about firmness and you and I have talked a lot about firmness and just in our own, for me, because this is definitely my learning and you know, we all kind of lean one way or the other trying to be both kind and firm.


And so what does it look like to be firm around screens and your expectations while like that messiness of staying away from imposing consequences and punishments, although maybe I'm misusing the language here but I'd love to kind of tease that apart because I mean, talk to 10 people on the street and "What would you do?" and they would take screen away.


Guest: Yeah, yeah, I'm not, I don't think that taking the screen away is necessarily a bad thing but I think how it's done is pretty critical. I think that the number one tool is relentless follow through. And honestly, it's really, really difficult because there's so many opportunities for them to squeak through a crack.


And we can't work as, we can't find all the cracks as parents and so I think that's really challenging but most importantly that if you're going to be firm in any relationship, before you can be firm you have to have a relationship, you have to have a sense of connection. This is particularly hard during adolescence because of development. They're busy trying to say "I am not you. I'm not you. I'm not you."  And they are not us and we need to be told that and-


Casey: Good, because I hear that all the time from my teenager, those exact words.


Guest: I'm not you, I'm not you.


Casey: I know.


Guest: And then they go away to college and come home for a break and say "I'm turning more into you every day." While you do everything you can to suppress the smile. And they are their own individual, you know, they are their own person, which is not to say, yeah, anyhow. So your question was "What do we do about, how do we stay firm on this?" So when a rule or an agreement is broken or when there is no rule and one needs to be established, the first thing is there needs to be a connection and it just needs to, you know,that agreement making process is that first step is really about connection, "Tell me what it's like for you." And connection can look like, like instead, tone is everything, right, so instead of saying "I notice you didn't take out the garbage"


Casey: Yeah, my eyebrows are way high up right now like, "mhmmm."


Guest: You don't really have authentic, even though it's an "I notice" statement, it doesn't really have that sense of connection. It doesn't have curiosity in it and you might say "I notice you're really busy on your phone right now." And that is the invitation for the next statement which says, "I'm aware that there's a chore that hasn't been done, how, what's your plan for that?"  So, with screens it's not really different in terms of concept, it's, "I notice you're really busy on that screen. I'm aware that we have a time limit in this house, how would you like to follow that agreement? What's that going to look like today?" And when they get upset and I think this is part of it for parents, when they get upset, listen, stay calm, "OK and we have an agreement. OK, I bet that's really disappointing and we have an agreement" and I have a cat that's just jumped on me, I hope he doesn't step on the mic.


Casey: Can I throw a couple scenarios at you and you can kind of help tease apart response because I think these are typical things that maybe a parent would say "Well, no more screens" and I think that, well, I'm just going to kind of play with it. So, like, you know a lot of-


Guest: Before you do that, one answer to instead of no more screens is like, "I recognize this is really, really difficult for you. And it's difficult for all of us and sometimes it's outside of our capacity-


Casey: Yes.


Guest: You could find a way to do this now or I could do it for you, which would you prefer?" Depending on, some kids will say "God, please do it for me, I can't do it." And they'll be mad but they'll because of that question asked and others will just say "OK, I'll do it right now." Right? It's temperament.


Casey: Just because I think that there, you know, like you had said, the responsibility that we are handing over to our children is often inappropriate. So like, for example, a lot of the gaming right now comes with this social aspect and the kids, they have their headphones in and they've got their mics and every once in a while I get to be, I get to hear the conversations that are happening, which is, really, I'd rather not hear but you know, if so my child, one of the things that he was doing is he would drop into these games and pretend that he didn't know, that he was new and didn't know how to play and then he would proceed to get people to helping him out and then he'd take them all out and I was like "You know, that's just, I'm not really comfortable with that."


You know and that's a kind of like, pretty tame but except for the, what's the experience of someone else, you know, how would you feel to be fooled and there's other things that show up around how people are treating each other and so, you know, I think it's a lot to ask kids to drop into this experience where they can't see each other, they don't know each other or maybe they do but it's that whole bravery behind a screen-


Guest: And the anonymity.


