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In the podcast:
02:03 – Fast-moving change – good or bad?
04:26 – The effects on humans
06:31 – Some courses of action
11:39 – How much is too much?
14:16 – When things have gone too far
18:16 – Reining things in
23:17 – Can you push things too far?
26:22 – Fave parental controls
28:28 – Dealing with a changing field
29:50 – Can restriction have a downside?
32:53 – Top recommended action steps
Imagine how much more effective your business could be with some help from James’s personal coaching…
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is Episode 622. And we’re talking about how to navigate the changing digital world. And I brought along a special guest, Marc Groman. Welcome.
Marc: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be on the show.
James: Well, Marc, you’re an expert in digital technology and the way that people are using technology. You’ve got a background of privacy, and you worked for the White House at some point.
Marc: Yes, that’s right.
James: And you’ve got a podcast called Their Own Devices. And I thought it’d be really interesting to talk about what it’s like being a parent with the change in digital technology. And I’m also interested in what you’ve got to say about privacy and the way that people are using technology. Listeners to this particular podcast will be familiar with my my own point of view on this. They’ve read my book, Work Less, Make More – in the end of the first chapter, I talk about a big way to get more time back in your life is to start turning off all the notifications and spending less time on your favorite social media platform. I think society has really changed dramatically from when I was a kid, and I’m not so sure that it’s going in a positive direction. But I’m really interested in your point of view on that.
Fast-moving change – good or bad?
Marc: Great. Well, thank you again for having me on the show. So it’s clear that innovative new digital technology is evolving at an incredibly fast pace. And that is actually one of the challenges that we all deal with, that as soon as we think we understand a platform, a device or technology, others are onto something new. And that’s including our children.
So this digital world, you know, the interconnected world where we have 24/7 access to all this content – much of which is frankly, amazing, in my view – but that 24/7 access always on, that has been a game changer in terms of parenting, and as you pointed out, in terms of society. And so we’re going to have to get a better handle on it. And I would suggest that it’s not all bad. In other words, I’m not looking ahead at technology and our future as a pessimist. I think we have work to do, but I’m optimistic that we’re sort of experiencing a shift now, where we’re first starting to understand some of the negative implications of what we’ve built and designed. And that discussion is happening, certainly here in the US, at a much more robust pace. And that, for me, is a positive sign.
James: Yeah, I think a recurring theme on this particular show is from our guests – we’re hearing about technology, we’re hearing about how things are changing rapidly. For example, in 10 years from now, they say a good chunk of the jobs that kids are in university for right now won’t even exist. So I certainly imagine that people feel like they need to keep pace with technology.
There’s so many aspects to this. I was reading a research recently about the unintended side effects of online dating, and that is that it’s easier to find a new partner than it used to be. I’m seeing, when you go out and about into the public, people seem just absolutely fixated on their small screens.
Marc: Well, that’s right.
The effects on humans
James: They’re not talking to each other anymore. Have you seen that people are actually changing the way that they operate as a human, now that they’re getting these little dopamine releases and perhaps have shorter attention spans?
“You have more interaction and engagement with your phone than you often do with other human beings.”
Marc: So in that question, you teed up numerous different issues. So let’s sort of take them one by one. There’s no question that people, and that means adults and children alike, are engaging with their devices for hours upon hours every day. And that means that you have more interaction and engagement with your phone than you often do with other human beings. And that you can see in almost any context.
And in fact, you can see it on a school bus where, you know, I’m probably in your age range, and I recall going to school on a big yellow school bus here in the US. And it was noisy and rambunctious and we were throwing things at each other. And the bus driver was yelling, “Quiet down!” In 2018, that bus ride is silent – shockingly, and maybe eerily, silent – because every kid on the school bus is face down, looking at a device. And that change is potentially not one for the better. And it’s causing a lot of parents and a lot of people concern about the next generation’s ability to interact, socialize and engage face to face.
