Tech-Wise Parents: Are You Addicted?
In this digital world, how can parents train their children in wise tech usage if they are addicted to their phones themselves? Arlene Pellicane teaches some wise tech-management habits that parents can adopt and then pass along to their children.
About the Guest
- Take the "Cool, Calm, and Connected" Quiz from the book by Arlene Pellicane. https://www.familylife.com/podcasts/familylife-this-week/calm-cool-and-connected-quiz-arlene-pellicane-familylife-this-week/
Arlene Pellicane teaches some wise tech-management habits that parents can adopt and then pass along to their children.
Tech-Wise Parents: Are You Addicted?
Michelle: I tend to get lost in the rabbit hole of information on my phone; do you? Is this 24/7 access really helping us? Here’s Arlene Pellicane.
Arlene: I put systems in place so that I will go online with purpose. It might mean using a timer—like saying, “Hey, I'm going to go on social media for 15 minutes and do it, guilt-free, and have a great time—see all my friends’ babies. It’s going to be great!” But after the 15 minutes is done, you're done; because you had a purpose in it. It wasn't like, “Oh, my goodness, I've been here three hours; and I feel so guilty that I've done this.”
Michelle: We’re going to talk about wisdom, knowledge, and our cell phones. Arlene Pellicane joins me on this edition of FamilyLife This Week, so stay tuned.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, it was a couple of weeks ago—I found myself on a couch, talking to my therapist, because I was having this problem dealing with an addiction. But my therapist isn’t really a therapist; she’s really more of a friend. I’m talking about Arlene Pellicane, and she’s an author and speaker. She’s written a book called Calm, Cool, and Connected. Here’s our conversation.
Michelle: Arlene, I've got to admit I have a problem.
Arlene: What is your problem?—come tell. I'm here to listen!
Michelle: I figured—I figured I could come to you, and you could help me out. Because, after all, you have written several books: Thirty-one Days to—fix something; Thirty-one Days to Be a Happy Mom; Thirty-one Days to Be a Happy Wife; Thirty-one Days to Be a Happy Husband; Thirty-one Days for a Younger You. So you can obviously fix something pretty fast!—is what I'm thinking. [Laughter]
Arlene: It's all about hope and having a few concrete steps that make you feel like, “I am succeeding in this area”; and then the momentum just builds. So talk to me, my dear.
Michelle: Okay; my life is feeling very frazzled, and my brain just won't shut down. I think I have narrowed it down to a few reasons, but one of the reasons is because of this little device that I carry in my hip pocket. And here's one thing that I noticed yesterday: I was in traffic; I was at a stoplight. I was checking my email; because I was thinking, “Oh, no, somebody might be emailing me,”—at a stop light. I'm in a town that is only 100,000 people; I will be home in 10 minutes!
And then, last night, I woke up at midnight. I checked to see if someone had contacted me in the last two hours. I have a problem; is this something you can help me with?
Arlene: I can help you with this, first of all, by saying you are not that strange. [Laughter]
Michelle: Good! I’m not the only one!
Arlene: This is something that a lot of people—a lot of people do this, including said author. A lot of it is being mindful and aware of, “Okay; what am I doing?” And then realizing, “I don't need to do that.” Because here's the deal—these are little habits that we've picked up, just like how you throw your keys in a certain place; or maybe, you throw them all over your house—and that's your habit—you know? But you just have this little habit.
I have done the same exact thing at red lights and had to tell myself: “Arlene, do not touch your phone! You do not have to touch your phone at the red light to see if you have a new text or an email.” It's almost like retraining yourself: “Do not do that!”
Arlene: And I think that there is freedom when we realize that we are fine to live without our phone—like we don't need it every second of the day.
And then, of course, it's used for great things—like, when you really do need to contact someone, it's super-duper helpful. But to be checking it every ten minutes?—that's not helpful. And that's why we've got a break those habits and retrain ourselves.
And it could be just one thing at a time—so we had this conversation and you go: “You know what? I'm taking that red light back! And every time I am at a red light, I will not touch my phone. Instead, I'm going to say: ‘Lord, I'm just going to stop right here; and you know? I want to praise you for this that happened today.’”
Next red light: “Lord, it's me again!” [Laughter] Retraining myself not to touch my phone: “And now, I want to tell You my concern…” Third red light: “Okay, Lord, it's me again. What in the world are we going to make for dinner?” I mean, you're turning that, now, into a conversation with God; because I think those little moments in the day, where we used to always wait—you know, you have to wait in line at the post office; you've got to wait for a child to pick them up.
