Episode 42: Helping Families Set Boundaries with Technology with Amy McCready
Brief summary of show:
How do we know when too much technology is “too much” for our kids?
How do we as parents help them learn to set boundaries with technology, without power struggles and fighting.
In this week’s episode, I sit down with Amy McCready, the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the creator of the 7-Step Parenting Success System online course.
We talk about the importance of technology and how to limit it effectively. I know you will learn so much about how to navigate technology with your kids, because I certainly learned a lot!
Listen in as we talk about:
[00:01:36] How to know when technology is a problem for kids
[00:03:32] Amy’s thoughts on technology in the bedroom and why it isn’t always a bad thing
[00:05:03] The impacts of technology on kids of different ages
[00:08:10] Tips to set limits around technology in your family
[00:13:09] The negative effects of punishments or consequences involving taking away technology
Amy is the author of two best-selling parenting books: If I Have to Tell You ONE MORE TIME and The "Me, Me, Me" Epidemic.
She is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey, The Doctors & others. Her greatest joy is helping moms and dads become the parents they've always wanted to be.
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Resources mentioned in the episode:
Listen to Episode 22 with Amy: How to Set and Maintain Effective Routines
Connect with Amy
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Episode 42 - Amy McCready
[00:00:00] Natalie: Hi everyone. It's Natalie. And welcome to the podcast. I am a mom and a teacher, and I see it all on one hand. I love technology. I teach broadcast journalism after all. So I use it every day and to help high school kids learn how to use it effectively, but I also see the addictive nature of technology and how dangerous it can be when it isn't used with discipline.
[00:00:22] And moderation. My guest today is Amy McCready. She's the founder of positive parenting solutions. And if you're a regular listener here on the podcast, you'll remember Amy from episode 22, where we talked about setting up and maintaining routines for your family. And if you haven't listened to that, well, I encourage you to do so right away.
[00:00:42] Excellent episode. I know you will learn a lot. Amy has proven over and over again, how to help our families thrive. She is the author of two bestselling parenting books and a regular contributor on several national TV programs. And by the way, Amy has a free online course that I recommend [00:01:00] for all parents.
[00:01:01] You can find more information on that, a link to it in the show notes of the podcast onto the interview. Now with Amy McCready.
[00:01:10] Natalie: Amy. So good to talk to you. I always look forward to our conversations and this one today, this is a biggie, and I know it's a lot of stress for a lot of parents. And for many people, we're just, I feel like we're learning as we go with technology. We're talking about kids and technology when it's too much when to limit them.
[00:01:29] I don't even know where to start on this one. So let me just ask you this. When do we know if technology is a problem for
[00:01:36] Amy McCready: kids? Well, there are a couple of sort of litmus tests on that. So do you find that it's affecting their behavior? Like with my kids, the more time they would spend with video games or technology, I would find they were fighting more with each other.
[00:01:52] Their fuses were shorter. So if you're seeing that, it's probably too much, if you're finding that they tend to be like a little bit [00:02:00] lethargic, like you can't get them to go out and play or do other things. It's probably too much because again, I think with a lot of kids, technology really just kind of like sucks the life and energy out of them.
[00:02:10] If you're finding that they're spending less time doing other things that are more active. So again, technology is more of a passive activity, right? Like it doesn't require as much thinking and all of that. If you find that they're spending. You know, gravitating towards that rather than going out, outside to play or reading or doing other things, interacting with people in real life.
[00:02:34] It's a problem. If you're having constant power struggles, if you're having to say, come on, I told you to turn that off, you know, and it's constant, it's a daily battle. We've got a problem there. So that just tells us, not a big deal. We can totally reset just by putting some strategies in place and being consistent with.
[00:02:52] Natalie: Okay. So that's what I really want to get to now is as strategies. And sometimes I feel like as a parent, you feel like, well, that [00:03:00] ship has sailed. I made a mistake. Can we turn it around? You know, I have friends who, for instance, they never let their kids have their phones in there. The phones just were not allowed in even as teenagers.
[00:03:11] And you know, a lot of kids will say, but I need an alarm clock or my music's on my phone, but they never allowed it. It feels like to me, once you allow it, Punishing to take it away. So for me to walk in one day and say to my 16 year old, you know, I have decided you can't have your phone in your room anymore.
[00:03:26] It's going to be like, no. So how do we turn it around? How do we fix some problems that maybe we've seen with
[00:03:32] Amy McCready: kids? Yeah. So first off, I'm just going to say that I do agree with that. Not having technology in the room and we can talk about kind of how to execute on that, but it comes down to, is this working for us?
