Aro Joins Screen Sanity Podcast

May 18, 2022
Heath Wilson & Joey Odom

On this episode of Screen Sanity, START co-founder Krista Boan sits down with Aro cofounders, Heath and Joey, to talk about what led to the creation of Aro, how they hope it affects user’s lives, and what they’ve experienced already since incorporating more time away from their phones into their lives.

It’s a great discussion that points all of us towards one of START’s big-picture values — that parents start with themselves, adjusting their own absorption in technology and modeling something better for their kids.

Podcast Transcript

Krista (00:02):

Hey, everyone. Welcome to the screen sanity podcast. I'm your host, Krista Bowen co-founder of start where we help families raise happy and healthy kids in a world that is increasingly digital. We've had hundreds of conversations with parents everywhere who share that the number one battleground on their homes is screen time. And while we've learned that there is no easy button when it comes to parenting today's kids, there's also an unbelievable movement of parents who are stepping into the arena and fighting for their kids' hearts. Each episode, our guests will help us dive into some of the tensions families are facing and walk us through some of the conversations you'll wanna have to prepare your kids for the road ahead. Welcome to screen sanity.

Krista (00:48):

All right, friends. Great to have you back today. You know, if you've been around long at start that we talk a lot about our first rule of thumb, which is starting with yourself. And that's just the idea that, you know, our kids are watching us, observing our relationships with our phones and that, you know, ultimately we are the ones responsible for setting an example and modeling the life that we want our kids to have with technology. It's, it's an awesome concept, but if we aren't careful, this concept can sometimes be crushing because the truth is no matter what task we are working on or work, work stream, we're jumping in. It seems like they all lead to the same ocean, which is just let me check my phone real quick. And you add on an additional layer of, you know, tech companies using addictive techniques to pull us in and just feel like we're drowning in the technology world.

Krista (01:40):

And, you know, it's just recently that I began to realize that I need to just stop blaming myself for being a poor example for my kids. You know, I need to stop shaming myself and asking what's wrong with me. You know, why can't I be a better example? And I've really come to understand that this whole thing that we're up against isn't about there being a flaw in us, but a flaw in our environment. And that's something that is great because once we name it, we can begin to fix it and we can start shifting the narrative to feel less like a slap on the wrist for the way we use our phones and more like an invitation towards something better. And today we get to talk to a couple of founders who have grown so passionate about responding to this, that they have put themselves on a journey towards developing a solution that could really help. And I cannot wait to get to that part of the podcast, but first, let me introduce you to Heath Wilson and Joey Odom co-founders of Aro. Aro's mission is to help people experience life uninterrupted by making it easy and rewarding to

Krista (02:53):

Put down

Krista (02:53):

Our phones, Heath and Joey, welcome to the screen's sanity podcast.

Joey (02:58):

Hey, how are you?

Heath (02:59):

Hey, great to be here.

Krista (03:00):

Oh, we're so glad you're here. Hey, would you want to just start us off by just taking us on a little bit of a journey of the backstory with you guys? What led you to become passionate about the topic that we're gonna talk about today,

Heath (03:14):

Where to start? So a lot of my life experiences let's call it over the last 10 or 15 years. That starts all the way back in 2006, 2007, when the Blackberry was first released and then with the iPhone in no eight or oh nine. Um, yeah, so I was an early adopt technology. I love technology I'm I'm pro phone I'm I'm pro technology, but I did fail many times along the way in terms of, you know, my level of commitment to technology versus, um, other parts of life. But more recently within the last five or six years, I just had a kind of an interesting series of life experiences that kind of put together this mosaic of what later turned into Aro. So I'll start with one day I was riding, uh, a road bike actually to work. And, um, it was terrifying. I was lit up like a Christmas tree and I swear I'd never do it again after, you know, dodging mirrors for several mirrors minutes, but I ended up driving home that night at for some, I don't remember how I must have left my car at the office, but as I was driving home, I I'm in a big SUV and I'm looking down and everyone is on their phone.

Heath (04:21):

Yeah. My first thought was I had two thoughts. One is, wow, this is really dangerous. And makes sense of, of how I felt this morning. Then I get to a red light and I pull on my phone and it hit me. I said, wow, I just, I don't have the capability right now. Not to look at this thing when I've got a free moment. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So I kind of filed that away. I then had a couple years of, of life experiences and mentoring groups, both as a mentee and also as a mentor and with a bunch of guys and you get to this point of this program and you talk about, Hey, what is the one thing that's keeping you from being the type of person you want to be? And every one of us pulled out our phone. Now we said it in different ways, you know, work too much, play too much somewhere in between, but everyone pointed to this device as the biggest inhibitor.

Heath (05:08):

And wow, that just kind of really struck me. So, you know, put a few of these life experiences together. I went home one night and wrote, you know what? I can only describe as a manifesto. And it's funny, I mentioned I was having this conversation with someone recently and I mentioned Jerry McGuire, and they said, who's Jerry McGuire. So I won't blame it on Jerry McGuire, but I wrote this manifesto, this rambling, you know, three or four pages of, you know, something's wrong with our relationship with our phones. And I think there's a way to fix it. Um, and again, I filed that away couple more years of work and really being ingrained in work and, you know, spending probably too much time on my phone at work. And I started reading some habit books, um, just thinking about, you know, how do we form habits, good habits and bad habits. Anyway, a lot of this stuff kind of came together and, um, I just text Joey one day. I said, I've got this idea. I think there's something to it. We need to meet.

