Episode summary:

Susan chats with Janell Burley Hofmann, author of iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up. Susan and Janell talk about how to incorporate technology into family life in ways that preserve connection and engagement with the real, 3D world. Loaded with tips for using technology without being ruled by it.  

Janell Burley Hofmann is the author of the book, iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up. She is also a speaker and consultant on topics like technology, media, health, relationships and personal growth. Janell Burley Hofmann engages readers, clients and audiences in relevant and meaningful conversations igniting personal empowerment, awareness and purpose. Janell serves families, schools and communities in a partnership that will positively impact the lives of children and teens. http://www.janellburleyhofmann.com

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

  • Creating an approach to technology that works for your unique family
  • Why “slow tech” is more manageable than “no tech”
  • How to implement little changes to help your family become more mindful around technology use

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Read the entire episode!
Transcript here:

Speaker 2: (00:12)

Hello and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m Susan Stiffelman, the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting With Presence. And I’m so glad that you’re here. Over the course of my career as a teacher and as a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with thousands of parents and children. And my hope is that this podcast allows me to share strategies with you so that you can have more fun and fewer power struggles as you raise your wonderful children. Now of course, that’s easier said than done. Many of us have great intentions about how we want to be with our kids, but it’s always easier in theory than in practice, right? So if you’re tuning into this podcast cause you’d like to break with old patterns of parenting, maybe you’re yelling more than you would like or you rely on bribes and threats and you’d rather not, then please check out my website, Susanstiffelman.com you’ll find masterclasses on everything from Birds and Bees in the Online World, including how to address kids and porn.

Speaker 2: (01:11)

You’ll find masterclasses on chores, mindful parenting, raising highly sensitive children. And you’ll also find out about my monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program. That means for a small fee you can ask questions and get coaching from me in our two monthly group calls. Parents love knowing that they can get my personal support and attention when they need it. And we also have a Co-parenting with a Narcissist monthly support group, which you may have heard about in my last podcast with Wendy Behary and on our website. Finally you can find info on some of our big events with 20 to 25 speakers on topics like raising tweens and teens, raising siblings, and raising children with challenges with guests like Dr Dan Siegel. Ellen is Morissette, Byron Katie Glennon, Doyle n really too many to mention, but one of those guests from our series on parenting in the digital aide was Janell Burley Hofmann and Janelle’s here with us today for an episode on slow tech parenting.

Speaker 2: (02:14)

Welcome to now. Thank you so much Susan. I’m so excited to have this conversation. I’m really glad that you’re here. I’m really glad I get to share your wisdom with you. So here’s a little bit more about Janell. Janell Burley Hofmann’s the author of the book. I rules what every tech healthy family needs to know about selfies, sexting, gaming, and growing up. She’s an international speaker and consultant, working with youth, parents, educators and professionals, and she’s the founder of I rules academy and the slow tech move. I first discovered Janell went her iPhone contract with her than 13 year old son went viral. Oh my gosh. Please look this up on her website to know burly hoffman.com here’s a couple of things I want to say it and then we’ll move into today’s episode. She starts out with this contract. Merry Christmas. You are good and responsible. 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift.

Speaker 2: (03:07)

But with the acceptance of this present come rules and regulations, please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand that it’s my job to raise you into a well-rounded, healthy young man who can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership. So I’ll just read a couple of them. Janell. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am learning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest too? I will always know the password. Uh, if it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mo Alon babysits, stash them birthday money. It will happen. You should be repaired. And then the one I loved the most was keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window, listen to the bird, take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling. Oh my gosh, I love that. How far did that reach

Speaker 3: (04:13)

and impossible, unbelievable level of reach. It was something that was so personal and intimate and such a reflection of my relationship with my son in those moments. And when I decided to share it in places where I write online or with the community of parents that I was working with, I never anticipated that it would have the reach, but it’s been translated into dozens of languages and shared millions of times. And I still continue to write and speak about, um, the foundations that are present in that contract and how people can make agreements like this, uh, that reflect their values and their cornerstones and make it a functional tool that works in their homes for technology or for other aspects of family life. So, so it continues to live and to grow and change right along with me and, and my family as I raised them. And, and that 13 year old boy is now approaching his 20th birthday, do it or not. And so it’s amazing to reflect on that and see the contract as part of our journey together too.