Casey: Yes and the anonymity and then it becomes, so I can see I'm actually answering my own question, so I can see in that situation where there could be an opportunity to talk about, "You know, I really know that you really like playing this game and I noticed that you're just having a really hard time being kind to the other people and I'm just wondering if maybe we wait for a little bit."


Guest: And if you take this back to other family values, there's a value of honesty.


Casey: Yeah.


Guest: Right and-


Casey: Kindness.


Guest: Kindness and honesty and who do you want to be as a human being and here you can hide behind a screen and get away with it but how does that make you feel in your soul? And that's not a question they will like you asking, right, because anyone with a conscience has an answer to that.


Casey: Right.


Guest: So you know and you know Karma's a-


Casey: A bitch, you can say it, it's allowed.


Guest: So I think that it is, you know, here's an example of what I think, you know, you can use this tool to really exemplify and teach your family values.


Casey:  Yeah. What about porn?


Guest: Oh my goodness.


Casey: Right. I had Amy on, Amy Lang on the podcast and something that she says often is it's harder for kids to to not see porn than it was for us to find it.


Guest: Oh yeah, oh yeah, absolutely and you know, when you come home and discover your 9 year old and this was 10 years ago, has been exposed to porn and is curious, I mean, you know, some kids are curious and some kids are horrified and so how do you satisfy that curiosity in an appropriate way, in a safe way and you know what about porn? The answer to me is education, education, education, education.


As a kid in every scenario, I used to play a game in the car where I'd throw out a word that I would think that they would have, they wouldn't know what it was and it was an education for me because I finally found one word sex-related, gender, sexuality related that they didn't know and you can guess I tried all the obvious ones first and that word was drag queen.


Casey: Drag queen for the win.


Guest: And to this day I don't know if they were just kind of, you know-


Casey: Humoring you.


Guest: Yeah, humoring me. But you know, so it's an opportunity.


Casey: It is an opportunity.


Guest: You know, if you as a parent are really uncomfortable talking about sex and sexuality with your kid find a way to get comfortable or find a partner or friend who is. And I totally promote Amy, Amy teaches people how to do this and is a great resource. And I agree with Amy that we should start this education when they enter school because they're going to learn it from their peers if they don't learn it from you and there are certainly developmental levels of doing that but sometimes your kids guide that developmental level. I was a kid. I was a mom who said "You know when, as soon as they're curious, I want to, I cannot wait to have these conversations" and then I discovered that they'd already learned everything from porn.


Casey: Well yeah and so that's a place where I think a lot of us-


Guest: And to say they learned everything is a stretch of a statement because what they learned was not what I would have taught but that led to really deep conversations about respect, what are you watching, how does it feel in your body, what does it feel like when you see this, why would anyone ever do that, I'm not going to get explicit here but it was an explicit conversation, do you notice this, what's the expression on her face, what's expression on his face, does that look like a good experience? And the different conversations about what's the difference between having sex in an intimate relationship and porn and my biggest concern about porn has been, you got me started, Casey-


Casey: I know, here we go-


Guest: that kids are learning about relationships through porn and porn is not about relationships and that distinction and so kids, you know, go into their first sexual relationships thinking that's what they should do-


Casey: or expect and that's what the other person is going to want to do-


Guest: That's what the other person is going to do and I think this is harmful to our souls. I think this is a deeply, deep tragedy and if we don't talk to our kids about it they could be victims of it. You know, I have a friend who went off to college, you know, that's one of those kids who you kind of wish every kid would be, you know, just really successful at everything and really kind and really innocent and really a strong sense of her values and  there aren't many of those, I think, that's not, I don't think that's normal, I just want to say, that I had a conversation with her mom about this and she looked at when she says "Oh my gosh, I have to tell a kid about this because she's not going to know" and it was one of the best lessons that they both had before going to college, which is, you know, by the way, this might be what boys expect because this is what they see and you don't have to be a part of that.


Casey: Right, yeah and I think it's the conversation for our girls, it's a conversation for our boys.


Guest: Definitely a conversation for boys


Casey: You know and then as far as like coming back to that firmness piece, I know that when it's come up in our house, I try to, you know, we, there's the, you know, there's monitoring software which there's a million work arounds, right.