Krista (05:57):

Yeah. Joey, what do you think when you got that text? What were

Joey (06:00):

You doing? Yeah, I mean, it was, you know, Heath, Heath was, um, Heath's been a very successful entrepreneur over the years. And so we had been friends in a non-business setting. And so it was a little bit, little bit out of the blue to, to, um, to be honest. And we had done, um, you know, spent some time socially, but, um, it was, we sat down and, and it was instant, you know, this instant, that resonance with me on what, Hey, what, what he wanted to address. And I still, and we laugh. I don't know if he was asking me to join him or if he was just bouncing an idea, but I knew I gotta leech on him as much as I can. And because this, this means so much to me because, and I don't even think Keith knew this. I mean, this, this tension around phones, I was feeling the exact same thing.

Joey (06:40):

Yeah. Um, and the, you know, really hit me that this is something that I was battling with too, and, and struggling with and, and really trying to figure out and solve. Cuz I think the phones, you know, this, my relationship with technology, it kind of came front and center as a dad. And I think that's, that's one place that Heath and I both started is just how this has affected us as dads. And so I, I think maybe the best example of that is a story when my son was five playing soccer. Um, and he was the, so my son just a wonderful sweetest boy in the world, but he was the last kid on the team who had to score a soccer ball. He had not scored a soccer ball all year. And so, you know, we're sitting on the sidelines this moment, you know, comes back.

Joey (07:23):

And I think about it almost like in, in, in cinematic terms, you see it slow motion, the balls in front of him, he rares his leg back. He kicks the ball, it goes end over end into the net Harrison scores. His first soccer goal crowd goes wild. His coach goes out and lifts him up. And, and what's the first thing that he does is he looks to the sidelines to make eye contact with me, to make sure that dad saw it. Dad was proud. Dad was with him in that moment. So it's this beautiful moment. And the only problem with it is, is that my wife retold the story to me because I was looking down at my phone at who knows what group tech sports score, whatever it was. But the point is I missed that moment because I was looking down on my phone.

Joey (08:09):

And so is that my phone's fault? No, that's, that's the, that's the fault is my relationship with my phone at that moment. So when he, when he texted me with this idea, it hit me and it's something that we said, and he said at the very beginning, he said, Hey, listen, I don't know who this is for just yet, but I know I'll spend a lot of money to solve it for my family. So that was where it began, began as this passion project, really for both of us, Hey, let's figure out how we solve this for us and our families.

Heath (08:36):

And I, I think since then, I've realized, look, there's, there's only so much time we have, you know, with our kids when they're in the house and you know, my priorities just weren't obviously weren't straight at that time.

Krista (08:48):

Yeah. Well we, I mean, we live in this culture, right? That's built on efficiency and performance and it's just super easy to get baited into the why that we can multitask and do so many things with our attention. But the truth is that we can't right. The truth is that we can only think about one or two things at a time. That's just how our brains are wired. We are limited, right? To only being able to focus on one thing. So when Joey thought he could, you know, quickly check a score on his phone, his sons soccer game, it just comes with a big cost. Um, when you try to do more than one thing at a time, you do it much less effectively and it stretches way beyond our role as parents obviously, but also into our role as professionals, as community members and then even just as artists and creators, because anything that you've ever achieved in your life that you're proud of, whether it's playing an instrument or, you know, being a great parent or starting a business, right. That required a huge amount of sustained attention. And when your ability to pay attention and focus, breaks down your ability to solve problems and achieve goals and do all the things that you have dreamed for in your life also breaks down. And then,

Joey (10:09):

Yeah, there's no doubt about that. We also, I, I think as a culture, we, we think that that, well, this is just how it is. And that, that that's one interesting things. We talked a bunch of other families and, um, not even families, just, you know, single working professionals or whomever it is. It's just, there's, there's almost a certain level of resignation that like, oh, well this is just how it is. Well, what are you gonna do? It's, you know, the phone's always buzzing or you have, or, or I find for myself, it's not necessarily the inbound distractions. It's more these outbound distractions. It's, it's me sitting here with my phone and all of a sudden wondering, you know, who did lead the, you know, the Braves and RBIS in the 1995 season, like silly things that are just sitting there. And that could be in the middle of a conversation, but we have this growing feeling that this is just the way life is. And I, I think what's, what's kind of fun and exciting is to imagine this world where it actually isn't like that. And we, we talk about this concept of experiencing life uninterrupted a bunch. Yeah. And, um, and that's really what we're, we're aiming towards. And that's a really, really great thing.