Speaker 2: (05:14)

Aw, well you’re just, you know, a kindred soul when it comes to technology because you’re, you recognize that it’s not something to be shunned or hidden away. Um, you’re embracing and including it with intelligence and with consciousness. So I love this phrase, slow tech family. Can you talk about that and what that means and what it looks like in real life?

Speaker 3: (05:39)

Sure. It’s exactly that idea that we don’t have to say red light or green light to technology. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That there’s this idea that technology is here to stay. And I think the sooner we come to terms with that reality as parents, it’s in our lives. It’s in our children’s lives, our teenagers lives. It’s in school, it’s at the public library. It’s at a friend’s house. And this acceptance of it, instead of this tension and resistance model on we accept it, we start to say, okay, I’m saying yes to the existence of technology and now I get to have the choice of how I want it in my life. And in what way for a particular child or particular family system, will it work best? And so that idea of family design is really exciting to me as someone who enjoys and thrives up leading her family, um, that, that we get to have some say in this.

Speaker 3: (06:34)

And so when we look at that, again, slow tex low tech doesn’t mean no tech. It means using technology with intention on purpose to meet the needs of our children, to um, recognize who they are and design their tech life with them and partnership with them. So that they can thrive and they can have good experiences and they can develop the skills that are necessary to use the Internet for its highest good. So it brings together the idea of mindful parenting and conscious parenting and also knowing our children and leading with this intentionality that I think sometimes we forget we have a choice in doing and that we can decide what’s working and what isn’t. Can we take our time with saying yes, can we take our time with getting to know a device, getting to know an app, a game, getting to know how our child engages with the technology. So this big call to action around can we slow down and add some process into the way that we engage with the technology.

Speaker 2: (07:33)

I love that because I was watching something last night actually on Netflix about anxiety, a really interesting show and I’m about to do a masterclass with Maggie Dent on helping anxious children thrive. So I was really curious to see, you know, if there was something new that I could add to the mix. And someone was talking about the increase in anxiety among teenagers because of social media. I don’t want to go down that road because it’s such a huge topic. Sure. We’re talking about technology as being sort of when that, when the car was first developed and it’s like having masses of cars on the road with no seatbelts. And I think what you’re describing sort of calls that to mind that you’re just talking about instilling some seatbelts and helping kids learn how they use the brakes and sort of shift down what are some practicalities, what does that look like? And of course this is a just a little taste of what you do. But you know, I’d love people to have some practical idea of what it might look like to institute some of the ideas that you’re talking about.

Speaker 3: (08:36)

Yeah, I love this question because we’re all saying, okay, and in theory that sounds lovely that we take our time, that we’re more mindful, but what does that look like in the everyday? So I’m parenting five children, 1113 1517 and 19 so I also want to acknowledge this idea that I’m living it, that I’m really trying to be intentional and a very fast paced world where my kids are growing and changing and the way they interact with technology is constantly growing and changing. So I recognize the challenges that this prevents and that I don’t want it to sound like it’s all sunshine and lollipops and beautiful, but in fact it’s sweaty work. It’s important work. Just like every other aspect of parenting. It requires us to show up again and again and again. And if something isn’t working, it requires us to, to redesign. So I first want to remind parents that it’s okay to feel like I might need to start again or I might need to rethink something.

Speaker 3: (09:28)

And just because a child is a certain age or a child has exhibited a certain behavior, it means that because we’ve already said yes, we can’t come back to the drawing board. So I really like to encourage parents to start with the question of what’s working and what isn’t in our digital lives. And the opportunity to have some reflective practice into the family system is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and to our, to our families is just that slowing down in general and whether it’s journaling or making some notes on our own phone about when we’re noticing the tension, when are we struggling around the technology, where does that show up? What transition times are really hard for us? How can we smooth some of those bumpy roads? Because often parents will come to me and they’ll say, Janell, I just hate all the technology.

