Tech-wise Parents: Setting Boundaries
About the Guest
As parents do you have clear direction how to help your kids manage their technology usage? David Eaton and Melanie Mudge talk about the landscape of teens and technology. Brian Goins and Wynter and Jonathan Pitts share how they've helped their kids self-regulate.
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As parents do you have clear direction how to help your kids manage their technology usage? David Eaton and Melanie Mudge, Brian Goins, and Jonathan & Wynter Pitts talk about the landscape of teens and technology.
Michelle: If you're a parent, and your child is over two, they either want to play with your phone or they want their own phone. But let's talk about boundaries: “How do you come up with those boundaries?” Here's Melanie Mudge.
Melanie: Scripture doesn't talk about smartphones.
Melanie: But are there things about smartphones that Scripture does speak to?—and how can we point our kids back to that?—because we want to raise them to follow Christ. If they don't know what Scripture says or how to apply it, then they're going to think Christianity is something they do on Sunday.
Michelle: We're going to talk about boundaries, phones, kids, and you! We’re going to help you become a tech-wise parent on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with Arlene Pellicane about balancing life with our connectedness online, particularly with our cellphones. If you heard the program, did you happen to take the quiz that she offered? Well, I did; and I got some results that I kind of cringe at sharing. I knew I was this way, but my results tell me that I'm nowhere near “calm, cool, and connected.” My phone is either in my pocket, in my purse, or within three feet of me at all times.
Yesterday, I met a lady, who actually locks her phone in her purse in her trunk while she's driving—what?! I mean, seriously, you can't do that! I mean, what if you need the maps feature?—or what if someone needs you? Maybe, I have a long way to go in restoring that “calm, cool, and connectedness,” as Arlene Pellicane would say.
Hey, we still have the quiz online. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com, and take that quiz. It will help you understand better where you are with this technology thing; because we know, and we can all agree, that technology needs a proper place.
It's hard enough for us, adults, to wrestle with it; but think about our children and our teenagers. Today, we're going to spend some time helping you parents struggle through when to give your child a phone and how to put the right boundaries in place, boundaries that don't come back to bite you, that is.
I want us to sit in on a conversation that Brian Goins had. Brian is the Vice President of Content, here, at FamilyLife®. He recently talked with Melanie Mudge and David Eaton; and they are leaders at Axis, which is a ministry that empowers the next generation—so your children—to think clearly and critically. We all know that many of the next generation are spending as much time, if not more, on their phones. Coming up with boundaries for that can be difficult. Here's Brian Goins.
Brian: So let's talk about boundaries. Give us some practical things that would be great, as a whole family, to go, “This would be a good place to start.”
David: Yes; a good place to start is the question: “What is it for?” So every new widget that you buy—every new talking speaker, every new phone rectangle that you hang on the wall—
David: —anything—just say, “What is it for?”
If you're an awesome family that can have awesome conversations and go there, figure out how to talk about that. Again, as you're working on listening to them fully—being present fully/guiding the conversation, sometimes—having them reveal insight. I mean, if your kids are following the Lord/if they're a Christian, they don't have a junior Holy Spirit; you know?
David: God can use them to be the prophet in your family, and that's a beautiful thing.
Brian: Yes. [Laughter]
David: I'm looking forward to that day.
Brian: Right; my nine-year-old was a prophet to my family. [Laughter]
David: So I think answering the question: “What is it for?”
And then saying, “Okay; if that's what it's for,”—and maybe you guys all agree on it, then—“what can we lose?—what's to be lost from this? What good thing are we missing out on?” If we're all sitting on the couch—we’re all sitting around and we have a rectangle in front of us; and we're all getting that dopamine hit from: “Oh, that’s a cool article,” or “Oh, this thing…” it's like—maybe, we need to say, “Alright; where are we going to be technology-free?” So: “What is it for?”/ “technology-free.”
Another thing—I know this is kind of high level—we’ll get down a little bit deeper here; and I really want to hear how you guys are figuring it out, Brian, in your home—is you have to just realize that, whenever a new piece of technology comes out, there are some terrible things that people do with it.
David: “Oh, we have these smartphones!” If you just go and give your kid a smartphone—oh, you know, I understand if it's already happened—but know, like it is an incredible tool—so acknowledge: “It's very good! It's cursed; let's redeem it. I can't let you have that in your bedroom by yourself.”