But that doesn’t mean necessarily that technology is bad. It means that we now need to engage more actively. And whether that means as a parent, teaching our children how to have a healthy, positive relationship with technology, or monitoring our own behavior, which I’ve started to do more and more. You mentioned earlier, turning off notifications. I’ve turned them off on everything. And I’ve taken some other steps. And so we have to moderate our own behavior online, and we have to help our children learn that there’s a certain amount of time that is beneficial. And there’s times when we should be in a device-free, tech-free zone, and actually, God forbid, talking to each other, playing a board game or reading a book.
Some courses of action
James: Give me some examples of what you’ve done as the next level from turning off notifications. Because I think this is probably the single most important productivity discussion.
Marc: Right. So, for example, I personally have an iPhone. And in the last update of the operating system, there’s now an option called Screen Time. And I use that not only on my own phone, but on my children’s phone. And that Screen Time allows me to see how much time I actually spend on my device, and how I’m allocating that time. I’m a believer in parental controls on devices, and there are different flavors and versions. But I can shut off my son’s phone at 9 pm, which I do. So there’s no temptation for my 13-year-old to bring it or smuggle it into his bedroom, or try and check a text. It is off.
So I use Screen Time; I turn off notifications on things like YouTube, which for my son and our household, is a tremendous issue, where he could binge watch YouTube, and it would be videos of others playing games, and he could watch that somehow, for hours. And so we have things like, I have shut off auto scroll, or autoplay, so that when one video ends, the next video does not start automatically – you actually have to affirmatively make a selection. Because those kinds of features like notifications and autoplay, the beeping, the buzzing of our devices, they are designed specifically to keep us engaged or get us hooked. And so we have to be responsible to make decisions to shut those features off. So those are some of the steps in our house.
Also, we have rules about, no devices are charged in a bedroom. And so again, there’s no temptation at night either to use it or to, you know, get a notification, because, you know, a teenager will send something at all hours. And so devices out of the bedroom are another rule in our household.
James: Yeah, I think it’s a good one. And maybe around meal times?
Marc: We have a no devices at the table rule. Because, for a while, we were more lenient. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t great myself. You know, we have to be good role models if we want and expect our children to be good, responsible digital citizens. And so if we’re telling our children that “You can’t be on your device, you are on it too much,” and yet, we are always on our devices, constantly checking our own texts and emails, the kids are going to follow that, irrespective of what we say. And so we don’t allow devices at the table, because that eliminates the temptation for mom and dad just as much as it does for the kids. And parents and adults sometimes have those same issues. So dinner time is a device-free time, it’s a device-free zone, and we stick with that.
James: It’s probably like eating if you want to change your eating habits, maybe you all have to do it as a family.
Marc: Right. Right, right, right.
“Self-regulation is almost a lost art.”
James: You know, I was quite shocked when some people were saying they put devices on their browser to lock out things, and what you’re talking about with Screen Time. I have noticed that feature on my iPhone, it seems to be called Moments, it shows me where I’m spending time. I think self-regulation is almost a lost art, the discipline of of being able to regulate yourself. And probably the technology companies and the way that they’re engineering these things is stacking it against you.
Marc: That’s right. But at least here in the United States, we’ve seen push back from parents. And that’s one of the things that prompted changes like Screen Time in iOS 12 from Apple, and changes to other features in various platform settings.
And I think this recognition that we’re facing a generation-wide issue is one of the reasons why this podcast that I just started in November, called Their Own Devices has hit a nerve. And it has really resonated with people in a way that I had hoped for, but wasn’t certain. And it’s resonated with moms and dads of different ages, and with kids as young as four or five, you know, all the way up to college age. Because parents are observing an evolution of conduct and behavior that parents find troubling. And trying to decide what is that line – when has healthy or productive use of technology shifted to something that is problematic, something that is approaching what we call problematic media use, or even in some contexts, addiction – knowing when that’s an issue is difficult.
And the other issue we face as parents – and this is not new – I mean, teenagers are programmed to take risks. Teenagers are not supposed to have good judgments. I won’t share with you everything I did in high school where, you know, let’s just say I broke a rule or two myself, but I couldn’t do it in front of the whole world. And I couldn’t do it online. And that’s what’s different. And so parents have to pay attention and understand where our kids are online, and what they’re doing, even more so than keeping track of screen time, meaning, how much time do my children spend on screens. It’s much more important to think about what are they doing online when they have the screen, as opposed to how long. That’s really the key debate.