Speaker 3: (10:14)

I’d like to just get rid of it. But in fact, when we start to crystallize, where are some of the problem areas, where can we name them? I call it name it and tame it, right? When we identify what it is, it doesn’t feel so big and scary and overwhelming. We start to shrink it and say, okay, when it’s dinnertime and I call my child to the table, that seems to be a high meltdown point. Where can I focus in on that for a few weeks and kind of forget about everything else? In terms of other aspects we want to change or we’d love to change. So taking that perfect vision and and making it which, which is one aspect we’d like to work on right now. And I think that really helps families to focus in and have some success in one area of improvement. And that’s for families looking to redesign or looking to make some changes.

Speaker 3: (11:01)

But if we have a young person just beginning and we let them play some eight gap games and apps on an iPad for example, one way we can introduce kind of slow tech parenthood or intentional parenting to the digital space is ahead of time choosing three or four apps or games that we think are appropriate or we don’t mind if our children play and we kind of proof those ahead of time and greenlight them and then we put them on an iPad. Cause I think often when we just say parents would like when they say yes to tech, they’re saying yes to absolutely everything that that smart device can do. And the slow tech philosophy asks families to kind of scaffold the way their child engages with it because three or four games to choose from with a time limit that’s predictable and consistent, it puts up that fence to me.

Speaker 3: (11:50)

And those boundaries that allow a child to feel they know ahead of time with the expectations are they know what they can do and it’s predictable. And for a young child, um, that feels really healthy and safe. We know that when we think about meal times, when we think about bedtime and bath time and when we go out to the playground, that, that ritual in that routine, and so can we integrate our tech use into that same space. And it also, when we think about Parenting Without Power Struggles, that predictability takes some of the struggle away in a young child when they know that they can count on it regularly. And it’s, it takes away those moments of at anytime there’s downtime, maybe they’re crying for it or asking for it or begging for it. And so we can give them that gentle reminder of, oh, remember tech time is, you know, whether it’s after dinner or whenever we’ve put it in into our world so that they can be redirected to that.

Speaker 3: (12:41)

And so that that small shift, and we’re not saying no to tech, but we’re saying when will the tech work for us and what type of technology will work for us is beautiful. And then also this idea is that we can think about what isn’t working and we can come back with some new strategies perhaps to our school age, age child now that they have some homework they need to do on technology or I’m getting the teenager to get the proper amount of sleep at night. A tech curfew is something that I think we all need and a great starting point when we’re feeling like the tech use is maybe getting overused or we’re not sure. Having that end of the day is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our adolescents and to our young people so that they can have some time away from their screens. They can get the proper sleep that they need. And that’s really backed by brain science as you know, from all of your work. And so I think those three areas are kind of shrink the Internet to meet the needs of the child set that tech curfew and don’t be afraid to redesign how the tech is in your life.

Speaker 2: (13:43)

Yes. Yeah, that’s fantastic. I love it. It’s so in sync with my approach. It sort of going back to, I think the second episode that I recorded where I laid out the idea of being that captain of the ship and being the grownup in the room, being the one in charge is so comforting to children, even though it may be awkward and clumsy and a little bit difficult at first, and you’re really describing a parent who owns that role for the child. And ultimately it’s, it’s very reassuring. It provides a lot of security for a parent to get clear about what boundaries and what limits and what structure to set for each child and then to be fearless in implementing that. So my gosh, there’s so much for us to talk about. You know, we’ve now decided in the course of the past 24 hours that we’re going to do a masterclass together on this topic. So obviously there’s way too much to talk about, but I love that you’ve given really practical steps that parents can take. I, I always like to end the episode with a little tip. So what’s one thing that parents can try this week? One practical thing that someone listening could, you know, experiment with to