[00:03:45] Right. So if your kid has their phone in the room but you don't have any concerns about their online activity, they're doing what they need to do. Their homework is getting done. Their family responsibilities are getting done. They respect the curfews that you have in place. [00:04:00] Hmm. Well then, okay. Maybe it's working for you and you don't have to make a change, but again, if we're getting into those power struggles, if you're doing the reminding on it's time to get off the device, you're staying up too late.
[00:04:11] Like all of those things, then it's not working and then we have to make a change. So again, So much of the child's opportunity and access to technology is really dependent on that, right? Like if they can follow the rules that you've put in place, they can use it successfully and still maintain balance in their life then fine.
[00:04:31] But if it's not working, that's when we know we have to make the changes.
[00:04:35] Natalie: Let's talk about ages. You know, I think this is hard for parents because many kids are holding their parents phones when they're very little, they've learned, you know, you see the, I saw once uh, a video of a child trying to swipe a magazine, like, you know, they, they just, they they've learned this from birth, that the technology is there.
[00:04:54] Can you tell me from, as a parenting educator, what's appropriate, should our [00:05:00] 11 year olds have cell phones? where do you think it's appropriate have
[00:05:03] Amy McCready: technology? That's so difficult. So let's, you know, you're right. Like toddlers are swiping and playing games on iPad and all of that. So we really, you know, have to follow the American academy of pediatric guidelines on that.
[00:05:16] Really limit that amount of time. The biggest problem with the little kids is that the technology becomes the babysitter. And what happens is that they don't learn the ability to calm themselves down. They don't learn to self-soothe because the minute they get the slightest bit restless, we're turning over the device.
[00:05:33] So we're really inhibiting their emotional development when we do that. And I know a lot of times we just need a break and we have to get something done. We kind of need to keep the big picture in mind there. So your question about like an older child, when is the right age for them to get a phone or whatever it happens to be?
[00:05:49] It really depends on when they need it. So that's the first piece. Do they need it? Are they staying after school that they need to be able to call you for carpool and those types of things? And if so I always [00:06:00] recommend that parents start out with a really like simple phone. I don't know if you're familiar with there's a company called gab Gabb, which, you know, it's like the most simple phone.
[00:06:08] All it does basically is make calls to contend with. for a very first phone. So there are other phones like that start out with the list thing. But the other thing that you really have to ask yourself is number one, does this child understand the consequences of using a phone? Like Texting people and social media and sort of like all of the downsides and bad things that could happen with that. Second thing is are they demonstrating responsibility and restraint with other aspects of technology? So if you're having daily power struggles overturning off the iPad, that child does not have the maturity to have their own.
[00:06:47] Right. Like they have to demonstrate self restraint with other technologies first. And then the third thing is, do they prioritize schoolwork and family contributions? So again, [00:07:00] if they're gravitating to the devices, instead of getting their homework done at the school work done, if you're constantly having power struggles about that.
[00:07:06] Or constantly having power struggles over their family jobs. Again, they don't have the emotional maturity, they haven't demonstrated that they're ready for a phone. So a lot of things kind of have to be in place first, I think before we say, yep, you're ready for a phone, let alone a smartphone and access to these.
[00:07:23] Right, which
[00:07:24] Natalie: is as I call it the jungle, you know, we're sending them out into this great big jungle without protection. let's talk about video games. I know for a lot of parents, they struggle with, you could call it an addiction. I don't know when it's an addiction versus not an addiction, but it's enticing.
[00:07:40] Let's put it that way. It's fun. It's enticing. Not just kids. Do that versus other things. We are thinking about doing uh, uh, no video games during the week or no technology during the week. And I think a lot of parents are struggling with, you know, do I put a limit on it? And then how [00:08:00] much is a good limit an hour, two hours, 30 minutes?
[00:08:03] Like, it's just such a big new world for parents in dealing with not only cell phones, but video games.
[00:08:10] Amy McCready: Yeah. So again, I can like talk for two hours just on this one question. There's so much, but here's the thing. We know kids love technology, right? And so parents must leverage that. So we talked about this in another episode, but technology is always, always, always part of a win than routine.
[00:08:30] Meaning when the yucky stuff is done, then you can enjoy your technology. So when. Your homework is done and I've checked it if necessary. If your kid tends to like blow through it, just to get to their technology. So when your homework is done and I've checked it, you've done your family contributions.
[00:08:46] And that's another word for chores. When you've done your family jobs, then you can have your 30 minutes of technology up until. Whatever the cutoff time is. So there's several elements. It's part of a women routine. The yucky stuff [00:09:00] absolutely must get done before we even entertain access to technology.
