Gary Chapman: Well, I think what’s happened is, that technology has pulled them away from those activities that interact with people. Because technology, you’re by yourself. I mean, there may be somebody on the other side that you’re interfacing with, but it’s not like face-to-face conversation. It’s not like playing ball with the neighborhood kids. It’s not like riding bicycles together with kids. It … there’s just not that interaction.
And if a child’s gonna grow up social and be able to make it in the world with people, they’ve got to learn some social skills and how to relate to people rather than machines.
End of Recap
John: Well, some powerful insights from Dr. Gary Chapman from our last conversation on “Focus on the Family” about the impact that technology and social media is having, not just on the culture, but on our kids and our families. And he’s back today, along with his co-author, Arlene Pellicane, to share more about helping you help your children be engaged and relational. And I’m John Fuller; your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim: John, last conversation we had, it was so good for me as a parent of younger boys. It just uh … put a lot of pieces into place. If you didn’t hear the program last time, download it, get a CD. You can hear it on your SmartPhone, your iPhone, just gotta get the app. And hopefully, it’ll be helpful to parents who are struggling with that balance question when it comes to how much social digital interaction should I allow my kids to have.
Jim: I think there were several other takeaways last time, as well. You know, what are the benefits of technology? As I said last time, my kids have learned a lot, engaging technology for science and math and spelling and you know, it’s one of the great tools. They can go online and learn about Ireland or Chicago or whatever (Laughing) they want to do. And it does bring that benefit.
However, like anything that’s humanly constructed, abuse of it tends to manipulate us into a bad place and into a place where the enemy of our soul can wreak great havoc with us. And technology is that, too and we have to teach our children how to use it respectfully and use it with the right attitude. So, I am grateful today to continue this discussion with our guests.
John: And they are, as I said, Dr. Gary Chapman and also, Arlene Pellicane. They’ve written a book called Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and brought to bear their professional and personal expertise.
Dr. Chapman is a pastor, speaker and the author of the very popular 5 Love Languages books. Arlene is a speaker and author, as well. She is the wife to James and mom of three
Jim: Welcome both of you back.
Arlene: Great to be here.
Gary: Thank you.
Jim: Hey, last time we mentioned a couple of these steps, but for those who are listening that perhaps didn’t catch that, let me mention a couple of these just to take our breath away. We talked about last time almost a third of children have a television in their bedroom by the age of 3. I mean, come on, everybody. We could do better than that. (Laughing)
Arlene: That’s right.
Jim: Keep that thing out of their bedroom as long as possible. We talked about, by the age of 7, a child will have spent one year—24/7, one full year by the age of 7—in front of a screen. Now that’s both television and digital, but one year of their life already. That one shocked me.
Jim: Also that an estimated 95 to 97 percent of American children are playing videogames of one type or another. That … 97 percent? I mean, that’s amazing. My kids are in there. I’m not in the 3 percent. I don’t know that it’s doable. Obviously those families have found a way. Now if we’re talkin’ to folks in sparse areas of Oregon, way to go! (Laughter) Way to do that parenting job. (Laughter) I just can’t move that far away from town. (Laughter)
We do have a high-speed problem. We were talkin’ last time about you know, getting on the Skype with Grandma. We can’t figure it out at our house. (Laughter) That’s another great thing you can do as a parent, is what I’ll call the “I’m too dumb to figure it out” approach. (Laughter)
Arlene: It’s not working. (Laughter)
Jim: The problem is, by the time you’re 5, you can actually do it better than your parents. (Laughter) But getting back to the main question, how do you find that balance? I want to throw that right back at you this time. How does that parent who is God-fearing, Christian, we believe in the Lord, we want to raise our kids in a healthy way in a world that seems to tear at them, not only in this area of technology, but in every way, what is a good balance for a parent to strike with their children?