Arlene: Those times used to be quiet times, where you were, perhaps, listening to God.
Arlene: You were maybe reflecting on something that happened to you during your day. But now, all those little gaps are, “Let me check my Instagram feed,” “Hey, let me check if someone emailed me,” “Let me check a text,” “Oh, my word! Look at this news headline,” and then, we have no time for that self-reflection or for praying to God. I think that's why we are feeling so frazzled.
Michelle: Well, and I even remember when I had a flip phone—so this was what?—like eight or nine years ago—sitting in a doctor's office, waiting for my name to be called, memorizing Scripture.
Michelle: And now, I don't—I don't do that at all!
Michelle: I take out the phone! And I had to make myself sit down, waiting in the doctor's office a few weeks ago, and take out a book. I have to mindfully say, “Now, you're going to put a book in your purse; and you're going to take a book with you.”
Michelle: But breaking those habits is so hard! I've even tried saying, “Okay; you can give yourself a piece of chocolate if you do this,”—you know, kind of like potty-training a young child? [Laughter]
Arlene: Yes! Yes.
Michelle: “You could get a piece of…”; and that doesn't work either; because I'm like, “I don't need the chocolates.” [Laughter]
Arlene: That’s so funny!—I love that. And think about it: “We are adults.”
Arlene: And if we, as adults, are like “Okay; having a little bit of issue with using this a little bit too much,” how is a ten-year-old, a five-year-old, a sixteen-year-old going to be like, “Oh, let me exhibit some self-control and put away my phone”? You know, it just shows you how difficult it is and how it is wired to bring us back, over and over again.
Michelle: So help us with these habits; help us to reframe our mind, because that's what we need to do!
Arlene: Yes; so the first habit that I talk about in my book, Calm, Cool, and Connected, is that “H” in “habit”; and it stands for “Hold down the off button.” It's this idea that sometime during your day, on a regular basis, your phone goes to bed—and whether that is it goes to bed, literally, at night—like not being charged right next to you on your bedside, like 70 percent of the population—but you, if you're not an emergency worker, you actually charge it in a different room; so it's not the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see in the morning.
Even just that habit of physically changing the location of your phone, and putting it in another room if you can, is so much nicer. Like, if you're married, it's so much nicer to look at your spouse and say: “Oh, good night, honey. I love you!” instead of, like, [Inaudible sound], and they see your back, while you're checking your email for one last time; right? [Laughter] I mean, it's just a totally different picture! So charge your phone out of your bedroom if you can.
Another “Hold down the off button” habit is meal time. What's your habit during meal time? If you're with family members, then my strong suggestion/recommendation would be no screens—no screens at the table, so no iPads; no phones—you know, people aren't distracted.
They did a survey of 6,000 kids. They said their number one complaint was, “My mom…” or “My dad look at their phone in the middle of a conversation that we are having.” So what happens over dinner? You know, people are finally talking; but then, “Beep! Beep! Beep!” and all of a sudden, you're on your phones.
Arlene: And it's like, “Well, that destroyed that!” So turn off the off button first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and at meal times. That's a great place to start.
Michelle: And I like the fact that we are, actually—you say, “Turn it off”; because I can put it on vibrate. I can still hear when the phone call is coming in,—
Michelle: —or when the text is coming in, or the notifications. I go there instantly—I'm like: “Oh, that's my notification for Marco Polo. Someone is talking to me right now! I can't miss out!”
Arlene: Yes; right. [Laughter] And that's part of it—is even putting it out of sight—because they've even done studies where two people are talking. If there's no phone in sight, they report feeling very heard and understood—like, “They got it.” But if a phone is right next to them, and no one even touches it, but it's just right next to them, they report less satisfaction with the conversation—like: “It was more shallow. The person was kind of distracted. They weren't really listening.” That's just the presence of the phone in your life, not even engaging with it. How interesting!
I think you're right that, when you're sitting, even alone—and you're with a book or alone with your thoughts—that that's a much different experience than when you're on your phone.
Michelle: Arlene, in your book, you talk about how rapidly knowledge and communication is growing. How is that changing our lives? I'm just thinking of space and different things like that, with shutting off our phone; but how is that changing things for us?
Arlene: You know, just think—when you used to get information, you'd go to a library, and you'd have to look for a little index card, and you'd have to grab a book.