[00:09:04] There is a time limit, 30 minutes or an hour, whatever you feel is appropriate in your family. And there's a curfew limit, right? So if they dilly-dally and don't get their family jobs done and their homework done, they're not going to get their 30 minutes at nine o'clock at night. Right? Like the curfew was established beforehand.
[00:09:19] So we must establish those boundaries. Your comment about no video games during the week. I am really a big proponent of that. That's what we did in our family, because especially during the school year, kids are busy, they have homework, they have sports. Most families are highly scheduled with other extracurriculars.
[00:09:37] There's almost not time for it. So just remove that from the equation. And then if you want to give them a little bit more time on the weekend, that's fine. Always as part of a win-win routine with those elements that I talked about. and that can work, but, keep in mind that if it's like, they're allowed to have 30 minutes today and they can have an hour and a half tomorrow, and then it's always negotiable.
[00:09:57] That's why it's so important to [00:10:00] have those boundaries in place. So if we're not consistent with the boundaries, if it's. And it's 30 minutes every day. If we're not consistent with that, we can't get mad at our kids for negotiating for more time. Absolutely. Because we've allowed that to happen in the past.
[00:10:15] Why wouldn't they try to negotiate for it? Right.
[00:10:17] Natalie: And they're good little negotiators, blame them. We've we've been taught them to
[00:10:20] Amy McCready: negotiate. And to your point, it's fun. It's easy. Right. And so that's why, so often kids will gravitate to that versus going outside to play or reading a book or.
[00:10:32] Practicing the piano or doing something else that actually does interest them, but this is fun and it's easy. So that's why for us as parents, it's up to us to sort of create the boundaries. And if your boundary is no video games or technology during the week, well, then they have that whole.
[00:10:47] Those weekdays to do all those other things that are actually more enriching for them,
[00:10:51] Natalie: what I have found and what I've heard other parents say is that when you do take it out, it is hard. And you're going to go through at least two weeks of [00:11:00] complaints and they're not going to like, and you have to be willing to deal with that as a strong parent, but that it takes out even the thought of it.
[00:11:06] You almost have to break the cycle of where that's what they think about when they come home from school, at break the cycle. So they find other things to think about, and then it gets better. It's going to be a couple of weeks of difficulty and they're trying to negotiate and complaints.
[00:11:21] Amy McCready: The other thing too is, again, we, as adults, we are responsible for their health and safety and wellbeing, right?
[00:11:27] We take that very seriously when it comes to nutrition and all of the other things that we do to keep them safe and healthy. And this is a huge part of their. Health and wellbeing. So we have to be able to make the tough calls on that. Just like you wouldn't let kids have Hershey kisses for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, right.
[00:11:45] Like we have to make the tough call sometimes even when our kids don't like it. And that's the one thing that I hear from parents. So often it's like, I just can't even deal with the wrath that my kid is getting. lay out there when I start to restrict these things, but that is our job. The other thing is sort of what we call [00:12:00] controlling the environment.
[00:12:00] So we don't have technology in the bedroom, right. We have the central charging station. So when you come home from school, if you've taken your phone to school and immediately those devices go in the command central or charging station or whatever, In the public space. We don't charge those in our bedrooms.
[00:12:16] If kids need their phone as an alarm clock, you go and buy an old school alarm clock at target and Walmart complain
[00:12:21] Natalie: about it and it's going to be terrible, but eventually they get past it. You got to get past the complaining.
[00:12:26] Amy McCready: Exactly. Cause you know, you are the only parent in the world who makes your kids do this right?
[00:12:32] Can, I
[00:12:32] Natalie: want to talk for a moment about discipline around this and how we set up different types of discipline. I like the words you use like Uh, Your family jobs like contributions and family contributions. I like changing the words in my family. We don't call it discipline.
[00:12:46] We call it consequences. So absolutely there are going to be consequences if you don't get off of the video game by this time, but what do you think is appropriate? Discipline. I mean, for us, it's just, you don't get the thing you want the next day, but how do you [00:13:00] think every family is different? Every child is different in what matters to them.
[00:13:04] But what do you think about a discipline system and how do you find what's appropriate
[00:13:09] Amy McCready: for specific ages and kids? Yeah, When you say the word discipline, most parents equate consequences, but actually it doesn't have to be consequences. There are so many different tools that we use to bring out the behavior that we're trying to get out of our kids.
[00:13:26] Right. Sometimes. Increasing the emotional connection and that mind, body and soul time that we've talked about in another episode, it's increasing that because that actually improves their behavior. There's no need for consequences or sometimes it's retooling our systems within that. Or it's taking time for training or there's so many different tools that we use to bring out the kind of behavior.
