#62 - Voices of Aro: How one dad tried everything to curb his phone addiction

March 26, 2024
Sam Hess

Episode Summary

Welcome back to another episode of Voices of Aro! This month, Aro Co-Founder Joey sits down with Sam Hess, a husband and father of two living in Northern California. In this episode, Sam shares about how he was noticing his phone getting in the way of his relationships, mostly in what he called the ""mini moments"" of the day. He shares the importance of being present around your kids to truly notice what they need, because sometimes they don't always express it verbally. Sam goes on to share that he tried putting down his phone in every way you could think of, finding that none of them were as effective as Aro has been for him. We wrap up the episode with Sam sharing things he has noticed since having Aro in his home and his advice for parents dealing with phones and technology in the home. If you're an Aro member and interested in sharing your own Aro story, please reach out to us at stories@goaro.com. We'd love to hear from you!

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Episode Transcript

Joey Odom (00:03):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's your good friend, Joey Odom, Co-Founder of Aro. Today's episode is an episode of Voices of Aro, and Voices of Aro is a conversation with people who are just like you and me, people who have struggled at times with being a great parent, a great partner, and sometimes we all know this, our devices can get in the way of that. And Sam Hess joined us today. Sam is an educator, he's a great dad. He lives in California, and I share a story from Sam a bunch, and it's an awesome story of a morning with his son, a typical morning, a routine morning where something really, really cool happened. In fact, something cool happened that actually changed Sam's life. So you may have heard me tell this story. It's better to hear it from Sam because he gives such great background on it and you kind of feel like you were there.

Now Sam, like I said, is a great dad, but he's also an educator, so he sees the effect of our phones on our kids, and he has a great perspective and insight on that. I love this discussion. I'm so grateful for Sam for sharing this story. This is a story that will inspire you. This is a story that you can go implement in your own home tomorrow, and it made a difference in Sam's life. And as we tell that story, it really, really resonates. So for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Sam Hess Gang. We have a legend with us, an Aro legend, Sam Hess. I'm telling you, I have quoted Sam again and again and again and again. In fact, if you listen to the podcast, you probably heard me talk about him. So I'm so excited to have Sam Hess with us. Sam, welcome to the AL Podcast.

Sam Hess (01:36):

Thank you. Glad to be here, Joey. Thanks for having me.

Joey Odom (01:39):

Absolutely. Sam, let's kick off. You are right now. You are. Tell us about where you are seated right now, because I think I didn't know this until today as we were talking.

Sam Hess (01:50):

Yeah, I'm in my office on the principal of an elementary school, and so I'm just kind of getting prepared for our kiddos coming in. We serve TK to two, so I mean just the youngest of the young kiddos coming in. And actually that kind of brings me to back around to just who we're serving and why. I mean, I have two kiddos myself, seven and 8-year-old, so they're in second and third grades myself. And so it's kind of my jam. It's kind of where I'm at with my life and what I'm doing to serve our kiddos. And I kind of stay in this mode all day long. So this is what we do.

Joey Odom (02:25):

So that means if that's the case, that means you are an all-star dad who never makes mistakes, who is always present with his kids and never misses a moment. Is that right?

Sam Hess (02:35):

Yeah, yeah, that's what I like to think of it. But I think you probably asked them, it'd be a little bit different story, but I try my best. I think that's all we can do, right?

Joey Odom (02:43):

Absolutely. Well, I'm sure you see at that young of an age, especially that young of an age is probably too young for those kids to have phones, would be my guess. But I'm curious for you at your home, and so again, let's actually first let's go back to your family. So you have a seven and 8-year-old boys, girls, what do you have? And then your wife?

Sam Hess (03:02):

Yeah, so my son Julian, he's eight, he's a third grader and my daughter Adelaide, she's seven second grade. And my wife and I, we live in northern California, been raising our family up here for a couple years now, moved from SoCal. And part of that really was the hustle and bustle of what southern California was compared to Northern California and trying to be more present with my family and enjoy family life and really stay connected with 'em. But what I noticed getting to the technology piece of things is that the technology of the phone was getting in the way of that. A lot of my times with my engagement piece, if I was to pinpoint an exact story of what that looked like, there's many of those examples. But really I think what my noticing was was the mini moments, it was the mini moments that the phone was interrupting my life and what I was able to do with my kids.