How much is too much?
James: What would you say would be the maximum time that someone should spend on there? Like you said, it’s not such a quotient. Is it basically, is every waking hour too much?
Marc: Well, let’s step back. First of all, I would say yes, but again, I want to reiterate my point, which is that you want to know what your children are doing online. And so in my son’s school, every student was given a Chromebook. And they are expected to do homework on their Chromebook, and their assignments are given out online. And so, you know, while we could think of that as screen time, if my son is doing homework on his Chromebook for an hour a night, that is good behavior and that is a healthy way to use technology.
Similarly, reading on a Kindle, if it’s a book or other kinds of content, is a great use of technology. So that’s a good use. And also, you know, gaming. My son games – we have a PS4 and other consoles. In moderation, it’s great. It’s a new way to think and it’s a way to socialize. But it has to be in moderation and balanced with other activities. So my son’s an athlete and plays soccer and basketball, he gets to exercise that way, comes home, wants some screen time, that’s fine. It’s not screen time to the exclusion of other activities.
All of those are factors that any parent wants to consider with their own child. So I am not going to give a blanket rule, I don’t think I can do that. But you do want to look at your kid, what they do online, how long they’re there, and where and when, even. Doing it, being on screens up until bedtime is not a great healthy behavior. There’s a lot of evidence that that interferes with sleep. And so we make sure devices are shut off 35 to 40 minutes before bedtime. All of those things factor into making sure our children have really positive, healthy relationships with tech and digital content.
James: It’s quite a complex issue. I’ve certainly observed with my own son, the youngest one, he’s the most hooked into technology of my four kids. And it’s not such an easy solution as people would think.
I remember seeing a Jimmy Kimmel feature where he got parents to turn off Fortnite while the kids were playing and had some pretty…. Firstly, I thought that was very rude, anyway. It’s not a good relationship to have with your kid to just switch a game off mid-play. It shows a lack of empathy from the parent. So I thought it was kind of a sad and unfortunate prank. But it was a good indicator as to how soaked up into it the kids are.
When things have gone too far
What sort of advice would you have for someone if their kid has definitely taken it way too far? And how would you start to pull things back to a more healthy situation?
Marc: So, it’s interesting, my co-host on Their Own Devices, is an adolescent medicine specialist at a top medical university here in Washington, DC called Georgetown. And he deals with this on a medical basis nearly every day. It’s rather shocking to hear a doctor, his patients are all 13 to 21, and these issues surface in almost every medical appointment today, where the parents raise some kind of concern around technology use, whether it’s gaming addiction, or cyber bullying, or variations on those things.
So one thing that’s critical is just to talk to your children, and start young. And that’s important. You might not think that the conversations around using technology should start at age five or six, but they should. Because children are already observing their parents using technology, they’re probably getting their first sort of junior version of a tablet, and you want to start having those conversations about being a responsible digital citizen really early.
But as the children get older and become teenagers, we have less and less control over what they do. Although, as a parent, I believe strongly that the smartphone and the PS4 are privileges, not rights. I bought them, I pay for the internet access, and I can and will take them back if necessary. But at some point, you know, we have to hope and trust that our kids will be mature and handle it. But if not, you may actually want to speak with a doctor.
You may, on your next trip to a pediatrician or whatever doctor your kids are at, raise the issue, and tee it up for the doctor and say, “Is there a concern? My son is on this many hours a day. In your medical opinion, is that an issue? Do we need to explore options to help my son have other activities?” Those are all really fair questions when you as a parent have a concern, and they’re real concerns. So no one should tell a parent, “Oh, don’t worry about it. That’s what boys do. That’s what teens do. Girls just do that.” No, raise it with a healthcare professional the next time you’re there with your child and say, “This is what I’m observing.” And let the healthcare professional walk you through that conversation and say, “That’s consistent,” or, “I think your child actually does have an issue that we ought to address together.”
James: I did see a disturbing post on one of my friends’ social media, where he was pretty much endorsing an outrageous quantity of gaming as if that’s, you know, a positive. I think that you mentioned this before, you hinted that it’s hard to tell.