Heath (11:07):

Well, I think from the most basic level, we wanna make it easy to take a break. We wanna make it easy to put your phone down. And we actually come at this from a place of, you know, pro technology. I said earlier, I'm an early adopter of most technologies. And I actually liked my phone quite a bit. So I'm not giving it up. I'm not, you know, harkening back for the days of phone that sits on the kitchen wall. But I do think there are times when it makes sense to put it down. I think when you're having a conversation with a friend when you're having dinner with your family, when you're trying to read a book, when you're sitting on the back porch, when you're how playing with the dog and, I could go on and on and on, and we just,

Heath (11:44):

I, I feel like we have become so accustomed to putting this thing in our pocket, right. That we interrupt ourselves a as Joey said, we interrupt ourselves. It's not the incoming necessarily. It can be just, you know, a moment of curiosity. Um, mm-hmm, <affirmative> and sometimes a moment of curiosity's great, especially when you have to, you know, think through the problem or think through the, you know, the trivia question, but, you know, at the heart of what we're doing, we are, we are just making it easy for someone to put their phone down and not for the sake of putting their phone down. It's really, what's on the other side of that. It's that life after, um, taking a break. Yeah. And those moments where you can notice it's those moments where you can connect. Um, so that's, that's really the goal it's pretty simple actually is to let's make it easy.

Joey (12:28):

Yeah. And, and I think that, you know, we talk about this experience. Life uninterrupted is, sounds like a big grand vision and it is, and it can be, but what's cool about it too, is that, that may, that may just be a conversation that could I have this memory of, of, um, two stores, one walking with my daughter, um, it was raining outside. We were leaving a Braves game. It was raining and it's, it was, um, I was feeling a little bit frazzled. And so she reaches up and grabs my hand and I noticed, okay, this is a moment where I can experience life uninterrupted. And it was 12 seconds of me holding my daughter's hand, but I can see it in my mind. I can feel the rain drop, touch my head. And it's just that moment. And that was a magical moment, but it could also be this moment of, Hey, I gotta get something done at work.

Joey (13:13):

And I gotta do it uninterrupted because I got a deadline facing me and I gotta get after it. Right. Um, the other one, and this moment, this is a store with another one with my daughter. Um, as we've been working on this and as we've been kind of, you know, developing Aro she and I watched a movie together, a Harry Potter movie, and at the end of it, she said, and she was probably 10 years old. She goes, Hey dad. She said, did you know, that's the first movie we've watched together and you didn't have your phone like that. And that was meaningful to her. She actually brought it up. This is two years ago. She brought this up two weeks ago and she said, Hey dad, do you remember that? Do you remember that first time we watched a movie without your phone? And I thought, goodness gracious.

Joey (13:51):

She, she notices our kids do notice. That's, what's one of the more interesting things we've been on this journey is how much people notice their kids notice. Yeah. We have story after story of, um, of kids at a very young age, um, noticing their, their parents' use of their phones. Yes. So we, so you're exactly right. It is that exchange it's, what's on the other side of that, whether it's a, a magical moment holding your daughter's hand in the rain, or if it's getting something done, there is something really, really great that can happen on the other side of that. And it comes back to experiencing something I find interrupted.

Krista (14:24):

Um, I love that there, um, our friend Iny crop said something one time that, you know, it isn't that we are distracted it's that we aren't distracted enough that we're actually captivated, but it's the thing that captivates us is actually not, not the thing that we want to be captivated by. Y'all took this as a challenge and you have just done some serious leaning in about how you could do things different, similar to our journey over at screen sanity and how we found you started by researching and talking with family and friends and trying to figure out how to solve this problem, which really comes down to just like how to make a major life change. So that's really easy and simple, and we <laugh> right that right. Just, just one of the easiest things to, to tackle there.

Joey (15:13):

And that actually is what we found for me is we've been on this journey for the last three years for me personally. And I would say I was the worst perpetrator of this in the past of just, you know, phone snubbing, somebody all the time, or even phone snubbing myself when I'm, when I'm on, you know, in the middle of something, right. Is, is that no, it actually can be different. And it's a really, really great thing. And yeah. Um, we talk about this a bunch more, but this thought that it's our environment that dictates those things and otherwise, what are we doing to your point in, in doing these great art, you know, artistic, creative things. Krista is and, you know, those moments come from an environment. Otherwise it's just us trying to will ourselves towards something. You know, we joke around you, you couldn't expect you to not eat chocolate cake. If you're carrying chocolate cake around all day long, you're gonna eventually eat the cake. And so if you say your environment up where you're not carrying it, well, you're not gonna eat chocolate cake. If, if you're not holding it with, you know, in your hands. And so that's, and so that's really the, the, the premise that we're working around is that it's this environmental thing kills the need for willpower. And that's a really, really powerful thing.

Krista (16:17):

I think we've talked about that. You've looked at James clear, he's the author of atomic habits, listeners, if you haven't, you know, checked out James Clear. And I thought, what I do is pull a few things that James Clear shared about habit formation. And I would just love to kind of throw these at you guys. And I'd love to hear whether or not you find that these are true. Are you guys ready? Come on. All right. So the first thing is just this idea of identity based habits, which is basically saying that the strongest place to start looking at, what kind of, what kind of habits you wanna change is first looking at what kind of person you want to be. And then every time you do something, casting a vote for that person. So every time we take one small step, every, every time we make a tiny change, we are casting a vote for the person who we wanna be. And the more we start casting votes for that version of your story, the more the scales start to tip in favor of you actually becoming the person that you wanna be. Would you guys find that to be true, or

Heath (17:20):

I think we've highlighted every word in James Clear's book. So yes, absolutely. Um, I, you know, yes, we want people to put their phone down for a few minutes a day, but we'd rather them become the type of people that put their phone down. And I think that's really getting to identifying as someone who is, is able to take a break. Um, you know, there's a lot of great examples in the book of, you know, someone driving to the gym and, you know, getting in the parking lot, not even going into the gym, but you know, the type of person that goes and, and works out. So I think anything, any habit formation takes time, it's baby steps, you know, it's minutes before it's hours. It's, it's a few days before it's weeks or, or a lifestyle, but, you know, Joey and I have been on this journey for three years. So, you know, two and a half of that we've actually been using and living, you know, the lifestyle of AR, um, and it has become more habitual, but it wasn't easy at first, you know? Right, right. It, it took a while to build a muscle around taking breaks and putting our phone away and engaging in real life.

