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Helping Your Teens Put Down Their Screens

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
November 9, 2020 5:00 am

Helping Your Teens Put Down Their Screens

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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November 9, 2020 5:00 am

Jonathan McKee and his daughter Alyssa offer parents practical guidance for establishing meaningful communication and connection with their teen children who are caught up in a digital world.

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Screens are hindering not because symptoms were so caught up in our own world and now we got this device is even distracting, as you know even more and it keeps us from empathizing with others. Let's Jonathan McKee and he's our guest today on Focus on the Family with your host Jim Daly Jonathan is joined by his daughter Alyssa for conversation today. Thanks for joining us I'm John Fuller John screen time is an issue with all parents if you got a child still living at home is a problem that I know Jean and I babbled this with our two boys and the just is what it is trying to control screen time and teach your kids the right attitude about that form of entertainment driven is crazy and I'm so grateful to be able to provide some ideas and some direction for parents who were probably at their wits end trying to keep that under control with their children. So today were going to better understand this topic of screen time with your kids and how to get it under control with two very special guest, and as I said, Jonathan McKee and his daughter Alyssa are here.

Jonathan is a social researcher and a popular speaker and author, and I can hear minor plug-in show podcast and radio features. And then Alyssa works with young people at a college in Southern California and she's a youth leader for local church and together they written a great book called the teen's guide to face-to-face connections in a screen to screen world 40 tips to meaningful communication. And of course we have copies of that for you.

Just click the link in the episode notes Jonathan, welcome back to focus. Good to have you to be here. I'm really grateful for your participation in the plugged in an effort year on their we work together in that regard phone assigned you and your ministry. So it's really great partner in the great what a great team So good to meet you welcome that you're in your 20s on the canal you totally, but let me start with this question because your you know your kind in it and you're just coming out of it. What's going on with screens what you know, the whole social media thing is kinda relatively new and a lot of parents don't know how to how to cope with that our kids are just buried in them all the time at the dinner table at the restaurant if I just ask you that out of the gate question just generally what's the addiction to screens all about.

Well, one thing that's unique about screens or I guess not unique is it's not just kids. I mean, I'm good at you now out my dad right here but there been times when he's had his phone at the table out at a restaurant you know you something real quick. And the thing is with screens is in a you have access to everything and I'm learning you now in my mid-20s to wait and help me too much. You know I'm using my phone a lot for work and I see my dad using the phone a lot for work and screens have become all-encompassing email. They really are starting to become your life, you lose your phone and it's like you lose everything you know what to be interesting to see you 20 years from now when those parents are raising kids when the parents grew up that way with salaries if it's going to be as big of a deal, I think, for you know for me I didn't have screens. As a teenager and I didn't have other things to computers. I think maybe were just coming into but the point of that is you know maybe people will be more accommodating of it or maybe the right question. Jonathan is should day yeah I think that you know obviously digital natives, people who had in their pockets. Their whole life. They realize you know what it's like, because I mean your life is right turn your back pocket like Alyssa was saying you know you care your work with you and you like only have to turn this in the work will quick you guys understand right real quick and I and we all kind of are almost a little bit understanding with each other on okay I understand you gotta turn in this know this resume. If you're looking for a job or you need to answer that quick text meal from your boss really quick and that's why dads sometimes bring that bring that phone to the dinner table because I'm important you know, and that if I get a text I need to return and that's what we need to be Alyssa hate these are great tools. It's great that we've got all the stuff but there's times are we just need to put these things in our pockets and pay attention.

The people in the room. What in that regard, and the whole thing is about being screen wise.

So what's the definition of being screen wise that's a great question and an we came up with 40 random realizations about it because it's hard to really yeah exactly.

It's hard to really want definition that is a long deficit. It's hard to pinpoint into one thing what it looks like because screens are, hijacking areas of our lives we we seen it hijacked communication we see a hijacked self-esteem so I don't really it's kind of trying to deal with those things on how we won against phones. Alyssa and I both love our screens, but to be will say hey how do we know when were sitting there at a restaurant. How do we enjoy the people in the room with look so do we have to have a rule which kids really love. I've noticed his loving little more rules the better.

And that's a good rule on teasing, obviously, but is that you let me ask you Alyssa is the one you know just coming out of being parented yeah what is it feel like when mom and dad say okay but from what Petrone way I would. But you know what you don't. I read how did you react to that yourself.

Yeah well you know honestly I think the best thing he could do as a parent is it's not just a rule free kid when you have a screen it's a rule for you to you and you know practicing what you preach.