David: Okay; so I think: “Let's talk about the idea of privacy.” I don't fully know where I want to go with this, but I do know that we're better in community than we are in isolation. I do know that we’re made for community, and we’re not made for isolation—maybe, some solitude every now and then. You have to say, “In our family, how is this working for community or for isolation?”—because we do bad stuff when we're alone!
Brian: Oh, yes; yes. Isolated people create chaos. I know I do. I mean, when everything goes south in my life, it's usually because I've made a decision by myself. I've justified something—so whether it was looking at porn/whether it was, you know, deciding to watch a show I know I shouldn't have watched—I'm always creating chaos in isolation.
To think that our kids—I mean, I remember what I was like when I was 14, 15, 16—I was not in the right frame of mind. And so, we give this tool—that has access to a whole—I hate to quote Aladdin—“a whole new world.” I can't imagine the places they'll go.
David: Well, right; and the targeting that can happen—
David: —in that whole new world where, all of a sudden—where you can frame up the gift of sex, and relationship, and marriage, and babies, and intimacy, and everything that goes along with that—it's out the window; because somebody else in California, or wherever, in some pornography studio, is targeting your child and teaching them what sex is for. And then, all of a sudden, that has changed it.
Here's a quote—I hate this quote, or I hate the way it sounds—but it's called “See being seen.” “See”—like you're looking at something—“being seen.” It's good for them to know—and it's good for all of us to know—that we're not alone. It's good for us to know that someone/one loves us, but they know what we're doing. And so: “They love us, but they know what we're doing online.”
There are some resources that allow—and it sounds like spying—but again, if you don't have anything to hide, why do you care?
Brian: The “See being seen”—there are great applications that are out there. I know—again, depending on when you listen to this, they may change—but I know—like you know, I can't do product plugs—but Circle by Disney is out there. You might know of others, where it allows you to regulate time, and the app usage, and to see those things. There's some that even mirror the kid's phone.
I think we need to be wise about: “When does that change?”—like it wouldn't be the same for a seventh grader as you would, maybe, for a seventeen-year-old. Hopefully, you have that relationship to know that “Okay; I can grow into trust over time.” But too often, we just kind of hand the phone over and say, “Hey, start driving!” and let them go.
Melanie: I think, for me, the biggest thing with boundaries is vision casting. If you think about it: “Why do any of us follow rules at all?” We follow them because we see, “Oh, not crossing the double yellow line in the middle of the highway keeps me from dying,”—so we see the benefit of it.
What often happens with boundaries—we’ll put something in place like: “No phones in the bedroom,” but we won't explain why that's a good thing.
Melanie: They see it as: “You're cutting me off. You're keeping me from my friends.”
Melanie: But you need to show, as a parent, that this actually, in the long run, brings more life, and more flourishing, and a better way to relate to people. What's hard with technology—or any of the media that teens are into—is it promises something good. Social media promises a good thing; which is, relationships. It's actually a lesser version of relationships than the kind God has designed for us, but we feel like it fulfills that need.
Melanie: We're like, “Okay; yes, I like social media”; but the more we're on it, the more unhappy we become and the more depressed we become. “Why is it not working?” It's because we've settled for less.
When we set boundaries, often, we forget to show: “This is a good thing, because it draws us to a better thing. It keeps the bad things out; and it keeps us from settling for less than the ultimate, beautiful, abundant life that God created us for.”
I mean, you could—you could come up with 1,000 different boundaries; but if you don't cast that vision and show your teens that life—that you're calling them toward, and drawing them toward, and helping them get to—then they're going to think that you're just an evil, terrible person, who just wants to keep them from all the good things in life. [Laughter]
Brian: Right; exactly. You're the one limiting them from their life.
Brian: But unless you show them a better life—you know, “I'm going to always choose a counterfeit life over”—if I don't know what the better life is—“because it feels”—it's a false feeling—“but it feels…”; and “I feel, something!”
And I know, for us, as a family, we try to: “How do we institute screen Sabbaths?” You know, God's people—God has always said—“Hey, I want you to be aliens in this world that you're in. I want you to be aliens and strangers in this world.” I have parents that will go, “If I give my kids rules and boundaries, they feel like they're alienated from their friends; because their friends don't have the same boundaries.” It's like: “Well, welcome to a Christian life; because we're going to be strangers. [Laughter] We're going to be aliens”; and that's a good thing.