Joey (18:26):

You know, Krista, to that point, I, I, I was, I have a daily journal and they ask a, a question every day. And one of 'em the other day was what basically what motivates me to be the type of person I wanna be. And what my answer was is is that what motivates me is how my kids will describe me in 20 years and how my kids will describe me now. Yeah. And so part of that is, and it is so much of this. It really does just begin with, with us as dads. That that really is, I think the beginning point for all of this is us as dads. And I think about who I wanna be. I, I do wanna be the type of person that puts their phone down, but even more than that, I wanna be the type of person that is so locked in when my kids are talking to me, I wanna be so totally present with them.

Joey (19:05):

Mm-hmm <affirmative> to wear it because we all know this, and we've all done. This, I've done this probably more than, than either of you combined, but I've interrupting a conversation with a glance at the phone. And what does that do that kills vulnerability with your children? And, you know, like with my daughter, when it's, when it's, cuz you never known that moment's gonna come right. But when it does happen, you gotta be ready for it. And so I wanna be the type of person that's so present with them. And so that requires a prerequisite for that is be being in a place where my phone is not with me, right. Where my phone is placed down to where, when she opens up that I'm totally locked in there with her. So I think as, as identifying with the person you wanna be, I think for me, it begins with just being present, being, being totally engaged when someone's across from me.

Krista (19:43):

Mm. I love that. And um, yeah, predetermining like those, the things that are gonna kind of set the stage so that you can be that person, right. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> making, being aware of what you can do ahead of time to set yourself up for success. I love that. Um, he, you touched on this, but the next thing from James clear is just that, you know, our culture is always telling us to dream bigger and increase our outputs and set lofty high goals. And I think that's our temptation with technology too, is just like, I'm just gonna put my phone down and I'm gonna, <laugh>, you know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna unplug for five hours a day. I don't know what it is. But the, the thing is is that you can set goals, but that's actually the easy part because when it comes to actual change, we don't rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of the systems that we have in place. So as much as we can keep floating along on a wish and a prayer, um, that we will somehow, you know, wake up and be able to resist the pull of our phones and start living the deeper, more purposeful life that we wanna live. If we don't create the system to get us there, our habits are not likely to change.

Heath (20:54):

Well, I think he also says the environment is stronger than willpower. And I've learned that the hard way, many, many times, in fact, you know, if, when you get into his habit loop formation, one of the key aha moments for me and for us was this idea of a visual cue and how that factors into your environment.

Krista (21:12):


Heath (21:13):

I remember reading that book and this was, you know, early stages of, of Aro and I thought, ah, I get it now. I know why I don't ride the Peloton when it's in the basement. Right. So I need, so I Lu this, you know, awkward, heavy machine up to our main, a couple of, so it wasn't just me speak clear, but the, you know, Lu this thing upstairs, we put it in a room that we have to walk by every day. And lo and behold, we end up using it more than we did. Yeah. When it's in the dungeon. So, you know, there's little experiments like that, that I think if you build your environment around, you know, the type of lifestyle and activities that you want to pursue and achieve, it makes it a lot easier.

Krista (21:51):

Yeah. I love that.

Joey (21:52):

I know for me, it, it does wear, it wears pretty thin. I can have these great intentions, which leads to willpower, but it just, it, it just gets, it just gets too difficult. And that's an okay thing to say. I think James Clear also says that most people think they're lazy, but they really just lack a system. And so you think you actually get in this cycle of beating yourself up, if you're so reliant on willpower, like, God, why can't I do it better? Why can't I do it? Well, it's because you don't have a great system in place. I know for me, I, I need it. Um, I'm much less likely I'll use the chocolate cake example. Again, I'm much less likely to eat chocolate cake. If there's none in the house, right. It's actually close to a 0% chance that I'll eat because it's just not there because that environment is set up for the success that I want. It's set up, it's set up for me to be the type of person that I say I would like to be,

Heath (22:36):

But that, you know, the aha moment, I mentioned it was a realization that we don't, most of us don't have a place for our phone other than our pocket. And, you know, we have drawers and cabinets and baskets and bowls in our house, but for whatever reason, we're not good at leveraging those as a place for our devices. And therefore, you know, we put it in our pocket of carrying around with us. So that's really where this idea started. Candidly was, Hey, let's, let's define a place. Let's build a place that becomes the defacto spot, where someone would put their phone now and they don't need it.

Krista (23:11):

Yeah. I love that. So your, your business proposal is to go around and build new rooms on people's houses. <laugh> is

Heath (23:18):


Joey (23:19):

<laugh> <laugh>

Krista (23:21):

All right. So after, um, knowing that you wanted to create something that could help you, you know, change your relationship with your phone, you guys developed a product that I cannot wait to talk about. Can you tell us about the Aro? Is it, what is the Aro, how can it help me? Give me all the details.