[00:13:47] We don't always need consequences. However, when we do, and this is actually one of the things that we teach parents in our free class it's really important that we don't do willingly consequences. And there's this theory out there that you leverage what's [00:14:00] most important to you? So for instance, most kids like technology.
[00:14:03] So the thing is okay. Yeah. We're just going to take away that because that's, what's important to the kid. Well, it gets to the point where finally, like the parent has taken away this and they've taken away, you know, taken away that. And finally the kid's like, I don't care, whatever. It becomes more of a power struggle against the parent.
[00:14:20] Uh, They're willing to give up the technology because it's such a powerful. With the parents. So what we do is really focused on consequences that are the most helpful and the most related to that scenario. So in the example of iPad time or video games or whatever, a related consequence would be access to technology.
[00:14:40] So if you can't follow the rules, which have been clearly explained, and we've gone through that whole process and training, and everybody's been on board, if you can't follow those rules, then you are going to lose access to the technical. Because it's a privilege. It's not a right. Right. So that's a perfect example where removing access to that thing is perfectly appropriate.
[00:14:59] It's [00:15:00] perfectly related. Um, I just mentioned that about the Willy nilly consequences, because parents tend to use technology for every discipline issue. And again, that's just throwing spaghetti at the wall. It's, it's not getting to the root cause of what that particular behavior. Issue is yeah.
[00:15:16] Natalie: for many families, it will take away the technology or we'll just add on to your, your family responsibilities. We'll just give more chores
[00:15:24] Amy McCready: and, you know, like we want kids to contribute, but contributing shouldn't be a punishing. Right. We want kids to contribute because it enhances their skillset.
[00:15:33] It teaches them to be independent because when my kid, when my son went to college out of his four roommates, he was the only one that knew how to clean bathrooms. Right. So there there's a skillset that is required there. And most importantly, it contributes to the family. Everybody in the family, toddlers to teens contributes because we are a team that gives us that wonderful sense of belonging and connection.
[00:15:54] And we're all working for the greater good. That's why we do contributions. We don't do it as a [00:16:00] punishment for some other behavior
[00:16:01] Natalie: issue. I think that's, that's actually a brilliant way of putting it. Having a regular responsibilities. We rotate them with our kids, from dishes to floors, wherever they rotate them.
[00:16:11] And sometimes they do little side deals where one likes to do one, but that's fine. You know,
[00:16:15] Amy McCready: you can negotiate with what somebody is contributing. That's the most important thing, so
[00:16:19] Natalie: important. Well I want to give people resources and somewhere to go. If they're having trouble with technology or they don't know how to set up discipline and they want a little bit more, where would you tell them to go on your website or your social?
[00:16:31] Amy McCready: Yes. Thank you so much for asking. So our website is positive parenting solutions.com. And in fact, we have a free class that teaches this exact thing, like how to set up consequences effectively. So parents can get out of the nagging and yelling and reminding business. In fact, the free class is called get kids to listen without nagging.
[00:16:49] Or losing control. So it's free learn. You can learn tons of strategies there. We also have a blog that has tons of strategies. So just visit the website and it should be really helpful list of
[00:16:59] Natalie: shape your [00:17:00] expertise and all that you all do. It makes such a difference. I mean, we're learning as parents day by day.
[00:17:04] It's not easy. We know, and I, and my heart goes out to every parent. Just, just keep trying and keep doing find the resources like you have Amy, cause it's, worth it. And, and they're gone before. You know it. I know you have two. in their twenties.
[00:17:18] Amy McCready: College. Yeah. Yeah. And we want to look back on this time and just feel like, oh, like that was such a special time.
[00:17:23] Not that there were so many things that I regret that I did. And so it's so hard on ourselves anyway, but yes. Get the tools that are out there for me and from all sorts of other wonderful instructors. And just keep that connection, that emotional connection going with your kids.
[00:17:36] Natalie: Yeah. And let me give some encouragement to parents too.
[00:17:39] When you think you're being too tough or you think that you're setting up too many boundaries. they'll come back later and say, thanks for doing that. You always wonder when are they going to say thank you. They will.
[00:17:52] Amy McCready: And thanks Natalie, for all you're doing to support parents, your videos are so great. Your podcasts are so interesting. So thank you for all your important. Thank [00:18:00] you. I
[00:18:00] Natalie: appreciate that very much. Well take care and I hope to talk to you again really soon. I'm sure we'll have more parenting topics to talk about.
[00:18:07] Amy McCready: That sounds great. Thanks for having me.