I think it's good to have kind of a model of screen Sabbaths—where, daily, around the dinner table, at night, noon, or in the room—my brain can disconnect from all of those hyper-connectivites—that aren’t necessarily real life—and get to that place of imagination; get to that place of hope; get to that place of conversation in life.
Maybe, it's a weekly day, where you pick—you know, you're going to have “No-screen Sundays,” or “No-screen Sunday nights,” or you have an extended amount of time—that it's not just a daily moment—but maybe an extended amount of time once a week. I think, even once a year—I know our kids go to camp, and there's no screen at camp. It's amazing, when I pick them up, what they say.
Michelle: Wait, wait, wait—days without a phone? Can you imagine that? What would you say when you finally got your phone back?
We need to take a break; but when we come back, Brian is going to share what his kids did say about that time without them [phones]. We need to take a break, but I'll be back soon.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We're in the middle of a conversation with Brian Goins, David Eaton, and Melanie Mudge, talking about boundaries, and talking about, maybe, a fast from phones.
Do you know any kids who could actually make it a few days without their phones? Well, Brian's kids had to make it through camp without their phones. When they got back, what do you think they said? Here's Brian.
Brian: There’s no screen at camp; but it's amazing, when I pick them up, what they say.
David: “Where’s my phone?” [Laughter]
Brian: No; they don't.
David: Do they say, “My relationships were richer”?
Brian: Yes; they're like, “It was great to not have to worry about it.”
David: “…worry about it”—why do you say, “…worry about it”?
David: There's something there!—“It was great.”
David: What are they worrying about?
Brian: Yes; they worry about keeping up. They’re worrying about: “Who's liking this post?” or—
Melanie: —or not seeing a post, so they don't know what's going on out there; and so then, their friends are going to have an inside joke; but they're not going to be in on it, because they weren't online, and they weren't there to like that photo or comment on it.
Brian: It's that hyper-connectivity that creates more anxiety that: “Oh, man, for a week, it was nice just to have a break.”
David: Did they actually say “worry” and “have a break”?
Brian: Yes; yes.
David: It's because it's become its own cycle/its own—just this thing that keeps churning.
David: Speaking of boundaries, and like sabbaths, there was a really great family we ran into. They just had a curfew for their phones, so it was like an every-night thing.
David: It wasn't right when you went to bed—maybe, it was eight o'clock; or maybe, seven o'clock; or maybe, it’s nine o'clock—all a sudden, it was like: ‘Uh-oh! We’ve got to relate now. [Laughter]
David: “We’re present now!”
Brian: Yes; “Let’s go watch TV.” [Laughter]
David: Yes. [Laughter]
Melanie: And you know, I think that's beautiful, too; because for your kids and for this other family—sometimes, it was forced on them;
Melanie: —but then, they felt better because of it.
Brian: Then they liked it.
Melanie: Yes; I mean, because I think—because of that FOMO—that fear of missing out—they're never going to choose it for themselves; but if someone just is like, “Just chill!” It like forces them to not think about it; then, they can just: “Okay; it’s not my choice. I can't do anything about it. Okay; I can actually relax now.”
Brian: You know, that idea of: “If you lack wisdom, get it”? There's a great family that I was talking to—what they do—is they have this phone caddy. Anytime there's more than one/like if there are multiple people coming over to play with their kids, all the kids know they’ve got to put the phones in the caddy. Playtime is not/they don't have phones. You know, there's probably a certain age where you age-out of that; again, I think you’ve got to know your kids and all that kind of stuff.
I know, for them, the kids actually look forward to it; it doesn't limit them. You would think that all the kids wouldn’t come over to the house, but they all come over. Why?—because: “Now, we're just jumping on the trampoline, and we're not worrying about our phone getting cracked,” or “We're swimming in the pool,” or “We’re playing basketball,” or “We're doing whatever; but we're not going to be disconnected with the people that [we’re] around, so [we] can be connected to the virtual world.”
David: One of the most haunting things someone has ever told me is that: “Life goes on without you,”—like: “Life goes on without you!” “Ahh! Don't say that!—‘Life goes on…’—No; Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”
Melanie: “No; it revolves around me.