Arlene: I think it’s great for the parent to first begin with a “why.” Why am I doing this? Why am I gonna work so hard to go countercultural? What is it that I want to instill in my child? And I think about the Deuteronomy passage where we’re to teach our children when they wake up and when they lie down and when we’re on the road. And that’s to instill God’s commandments. But you figure, of today’s child and when they wake up and they lie down and they’re on the road, they’re on their phones (Laughing) or they’re on technology.
And really, those teachable moments that are passing by. So, I think if a parent can first say, what’s the why? Why do I want to do this? Why do I want to limit and kind of wage this war, so to speak against my child’s will to want to, you know, not want to stop playing? So, get that why in place.
And then the “how” will become more clear. And then it’s really I think being proactive with a plan. If you just think that your children know what’s best for them, they don’t. If you just think they will know, oh, I’ve had too much, they don’t. So, you have to be the heavy and you have to say, “One hour and when the hour’s done and this timer rings, you’re done.” And if you’re gonna have a fit about that, well then, tomorrow we won’t have any. And so, it’s really having that consistency and being willing to be unpopular in your own house for a little while.
Jim: You know, that’s really well-said, because I think that’s a big part of it, isn’t it, Gary? We’re trying to accommodate our children and make them feel comfortable. And there’s a place for that. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, they need to feel your love, but you’re also the parent and you need to set the boundaries, which they’ll typically respond to.
Gary: Yeah. And I think, you know, we do this in other areas. We set boundaries in other areas. And so, this is perfectly normal for parents to say, you know, we’re gonna spent this amount of time watchin’ the screen. And give boundaries.
For example, if it’s television, here are three programs that you can watch. They’re all 30-minute programs. You can choose which one, but you only watch one. For 30 minutes a day, you can choose. And so, we’re teachin’ ’em how to make choices. We’ve already in our minds agreed any one of these three’s gonna be fine, ’cause they’re good programs. But we’re also setting time limits. So, it’s boundaries and it’s time limits. And both of those things together, if you train a child when they’re young, you can still be doin’ that when they’re teenagers.
Gary: Obviously, you may broaden it a bit, you know, in terms of time and then content. But you still have boundaries. As adults we need boundaries. If we don’t, we’re in deep trouble.
Gary: So, we have to teach our children to live within boundaries.
Jim: You know, it’s important to note, too, John, that if you’re struggling in that area, we have counselors here that can help you. We can provide some insights. Your specific situation, it is always gonna be unique and so, if you have a really strong-willed 13-year-old and you don’t know what to do, give us a call. I mean, that is why we’re here, is to be able to provide you with some additional input on techniques and things you can do. And you know what? It’s free. Folks have supported this ministry in such a way that we can provide counseling services in that regard.
Gary, you made an excellent point there about being the parent, being the boundary person. Do you need to have a game plan, mom and dad together? ‘Cause so often in the household, I mean, this is how it could go in our household. I’ll be, you know, Jean’s very good about the boundary. And I get home. I don’t know what’s goin’ on all day and I get hit at the door with, “Aw, Dad, can we just play a little bit of X, Y, or Z? And I’m going, “I … ” Now I’ve learned thankfully to say, “Well, how does your mom feel about this?”
John: Yes. (Laughter)
Arlene: A wise man.
Jim: And then their faces go, aww! ‘Cause I know I just sorted them out. (Laughter) You have to be on the same page. You need a game plan.
Gary: Yeah. We have to be a team, as husband and wife. We have to be a team and discussing this apart from the children and then sharing it with the children and that way, it doesn’t matter who’s at home or who’s not at home. The boundaries are the same.
Now where this become tricky is when there’s been a divorce and you’ve got a single parent and they have certain ideas of what they want and the other parent—the non-custodial parent—perhaps who sees them every other weekend, doesn’t have the same ideas. Ideally it would be for the two of them to get together and have the same pattern wherever the child is.
But even if the non-custodial parent, you know, has rules other than yours, you can say to the child when they come back, okay, “Now mom, daddy let us go watch television three hours,” you know. Well, that’s your father. I’m your mother. I have to do what I believe is best when you’re with me. So, these are still our rules. So, you know, you can still maintain boundaries with that child, even though it’s difficult when one spouse doesn’t agree.