Joey (23:39):

Yeah, sure. What, you know, it's, I'll begin actually with, with the word, the word Aro it's a New Zealand or tribal where the Maori language and RO means we love it. It means to notice, um, among other things. But the thing that really jumps out is to notice,

Krista (23:54):

I love that.

Joey (23:54):

I mean, the goal is not, Hey, let's put your phone down. The goal is, Hey, what happens afterwards? What, what do you notice after you put that away? And again, it could be a creative thought. It could be something at work. It could be your family, whatever that may be. And so we've, um, you know, as we've kind of concepted around it, it's, it's this, it begins with a place. And I will say even Aro is really, we think of it as a platform, a platform to make it easy to put down your phone. Oh, nice. That is our goal. Because let's say, let's say our phones as wonderful as they are. They're really hard to put down. Amen. And so we make it easy. And that's the goal. And that begins with is James clear talks about this visual cue, this actual physical home for your box, this place where literally you drop your phone, knows that your phone's there you go. Experience life uninterrupted. You go do whatever you want to do. And then when you take your phone out, Aro knows, and your phone is not there anymore. And then it shows, Hey, you just spent, Hey, Krista you just spent an hour and a half away from your phone because we think you should get rewarded for that time that you're away from your phone. Darn straight.

Krista (24:57):

I wanna know that that's amazing information.

Joey (25:00):

It's no small feat.

Krista (25:01):

Typically an hour would be a really big challenge right

Joey (25:05):

Now, typically. Well, what's neat about is an hour. Would've been unthinkable for me when, you know, two years ago, three years ago, when we were concepting around it, it would've been unthinkable. Um, in fact, there's this, there's a great study by a woman by the name of Gloria mark at UC Irvine that says it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after you've been distracted. And I remember telling my wife, when I read that, I said, other than sleep, I haven't done anything uninterrupted for 23 minutes and 15 seconds and about 15 years. Right? So it's um, so you know, one of the, one of the beautiful things about Aro is that we realize that, and this is one, one big thing that he Heath always harped on is this has to be frictionless. When you put your phone in R you can't open an app, tap the year away. No, no, no. You have to drop your phone. Right. And it immediately know that your phone's there. So this is a high tech place for your phone, by the way, it's beautiful. It's beautiful aesthetics. We had a bunch of input from great interior designers, because so it's gonna live in your home. It's gonna be beautiful. And I love that lose exactly when your phone is there. And, um, because what do we do? It's the opposite of screen time. We get our screen time reports on Sundays and we usually feel bad about ourselves,

Krista (26:14):

Right? Right.

Joey (26:15):

Oh gosh, three hours on my phone a day. What am I doing with my life here? You get this report that says, Hey, you've spent however much 20 minutes, 40 minutes an hour and a half a day, apart from your phone doing something intentionally. And we think that's a pretty powerful reward for yourself. It's

Krista (26:29):

So powerful to flip the narrative. Isn't it? That is such a powerful technique to help us feel more successful. Right. And satisfying and simple,

Heath (26:40):

You know, you said simple. And it reminded me. I mean, one of the things we've really done with the products we wanted to make it hyper practical. So not only is it easy, you know, to put your phone down and we, we recognize that the phone's there and the app starts tracking and all those good things, it charges the phone as well. So we, you know, make it super easy for people to put their phone down. But on the other side of that, we are fairly aspirational. We do think life uninterrupted is amazing. Right? Yeah. And it could be one of those moments that, that Joey mentioned earlier could be just a more productive session. It could be. We said this earlier, you know, watching the movie without a second screen. So, and Krista, you said an hour would be a long time. I will tell you when, when, you know, first started using RO it did feel like a long time, but now it actually feels pretty easy for, for many periods. So it does, again, takes a while to build up that digital muscle, but you'll find over time that you build a different relationship with it. It just makes it that much easier to take time apart.

Joey (27:35):

Well, and that's, there's something fun about that too, is this Heath mentioned the digital muscle and that's exactly what we're talking about is we are just, most of us, just people love to say like, oh, I'm addicted to my phone. We actually strongly disagree with 99% of those people. We say, you're not addicted to your phone. You've learned that you need to have your phone on you all the time. I can say Joe Joey learned for about 13 years that I needed to have my phone with me at all times. Right. Right. And when I said, well, wait a second. Maybe I don't need to have with me, all of a sudden I realized I was building this muscle. So I had learned a behavior that put me in a constant state of distraction and interruption. And all of a sudden when I unlearned that it was a lot easier. And so I wasn't addicted to my phone. I just had a kind of a bad system. My, the, my only home for my phone was my pocket rather than a place that was, that put distance between my phone and me. And it makes an enormous difference. Just that system alone makes and makes a huge difference.