And a good chunk of people listening to this particular podcast will be working from home on the computer a lot, and will probably be a terrible role model for kids, as I would have been. I mean, for context, for my 16-year-old kid, I’ve been at home for the last 10 years. So since he was six years old, dad’s been at home hanging out on the computer. And that’s probably not a great role model for a kid who doesn’t have a parent putting on a suit and tie heading off to a traditional job.
So I think children of entrepreneurs, especially children of online entrepreneurs, are going to have a pretty tough time getting any kind of reasonable benchmark because generally, those households have a priority on internet time. There is a direct relationship between living and the computer. And I’ve certainly taken huge steps in the last five years to pull back my own time on a computer, and I’ve got myself down to a very reasonable 20 to 25 hours a week, which is almost unheard off in the field.
Marc: Yeah. For sure.
James: Because, you know, I surf every day and I have time with family. And I actually want to be away from the computer. Whereas in the first 10 years online, or especially the first five or six, it was like an obsession – the time on the computer equaled more money, and I was on the mission to get more money.
Reining things in
So what do you do when your kid is definitely way past the limit? And how do you start to rein it back in? Let’s say the medical professionals agree, there’s some kind of an addiction there, there’s too much computer dependency, and they’ve started, you know, it’s at the exclusion of all other things, like they don’t want to go outside, they don’t want to go to school, they don’t want to come to the family meals, their mood changes, etc. These are sort of typical things that can happen?
James: Where do you go from there?
Marc: So, I have to acknowledge the limit of my expertise, as I am a privacy and cybersecurity expert. And it’s my co-host who is the medical expert, and does discuss all of these issues. But he would say that these are real issues, and that in some cases, he has referred (and this may be cultural, more aligned with sort of a US approach), but he has referred many, many kids or families to a therapist or counseling to get the kid to engage in other behaviors, or help the kid wean themselves off, because it’s not a healthy way to go.
So again, it’s about balance. My home is incompletely wired, we have more devices than I care to admit, I have more laptops than I want to acknowledge, I like tech. But it comes down to balance and making sure that we’re using it for great positive ways and limiting other kinds of use. And by the way, I like the occasional YouTube video. It’s fun. I like infotainment and entertainment. I go online for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes it’s to read the Wall Street Journal, or The Washington Post, and other times, it’s pure entertainment, or shopping, and the like. So it is great. But again, it’s about moderation and teaching our children that just because you see dad or mom on the computer, it’s our work. Or I may read a new novel on a Kindle – that is not the same as spending the same amount of time playing Fortnite on your device, they aren’t equal, and helping the kids understand that.
And we haven’t even hit some of the really, really difficult issues around parenting today, at least that we’re starting to experience, which is things like children having access to wildly inappropriate content that is very difficult to control. And so we talked about things like gaming addiction, or problems with Fortnite, but there are lots of teens who are spending far too much time on what I would call adult content, or content not appropriate for a kid. That’s also incredibly challenging for parents today. With all the parental controls in the world, if a kid wants to access that content, they’ll find it. And that’s true of a range of things.
So your point earlier that we are in a complicated time is true, but it means that mom and dad and parents need to understand the tech, we need to engage, talk with our kids, use parental controls as appropriate, hopefully speak with other adults, the parents of your kids’ friends, although I can tell you, we don’t all agree all the time, for sure. But it’s not easy. Anyone who suggests otherwise is wrong.
“We as adults need to guide the kids.”
And I’m often concerned by parents who dismiss it and suggest that, well, I did things when I was a kid my parents didn’t understand, so this is this generation’s version. You know, there may be some limited truth to that, but we as adults need to guide the kids. You cannot hand an 11-year-old a new iPhone 10 with all the bells and whistles and platforms, applications, and cameras, and other sensors and say, Go. That’s, in my view, not a great way to parent.