Jim: Arlene, you’re representing women here—
Jim: –and so … and moms.
Jim: And so, what I want to do is go to your experience interviewing other moms and dads. Is that typical where mom is the one that’s more concerned in that way? It’s true for Jean and I.
Arlene: I think it is–
Arlene: –typical. It is typical—
Jim: –I tend to be more relaxed.
Arlene: –that the dad is more, “Oh, let’s watch this program. Let’s play these videogames together. What’s the harm? Come on, honey, it’s fine,” you know. So, I think that is a typical thing. In our home, we’re about the same. James, you know, has called the television, you know, the “stupid vision,” that the more, you know, it can suck your brains out. (Laughter) So, he leans that way.
Where I’m more like, “Let’s watch this video; it’s so cute,” you know. (Laughter)
Jim: Suck your brains—
Arlene: So …
Arlene: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: That what a guy would say. (Laughter)
John: Moms don’t say that. (Laughter)
Arlene: Yeah, exactly. So, our home leans perhaps a little bit the other way. But I think that you’re right, that there are many moms who think, you know, what are we gonna do? And I need to get my husband interested in this.
John: Well, there’s probably room for dads to step in and recognize that tendency.
John: I think that would be the case for us. I’m trying to be a little more proactive, so if the kids … one of them says, “Can we play a game” or a video game or can we watch this, I’ll often say, “Well, let’s get a board game out.” Or “Let’s play a board game first.”
John: You know, I think it goes easier if I’m proactive about that, rather than being the guy that defaults to the technology, which is pretty easy for me.
Jim: Yeah and it’s the same with fruits and vegetables, isn’t it? (Laughter) You want to have that, you gotta eat—
Jim: –a peach. (Laughter) I mean, we do that in the house, too.
Jim: So, it becomes a pattern of how we go about doing this.
John: Uh-hm, yeah.
Jim: Let’s talk again about parental modeling. We touched on it last time, but I want to get back to that.
Jim: We can really end up in a bad place, where we’re not living up to our own standard that we’re telling our children to live up to. And they observe us doing e-mails and being on our own computer or hand-held device.
Jim: They might be trying to talk to you and you’re saying, wait a minute; I gotta finish this text or this e-mail. So, we’re actually sometimes not even recognizing how we’re modeling the very thing we don’t want them to do. How do we arrest our vision on that regard?
Jim: How do we say, oh, no. I’m doing the same thing I’m telling him not to. How do we get there?
Arlene: I love what the late Howard Hendricks said. You cannot impart what you do not possess. And so many of us, as adults, me included, we don’t possess this self-control that we want our kids to have. When I drop off my kids to school, it used to be perhaps years ago, that we talked as people. But now I see all the moms waiting and we’re all on our phones. Everyone’s holding phones. They’re not necessarily talking and chatting with one another. We all want to look busy. We want to look important. We want to look like we have something to do and so, we hold our phones.
And so, I see that in adults. I see, you know, here I am writing this book, Growing Up Social and of course, I’m a mom and I’m writing it at night and I’m on the computer. And I have my kids there and I think, oh, my goodness, I’m doing what I’m writing about! (Laughter) The stuff that I’m writing this book–
Arlene: –while my kids are here.
So, what I have tried to do, a few things, one would be, if they come up to me, for me to swivel my chair so that I’m not facing the computer anymore and I look into their face. They say what they need and then I say, okay, I will do that in a half an hour. Or okay, let’s do that real quick and I’ll come back. So, I typically will return to my work, but I swivel and give them that eye contact to let them know, okay, mom is listening to me. ‘Cause I don’t want them to grow up thinking, my mom was always on the computer.
Jim: But no, those are real simple, but very powerful comments, because you don’t want to speaking into the device—
Arlene: Uh-hm, yeah.