Krista (28:29):

Yeah. I love that. And I love, I mean, the implications for doing it, not just for you personally, but for your family, is that part of the vision that the family would have kind of a common place and a common language. And

Heath (28:43):

Yeah, it started there, right? I mean, I had three kids approaching the teenage years, so, and I know the, I know the average age for phones is coming down of late, but at that time it was 13 or 14. And I thought, Hey, if we can start differently, like if they can build that muscle from the outset, instead of me having to come back two or three years later and try to, you know, rewire expectations around how often they have their phone, it would be so much easier. Right. Um, so part of it was, Hey, let's, let's start this off on a different foot than we have in the past. And then second is, it's kind of funny. Actually, the, the, the home RO has become not just a device that helps parents and their kids use their phones better. It's actually been a device that helps kids manage their parents' usage as well.

Heath (29:32):

<laugh> I call it the reverse parental control app, because we have so many stories, particularly when, when kids are young, let's call it. Yeah. You know, two to eight, when they don't have phones, all they see is their parents on their phones. Like they want their attention. Right. So they see this as kind of a brilliant thing that, Hey, this actually makes my dad, or my mom put their phone down. I'm going to kind of force their hand again. I do think there's applications for the family as a whole, in terms of, you know, how everyone uses it, but it's just been kind of fun to see the different use cases across different types of families.

Krista (30:03):

I love

Joey (30:03):

That. And Krista, I would say that the, you know, we found the most common time for, for people to what we say go Aro uh, for people to put their phones down is, is dinner time. Yeah. That's when people want to connect most right. And so, and so it's that time now and what normally happens in households all across the country and the world is it's a little bit of nagging. Hey, you know, Harrison put your phone away. Hey, Hey dad, why are you looking at your phone at dinner? So I, I think we, what we do here, I think one of the brilliant things is, is it takes a little bit of this nagging out of telling him them to put their phones away. Yes. It becomes the ritual. And even if it's just for dinner, even if, if that's the only thing that people do that imagine the difference there in families.

Joey (30:46):

Oh my goodness. You had an uninterrupted family dinner. It's a pretty significant thing. And so this takes the nagging out of you, just, you know, we even have a function on the app. Again, back to this notion, we just wanna make it easy for people to put their phones down within the app. You can send a notification within your household that says, Joey's invite, dad's inviting you to go Aro love that that's, that's a function, you know, to where it just, it sends that invitation and makes it easy for people to join you. And all that's built around that.

Krista (31:15):

I love that. Tell me what the response has been.

Heath (31:18):

Well, I mean, my, you know, I've got my, my oldest two kids, I've got twins that are about to turn 16. So we'll have, we have cars on the horizon trying to figure out how to drive and those types of things. Um, yeah, so things have changed a little bit, but I mentioned that only because they started using it after they had phones. Right. So the early period was, Hey, we gotta, we gotta re rewire how we use these things. Now, what was really, oh gosh, uplifting, maybe is the right word. Um, you know, teenage kids have a lot of spend the night parties. Yeah. And it's almost every weekend where I walk downstairs and I look in RO and there are a number of phones, too many phones, you know, over flowing with phones. And that's pretty shocking actually that kids teenagers would willingly put their phones yes.

Heath (32:05):

Into this platform. Oh my gosh. To take a break. And you know, I, I asked my daughter one night. I said, why, you know, tell me, like, I know that, you know, we live this lifestyle. Right. But tell me why and your, you and your friends do this. And she said, well, we just have such better conversations. We stayed up until three talking, or we watched a movie together. Or we went outside and, you know, sat by the hot tub. I mean, it's just, it just changes things when, when they're not distracted and they crave that as well. Yes. I think that's what we don't realize. Like even, you know, young kids are craving interpersonal relationships.

Joey (32:42):

Well, I think we all, you know, we all crave connection. We all, we all crave those things and then, but it, it's, it's difficult to get to that point. And so by making it easier for you to connect with somebody right next to you, it takes so much of that friction outta the equation because ultimately kids, no matter what. And I actually don't, I think that's a great point. Be Heath, what you just said, because I don't think we give kids enough credit. Right. People will say, oh, kids are always on their phone. I don't think we give 'em enough credit. I actually think they really do want connection. It's just very difficult to do, because what happens when you're on your phone, the statistics says, we call kind of the yawn effect. When someone looks at their phone, you are 50% more likely to look at yours.

Joey (33:20):

Oh. And so we think this yaw effect is true on the opposite side too. We think, you know, when Reese has friends over, when Reese puts her phone away, I think it's a lot easier for other people to do it too. So I think this yawn effect, and that's, we're trying to do is just make it easy when someone cuz the easiest time to, to be an RO is when somebody else is doing it with you. Totally. And so it does become this community thing, this thing you do, and people really do want that. That's been one interesting thing is that people really, really do want that. They just don't know how to do it, which is why our whole goal is to make it easy.

Krista (33:51):

Yeah. Early on, I, it just stream reminds me of some research. We ran across early on in our journey, which was the city of Boston building a playground. And so what they did in their kind of research project was they asked the children of Boston to help them design the world's best playground, you know? And they expected, they gave 'em like, you know, pipe cleaners and all kinds of things and allowed them to kind of build these little models of what they, what they would love in their dream world. And the number one thing that they found was a common factor between all the kids and their different models that they built was that there would be phone lockers for the parents to put their phones in. So I do, I think that, I think we do underestimate our children and what, what they want.