You know if you're on your phone all the time. But you're telling your kid to put it away. I doesn't make sense and the kids now can be happy about that.

We have to get you married and in the parenting. You gotta learn that parents can do the thing during the transition that way actually was a nanny for about a year after I graduated, I realized how easy it is to use a screen A break and so I'm not by any means, bagging on parents for sometimes even letting their little kids you screens because frankly it's easier sometimes you're just exhausted and you're like okay go ahead watch that show that overreliance on that you know soon. Take this iPad for four hours and back to later after yeah you can't do that. You gotta be screen wise, which is the whole point to get Alyssa. You identified some apps really kind of took you in a tough direction.

I think even again from both a young person's perspective as well as your view of what the parents perspective is speak to that. I would say for Jean and she was really worried about what boys my boys would see so she had this deep concern about their ability to look at screens we could have a smart phone with thankfully the best advice we received was delay that decision as long as you can.

So whenever the boys would say to us all our friends have phones when we get our phone I'll take that under consideration and leave it and you know to their chagrin.

I think Trent was 17. Yeah, we got a smart phone and Troy was 15 years younger and can happen sometime to the point is identify that angst that a parent might have and then what went on with the apps that you and your friends were using and were they helpful or harmful. Yeah, and it's hard to say.

Is it helpful app or is it a harmful app because you know there definitely tendencies first are in apps that you feel like it's easier to get in trouble with or it's easier to find yourself stuck in more that happen to you. Yeah I will one of those apps for me was Instagram and it lies hard for me to not compare when I was looking Instagram and I found that wasn't just me. That was a lot of my friends and in my students students. I worked with some of my girls.

I was ministering to who also felt like they had to always be posting these awesome beautiful pictures on Instagram that showed that they were happy with their friends all the time doing these great things and when you're just scrolling through Instagram looking at all that it's hard to compare. In fact you coined this phrase to use in the book connected disconnect explained that yeah so it's interesting because Instagram and all these different apps. It feels like you're connected when you're using them and you know you're talking to people who are your friends, whether they're faraway or close you feel closer to them. But the funny thing is, often enough, especially at my house you know with my roommates I would find that I was there with them and either watching a movie, a note, we are trying to do something together and all the sun and I would look up and realize that I was the only one in the room and that's not actually true that I would look up and it was like they were there because they were communicating with other people who weren't there with us on their phones and I felt like okay what about me. I'm actually in the room and that's when I started realizing okay were connected but were disconnected from the people in the room and that's when those times when we start to see that line has been crossed.

When the people outside the room become more important than the people inside the room sums were surrounded by the people that we love the most, but yet were like oh, I've got to get this friend request or whatever and with young people pressures on right now because not only is they have this device. It is all these distractions, but because of social media. A lot of young people's medevac 86% of young people when I say that's a lot want to be an influencer so he got a 10 young people want to now also. Hey, maybe I can do makeup online or knocking other people who watch me do video games online anyone influence in some fashion because that was happen now is all of sudden followers are very important. I need more followers so that comparison Susan Houck. I don't have as many followers as she does as he does as well as just you start being you know you open up to all kinds of dangerous because now you will let anybody follow you, so you've got to have more followers so you can influence and because of that, this is constant battle of, you know.

Oh, I don't want to ignore this right now because I need to respond this person because I got a B does you good influencer of the also note you know you having lunch with your you think your lunch with your kid, but your heaven lunch with you know superstar you are somewhat well in the difficulty there's yeah the got there phone right in their face and they occasionally may look at you if you're saying hey hey that's part of the issue that overindulgence you have or had a dog that taught you a great lesson. Now there's dog lovers and cat lovers.

So you must be a dog lover. So what did this pet dog teacher family.

What was interesting because his name was Jethro in his big Bernese Mountain dog and I would say he was the most intelligent and what he was like 105 pounds of just pure love and the one thing about this dog is my daughter Ashley who was really young at the time my gosh were she cannot even know and she does love this dog and his dog was just like such a friend to her is like she didn't have Reginald's physical whiskey moment this dog was a friend and this dog had this special sense, where it was able to just tell when you are sad he needed love and if Ashley was having a rough day or whatever Jethro would get up from his favorite spot and he'd wander over and he'd slap his big head right down on her lap right there any just look up at her and she would just like oh Jethro you understand it and she actually does one conversation where she was. I find Jethro inspiring like him.he's inspiring.

He's always there.

He's, you know, he and I started watching him and this dog had empathy like no human could he just empathize and she was right, and as it turned out she was wrong about one thing. She said he always be there. Sadly while they were at school one day we took him to the vet because he was Evans on the throat and we didn't know it wasn't Dr. just took like 30 seconds is that I'm so sorry, but your dog has lymphoma.