Jim: –while your child’s off to your right—
Jim: –and you’re not actually looking at them.
Arlene: And that’s something very small that’s so doable, that makes a huge difference. And then the other thing we’ve tried to do is, power down after dinner. So, everything, you know, kinda goes off and that’s hard, because we’ll go into it and it’ll be good and then, oh, I’ll check my e-mails. And say, ooh, I’m not supposed to be doing this, you know. And so, having those kind of things, whether it’s a digital Sabbath, where you take one day—adults, too—and you say, we’re gonna put down our devices on Sunday. Or maybe it’s a time, 9 o’clock at night and we’re gonna put our devices down. Those kinds of things have helped me kinda keep myself in check.
Jim: And we’ve talked about where to find that balance. But equally important is how to identify when it’s out of balance—
Jim: –you know, when it’s not happening. You talk about in your book, the A-plus skill set. Let me read something and you can respond to it. I think it’s part of this, but in the book you talked about when your child is screaming at you—now listen, this is good even beyond technology, let me tell you right now—when your child is screaming at you, listen. Calmly ask questions and let the anger be expressed. Concentrate on the reason why your child is angry, not the way he’s expressing it. Later you can talk about a healthier way to share their concerns. It is hard for a parent when your child is comin’ back at you, regardless of their age–
Jim: –for you to remain calm; let them go ahead and express it. Is that one of the skillsets?
Gary: One of the skills of raising a social child is that they need to learn how to handle anger in a positive way. And as a parent, you have to model that. And so, if you say to the child that’s screaming at you, “Shut up and go to your room. You’re not gonna talk to me that way,” they go to their room and the anger goes underground and it shows up in their behavior.
It’s called “passive-aggressive behavior.” They’re passive on the outside, but inside they’re still angry. Better to hear them, even if they’re screaming. And then the next day you say, you know, I think we got that solved yesterday when you were angry. Do you feel okay about that? But if you don’t feel okay, we’ll talk about it some more.
Now what I’d like for us to learn is how to do that without yelling. You know, I know sometimes I lose my temper, too and that’s not right and I’m tryin’ to learn not to do that myself. You have that kind of conversation with your teenager or your older child and they’re gonna learn how to handle their anger. But they’re looking at our model and if your child is yelling and screaming at you, there’s a good chance they learned it from you.
Jim: It’s so true. What we model is powerful in the family. I mean, so many people when they say, “Oh, you sound just like your dad.” Or you sound like or look like your mom in that way, that expression, I am shocked at how much we pick up in our family of origin in that way. We’re not as individualistic as we think sometimes.
Jim: And that’s evidence of it. Arlene, give us one of the other A-plus skillsets. What’s another one that we can look for?
Arlene: Another one is appreciation, being able to say thank you. And any of you know that if you are giving out something at a kid’s party, hardly anyone says thank you. They say, “I want one. I want the blue one. I want the green one.” (Laughing)
Jim: Oh, man.
Arlene: Nobody says thank you. And if there’s one kid that pops up and says, “Well, thank you,” you look at them like, wow, what planet are you from? You know, so one of those A-plus skills that you really want your kids to have is appreciation, to be able to say thank you. And also to appreciate what they have, instead of saying I want the latest this. Why don’t I have that? You know, we’re very consumer minded.
My daughter loves cotton candy. If we let her, she’d have that all the time. But that’s reserved, what? For special occasions and so, when she goes to the fair, she gets cotton candy and she appreciates it. And I think, we as parents think every day’s gotta be this big hoopla amusement park kind of day. And our kids think that life is like this. And they don’t appreciate the finer … the small things of life.
Jim: Well, let’s tie that together with technology—
Jim: –because I think you’ve hit on something that’s really critical and that is, that entertainment factor, that—
Jim: –if we’re gonna compete with technology, we’re gonna do a lot of things, go to the fair, buy the … buy the cotton candy, because we’re competing with fun.