Joey (34:31):

Yeah. It's because they it's because, and it's interesting that this, this goes back to the, the meaning of the word a but because the kids notice, I, I, when I was young was another, another failure story as a, as a young dad, when Harrison, when he was, um, when he was three, probably three years older reading a bedtime story. And it was one of those where the pen that you hold reads the page for you. Yeah. And so I have my arm around Harrison and I'm holding my phone out to the side of me looking at a group, text thinking he doesn't notice. Right. Right. And we, we get to a page and he says, dad still hear it. He goes, he goes, Hey dad. He goes, this is my favorite page. Let's do this page. Then you can look at your phone again. And so he had already at three years old non-judgmentally he had grown accustomed to the fact that the phone was the focus and he was the distraction.

Joey (35:18):

Wow. And that's, that's not a, for me, that's not okay. That was one of those things that resonated those, that reverberates in my mind. And we do have this goal with RO and I have this personal goal. I know Heath has this goal. Everybody on the team has this goal. I want dads to not have to tell that story. I want moms to not have to tell that story. And here's the great thing is we're closer to that life than we think we are. Oh, we got this big. No, no, no, no. You just need to put your phone down during bedtime just for a few minutes. That's it. And so that's, we, we really do believe that this, this small act and to your point in the city of Boston and this small act can make a huge difference in the lives of kids. We think that books will be written that wouldn't be written otherwise because we're being distracted otherwise. So we think that there's a, this small little act, which is extraordinarily difficult, can be made easier. We can rewire our brains to where it's just easier. It's just more, a natural lifestyle to be apart from your phone for just a few minutes.

Krista (36:15):

I love that. We're closer than we think. I can't believe you just said that <laugh>, that feels so like counter to like some days how I live. Like, I, I, I know I just wanna like hide in my, like spiral with my digital world and throw out my hands and say, I can't, you know, I'm not gonna win this battle, but man, to think that it's closer than I think is just man, I'm just so excited. I, I feel like I'm ready for help. And I know our listeners are ready for help. I know they're tired of fighting battles. They're tired of the friction, tired of trying to convince their kids that there's more to life than the digital world. And, and I love that you guys have created something that I was gonna say becomes the bad guy so that the parents don't have to be. Yeah, I would. I actually don't think R I would ever call the bad guy. It's more like a, a friend, right. That says, Hey, let me hold your phone for you. Right.

Joey (37:07):

Oh, I love you said that, that we, uh, you just, you just nailed it. That's exactly. No, that's perfect. That's because that's what it is. Oh, Hey. Hey. Um, Hey, Boan family. I see, I see. You're about to have family dinner. If, if our could talk, I would say that it'd say, Hey, Chris, I see you guys are about to have dinner. Let me, let me hold your phone while you guys have dinner. Hey, you need to get some stuff done. Let me hold your phone for just a few minutes. Hey, you and your husband wanna have you wanna have a glass of wine? Let, let me hold your phone while you,

Krista (37:30):

Oh gosh, I love it.

Joey (37:31):

And if it wanna talk, it really would be with this beautiful invitation to let me hold that right now for just a few minutes. We're not talking about digital detoxes. We're not talking about weekends off. You can do that, but we're just talking about just a few minutes. Let me hold that phone while you do that other thing, that's more important.

Krista (37:46):

It's beautiful, right? Yeah. So cool. I can't, I'm just so excited. I can't <laugh> the Boan family cannot wait for our Aro to come. I've already started clearing counter space, which is no small task. So tell me when can I have my Aro friend come to live in my own to hold my phone for me?

Heath (38:07):

Well, we've been working hard for three years and we are really, really close. We're launching, uh, the website in early may and we'll start taking pre-orders for late fall delivery,

Krista (38:19):

Late fall,

Heath (38:20):

Late fall.

Krista (38:21):

So I can get on the list. Now

Heath (38:22):

You can absolutely

Krista (38:24):

Top of

Joey (38:24):

The list for top of the list for you. Of course.

Krista (38:26):

<laugh> good. That's right. That's good. So, um, just order through the website, right,

Heath (38:31):


Krista (38:35):

Perfect. Thank you guys. Thanks for all the work you've done to develop and dream and create. And I just can't wait to cheer for you and for the families out there who get, get to have that hope and that help so that they can live life, uninterrupted a little bit more. I would love to do my rapid fire with you guys. Would you be up for that?

Heath (38:55):

Let's do it.

Krista (38:56):

Yay. Okay. So the first time I'm gonna say Heath, what was your favorite piece of old school technology? The kind that you have to explain to your kids because they've never seen it before.

Heath (39:07):

Well, I'm in the market currently for a record player. Oh. And partly because I like the vintage look, but partly because I think it will teach me to be more patient, you know, throw a record on and let it go from beginning song to end instead of skipping through to the only the ones I know.

Krista (39:24):

Yeah, yeah. Get the full, the full effect of the album. <laugh> I love that. Exactly. If, if

Heath (39:30):

Album's even a word anymore, I'm not sure, but

Krista (39:32):

Yes. Oh, maybe not actually. Okay. <laugh> how about you, Joey?

Joey (39:37):

Uh, I gotta go with the original Nintendo. That was, um, and, and, and the real thing I have to explain to my kids is when they ask, so people like this, like this was, this was, so this was fun. And I, I remember taking that first castle on super Mario brothers and it was, it was about peak moment for me. And, and then realizing that she was in another castle was, was devastating <laugh>. But, um, but that's, that's what I have to explain to the kids is, um, the Nintendo, that's my favorite piece of old school technology and, and explaining to them why it was actually fun.