Arlene: Or you'd have a big, huge set of encyclopedias; you know?—and there were a few paragraphs about each topic. But now, you know, you can Google® something: “World War Two,” and you could be there, for years, looking at that information; [Laughter] so there's so much information. I think that can be so overwhelming for us that we feel like we're drinking out of this fire hose.
Arlene: And I think that's why it is important to realize that: “You know what? Let me go online for the things I need, but then let me get off,” because the truth is—you could be there, endlessly, finding all this information. But the sad thing, if we really think about it, we might have much more knowledge—but look at our culture around us; look at our homes—do we have more wisdom?
It's like we may have a lot of information about life, which makes us feel all powerful; “You know, now, I don't need all these opinions. I can just Google something; and now, I have the answers to them.” I feel very powerful and very knowledgeable.
However, how wise am I in the decisions I'm making? You see, without godly counsel—you know, without God in your life—it's very hard to make those wise decisions.
Michelle: And I'm also wondering, in your research and in your studying, what about retention? How are we retaining knowledge that we're learning off of our phones or off our tablets. Are we retaining it?
Arlene: What is super interesting. For those of you with kids—little kids—listen up!
They find that the things you take by hand—that you remember those more. If you're in a classroom, and you're scribbling down notes about what your teacher is saying, it's much more likely that you'll remember what they say; because you've written it down versus someone who's got their laptop open and is probably scrolling and looking at different things while the teacher is talking—[Laughter]—
Arlene: —for one. And then, even typing out notes, they don't retain it as well as if you were to write it out.
Even, you know, comparing a paper book with reading an e-book—you know, because they’re words on a page. They're finding that, when you're on paper, you have more senses engaged—like you have touch/smell—and you can kind of remember, “Oh, that was that quote that was on the left-hand corner of that one page.” You can thumb through the book, and you could actually find it again; whereas, in an e-book, you just can't do that—it's like, “I can't find that!”—it doesn't have that reference.
In a paper book, you have this feel like, “Oh, I'm halfway done through the book,”—you know—“I’m just gonna plow through.” In an e-book, you don't have that sense of space of, “Where am I?” in the book. And then, a very important thing is, when you're reading online, you're just more distracted; because there might be a little ad that pops up; there might be a hyperlink to something else that's related but,4 then, that gets you down a completely different rabbit hole.
Arlene: So the retention is much stronger with old-fashioned paper, and it will be interesting to see how schools find this out in the decades ahead.
Michelle: Yes; so interesting.
Okay; so we dove into one of those habits, which was “Hold down the off button.” What's another one of the habits that will help us?
Arlene: Another habit is the “A”; and it's “Always put people first.” This is the idea that: “You've got your device; but when a human being enters your airspace, that device is, all of a sudden, second; and that person, no matter how often you see that person in your life, is now the most important person or thing in the room, not your device.” If you're on your phone, and your child comes up to you, you pivot away from that phone; look them in the eye. And what this is communicating is, “You are more important than my phone,” because what a lot of us are getting is: “Okay; I'm talking to you, and I guess you're listening; but your body language—you're looking at your phone right now.”
And so, the habit is: “Always put people first.” And what that looks like is pivoting away from your device. Adults are so guilty of this! My husband was at a birthday party for one of my daughter's kids, so he doesn't know anybody. He was like walking around, trying to meet the parents, you know, etcetera. He is like: “It was so weird! I'm talking to this man, and the whole time he was looking at his phone. He just kind of answered like one-word answers, and he was just staring at his phone the whole time.” And my husband was saying, “That’s strange!”
In a social environment, it used to be very common that people would shake hands, look each other in the eye, and talk to each other. That wouldn't be that uncommon; but he's finding that, even with adults, that they're acting in strange ways—not putting people first—but putting devices first.
Michelle: We need to get into a few more of the other habits, but we need to take a quick two-minute break. Once we come back, we're going to finish that up. We're also going to talk about just what technology does—the good part of technology and the good part of these phones. So stay tuned. We'll be back in just two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill, and I’m talking with Arlene Pellicane today. Actually, I get to see her! Arlene, I’ve known you for seven or eight years. Arlene is such a neat lady—so fun. And with a Zoom connection—Zoom connections can do so much.
Arlene, thank you for joining me. We've gone through the habit of how to turn off the phone. We've talked about, you know, being face to face/being aware of the humans in the room. And what was that “A”?
Arlene: The habit is: “Always put people first.”
Michelle: Always put people first.
Arlene: And you're right: the person in the room comes before the device in your hand.