Your kid turned 16, and where I live in the US, you can get a driver’s license. No one hands, the kid the car without a driver’s education. You learn the things you should do, and you learn things that you shouldn’t and may not do, to become a more responsible driver. And even then, we know that teenagers are not the best drivers. Same with your smartphone. Here’s the smartphone, it is a small and sophisticated computer with 24/7 access. Teach our children what’s appropriate, what’s not. I emphasize to my own son, if you wouldn’t do it offline, do not do it online. Just because you don’t see the person you’re talking to when you’re looking at a screen does not give you license to say things or post things there that you would not say to somebody if you were looking at them face-to-face. The same is true for photographs and videos, to keep the same values offline online. Those kinds of conversations are super important.
James: Yeah, it’s it’s a great point. And it’s such a difficult one. I find it fascinating, you know? For a living, I coach business owners who are at a high level, yet dealing with a 16-year-old with a fascination with online gaming, is far more difficult than anything I’ve ever experienced before. You know, you’ve got a serious strategist there spending a lot of time developing skills to evade and capture and whatever they do. And you know, they’re not rational, they’re not logical, they’re not reasonable, they’re not mature in their thought approach. I think physical confiscation has a hand in it.
Can you push things too far?
I tell you, what also is an issue with kids of that age, you start also coming into the extremely high band of suicide in that early to late, mid to late teens for boys is the top suicide range. So you can really have some counter challenges there if you go too hardcore. I think that sometimes you feel there’s a risk that you push things too far.
Marc: Well, you know, it’s a very serious topic. And it’s a real topic. In fact, if you have the time, we have an episode of Their Own Devices. It’s our fifth episode, about the real world consequences of cyberbullying. And what’s interesting is we actually speak with a young boy – well, he’s now 19. But when he was 15, here in Washington DC, and he had devices and was online, he was repeatedly bullied online, in fact, by people and kids he didn’t know. And he shares his whole story. And in the story, what’s so shocking is that this young man, he was 15 years old, and by the way, an athlete and a handsome kid and good friends, but he was bullied by older kids he didn’t know. And over time, they were constantly telling him to self-harm. And one night, his parents were out of town, and there was some liquor, whatever, these older kids said, it’s time for you to just end your life because it’s not worth it.
And this boy talks about this on our podcast, that because of this relentless cyberbullying and his inability to control it, literally walked out onto a bridge in Washington DC over the Potomac River to attempt suicide, and shares the events of that night. And ultimately, it’s an inspiring story. What’s interesting is that his parents had no idea. So these are educated parents, and a beautiful suburb with an athletic, educated sophomore in high school. And the parents had no idea what was taking place online. They didn’t know about the bullying interactions, they didn’t know their son had some depression or mental health challenges. And they never even contemplated that they had a son who might even think through or about self harm or suicide, which shows that we do need to be engaged as parents. There’s so much positive out there, but there’s the potential for negatives. And that constant communication and keeping those lines open, and when necessary, using parental controls – because I do, I know what my son is doing online, on his devices – all those, together, help. But look, we’ll never solve everything.
“There’s so much positive out there, but there’s the potential for negatives.”
And you noted earlier, teenagers, their frontal lobe is not developed. They are programmed to take risks. They’re programmed to do stupid things, they don’t understand long term consequences, they often fail to understand that online conduct has real world consequences. That’s what being a teenager is. That’s why it’s our job to parent, not be their friend. And when we have to discipline, no parent wants to do that. If I wanted to take the PS4 away from my kid, I wouldn’t have bought it for him in the first place. But when we see an issue, when his grades aren’t OK, or if he’s gaming and not doing his homework, we take it away. It’s difficult, but it’s part of growing up in this new, digital, always connected, 24/7 mobile world.
Fave parental controls
James: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. What are your favorite parental controls? You’ve mentioned a couple for the phone. What about for the computer or the network?
Marc: Yeah, so there are many different ones. And I don’t have a particular one to endorse, because the fact is, they change so rapidly. And depending on whether you’re using an iPhone or Android device, or your gaming console, the kind of controls that you select will be different. But certainly, you know, the Screen Time on iOS and Google Family Link is an option for Android, and Microsoft has a version – all very good and free services.