Speaker 3: (14:52)

kind of get their feet wet with this idea of slow tech parenting. Sure. I would say become the observer before you make any changes because a lot of people will have this conversation or listen to this podcast. And I think of it when we’re trying to change any habit, right? When we’re trying to change how we eat or how we exercise or how much sleep we get that we’re eager to get started because all of us are on this path of continuous improvement. And sometimes we’re, we don’t make a plan. And so what I, what I would love to see families do is take a week and just become an observer of the children in your home, of yourself of where the tension shows up, where the struggle might be and just note it down. Maybe, um, go ahead and put in your phone some notes or take out a journal and just say this was a particularly difficult moment, but also in, in that opportunity to be the observer.

Speaker 3: (15:41)

Don’t be afraid to note when things went okay. There are certainly moments in my day where I’m my daughter who’s 11 might be watching youtube and I feel okay and it doesn’t feel like there’s tension and I don’t, that guilt or anxiety doesn’t rise in me. And so I will observe what is it about this particular moment in time? What is it about the particular channel that she’s watching? What is it about what she does after she’s done watching that channel? That makes me feel okay because I’m going to note that because I want to integrate more of that or I want to identify why it feels more positive instead of other times where I feel like maybe it’s being overused or maybe I don’t love the youtube or that she’s watching. So instead of just saying I hate when she spends time on the iPad, I’m able to differentiate and discern those different experiences so then I can set up some boundaries so it feels better.

Speaker 3: (16:31)

So in that week we’re aware that the observer noting both what is positive and what feels challenging and then looking ahead to say, what’s one of those challenges on this list that I can start to think about making a shift or a change around. And I always encourage families to look at opportunities for the whole family to participate too. So maybe that’s the tech curfew for the whole family. Um, grownups included. Uh, adult relationships are as important as, um, parent to child relationships. So maybe it starts with, um, the grownups at home that maybe they want to spend a little time, eyeball to eyeball, face to face catching up on the day. And so there’s some device free time. There are the tech curfew like we talked about. So, so thinking about meal time, I know in my busy household of of seven people that were not having a three course meal every night, we might be standing up together over a bowl of cereal for 10 minutes in the morning saying, what was it like to be you today? Or what’s on the agenda? So taking those moments that are, that are precious, not perfect, and making them intentional and making them, um, proof from the, from the screens taking over. So being gentle with ourselves as we become the observers and then thinking about areas of life for just points of connection instead of points of tension. And where can we nurture those and where can we show up around those points of tension and kind of soothe the edges?

Speaker 2: (17:54)

Oh, I love that. I’m so excited for us to do our class together for you. If you’re listening, please make sure that you sign up for my newsletter so that you get notification of when that’s going to happen at susanstiffelman.com to find out more about Janelle’s work, please visit Janell Burley Hofmann.com we you spell it Janell cause I know there’s a [inaudible]

Speaker 3: (18:14)

sure everybody will. Uh, you can always Google the I Gregory’s iPhone contract and that might be the fastest way to get me. But also it’s Janell, janellburleyhofmann.com

Speaker 2: (18:30)

Awesome. Okay everybody, I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation. I love it. I love talking with you, Denelle. Thank you so much for showing up and for doing this fantastic work in the way that you’re doing it with so much care and awareness and realism and practicality. Thank you.

Speaker 3: (18:47)

Thank you so much for the work that you do every day and for the community that continues to show up for each other that you’ve built. And I, I deeply respect your work and I share it all the time with parents and families. And communities that I work with. So thank you.

Speaker 2: (19:01)

Thank you. Well, if you’re listening while you’re listening to this podcast, I encourage you to subscribe your new episodes as soon as they’re published. Please leave a rating or a review if you’d like to. If you want more support, please look up the Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program at susanstiffelman.com and everyone, I hope you allowed yourself to just take in these ideas without thinking you have to immediately make changes. The idea here is that we were all just learning and growing together. I look forward to joining you on our next episode, and meanwhile, Remember, no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy.

Speaker 1: (20:01)

[inaudible].

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