Focus on the Family Broadcast

Helping Our Kids Manage Technology Well (Part 1 of 2)

Helping Our Kids Manage Technology Well (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane reveal how technology is changing our kids—impacting the brain, relationships, safety, and emotional health. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: April 19, 2021


Dr. Gary Chapman: We all have the same amount of time every day, it’s just how we gonna invest it? And I like to say to parents, think in terms of what is the time that my kid is spending on the screen? What is it teaching them? What do they come away with, you know, and how is it impacting them, because it is impacting them.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Dr. Gary Chapman joins us today on Focus on the Family, along with Arlene Pellicane. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: I don’t know about you, John, but screen time is really the battle. I think most parents, if not all parents, face this problem. But, uh, you know [crosstalk]-

John: Personally and-

Jim: (Laughs)

John: … as a parent, yes.

Jim: Well maybe as adults too. I mean that’s one of the difficulties, it, kind of, has consumed our life. You know, having all the information in the world at our fingertips keeps us busy-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … asking it things. Jean and I do that. We were … Last night, we were goin’ to bed and we talked about where the game of chess was created. And she starts, well, gettin’ out of bed- … and she’s goin’ to her phone. “Uh, what are you doin’?” “Well I’m gonna check out where- where chess came from.” (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs) Which…

Jim: it’s either China or India, I don’t know which.

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs)

Jim: But, uh, you know, it’s that, kind of, thing, you have all that information.

John: Yeah.

Jim: And of course kids, uh, younger people use it for social media, for gaming, et cetera. It’s a big issue. In fact, Plugged In, our great review team there with, um, you know, everything from movies, to video games, to music, and everything else, uh, they put up a lot of information about screen time. If you don’t know about Plugged In, get in touch with us-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … here at Focus on the Family, ’cause it’s a wonderful parenting tool to keep you informed about what your children, uh, may be viewing and participating in. Uh, today we are gonna have, I think, one of those monumental discussions about screen time, uh, by two great guests.

John: Yeah, we’ve got, as I said, Dr. Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane. Uh, you know Dr. Chapman from his Five Love Languages books. Um, uh, they are best sellers in so many different, uh, variations. And Arlene is an author and speaker, as well as mom to three kids. They have a great book that they’ve written together called Screen Kids: Five Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World, and, uh, we’ll encourage you to pick up a copy. Stop by or call 800-A-FAMILY.

Jim: Uh, Dr. Chapman and Arlene, welcome back to Focus, it’s always good to have you here.

Arlene Pellicane: Super fun to be here.

Dr. Chapman: Yes, thank-you, always glad to be back.

Jim: Arlene, let’s start with you. Uh, you speak and write about technology. Uh, Dr. Chapman, you counsel parents who are struggling, uh, with their kids. What are you hearing when you’re interacting with those parents about, specifically, about screen time?

Arlene: Yeah, I hear things, like, “Where did my child go? You know, like, when we started and we went ‘Okay, it’s the pandemic’ and my child wants the … Saying, ‘Hey, I need social media now to connect with my friends.’” And, of course, the parents are thinking, “Well this is the way people are communicating, they’re online,” so they give their 10, 11, 12, 13 year old the social media, and then six months later they’re saying, “What happened? Like, why are they believing these things? Why are they in their room so much? Why …” So a lot of that. And then I think, uh, families, if you were struggling before the pandemic with, “Man, we’re playing too many video games, or I don’t like- like what my kid is watching,” now after the pandemic … You know there’s one statistic I read that May 2019 compared to May 2020, the screen time had jumped 50% for kids.

Jim: Mm-hmm, right.

Arlene: And so, you know, if you’re struggling then, man. And- and it’s because you have this mixture of online school, which is, hey, that’s legitimate, and you’re supposed to be doing that, but then now you have online school plus all the entertainment. And all the entertainment is happening right next to the child, you know, while they’re doing online school. You know-

Jim: Oh yeah.

Arlene: … there’s all- all sorts of things, tabs open and different things. So this is really a huge challenge for families.

Jim: Arlene you speak about ABCD Study and some of the- the early findings in that.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: What is the ABCD Study?