And then there are applications that you can put on your phone. And for a small fee, you can link together all your devices and control when devices are on or off. You can control content and and filter out inappropriate content, you can also control what kinds of apps are available. And in some cases, you can set some specific rules for specific apps. And so that kind of technology is getting better, and it’s helpful. Of course, kids will try and circumvent it. And my own son has done that in the past, where I have spent time putting on parental controls to learn that the little guy hacked around it, but they’re helpful.
But they’re part of the answer. I think it’s important that we don’t rely on them exclusively as a solution. Because still, that ongoing conversation with your kid, you know, and it doesn’t have to be confrontational. I’ll just say like, “What’d you watch on YouTube today? Can I check it out?” “Show me this new season of Fortnite and what’s new about it.” “What is this new Creative Model thing? Let’s talk about that.” And this way, it can not be confrontational. I can learn a little bit about what he’s doing online, how he sees the digital world, and what’s important to him. And then in that context, I try and tee up issues, difficult issues, that I want him to be aware of. But I’ll never be there all the time, no parent is. And so I hope that he’ll have judgment. But I know he’s going to make mistakes, just as I did when I was his age. And hopefully, they won’t be so monumental that we can’t recover. But mistakes will be made.
Dealing with a changing field
James: And it’s a changing playing field as well, isn’t it?
Marc: Right. What makes it so difficult for parents is that you may give permission for a platform at one moment in time, and the platforms evolve. And so, Instagram is an example where parents gave permission for kids to have a platform to upload and share some photos. But over time (and I don’t begrudge Instagram for changing and improving), they added various ways to group chat and message and the equivalent of FaceTime and Video Chat, there are Stories. So now there are all these features that a parent may or may not want their 11 or 12-year-old to have. They weren’t there when they gave permission initially, but they’re not following it and don’t realize that the platform has changed. And that is, in fact, a challenge for parents, and one of the reasons why I hope that the podcast Their Own Devices where we discuss these issues will be a really engaging, fun, entertaining way to discuss this. Because, you know, we talk honestly.
I’m an expert, and this is hard. This is hard for me, I only have one kid – doing this with four or five kids at different ages has got to be really a parental nightmare. Where every kid is at a different age, things are going to be appropriate at different ages, and you’re trying to monitor all of them. It’s not easy. No one suggests it is, and we all have to do the best we can. But we have to engage, we can’t ignore it. And we can’t just hand our kids technology and say, “Go forth,” and think there won’t be issues.
“We can’t just hand our kids technology and say, ‘Go forth,’ and think there won’t be issues.”
Can restriction have a downside?
James: Do you feel that some of these kids who are restricted will be at a disadvantage in the future for not understanding the full power of their technology?
Marc: So, that depends on “restricted”. I think that if you have a teenager who’s never been on a laptop, or used a smartphone, they may very well be at a disadvantage. That is not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting that our kids have technology, but use it in an age-appropriate way and in moderation. And so my son is quite sophisticated with a smartphone. When my parents, his grandparents, got their smartphones, it was my son, who’s 12, who set everything up for them. And it was actually entertaining to watch. He’s sophisticated, but he also doesn’t have all the apps and games he wants. I constantly hear that I am the most horrible, strict dad in the world, because he’s not on Snapchat or Instagram yet. But he does have devices.
And so again, I think that we want our children to be tech-savvy. We want them to know how to find content and information and interact with others. But we also want to teach them, again, be a responsible digital citizen. Use it for healthy, beneficial reasons and understand when it’s not.
It also goes with teaching our children that everything on YouTube isn’t true. And just because you read it on the internet, it’s not a fact or accurate (a big problem here in the United States with a president who makes things up on a daily basis and tweets it). Teaching people to distinguish between resources, what’s true, what’s not, is also a huge part of engaging in this digital world where there’s so much information that we have to learn to filter it ourselves.
James: Yeah, it seems like you can’t trust much that you read these days. The interesting thing that I’ve observed is that that even when your president says something that’s not true, and they point it out, he still does it over and over again, anyway, which means it’s just amazing where society is gone. There is no way to stop that.