Michelle: Yes; yes. Okay; so what is the next habit?
Arlene: The “B” is “Brush daily,”—live with a clean conscience.
Arlene: And it's the idea of, you know, you brush your teeth every day; hopefully, you do! Being on the internet now, there are so many ways that you can stumble, whether it's shopping, whether it's pornography, whether it's wasting time at work. There are a gazillion things you can misstep on when you're online.
Michelle: Oh, yes!
Arlene: Just having that practice of, you know, as in the Lord's Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
“Lord, is there something I've said, online, that really should have been said in person?—I need to go back to that person and talk to them.”
“Lord, was I part of this ugly, uncivil conversation on social media?—I need to ask forgiveness for that, and I need to not do that.”
“Lord, have I been watching pornography? Lord, do I need help with that?”
Just that brushing, daily, of asking God: “Create in me a clean heart. Are You pleased with my online life?”
The truth is, you know, all these things used to be—if it were, let's say, pornography—it used to be that you'd have to sneak out of the house, and you'd have to physically go somewhere. It was just this big deal. And of course, now, a ten-year-old can access this in their pocket; and then we give them a phone that's with them all the time. And what kind of temptation is that?!—you know?
That's why I am an advocate for not giving your kids a smartphone when they're young; but for us, as adults, and for our kids—to teach them: “You know what? The forgiveness is there; but we've got to just constantly see, ‘Lord, is what I'm doing online pleasing to You?’”
Michelle: That's a really good point, but I've got to ask about the ten-year-old, who—okay; so you and your husband have decided not to give cellphones to your children.
Arlene: Yes; that is right.
Arlene: [Laughing] This is a whole other half hour!
Michelle: Well, it is; but we’ll get back to the other habits, but I just want to interject a little bit here. How did you have those conversations when your kids come home from school and say: “Our friends have cell phones! Our friends get to call their parents!”
Arlene: Of course!
Michelle: How do you have those conversations with your children?
Arlene: I have to tell you, Michelle, I love that my kids do not have phones! They are in fourth grade, seventh grade, and ninth grade; so they're pretty old. They are pretty much the last hold-outs, especially my older ones.
Arlene: But here's the thing—ever since they were kids, we've always talked about how: “Hey, you're not going to have a phone. The rest of the people, they're going to have phones, but you won't,”—like they've always known it! And they've known that if they asked for it, it's going to be a “No” and, maybe, thought about when they get their driver's license.
Now, we are not anti-tech people. We have many iMacs in the house for, like, my husband's work, for my work, for school. They have tablets that they can use for their homework. They use my phone to text their friends, so those things are there. It's not like: “Okay; we live under a rock,” and “You're not allowed to touch any of those things,” I feel like they get it.
They know what these things do, but they also understand that we believe the benefits of them not owning it—not becoming addicted; not having, you know, pornography or whatever bad things so easily accessible—that that is going to bless their life. And then, later, when they're adults, like all of us, they can stare at their phones as long as they want to! [Laughter]
Michelle: Right. Okay; let's move on to the next habit that we need to have. What is that?
Arlene: Yes; the “I” is: “I will go online with purpose.” It is this idea that you could just spend hours online. You start with a purpose but, then, you're like, “Oh, that article looks so interesting.” And before you know it, you're totally somewhere else.
So even—this is actually funny. I actually have this little post-it note on my computer. It says, “What am I here to do?” It is this idea that: “Before you touch your phone,”/”Before you start your emails,”—you're like: “What am I here to do? I'm here to answer emails,” “Great. Answer emails, and then leave.”
When you're on your phone—this is super important: “What am I here to do? I'm here to send this person a text to reply.” “Great!” Once you send it, it's like a hot potato: “I'm done.” Because what tends to happen——we send the text we have to and, then, we're like: “Oh, I'm already here. Let me look at this—So-and-so sent me a message.” It's just this idea: “What am I here to do?”
I was at a college recently. I saw a young man, who had a phone, and a little leather notebook about the same size of this phone right with it and held together. I was like, “What is that?” He said, “On my notebook, I write down what I'm going to do; and then I do it on my phone and, then, I put it all back in my pocket.” Can you imagine the restraint, or the wisdom, or the whatever of that young, probably 20-year-old guy? I was like, “You're kidding; you do that?”
Arlene: It's just that idea of: “I go with purpose. I use my phone with purpose. I know I can waste a lot of time here, and I don't want to; so I put systems in place so that I will go online with purpose.” It might mean using a timer, like saying: “Hey! I’m going to go on social media for 15 minutes and do it, guilt-free—have a great time; see all my friends’ babies—it is going to be great.”