Arlene: Right, it’s … You think it’s, like Sesame Street or something, but it’s Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development. And they are following over 10,000 kids over a 10-year period, and they’re already finding that there’s a link between screen time and a lot of different changes in the brain. And it’s interesting, because sometimes we as parents we wait for the research, you know, we want to see the research and then, okay, we’ll make our decision. But, truly, that research happens in your own home of what you see in your child and how you see them changing. So, I just encourage you, if you see things that you’re wondering about, don’t, you don’t have to wait ’til scientists come out. But, here’s what they found, uh, in terms of things that they see. A thinning of the cortex, and it’s this part of the brain that usually starts thinning when kids, you know, people are in their 60s. And so here they’re seeing it already getting thin in children when they are on screens too much. But what they found was, when kids met three markers, they were much healthier. So this is, kind of, I think, a hopeful thing that we can shoot for instead of concentrating, maybe, on what we’re limiting, which is important, but concentrate, what do we need to put in each day first. And they talk about nine to 11 hours of sleep. You know, and that seems easy enough. But if you have a child, teenager, with a phone in the bedroom and it’s, like, a electronic baby, you know, it’s, like, a digital baby. It’s, like, 1:00 buzz, 3:00 buzz, 5:00 buzz. They’re getting texts, they’re taught … You know, they’re not sleeping. So nine to 11 hours of sleep, no more, and even, can you imagine during COVID, but two hours or less of recreational screen time. So that digital candy that’s just for fun-

Jim: And that’s what’s so difficult,

Arlene: … two hours or less-

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: … and then 60 minutes of physical activity. I mean they’re kids.

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: So if you, kind of, think to yourself, “Okay, my kid needs to move. They can have a little bit of digital candy, but not too much, and then we need to get a good night’s sleep.” If you can even just get those three things in order and really focus on those three things, you’re gonna see a difference in your house.

Jim: That’s great, and those are good tips. And we’ll post those three online-

John: Excellent idea-

Jim: … John, let’s do that.

John:… yeah.

Jim: Uh, you share a story about Michael. And, uh, I don’t want to set it up. What … Who is Michael and what was his story as a young, as a teenager, I think.

Arlene: Yeah, he was a senior and he’s graduating from high school, so this is a exciting time. A party at his house and he only lasts at the party for a few minutes before he excuses himself and says, “Hey, I- I just … I’m gonna go in my room and play video games.” And then, you know, of course his mom’s, kind of, “Hey, it’s a party, come on down.” He said, “Uh- uh, if it’s a party for me, you know, I’d rather play video games,” ’cause what is he-

Jim: Oh- oh.

Arlene: … comfortable with, right? He’s comfortable gaming. That’s his comfort zone.

Jim: Right.

Arlene: And so the party ends, ’cause who wants to celebrate someone who’s not there?

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: And I think it’s so indicative of … The problem is when we’re so comfortable, and we only know social media, video gaming, and that’s where we feel comfort. We … That’s why you see so many kids who are depressed, have anxiety, because they’re not ready to socially interact with people-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Arlene: … to have fun, to have play, all those things that are so healthy for kids.

Jim: Yeah. You- you know, Gary, um, so often we’re hearing about, uh- uh, you know, the entrapment of screen time and all that. Uh- uh, parents have always been concerned about what their kids are doing, uh- uh, I think forever. And, uh, you know, whether it was watching too many movies, or- or wh- whatever it may have been, uh, before we had technology. So what is the allure? What- what are, uh, young people attracted to when it comes to technology? Why is it so addictive to them?

Dr. Chapman: Well I think there’s several things. But I think one of them is that, you know, like, in the gaming thing, uh, y- y- you- you get feedback, you know, you- you get rewarded, uh, you know, and you don’t know when you’re gonna get it. And it, and- and it just keeps you going.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Chapman: I think the other things is, that it’s just streaming all the time, it never stops. You know, when our kids came along, you know, this was many years ago, uh, we just had television. Well you can pretty easily say here are five programs, you know-

Jim: Right. (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: … you can choose two of them, and 30 minutes apiece, you know, each day. You can pretty well handle that. But, uh, with the screen it’s just constantly there, it doesn’t have an end to it. And, uh, so I think kids just get caught up in it. And what we were just talking about, the whole thing is they don’t learn social skills, and imagine what that’s gonna be like when they get to be an adult. I mean, you know, i- if a, if a kid through all of the high school time and all is playing games on, uh, on- on- online, he’s gonna be doin’ that when he’s 25 and married-

Jim: Right.