Arlene: Yes and—
Jim: And it’s really—
Arlene: –free time …
Jim: –fun to be on—
Arlene: It’s fun.
Jim: –the screen and—
Jim: — be doing these things. How do we get them down to ground level and get them out of the clouds?
Gary: Well, I think one way is exchanging the concept of “I’ve got to do this,” to “I get to do this.”
Jim and John: Uh-hm.
Gary: You know—
Gary: –I get to help mommy with the dinner tonight. Or I get to do my own laundry. Or I get to clean the toilet (Laughter), rather than I’ve got to clean the toilet.
Jim: Okay, you are (Laughter) the brightest father I’ve ever heard. (Laughter) How did you get there? I get to clean the toilet tonight. (Laughter) Okay, I want to know the … this is your next—
John: –is cleaning, yeah.
Gary: Because you see, one of the things we’re tryin’ to do is to teach them how to serve others.
Jim: No, it’s good.
Gary: Yeah and that others are serving us. If mom cleans the toilet, somebody should be saying thank you to mom. If dad does it, somebody should be thanking the dad. So, you know, if we’re gonna teach the child how to express appreciation for things, we have to start doing it in the home. If a mother heard the father say to her, “Honey, thanks for the meal tonight. It was really good,” the kids will pick up and they’ll start saying, “Thanks, mom —
Jim: That’s true.
Gary: –for the meal.”
Jim: I see that.
Gary: So, you know, we teach them by our model more than anything else to express appreciation.
Arlene: And to go back to those screens, Dr. Chapman is saying, we want our children to serve others, but when we have more screens we serve ourselves. So that screen time, you know, it solidifies that this is for me and it makes the child more self-centered. Where we’re already self-centered enough as it is. We don’t need any help in that area.
Jim: Well, and it does raise that question of that narcissistic, me-focused culture, which as you say, we’ve already got an ample dose of it.
Arlene: That’s right.
Jim: But it seems like each generation is going deeper and deeper in that direction. You talk to employers today that are employing, you know, 20-somethings and I know I’m generalizing here and there are some outstanding 20-somethings, so don’t hear me incorrectly—
Jim: –but many employers are struggling with, I want a lot for very little. I mean, I’ll work a little bit for you, but man, I don’t want to come in at 8 o’clock.
Jim: I mean, 8 o’clock? I’m not even out of bed at that time. Like—
Gary: Well, what …
Jim: –how can you expect me to be on the job?
Gary: Yeah and what we’re seeing is prolonged adolescence. The child that spends a lot of time on the screen during those teenage years, when they get to be 20, they’re still gonna be playing videogames. They don’t want to go to work. They want to be doin’ somethin’ they enjoy, somethin’ that’s exciting.
Jim: That failure to launch.
Gary: And so, you know, the adolescence is prolonged and here they are 25 and they still are not responsible.
Jim: You know, for the mom and dad that have that 16-, 17-year-old, that they are spending an inordinate amount of time playing videogames, it’s where they’ve got their adrenaline rush for many years perhaps. It just went unnoticed or not dealt with. What can they do now to try to get that child? We’re in a 12-month crash program. We gotta get Tommy ready to go. What do they do tonight?
Gary: You know, I think, one is to apologize to the child and that’s one of the skills that we talk about in the book, is learning to apologize. Because if a child’s gonna be social, they’ve got to learn to apologize for their failures. Where here’s a place where parents can apologize to that 16-year-old and say, “You know, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this and mom and I have talked about it. And we feel like we failed you in this area. That we have just, you know, had no guidelines for you in terms of the time you spent on the Internet and the screen,” or whatever. “And we realize, we’ve done you a disservice. And we’re weeping about it. We’re sad about it. And I want to ask you if you’ll forgive us for this and if we can talk about it where we go from here?” Most 16-year-olds will wake up and listen to a parent who’s apologizing for an area in which they failed the child.