Arlene: But after, when the 15 minutes is done, you're done; because you had a purpose in it. It wasn't like, “Oh, my goodness; I've been for three hours; and I feel so guilty that I've done this.”
Michelle: That is a really good point: set a timer. I need to do that. I need to put that—I need to put that in as a habit. Oh, my goodness; that's a really good point!
Okay; so the “T” of habit. What is that one?
Arlene: That is: “Take a hike!” It means: “Get yourself in nature.”
Arlene: You know, the child of yesteryear was: “Go to your room!”—that was the punishment.
Michelle: Right; right.
Arlene: And today, it's like, “Go outside!” You know, the kid’s like: “I don't want to go outside! I’m playing my video game. Don't make me leave my room!”—you know.
It is this idea that the glory of God is seen in the heavens; it's in walking through trees and forests; it's in seeing the ocean; it's in being outdoors. Even for adults—like if we're always hunkered down in our little desk, with all our screens surrounding us—it's not restoring. Whenever the weather permits, get yourself outside—whether it's a quick walk around the block/whether it's just a breath of fresh air—but whenever weather permits, get yourself out there for a few minutes.
Make that a rhythm of your life that, at some point during the weekend, let's say, that you go outside; that you have some kind of outdoor activity, because that is so, so restoring to people.
Michelle: One thing, as you're talking, especially, about restoring—and just how we are restoring by just taking a hike/getting outside—it makes me wonder about how we use technology.
On the flip side, there's a little bit of me that's almost hyperventilating, going, “I would need to take a paper bag with me if I left my phone.”
Arlene: Right; correct; exactly. [Laughter] That is Nomophobia—it is.
Michelle: I'm just—I'm just being human here. [Laughter]
Arlene: Yes; totally. You know, they have a thing for that—it's nomophobia, which is the fear of being without your cell phone. They've done studies on that—
Arlene: —so you're not alone. You could go out for your walk and your paper bag—you'll get better! [Laughter]
Michelle: You started off our conversation talking about the freedom that not having our phone with us gives us—the freedom! I remember a friend, who—it was just before Christmas time—and they had switched phones. His phone died, and her phone—they just didn’t get it working right—so they couldn’t receive phone calls; they couldn’t send texts—nothing going, back and forth, with communication. Yet, they didn’t get it fixed right away; because he said, “We found ourselves enjoying our family and, actually, having family time and not feeling caught up in what everybody else was doing.”
Arlene: Isn't that funny?
Michelle: Oh, yes; that’s really true!
Arlene: Yes; you could even take the inconveniences of your life—like if your phone breaks or whatever—and leverage it that way; see what life is like without it.
Michelle: The first day is full of panic; and the second day, you start relaxing; and by the third day, you're like, “It's good!”
Arlene: Yes; exactly. [Laughter]
Michelle: Well, Arlene, our time has ended, and I haven't asked all my questions.
I just feel like you are a mine of wisdom that I could just continue to ask questions on rearing kids and, well, you could probably fix me in 31 days! [Laughter] But thank you so much for your time. This has been a joy! So, thank you.
Arlene: Thank you, Michelle, so much for having me. It's been great to talk.
Michelle: That was my conversation with Arlene Pellicane. I hope you got as much out of it as I did. We do have a link to her quiz that is: “Calm, Cool, and Connected: How Calm, Cool, and Connected are you?” We’ll have a link on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. It deals with questions like this: “Have you ever changed vacation plans because of Wi-Fi availability?” Or listen to this: “Have you ever opted to watch TV, play video games, or answer emails on your own rather than interact with a friend or family member?” Those are just two of the questions on the Calm, Cool, and Connected quiz from Arlene Pellicane.
Can you believe it?—June is almost gone! If you have kids, they’ve been out of school for a few weeks, and you’ve been trying to balance the summer activities and the extra time they have on their hands. Well, moms and dads, just what do you do?! What is your summer supposed to look like? Next week, Tracy Lane is going to be with us. She’s going to talk about summer, and how to make your summer count when your kids are out of school and have that extra time on their hands. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening today! I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” today to Justin Adams, who has provided the system that we record all of these programs on; and to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams also is our mastering engineer for today’s show, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator. But we will not forget Keith Lynch, who was here when he recorded Arlene’s and my conversation.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today in Little Rock, Arkansas, 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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