Dr. Chapman: … and it’s not gonna be well with the marriage, okay? I’m- I’m for marriages. (laughs)

Jim: Right. No, absolutely. And we hear from people that are experiencing that-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … right now. I mean a lot of women, uh, who, young married couples who are writing, or calling us, or emailing us-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … saying I’ve got a real problem in my marriage, and my husband spends most of the free-time after he gets home-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … gaming.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: And, you know, we’re gonna continue today and next time to talk about what can be done to help, especially young people, teenagers in this area. But, uh, let’s move for the parents, let’s move to the warning signs. When do we know, or when should we know that this has become an addiction? What are those warning signs and what- what should we be looking for?

Arlene: If you see your child is really moody, irritable, like more than usual, if you see, “Wow, they’re only happy, it seems like, when they’re gaming, or they’re on social media, or they’re holding a device. If you see, like, “Oh, I … The … My child used to love the piano, or used to love to play soccer, or used to hang out with the friends in the back yard, and now all of a sudden they’re, like ‘Nah, I’d rather just stay in my room.’” You know, so if you see this lack of interest in their, the activities that they like, you see that they are asking for more, and more, and more, right? And it’s … And there are negative consequences. There’s-

Jim: Right.

Arlene: … there’s friction in the house around this. So you might have … You know, think of it like your child could be a casual at-risk or addicted gamer, and here’s how you ch-, how you know. If you’re a casual gamer, you know, they pick up the game for 20 minutes, not a big deal. They g-, leave, they don’t just play for several days and then they pick it up. It’s really not a big deal in their life and you’re, like, “Awesome,” (laughs) right?

Jim: Right.

Arlene: The at risk is, “Okay, they’re supposed to play over the weekend, but every day they’re asking, “Mom, Dad, could I play, you know, just for half an hour? Mom, Dad, could I play for 15 minutes more?’” Now you’re thinking, like, “Oh, they’re gettin’, kind of, really interested in this.” And then your addicted child, of course, it’s, like, “Okay, we served dinner, like, four hours ago, and if you want it, it’s in the microwave.” You know, that you know they’re-

Jim: Hm.

Arlene: … checked out, you know. So, you can, kind of, see where your child is, ’cause- ’cause some kids can play and be okay-

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: … but then other kids can’t.

Jim: You know, uh, Gary, especially in that area of psychology, you know, something … well you both have studied. But in that regard, um, this was all promised to be a connection to enhance people’s connections with other people. The irony is, when you look at the research, people are lonelier, they’re more separated, even though they have more access to social media and those things that are supposed to connect people. But it hasn’t really worked out has it?

Dr. Chapman: I think social media is not very social- (laughs)

Arlene: That’s right.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … in reality. And I think it’s because it’s really an unreal world. I mean, what people putting on, like teenagers are putting on and posting, you know, are things. And so the k- kid looks at the other kid and say, “Oh man, look at that, I didn’t know he had a car already, you know? Well, my, uh, I might, uh … Hey, I don’t have a car,” you know. (laughs)

Jim: Right.

Dr. Chapman: They’re just seeing all this stuff, and comparing themselves with each other. And, uh, and consequently, you know, they feel, like, “Well they’re better than I am or they’re, you know, got more of this, or that, or the other thing.” And, uh, it- it’s not building rela-, it’s not building relationships.

Jim: Yeah, uh, the, uh, lack of- of community.