There's really nothing we could do do chemo but it would cost thousands and it might only prolong his life few months and Michael will what's his mean she said 30 to 60 days.

He's got 30 to 60 days and that was that was tough for a family because we came home and I member having a family meeting and I I laid out what happened. Ashley starts bawling and the other kids are said to be please literally bawling in the crazy thing is Jethro sitting across from you, and you know he's got cancer and no idea he gets up he goes over to Ashley and he puts his big head right underline and Jess is like I'm here for you and it just like oh my gosh, and 30 days later to the day he was gone, but I tell you.

Empathy is one thing that phones are killing empathy today for two reasons.

One, because were so caught up in our own lives that we are looking anybody else, and to we just we don't even notice other people around us.

We don't even notice it is funny that this dog noticed that more than let let me pick up on that idea of empathy. It seems like the whole world is ripping empathy from humanity right now and a lot of different ways and maybe screens are the foundational culprit, but elaborate a little more on that because that went by pretty fast in terms of empathy and the lack of empathy in the culture today and perhaps what screens are doing to deaden that sense of empathy. When was the golden age of empathy. That's a good question. I don't I don't know I haven't experienced that when that is that what's happening with empathy right now is no empathy's really disability for us to not get caught up in ourselves the moment but to list happen to somebody else's shoes and say what's going on with them and you know for dad or mom. That means when a kid come home is talk about their day not try to fix it right away but just literally say what would I be feeling fuzzier to say I'm so glad you told me Angela step into their shoes. Screens are hindering not because sometimes were so caught up in our own world and now we got this device it's even distracting as any you know even more and it keeps us from empathizing with others big question then becomes how how do we reverse that trend particulars. Parents, what can we do with our teens to help them better understand empathy and make sure that they have it because they're going to need it in this world to why think that's were some realistic and fair guidelines that we don't just throw out there is a rule, but as Alyssa said that we model is mom and dad. We can't just say hey you know, no screens and there were sinners during our own screens, but some of the simple things we talked about on this show before. Around us a table. Things like no tech at the table. I know that was interesting as Alyssa was growing up we always had that rule no tech at the table that meant dad mom none of us could bring tech at the table when you back on that you know we got you both here which it would normally don't have the adult children of the guest so this is really vulnerable of you all the dirt that come as it did to become the rift in your relationship. The screen issue that did it put a wedge between I think it was hard because with texting. It feels like it's private and eight-year conversation you have with your friends and your diary yes exactly, and I remember having a very hard time when he did start enforcing rules and and my mom as well and they wanted it to be this open thing and I think as a kid that was really hard and I understand now because you know you want to be protective and you want to make sure your kids are making good decisions and that was difficult for me at first, like oh we have to monitor your tax or we have the right to read all your texts and I was like well that is not fair. You know, like how is that okay and I understand.

Looking back at it now that I think I realize it was new territory but this actually Alyssa you know someone jokingly, but it did did begin to spiral you into some behavior that was healthy yet whether that was lying or just that addiction you speak to that how it begin to curve who you were, yeah, I think if I'm being honest, I I knew that if I didn't want my dad to read my texts or monitor my staff. I had to pretend like I was good and perfect and if I didn't want him to monitor it and had to be someone else in front of him. Then I was in front of my friends and so I had this really bad lying habit that just started happening.

I think it started trickling, starting with the phone and email pretending I was texting a friend when I was fixing a boy or deleting my texts so that he couldn't read. Then if he ever did happen to see my phone which honestly I don't think you ever think maybe once you ever looked through my phone by again to Salerno in anything as I became really good at lying and it seeped into my regular life. Even as I went off to college I I started getting into these unhealthy habits and making friends who weren't the best choices and and I was so scared of letting down my family bakes I had, but this great faade like everything's all right. I've got it. You don't have to monitor me and to where even starting in my you know early adult life in college. I was hiding that you know it really got to a point where I felt like I was living a double life, not just with my family anymore, but I start lying to my friends say realize that you know if I wanted to be looking like this golden person I had to lie in my head that's what I thought and I realized I had all these fake relationships. They weren't real and I started to become really depressed and it was really difficult and I remember at one point in my sophomore year. It got so bad I had picture-perfect life and a great boyfriend and was doing good in school had some good friends by I just felt like everything was crashing down like it was all fake and it wasn't working and I broke down II had suicidal moment where I had these really dark thoughts and and I wanted to take my own life and I write about it more in the book but basically I realized know what am I doing like I need to confess everything like I need to put it out into the light now and I so appreciate the vulnerability and I think you know that's the issue, and you are in that transition moment in your 20s you, you know what being a teenager in the modern world is really like in those friendships and those distractions and those alleys that you can get caught in which is exactly the fears of us as parents, you know, and in I guess the question I would ask you and Jonathan will come back to you to fill in some of those blanks but what can we do as parents what your advice to us that where we have the fear of our children being harmed because of their screen time and what you were just describing what can we do. I think the best thing you can do is listen and be sympathetic and be a person not they can go to you and talk to you and I'm not saying don't punish ever anything like that but there's a time and a place and when when it's so bad that Kate feels like they can never talk to you because they're just gonna get in trouble all the time and that's when it's dangerous.