Jim: It does open a heart up. The human heart, I think the Lord has wired it to open up when they hear that kind of—
Arlene: There’s one story in our book of a senior in high school, who had his graduation party at his house. And everyone was there—his friends, his family. And after 10 minutes, he went upstairs in his room to play videogames and they couldn’t coax him down. And this is a senior. And this is his graduation party and he lasted 10 minutes and went up to his room. And everyone ended up going home and that was that.
And I think as a parent, you hear that and you think, I don’t want my senior in high school to have that. And that’s why we want to put these things in place when they’re younger.
Jim: What kind of boundary should we put in place when it comes to overseeing the older teen phone? I mean, today what they’re doing, the Internet access they have, are there tools that we can use to say, okay, you can go this far, but not over the line?
Arlene: Yeah, I love that Bill Gates gave his kids phones when they were 13, which kinda gives us some fuel there. I think for those older kids, you have to know your child. If you know your child is gonna be pretty responsible with this, they’re able to handle having a phone that is equipped with the Internet then, you know, that’s something that you’re gonna have conversations about before you give them that phone and that Internet use.
That perhaps there are times in the day where you collect the phone at night. Your teenager doesn’t need the phone in their room at midnight. You know, so collecting that phone when they go to sleep and then giving them the phone back at breakfast—
Arlene: Things like that.
Jim: –and to model it by puttin’ your own phone in there.
Arlene: And you could do the same thing. You don’t have to sleep next to your phone either. That’s right.
Gary: Yeah and I think, you know, those kind of guidelines with teenagers and when you give a child a phone and what you have on that phone is obviously an individualist situation and parents have to decide for that. But I do think that by and large, we give them phones far too early. And we give them access to far too much too early.
Our we have a 15-year-old granddaughter and she just received her first phone at 15. And her brother’s 13 and he’s okay with that. He knows, two more years, he’ll get a phone. Yeah.
Jim: Right. I’m waitin’ for 18. I think (Laughter) … I’m gonna try to hold out.
Gary: But these—
Gary: –but these are the same parents—our daughter and her husband—who through the years, you know, there was very limited television. They let our granddaughter watch the food channel and at 15, she can cook a full meal (Laughter), you know. So I think and … and obviously, what Arlene said earlier, when you start early it’s much easier–
Gary: –when you recognize the value of this and start early. I want my child to be social. I want them to grow up to relate to people, to have value and to have character. And we’re gonna have to limit exposure to other things if this is gonna happen.
Jim: I would think the other aspect of that is take the time to explain to your child the why.
Jim: This is why we’re doing that. So often, we as parents, we’re movin’ fast, we don’t think they can comprehend that, so we don’t go into a[n] adequate disclosure as to why we’re trying to limit their fun. All they see it is, you just don’t wanna, you know, let me have fun. I can’t enjoy it like my friends do. And we’ve gotta sit down, take that as a moment to really express to our children how this can harm them. And so, often we’re failing in that way, aren’t we?
Gary: I think we are and also, to, you know, to recognize that when we do give them permission, it’s because we think this’ll be good for you. We want you to see this program or this program or this program, you know. And we want to discuss it as a family. So, you know, the book we wrote is not an anti-technology book. It’s let’s make the most of it. Let’s use technology to bring the family together and to teach our children social skills, rather than letting technology divide us.
Jim: Hm. You know, one of the great things digital technology has provided and one thing that we do here at Focus is, we can enter into conversations that are out there in public, where people are talking about having eating issues or depression or even suicide. And we have a team that scans the Internet, looking for those kinds of expressions of pain. And then we enter into those dialogues. So, the interesting thing is, this is staffed mostly by 20-somethings (Laughing)—
Jim: –’cause they’re good at it and they’re quick at it and our Christian children who are growing up with this capability can actually use digital landscape to do a lot of work for the Lord.
Gary: Yeah, absolutely. And they’re more likely to do that if they’ve had limited exposure growing up and we give them more as they get older. They get to be young adults; they’re responsible. They know how to relate to people and they can use technology then in a positive way.
Jim: Well, and Gary, I think the chu