Arlene: Like, even think of what it’s called. You have a follower. And my daughter, Noel, she’s a freshman in high school, so, you know, that’s a ripe age to want social media and do all those things. So she’s not allowed to have it because I write this book Screen Kids, you know, so she’s-

Jim: (Laughs)

Arlene: … not allowed to have it. But she has told me, “You know, mom, I would rather have a real friend, in real life, sit next-

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: … to me, look at me, and say you’re loyal, you’re a good friend. I’d much rather have that, mom, than a 100 followers that I barely know. And, so, kids know the difference, and they think, they fall into that trap of, “Oh, if I have these followers, I’ll be happy.” But it’s this image management that is way too much for a girl, like to think, “Like, I’ve gotta manage my image,” and “How should I respond to that so that I’m popular, and how can I get more response?”

Jim: Hm.

Arlene: So, it’s all about response-

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: … following. It’s not about true friendship. And those friends … You know, my son Ethan, he also doesn’t have social media. He’s a junior. But he was talking about that there was this Facebook study where he had, some guy invited all of his followers, like 300 followers to a party, and just one guy showed up. And he was just saying, like, “You have this false sense of-

Jim: Friendship-

Arlene: … you have all these people-

Jim: … yeah.

Arlene: … in my life, and I’m really popular. But when it comes down to it, if you get sick, who’s coming to visit you?

Jim: Right.

Arlene: You know, it’s, like, nobody is coming to visit you.

Jim: Right, no commitment.

Arlene: So, to help our kids understand, they need real life friends.

Jim: Hm.

John: Yeah. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and our guests today are Arlene Pellicane and Dr. Gary Chapman. We’re talking about their book, Screen Kids: Five Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World. And, uh, you can get a copy of that book at our website. That’s, and our number is 800-A-FAMILY.

Jim: Let me ask both of you to share, uh, some ways that, uh, parents can model this. How do parents-

John: Hm.

Jim: … connect with their, uh- uh, children in order to look like, feel like this is what a normal relationship is all about. What can we do?

Dr. Chapman: Well, you know, Jim, I had a mother share this with me recently, because I had encouraged, in one of my meetings, why don’t you ask your teenager, “You know, I’m thinkin’ about how I could be a better mother and, uh, I’d like you to give me one idea of how I could be a better mother.”

Jim: Hm.

Dr. Chapman: And she said, “I was shocked when my daughter said to me, ‘Well, Mom, I feel like I don’t ever have your full attention. When I’m talkin’ to you, you’re always doin’ something. You’ve got the phone you’re looking at; you’ve got the computer you’re on. And I don’t ever feel like I have your full attention.’” And her mother said, “Oh, well I didn’t realize that.” You know, and we don’t realize that-

Jim: Sure.

Dr. Chapman: … so we, so as adults, we have to think in terms of our own use of technology-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … because we may be setting for them an example, and they’re just following our example when they, when they turn in that direction.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: But the kid wants to have a meaningful personal relationship with their parents. And that means j-, undivided attention-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … and you can’t do that and be messing with your phone.

Jim: You know, uh, Gary I think you were the one that suggested this a long time ago. In the marriage relationship, take some time, like, when you get home from work, both of you, one of you, whatever the situation is, and spend a little time together. And I’m- I’m parlaying that into your relationship with your children. It’s, I think, one of the … You know, I’m hopeful I don’t have many mistakes in my parenting, but I’m sure there’s more than I see. But one of the things I regret I didn’t do, having two boys two years apart, I tended to do everything together with them. “Hey, let’s go have breakfast together, let’s go do this together.”

Dr. Chapman: Oh.

Jim: ‘Cause they’re both boys and it was easy to bundle-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … you know-

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs)

Jim: … that way, if I can say it. And I, and I hear about other dads, particularly, who were able … Because they had daughters and sons.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: You know, they separated their time.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: And if I could redo one thing, that would be it, is to have that one-on-one time so we can look forward to it, spend time talking together, asking questions of each other. I would think that very marriage advice that you provide also applies to your kids.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, I really agree. Have a daily sit down and listen time. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: I mean tell me a couple of things that happened today, and how’d you respond to them?

Jim: Yeah, I-

Dr. Chapman: Did you see anybody angry today? Did you have to apologize today? Just what- what went on today, you know? Yeah, that- that, kind of … Well, I don’t … and you have to be sitting down. You can be-

Jim: Sure.