Melanie: “What are you talking about?”
David: And then it’s like, “Okay, wait; but life's going to go on without me, so I can just be here;—
David: —“and so I'm going to be here now.”
Brian: You know, I want to wrap up here. I don't know if there are any other tips, or ideas, or thoughts that you would say to some of those principles, just kind of timeless principles in a technological-driven world?
Melanie: Well, I remembered the four questions.
Brian: Oh, great!
- “So what's good?”
- “What's wrong?”
- “What could be changed?” or “What’s confused?”—so like, “How could I change
that?”—like: “What’s that one little piece that, if it were just a little bit different, then it would be right?”
- And then, “What's missing?”
- A fifth one—that we've kind of said we would add to that is—“What does Scripture say?” because Scripture doesn't talk about smartphones;—
Melanie: —“But are there things about smartphones that Scripture does speak to?
Melanie: “And how can we point our kids back to that?”—because they claim to be Christians, and we want to raise them to follow Christ—but if they don't know what Scripture says or how to apply it to the situations that they're in, then they're going to think Christianity is something they do on Sunday, and not with everything that they do, including their phones.
Brian: Right; yes: “This isn't a part of my life,”—especially, if it is their life—it's like, “How do I bring the”—here we go—“How do I bring the axis back to: ‘My life is centered around God, and not centered around the phone; that's just a part of it.’”
Michelle: A great reminder about boundaries, and phones, and kids from Brian Goins, David Eaton, and Melanie Mudge. David and Melanie are part of a ministry called Axis. We have a link to that ministry on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that's FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. It is a wonderful ministry that has plenty of resources for parents.
You know, if you are still wrestling with when to give your child a phone, which I know some of you are holding out, but your kids’ friends have one. That's the argument you hear all the time: “They have one!” Or your kids are saying that they need to call you when they're done with soccer practice.
The question is: “Just when is your kid ready for a phone?” This was the topic of my conversation with Jonathan and Wynter Pitts. They have four girls. At the time of our conversation, they were right in the middle of handing out cell phones, or questioning whether they're girls could handle cell phones. Wynter founded For Girls Like You—it's a ministry to girls.
Now, I want you to hear Jonathan and Wynter's conversation with me about maturity and cell phones, and how they view giving cell phones to their daughters.
Michelle: Now, you have twin eight-year-old girls.
Michelle: You have an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old. So the cell phone/social media argument is probably on the table. How have you guys handled that?
Jonathan: I’ll let Wynter go. [Laughter]
Wynter: So our 14-year-old does have a cell phone; but we also have a little agreement that we did—that we made her kind of read over—and we just agreed. Actually, the bigger question is not: “When do they get the phone?” or “Can they have the phone?”—but: “Have we prepared them for the phone?”
Wynter: And for her, I feel like we prepared her, like we totally trust. We still stay on top of what websites she's on and what things are allowed on her phone; but really, we've done the work before we handed her the phone. Now, it's just a matter of, “Okay; you know what you're supposed to do with this; and if you don't, then we get it back.” So far, she's been pretty good.
You know, I think it will be a case-by-case situation with each of the girls. The 11-year-old is begging and crying for it.
Michelle: I bet she is!
Wynter: And we just don't see that happening any time soon!
Jonathan: Yes; so I mean, I think it's very custom—and it's going to be for us—our four girls are very different, so different personalities. Or oldest is very responsible and prides herself in her responsibility. Our second girl—I don't know that she's responsible—I don’t know that she prides herself on responsibility. We have to just treat it differently with each child.
But it is a privilege, just like anything else that you can have or not have. She's [14-year-old] lost her cell phone a few times; but thankfully, not the crazy stories that people think about when they think about those things. But there are great technologies out now that you can have that can help you with some of the things that you worry about, specifically.
Michelle: Are there parenting controls that you can put on your phone or on her phone? How does that work?
Wynter: There are; there are parenting controls built into the phone. There are also things that you can add to the phone. I'm not the biggest researching—but it's out there, and you can find it.
Wynter: And there are ways that, you know, I can see her text messages come to my phone, which I've done/which I did when she first got the phone. Every message she got, I was getting; and could see her reply; and see the conversations that were happening, which just opened up the door for us to have those conversations, like, “How do you treat your friends in person and online?”