You know you need to be able to talk to your parents and know that there gonna understand and maybe they'll punish you, but they still are understanding in and show you know I love you anyway and is going to be okay and working to get through this together will and let me repress on that advice from both of you really because I know the parents that are listening.

These are committed Christian parents. They want their children to be healthy spiritually, emotionally they're doing everything they can. And yet, I would say smart phones and screens are probably the number one relational breaker in parenting right now because they're so destructive and distracting and I want you guys really give the parents some insights here will and here's one. One of the best piece of advice I think we can offer parents is to not overreact, and you've heard me say before, I think we need to turn her overreaction into interaction and the reason why is most the studies that came out of this to researchers just put together this open source document and they basically said hey let's all combine a research were noticing this mental health crisis in our country right now. What can we do about it and a bunch of researchers that normally disagree got together in a and and kind of said what we agree on an agreed on two things. One agreed there is a mental health crisis that they first came the agreement is in effect suicide and depression or up logarithmically just nobody could deny that. But the second thing they agreed on is as much as they wanted to kind of blame screen time no Netflix videogame time. All of it. The one thing they found that was really particularly damaging was social media was very specific to our daughters and that's the two things agreed on were having a mental health crisis and it's mostly social media and our daughters Alyssa. One thing we didn't say is how are you doing now. I mean you just a few years down the road.

You seem like incredible starting one young person but so so you're doing better yeah definitely you know over the years at throughout the rest of college and you know now my young adult life, and I've really realized that less can be more and I do think it can be different for everyone by at the same time. Sometimes I look at certain things, and I realized there's can be more harm than good in this and in Instagram that was it for me. I took a whole year off of Instagram and just to see what it would be like, and if it would change things and it's been amazing. It's nice to not have to be glued to that to not have to feel the pressure of life to take a picture in this moment in your behavior. If you took that long break.

Definitely bright, definitely. That's good.

Oh yeah, and I think you know one of the biggest things is when ever I go to an event now or I'm with friends at the beach or something at you know, I'm not thinking I'll have to take a photo by the beach. You know I have to make this moment.

Look perfect and you know I'm just there and I'm able to be in the moment with my friends, and it's sparked a lot of interesting conversation to with my friends and you know when I say I don't have an Instagram at first I was thinking oh my gosh I'm to be so weird you know you like what are you even thinking but is really nice and it's actually made people like you and then they start confessing things like the break once it was so nice and I'm like you know it's really nice like you should think of doing it long term. You know and and talking about the and in talking with Dan about you know why I was not so nice for you and it starts at sparking these great conversations where you can connect with people about the problem in general. Or, you know, and just getting to know them better because your sharing and being open with them in the moment.

What courage is what creates leaders. I see that in your thinking seriously you're leading on this with your dad's help, obviously, but for young people to come to the conclusion that's awesome in this is been terrific you've written a great book together.

Teens guide to face-to-face connections and this is that I'm telling you you need help, which I do and jingoes with our boys so we were to get this will start using this as a conversation piece exactly what you didn't want boys, but this is right that I just wish you the best. God's blessings. And if you're in that spot were you needed to contact us here Focus on the Family and if you can provide a gift on a monthly basis, which really helps us with the budget we would like to send you a copy of the teens guide face-to-face connections in the screen to screen world as our way of saying thank you for joining the team and thank you for evening out the budgeting process here. Focus if you can't do that, a gift of any amount will also help many many families to join us and will say thank you by sending you a copy of this wonderful book and to donate and get your copy of the teens guide to face-to-face connections in the screen to screen world. Check the episode notes for the contact us and coming up tomorrow. Lisa Morgan talks about walking through difficult times like all of the key parts of life and the reality is that kind races and chewing parts in here on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here. Thanks for listening to Focus on the Family on John Fuller inviting you back next time. As we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ

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