Dr. Chapman: … takin’ a walk together, but-

Jim: Right.

Dr. Chapman: … you’re sharing those things. That’s what builds relationships with children.

Jim: And it also models what human interaction is-

Dr. Chapman: Mm-hmm-

Jim: … supposed to look like-

Dr. Chapman: … absolutely.

Jim: … right, which is back to the very point.

Arlene: Yeah, you’ve got-

Jim: Have you done something like that Arlene?

Arlene: Well, yeah, it’s the idea of pivoting. So if you’re, uh, are looking at your device and a human being, you know, it could be a spouse, a child, uh, you know, a s-, a stranger, but, you know … If a human being comes to your air space, that’s common courtesy to look away from your device, look at them in the eye, and have some, kind of, like “Hey, how are you doing?” And what we’re seeing is, in families, we’re not pivoting from our devices. We’re l- … You know, think about if you are having a conversation, the qualitative difference. If you’re looking at each other, that’s a different feel then let’s say, you’re both staring at devices, you’re using the exact same words, but it feels very different. So be aware of your eyes today. Like, what are you looking at? When your child is there are you looking at the phone, but you’re saying, “Get your coat, it’s cold. Okay, we’re gonna leave in five minutes. Hey, go get your sister,” you know, and you’re not really looking at them. Your kids notice that. Now if you do that once in a while, that’s not a big deal.

Jim: Right, it’s a pattern.

Arlene: But day after day, moment after moment, every time your child refers to you, they see that your attention is on a device. They’re gonna get that message, as Dr. Chapman has said so well, that device is more important than me. And that’s, you know, there are so many kids. We think it’s the kids that have the problem, but there’s so many kids who are, like, “If my mom or dad would just stop checkin’ email and I would feel more loved.”

Jim: I think taking assess, an assessment of that is really good, because I’ve tried to do that. And I- I know of times when I’m talking with one of my boys and I get a ping. And they’re still talking to me and I’m, like, eyeing … Okay, who’s that from?

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs)

Jim: What’s person is it?

Arlene: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: Is it important? It does communicate what’s in front, and what’s in my hand is more important than the-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … the child in front of me.

Arlene: And you can have this conversation with your kids and, kind of, bust each other on it.

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: That’s, kind of, fun, because Lucy, my daughter, she’s 11 now, it’s harder with online school f- for us, because they’re 100% at home. So, I’m working. I’m not thinking, like, every time you walk in the room I have to pivot, you know, to look at you. But Lucy will say to me, “Mom, pivot- pivot,” you know.

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs)

Arlene: And I’ll have to pivot away from my desk-

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs)

Arlene: … and say, “Hey, Lucy, what’s goin’ on?”

Jim: It’s a good word.

Arlene: So, you, kind of, can remind each other, parents to children and children to parents.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Arlene: Give yourself that freedom.

Jim: Let me, uh, let me poke, uh- uh, the sensitive area for parents, because you, uh, point to a study that, um, s- said that 70% of children, uh, that are online have been exposed to pornography.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: I mean that’s something Focus on the Family has fought for years, and yet it doesn’t feel, uh, like we’re gaining ground. In fact, it feels like we’re losing-

Arlene: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … especially with the pervasive nature of technology today. You almost have to inoculate your children, talk about when this pops up here’s what you need-

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: … to do. Um, but speak to that. I mean, it’s almost, like … The analogy that pops in my head is, like, a fishing net. It used to be, uh, fishing poles out there tryin’ to get your kid, now it’s these big-

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: … dragnets-

John: Hm.

Arlene: That’s a good analogy.

Jim: … that are just scooping our kids up and introducing them to things that are wholly inappropriate.

Arlene: And this is one of the top reasons why my 16 year old son does not have a phone, because it’s, kind of, that idea of delaying that device as much as possible, because you know that once that device is accessible to your child, and once your child is introduced to all these things … I mean it’s natural to be curious and to want to do these things, but then it becomes so evil, and so distorted, and so shameful, and it’s such a trap for kids and for adults. And so, uh, one, I would say delay the device as much as possible, because you think you’re helping your child be safe, because you give them a phone so they can contact you. But you’re also giving them a- a way to get ahold of a really lot, uh, you know, a lot of bad stuff.