Marc: Well, I probably think that this president has serious mental health and delusional issues and, you know, uses Twitter to convey to the world just how messed up he is. But the problem is, there are going to be those individuals who support his policies, and for those individuals, facts won’t matter, either. Certainly, he has no relationship with the truth and isn’t concerned whether something is a fact or not, and others follow. And it’s a shame because I’m used to having worked for the President of the United States, President Obama, in the White House, who in my view, whether you agree with everything he did or not, was a remarkable and brilliant man. I always taught my son to respect the President and the White House, and you always have to agree with him. And I’ve had to roll that back and suddenly say, yeah, in this case, nope, you don’t have to respect him, and here’s why.
Top recommended action steps
James: Interesting. So Marc, this has been really informative. And I think we’ve especially gone deep in dealing with technology and kids section. What would be your top advice for someone listening to this with a 12, 13, 14-year-old kid? What are the first sort of top three action steps after listening to this that you might want to go and investigate? Because I’m going to hazard a guess that probably almost everyone listening has a kid with no restrictions at all, that would be the normal default setting, I imagine.
Marc: Right. So the first thing a parent should do if you haven’t done it, is first of all, start with your own phone. If you have a smartphone yourself, make sure you know where your privacy settings are. Because there are controls where you can limit how much of your location data is shared, what apps can access your contact list, how much information is shared with various third parties. Those controls exist. You should use them on your own device. You can do it app by app or globally. And then you should go on with your child, and you should look at their privacy settings. And if they have not used them, you should use them with them.
And use it also as an opportunity to discuss things like, for example, location information. You know, we could discuss this for quite some time. But we are all being tracked all the time, everywhere we go, at a very precise location, by our devices and various apps. Teaching our children that that’s occurring, and showing them how to limit that, shut it off, not give access, is an important thing to do. So get out the privacy settings on the phone and go over that with your child. I think that would be incredibly important.
Another step is to simply have that discussion. In my own house, some people laugh at me, but we talked about this on Their Own Devices – I have what I call a family media contract with my son, where I laid out the rules and said, “I want you to have all these things. I’m proud to give you a PS4, and a Chromebook and smartphone and I’ll stop there, but, a tablet, but here are the rules and the expectations. Here’s what I expect from you. You will not engage in cyberbullying, you will not ever photograph and take photographs of anyone undressed or unclothed, not you or someone else….” It’s a whole set of rules. So we go through and understand what are the values and what are the rules online, just like we would do it offline. And so, whether you choose to use a contract or just have that conversation, it’s important to do it. And not just once, but it needs to be an ongoing discussion as kids grow older, getting new tech and things change. So have that conversation, check privacy settings on the phone, and that is a great way to start.
James: Yeah, that’s inspiring. I’m going to set up some rules here as well. I’ve come up with one thing at least I’ll share with listeners. And that is that my son’s computer is powered by reading books. So he has to read a chapter of the books that I supply him each day. And then we talk about it, it’s like homeschooling where we discuss it. And he has incredible retention. If you link the objective to the outcome, you know, it seems to have good context and he’s able to really have a great conversation about what he’s read that day. And I’m working him through all the classics. I’ve told him the only distance between him and whatever life he wants is that bookshelf on the other side of the wall there, and we’re just going to work our way through them one at a time.
Marc: Well, that is great. Because, you know, maintaining that ability to do critical thinking, to think logically, to understand philosophy, all of that is going to be just as important in our sort of digital future as it was in the past. We can’t get rid of that, it’s critical.
James: Yeah, well, you know, and the kid’s brilliant, it’s just a matter of harnessing that for good productivity, you know, to set up for the future. I think the most important thing that you said earlier for me was that kids can’t think of long-term consequences. That’s really, I think, the enemy in these games is that they hook kids into right now, that it never stops, that they’re missing out when they’re not there, that it’s more important than everything else. And you hear stories of kids peeing in buckets or dying of starvation and all this, they’re some serious gamers. It’s taken a hold so strong that it’s crippling for them in the long-term future.
So this has been a very productive discussion. I thank you so much for coming along. We’ve been chatting with Marc Groman, and check out the podcast, Their Own Devices. You’re on all different platforms, Marc?
Marc: Yes, right. You’ll find it on all the major platforms, everything from Spotify to Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Stitcher and all your favorites.
James: Thank you so much.
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