I mean, so it's not—you know, this technology thing—we can't avoid it, but just really being open to be able to see and being a part of it—involved in her usage—and like: “Okay; so this is where we need to guide this conversation. This is what she needs to know now about how to do that.”
Michelle: Yes; right.
Wynter: For me, growing up, it was, you know, pagers and just our regular house phone—like: “How do you..”—you know—“No prank calls!” and “You can't do this…”
And now, it's cell phones, and Instagram®, and social media; and so “Just how do you parent through those things?” and “…the conversations that we need to have with our kids as they're learning to be responsible online?”
Wynter: I feel like the parents—the parental controls are great—but the heart issue and the bigger conversations need to be happening at the same time.
Michelle: So what are you doing with your 11-year-old? Even though she's probably not ready for her own phone yet, how are you preparing her for the day that she is receiving her own phone?
Wynter: We have conversations about how to treat people. We, you know, let her—even now, if I post pictures and she's kind of like, “How many people liked it?” I’m like: “That's not”—you know—“that’s not the focus. It’s not what we're talking about.” [Laughter] But then also, you know, she has a little iPod®.
Jonathan: —iPod Touch.
Wynter: And some of her cousins have one, as well. They can text each other and have those. And so, even with our closest friends, we’re doing it together—like you know, sometimes, I'll call my cousin, like, “Hey, did you see the kids were, you know, texting about whatever?”
Wynter: And we can/it kind of opens up and prepares us to be able to say: “Okay; you don't do that on there. You can't text people 25 times,” or “…FaceTime them, you know, 50 times and wait for them to reply.” So just stepping in; but then, ultimately, just, you know, raising our kids in Christ. I think teaching them the foundational parts of what it looks like to walk with Christ and live in Him filters into those areas, once they're old enough to have relationships with people outside of our home.
Jonathan: And that's where I think the focus has to be; because on one side, you have just complete and utter freedom, where parents just allow their kids just to do whatever they want and just trust, you know, just trust it.
Jonathan: On the other side you have, “I'm going to protect them from everything.” I think the middle, and where we need to be, is just teaching our kids responsibility. You can't teach responsibility without—I mean, it's a tug/it's a tug of war—it's like back and forth, you know?
Jonathan: I think you have to be open to investing in that; because I think you could be lazy and give freedom, and you can be lazy and just lock everything down. It's hard work to actually be in relationship and really just spending a lot of time helping them mature/helping them grow, as individuals. So when they're adults—because I mean, we know adults—we've all seen adults, whether it be on TV, or family, and friends—that they’re not responsible with their cell phones, with any technology, or anything else for that matter.
Jonathan: So you know, responsibility is key; but it's a lot of hard work! We've learned that, as parents of four girls, that's the hardest work we do, I think.
Michelle: Well, and what I'm hearing from you guys is: “You have to be intentional.”
Michelle: It's not just being, you know: “Here's your phone. Okay; go out there and do whatever you want to do.” You have to be intentional: you have to teach your daughters before/teach your kids before they receive that phone; and then, continue to guide them, as they're still in your home, as they're still on that phone.
Wynter: And it's just that, as we're talking about this with the phone, it's just with everything that we're doing when we’re raising our kids—like this is the training ground—like we're in the training. That means that we have to be prepared to do the work of training them in whatever area it is that we're doing at the time; but then, we also have to be prepared that, when they fail, that training means that they don't know yet.
Wynter: They're going to mess up, and we have to step in and be able to guide them through that—so even that—just being open to the fact that they're not going to just get this right the first time.
Michelle: Some great thoughts and some practical guidelines from intentional parents, Wynter and Jonathan Pitts. Now, not long after my conversation with Jonathan and Wynter, Wynter tragically and unexpectedly passed away. We have a link to Jonathan's Family Life Today interview about that story on our website, FamilyLife This Week.com.
Okay; so conflict is a part of daily life. Sometimes, we just might call it “disagreements”; but it's how you handle that conflict and those disagreements that can turn into, well, the conflict. Matt Chandler, and the artist Plumb, and a few others, are going to share how we can best handle conflict in our marriages. I hope you can join us for that; that's next week on FamilyLife This Week.
Hey, thanks for listening. I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Bruce Goff. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today®, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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