Jim: And what’s so … You know, again, what’s so difficult in the parenting role is it’s gonna be different for your 11, 12, 13-year-old compared to your 17, 18-year-old.

Arlene: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Jim: I mean I have an 18-year-old senior still at home.

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: So, y- you’re trying to equip them to think smartly.

Arlene: Also, I think it’s really important that if it comes up that you don’t panic about it, that you listen, and that it’s something okay to talk about, and that sex is something that you’re talking about with kids at a very young age now. And, you know, not long conversations. When I talk to my son about, you know, “Hey, all those YouTube videos, you know, you can really get into trouble.” He doesn’t want to talk to me about that for 10 minutes. But, you know, a short conversation, and make those conversations part of regular life, because it is something that your kids are gonna have to deal with and wrestle with.

Jim: Yeah, Gary, what does a screen smart and a screen safe home look like?

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, I think there, um, uh, numbers of things, uh, Jim. Uh, one is, there ought to be times and spaces in the house where we don’t have devices, and one of those I think is the mealtime-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … you know? Uh, we didn’t, and they, we don’t even have our phones with us, and we’re not, we’re not responding if we hear them in the other room, and the TV is not on. That the mealtime is a time for us talk to each other. And it can be one of the most meaningful things for kids. In fact, our kids look back and tell us, that’s one of the best memories they have of childhood is the talking-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … around the table, you know.

Dr. Chapman: And then, also, uh, the devices would not be in the, in their bedrooms. That they-

Jim: Definitely.

Dr. Chapman: … they ought to be collected somewhere by parents and they’re not in the bedroom. In the bedroom you can read a book if you like-

Jim: (Laughs)

Dr. Chapman: … before you go to sleep. Read as long as you want to before (laughs) you go to sleep, because we want them to learn to read, because that’s a very positive thing in terms of mental development and so forth. So, I think having those spaces where we don’t have screens, and where we don’t answer them if we hear them in the distance, is one thing. Uh, I think another thing is that we, uh, communicate to them some of the things that they’re going to encounter, perhaps, on there, like the bullying thing for example. That you may get some things that are said to you that are gonna be hurtful, and I want you to come and tell me about them.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: When you see those come in, tell me about them, let’s talk about them. Because it can be devastating to a child when they get those, kind of, comments. And if they don’t share them with their parent and get some affirmation from the parent, they can get sucked into that, you know, very- very much.

Jim: Yes. Uh, the other, the other, um, observation that we have is that I think the CDC released a report not long ago that 14 to 24 year olds, that 25% of those, uh, people have had suicidal ideation, meaning they’ve thought about killing themselves. That’s- that’s 25%, it’s several million people that that represents. How much … Have they been able to determine, uh, h- h- how influential screen time is, and that sense of anxiety and depression?

Arlene: I think it is a huge factor, because if a child growing up feels the security and the closeness of their family, if they are successful in school, you know, that they feel like they can do it, they’re gonna be okay, you know, they’re gonna feel okay. So, something’s missing, something’s not happening. And I think what you’re seeing is, from birth to 10, instead of kids being attached to their parents, they get attached to that iPad that’s entertaining-

Jim: Wow-

Arlene: … and amusing.

Jim: … that’s convicting.

Arlene: And they … Then … And then as parents, we’re busy, so we think, “Well, at least they’re safe and, you know, they’re okay, and they’re just sitting right here.” So, we’re physically present with our kids, but we are emotionally distant.

Jim: Hm.

Arlene: And I think as you grow up and that becomes very common, so you think, “Well this is just the way it is.” And then you have all these kids who don’t have that right basis for judging how is my life meaningful? Am I-

Jim: Yeah.

Arlene: … safe, am I- I … I mean I- I’ve had kids that look so good on the outside, you know, say, “I’ve been thinking about killing myself.” I think, “Where does this come from,” you know?

Jim: Yeah, it’s almost epidemic-

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: … actually. And so, we need to start, uh, pointing out the- the, those things that are, at least, uh, you know, contributing-

Arlene: Yeah.