Guest: So let me just tell you that I'm not a good person to talk to about monitoring software. Because my experience was that I had to monitor the software so much that it wasn't worth the effort because there were so many work arounds that didn't work anyhow and did do you know about these portals that you go to the site and then nothing is tracked, I mean, it's like, it's not secure at all. Sorry. They're called things like MathTutorforCollege.com.


Casey: Oh yeah.


Guest: You know, things like that and you think, "Oh look at" you look at the browser history, you know, where they're going then you go to that site and you go "What the?'


Casey: Yeah, well I think what we ultimately want and what I've had conversations about with my kids is, you know, everything you just asked "How does it feel to, you know, to see? What do you notice?" and then like, even, the hit, right and it could be looking at porn, it could be eating a giant bag of candy, whatever that hit is that says "Ooh, yeah, I want to do that right now" and then we're kind of stuck on that, like ,I think the skill that we get to nurture and help our kids really recognize as a skill and nurture in themselves is that ability to say "Oh, I'm in that headspace where I'm kind of stuck on this thing and I know after this thing I'm going to feel really crappy or I'm going to feel however I'm going to feel" and then to make, you know, to help them in decision making which I get is very advanced for the adolescent brain.


Guest: Yeah, I was going to say I'm not sure the adolescent brain is very capable of that. It's not to say it can't happen.


Casey: Right but we can have conversations about it.


Guest: Absolutely because we always have conversations that are the foundation of the training that they get when their brain comes.

Casey: Yeah and I think that's a lot more helpful than "We're just going to shut down all screens" because, I mean.


Guest: And I think the time to shut down the screen is when I see that you just can't do this for yourself.


Casey: Right.


Guest: One of the agreements we had around phones was, you know, these are the agreements we have and we'll approach if the agreements get broken we'll figure out what the solutions are and I took the phone more than once, without saying "That's it, I've had it, I get your phone" but was saying "How you want to solve this? Do you need me to take your phone away?" And the first time I did that I said, "OK, so when you're ready to follow the rules just ask for your phone back, you can have it back" and it was months before that happened.


Casey: Yeah.


Guest: What I don't know is whether there was another phone somewhere.


Casey: She's like "haha"


Guest: I mean, I don't know.


Casey: Well I think that's such, I think, I really want to highlight that difference, that distinction between "That's it, you're done, give me your phone," you know and "Wow, this is really challenging for you to navigate so let's take a break and when we can figure out a solution that works for both of us we can come back to it."


Guest: And I think, Casey, part of the problem is generational. I grew up in a very authoritarian household. I did what my parents said because if I didn't it was life threatening, at least I believed it was life threatening and we're used to saying "I say it, you do it."  I grew up in that environment and so there's a huge shift to kids, you know, we had the civil rights movement, we've had the women's movement, we've had all these things that have shift us to more equality and kids are breathing equality in the air because it's there and so when we say "Because I Said So" they look at us like "Who do you think you are?" Right? "I'm their parent." "Yeah. So?" So I think that's really hard for us as parents to make that adjustment. There are new rules and it doesn't mean we shouldn't have rules, it means that our means of enforcing them have to come from a level playing ground rather than "I am superior to you and you have to do it because you're inferior."


Casey: Right. That's powerful.


Guest: And it's difficult, it's a hard shift.


Casey: Right, yeah, I want everyone to hear that, like the whole point of the summit is to highlight the messiness and just because it's difficult doesn't mean it's, the, you know, that you're not doing the job that you're meant to be doing, right. So for people that are listening who recognize that screens are out of control or perhaps they have been less firm than than they could have been around creating agreements and guidelines, what are some baby steps that they can take with their teens who maybe have had the experience of really no boundaries? Where do they start? Or where might they start?


Guest: Yeah, I think yes there's a lot of answers. The first one that comes to mind is to sit down and have a conversation and say "You know, my job as a parent is, what are your values? You know. I am hoping to raise you in a way so that you can go out into the world and be successful emotionally, relationship-wise, work-wise, support yourself, contribute in a way that you feel good about you and that you have happiness. That involves, you know, teaching you how to do laundry, that involves teaching you how to cook, that involves teaching you this and that and so forth and I'm concerned about the social media use and I get that everybody does it but here are some thoughts.