Krista (40:10):

I love it. That's so fun. Okay. Hey, being a parent in 2022 is fill in the blank.

Heath (40:20):

Fun, tough everywhere in between. Amazing.

Krista (40:24):

Yeah. Good Joey.

Joey (40:27):

I would say it being a parent in 2022 requires more than I expected it, it requires a full and I can go, we could have a whole nother podcast on the, the level of notice. It requires just going back to Aro it just requires so much noticing for of this, the big things, the small things, everything in between. Um, so it, it, I would say it requires a lot more than I than I expected.

Krista (40:51):

Mm. So good. Heath, what's your favorite app? <laugh>

Heath (40:56):

I like the Starbucks app.

Krista (40:58):

Yeah. How about Joey?

Joey (41:00):

Um, mine. I, I don't know if that's my favorite, but I use it a bunch is the, uh, the match tennis app. My son plays, plays a bunch of tennis, so why I'm on there? It seems like more, more than I should be, but, um, I'm on there a bunch. I would put that at, at the top for me,

Heath (41:15):

Joey and I both have loops as well, and we we're, we junk. Yeah. We

Joey (41:18):


Krista (41:18):

Loops. I that's a great, I'm sorry. I do not know what whoops is. You're gonna

Heath (41:21):

Have to tell us W H O O P. Okay. It's a

Krista (41:25):

Say more

Heath (41:26):

Heart rate tracking

Joey (41:27):

Fitness tracking app. Oh, nice. Yeah. We've actually, we, we love that they have such a great interface. That's one way when we've, you know, reporting data, we look at how whoop reports data. So, um, yeah, so accessibly and that's, that's a lot of the inspiration with the Aro app is let's deliver this, you know, kind of these metrics in, in a really, really, glanceable not scrollable way. I love that. Um, so we like how, how whoop delivers that delivers that awesome info.

Krista (41:52):

Awesome. That's awesome. What is your favorite trick to keep your tech in check <laugh>?

Heath (41:59):

I mean, at this point, it's a, I

Krista (42:01):

Mean, I feel like

Heath (42:01):

I'm saying you up for, I mean, <laugh>, I don't know. I've had, I've probably had five or six different prototypes now and I've yeah, it's funny. I've, I've had the oldest version of it for the last three or four months. Um, and it works just as good as the, the prettier versions. It's not, not nearly attractive, but yeah, no, that's, that's it at this point that, that is the place where I put my phone.

Krista (42:22):

I love it, Joey.

Joey (42:23):

Yeah. Yeah. I, I would say that. And, um, for sure, and, and also, and this is, this is a real story, Krista. I had, we had a, uh, few weeks ago with, uh, with one of my kids. I got to this point where with technology, I think, I don't know what to do in this situation. And, and this is no lie. I went to, we start and I looked and I said, okay, where's my, and I found my answer and it was wonderful. And so it's, um, you know, Aro is a great place to put your phone away and then we have other great people like you who are addressing this in other ways that are really, really practical. So I, I would say, uh, I would say between, between Aro and we start, we starting now org. I think I'm pretty well covered.

Krista (43:02):

That's awesome. I appreciate that. Um, the internet breaks down for 24 hours or Aro takes over your world for 24 hours. <laugh> what are you gonna do to unplug? What's your favorite thing to do?

Heath (43:18):

I think I would go for a trail run. Nice. Cause it reminds me of home and I'd probably read more.

Krista (43:28):


Joey (43:29):

Which by the way, everybody almost almost to a hundred percent, when you ask people we've done surveys on this. Yeah. They say, if you could do, if you could spend less time on your phone, what would you, what would you do? Almost a hundred people. A hundred percent of people say reading. Yeah. Is it's really so true. I, I think I'd answer the same way. I'd I'd read, I'd sit and write, jump on the trampoline with the kids. Um, so I think, uh, you know, all the, all the stuff that, uh, all the...

Heath (43:53):

You'd go on a hike, Joey loves to hike.

Joey (43:55):

Oh, of course. Yeah, of course. I would go, I'd probably fly fishing or, you know, something maybe work on it, work on an engine or something.

Krista (44:02):

I love, it's

Joey (44:03):

Not none of that. None of that matches me. Oh man. I would ride, jump on the trampoline.

Krista (44:08):

I love that. I love that. So good

Joey (44:10):

With my kids. I wouldn't just jump on the trampoline by myself.

Krista (44:12):

Oh, okay.

Joey (44:13):

Well I'm six foot five jumping by myself on a trampoline. The neighbors would think something weird's going on.

Krista (44:18):

I love it.

Krista (44:22):

Oh man. Weren't Heath and Joey. Awesome. Our team at screen sanity be just loves them. We're so grateful for the work that we're doing. We need resources like Aro to help us to offer, to hold our phones for us while we go on doing the things that matter most to us. But that's not all we need. We need each other. We need to keep having these honest and brave conversations about what it look like to bring screen sanity to your community. By grabbing a copy of the screen sanity group study. Once you have your copy, all you have to do is invite people to get together, push, play on the videos and ask the questions we provide until next time screens are small, but life is big. So keep looking up.

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Make phone-free time a part of your daily routine with Aro.