Jim: … to these thoughts and ideas.

Jim: Gary, how can we ensure the emotional health and well-being of our children? I mean, that- that’s a bold question right at the end-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … here. But what are those things that we should be doing?

Dr. Chapman: Well, obviously, Jim, you’d expect me to say, and I would say, “Speak their love language.”

Arlene: That’s right. (laughs)

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs)

Jim: Right, that is perfect. You’re the man, you’re the love-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … language man.

Arlene: And hug your child, not the iPad.

Jim: But what- what about that 13-year-old who says,” Yeah, dad, my love language is gaming.”

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: (Laughs)

John: Or a phone, yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And you say, “Let’s see, I don’t see that in the five.”

Jim: Yeah, that’s not in the five-

Dr. Chapman: (Laughs)

Jim: … right.

Arlene: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: No, I do think the child’s deepest emotional need is the need to feel loved by the parents.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And if that child genuinely feels loved by the parent, they’re, first of all, gonna be more open to your instruction and they’re gonna be less rebellious because they feel secure in your love.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: So, learning a child’s primary love language, giving heavy doses of that, and then sprinkling in the other four languages, because we want the child to learn how to receive and give love in all five languages. This is the healthiest adult.

Jim: Hit those five so the parents know them.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, one of them is words of affirmation, you know, and that’s not hard to do. And then there’s gifts, and that can be difficult with teenagers because they can say that’s my love language and they want, “I want everything.” But, uh, you, as you say, “I love you too much to give you everything,” but gifts. And then there’s quality time. Yeah, and we were talkin’ about that earlier and givin’ them your full attention. And then there’s acts of service, doing things for them. Helping them fix a bicycle chain, or mending a doll dress, or anything. Cooking a meal and all of that. And then physical touch, affirming physical touch.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And each child, one of those is more important than the others. I call it their primary language, so you give heavy doses of that, and, uh, and then you speak the others. If that child feels love, they’re gonna be more open to whatever guidelines and rules that you set up regarding technology.

Jim: And, uh, we’re gonna explore more of that connection next time, Gary. But I- I think at the end here, for that parent that gets frustrated because, you know, they’re- they’re looking out for the best interest and safety of the child, and so they could be pretty demanding in what that child can and cannot do. And, of course, that child translates that as “I don’t think you love me.” I mean, I could hear that right now, right? So, let’s get into that next time and talk about how a parent does that balancing act, that high-wire act between I know what’s right for you, and I love you, but you can never do this again- (laughs)

Arlene: That’s right.

Jim: … ’cause that’s a very complicated parenting mask.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Can we do that?

Dr. Chapman: Yes.

Arlene: Of course.

Jim: Okay.

John: Well I love these kinds of programs, Jim, because they’re so informative and so helpful for all of us as parents.

Jim: They are, and that’s exactly why Focus on the Family is here. Uh, we want to give you the tools you need to be an effective and loving parent, to raise the next generation so they can be strong flourishing adults who stand for Christ. Uh, we’re here for you to do that. Uh, not just on the air with programs like this, but with reliable, practical help and resources. You know, real families in crisis reach out to Focus on the Family each and every day for help, and we’re grateful. Uh, you can offer them tangible hope by partnering with us. Whether it’s couples on the verge of divorce, parents who need biblical advice, expectant mothers considering abortion, or families who are simply struggling, you can offer them practical solutions through your support of Focus on the Family. Your gift today will share the healing and hope of Jesus Christ as you support our broadcast, podcast, counseling resources, online and print articles, life-changing events like Hope Restored, or lifesaving efforts like Option Ultrasound. In fact when you donate today, a gift of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of the book by Arlene and Dr. Chapman that we mentioned today, Screen Kids, as our way of saying thank-you for supporting the ministry of Focus on the Family.

John: Donate and get your copy of Screen Kids: Five Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World at, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back tomorrow for more of this conversation with Dr. Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane, as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.




Today's Guests

Cover image of the book, Screen Kids, by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane

Screen Kids: 5 Relational Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World

Receive the book Screen Kids: Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World with your donation of any amount!

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