When you go to work what is your employer going to be looking for? What skills is he going to be looking for and how are you developing those and some of them you can develop online but a lot of them need to be developed through direct contact face to face with people and this is one of the interferences I think of screens is that we think we're connecting through a screen and we are to a certain extent but the quality is clearly different? You know, I'm in a workplace, let's say I'm working in retail and I've got a mad customer, how do I deal with that? How do I develop those skills?


This is one of my biggest concerns about screens today for adolescents is that in their back pocket they have instant escapism, so if something goes wrong and I don't want to deal with it, I can pull up my screen and start scrolling. I can go play a game and get an addictive hit that gives me some epinephrine that feels better, I can go so many places where I can escape the reality of my current discomfort. The question is how do I come back and solve it? That life skill is huge and that's something that screens are interfering with and I think it's one of the reasons we have such an increase in anxiety and depression in adolescence.


Casey: Oh yeah.


Guest: Because we aren't learning how to manage our own emotions. Our emotional proficiency, fluency is, I.Q., is dropping through the basement. And my challenge, my heartbreak is in trying to talk to teens about this, they don't want to talk to adults. I mean, this is the challenge. Some will but this is the challenge of adolescence. I need to get help from my peers, not from my adults because that's what adolescence is about, it's about finding your tribe and everyone's doing it and I have deep, deep fears about what this means for our society.


Casey: Well I have a little glimmer of hope, my sister in law teaches high school English and she told me recently that it's become retro, like, cool to be unavailable via screen.


Guest: Yeah, that's lovely.


Casey: So she did say that they'd she was noticing more kids and I mean, I don't know how widespread it is and how long it lasted but that the kids, you know, it kind of became the cool thing was instead of to be immediately available all the time, you know, making people wait a little bit.


Guest: And there are more and more schools that are taking phones out of the classroom, you know and I think that's a really healthy. When my kid was in middle school, the boys were all on porn in the class all day long, under their desks.


Casey: Well if they put down today, it's like put down the vape pen long enough to get the porn out and you know, then you're really talking. Sorry I'm laughing, it's not funny but.


Guest: It's not funny. I think in terms of baby steps, the first thing is really create conversations, create connections because without that you can't get anywhere. I mean, you have to have that connected, that kind connected basis before you can move into firmness. Otherwise your firmness, through the lens of a teenager looks like you're just telling me what to do, you're an ass, you're, you know, you don't know me, you all those things, filters that they can put over your good intent and honestly, they're not always wrong in that in terms of we get so scared the way that we come at that really looks like that. So that's worth noting. The other thing is Screenagers, go see it, you know, go see it with your kids.


Casey: It's so good. Love that movie.


Guest: It's so good and subscribe to Delaney's Tech Talk Tuesdays, which is just great topics and every week there's a question "How can you create this conversation with your family so that the whole family becomes tech literate around screens?"


Casey: Oh, I'm glad you mentioned that. Yes, yes, yes and that is, you know, for a lot of us older parents, we are, you know, our literacy around technology looks completely different than the literacy kids have. I mean I have all kinds of technology skills but they are antiquated and ancient as far as the kids are concerned.


Casey: Yeah and there's so much-


Guest: And it changes so rapidly and you know, like I said, keep in mind, this technology is created to ensnare your nervous system. It's there to get your attention and our attention is a commodity. We have to value it more.


Casey: Yeah, ooh I love that, yes, absolutely.


Guest: We're giving it away without much thought. I think of it a little bit like being on a diet and you feel bad so what do you do? You go binge eat. Right? It's like we're doing the same thing that contributes to the problem we solved and I think we're doing it with screens too, it's really troublesome.


Casey: I'm going to have to have you back. See, it's not so hard talking to me. Thank you so much is such a privilege to be in conversation about this, there's so much more to tease apart and hopefully we'll get to do that again but thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.


Guest: And thank you it was delightful.


Casey: Yay!