I felt when I had that phone present on my body, I could feel it burning a hole and just asking me to pick it up, waiting to look at that next red bubble, that notification or that email or checking the ESPN app to look at what the score was, even though I just checked it like 30 seconds before and I knew nothing was going to be different and changed, but it was just calling to me and I knew that was a problem. There was an addiction there that I could not break even when I was trying to stay present with my kids, I was telling myself that I was being present. I was out engaging with the world with them and playing at the park, but really I was distracted every 30 seconds by pulling out my phone and trying to check to see what the next notification was for me. So I knew I had to make a change and do something different.

Joey Odom (04:49):

Well, which is so interesting because it's almost like we are telling ourselves a little bit of a story all the time. No, I'm out here, I'm doing something good, but we're not fully, it's almost like 98% instead of a hundred percent, which is good. But I almost wonder, and I know for me, I almost wonder sometimes if it's that our kids are so perceptive and sometimes because our kids are in a very good way, greedy for our time, they want our time, they want our attention. The daddy watch me moments. I think about that and sometimes I wonder if they only see the 2%, those 2% of the times when we are glancing on our phones, which I'm thankful for because again, that's them saying, Hey, I'm important. Julian says, Hey dad, look at me. You can't look at your phone. I know we're at the park. It's almost like the 98% is almost as bad as the being there, 0%. You know what I mean?

Sam Hess (05:40):

Yeah. And I think especially at my level, the age that my kids are and the kids I serve at my school is kids will tell you what they need with their whole bodies. They throw it all out there, they just tell you what they need. Their eyes tell you, their bodies tell you, their emotions tell you. I mean, they're telling you what to meet, and it's our job to try to meet those needs and fill them however we can. And the only way you really can do that is by being present and noticing what it is that they are telling you. And so that was what I was noticing, that I was not noticing those things. I was missing some of those moments because, and they would be the ones that snap me out of it. They would be like, dad, and I'd check myself and go, okay, and I'd reengage. But those interruptions are what never makes you fully present. And so again, I think you have to try to really dive in. And for me, the only way to do that is without option for that device.

Joey Odom (06:40):

I wrote down that line, kids will tell you what they need with their whole bodies. What a great line. And I think it would be easy as a parent to say, well, that's not fair. I mean they can't, well, yeah, it's not, but we're the ones that made the kids. We're the ones that they do deserve our attention. And again, thank God they're the ones that are, because probably you are an educator, so you are a lot smarter than I am, but I need to be hit over the head with something sometimes and just say, Hey dad, look at me. You know what I mean? And as our kids get older, so my son's 15, daughters 13, they stopped doing as overtly, but that doesn't mean their need for your attention is any less. It's just a little bit less overt from 'em. I'm curious, so you heard about Aro and what was it when you were just like, alright, I need this. What was kind of the maybe the why or even the moments when you said, I think this would be helpful for me?

Sam Hess (07:34):

Yeah, I was actually on a drive on my way to work. I have about a 20 minute, 20 mile commute, and I was listening to the front row dads podcast that I heard you on and telling your story, and it really resonated with me. And by the time I got into my parking lot and got myself ready to go to school and serve my kids here, I had purchased and signed up for Aro. I mean, the why is pretty simple. I want to be more present and engaged with my kids. And I had tried multiple interventions myself. I tried the iOS screen time and I tried to just put my phone in my room. I tried to even lock it in a safe, so I didn't have access to it, but it was always calling me back and there was always a reason to go back there.

It was the combination for me with the Aro being something that I could just go put it away in and forget it. And then I really do, I'm incentivized by reaching goals. I'm a creature of habit, I'm a goal setter. I like to reach some of those goals. And the gamified piece of that, Aro adds to it, I think really did call to me as well. And that was that extra layer that I needed. I mean, I've been able to put my phone away in my room, but still called to it with this. It was like I wanted to reach some of the goals. And I think that helped me really shift my mindset to be able to then focus on what I need to do and put that phone away.

Joey Odom (09:04):

The competitive side is a big deal for sure. And we've found, Sam, it's interesting. We've found people who have the most success are ones, the way you described it was I tried thing after thing prior to this. So Aro is rarely the very first thing someone needs because it's almost like, it seems like it should be easy. It seems like it should be easy to put your phone down and stay present, but it's just not. It's hard. And so it usually starts with a soft touch approach, like you said, the screen time monitoring your screen time every week. And then if that doesn't work, you go to the next level and the next level. And then the third or fourth time, if ours, that third or fourth thing, usually that's the time it sticks for somebody because they've tried other things and recognize that it doesn't work and the science proves it out. We just have to have our phones away from us. But that's hard to keep our phones away from us unless we have a trusted system. So what you're saying, it's funny, we didn't prep for that. It's exactly in line with the people who are having the most success with Aro.

So Aro means to notice, as you know, and I had to hear what you've noticed so far, and that could be a story, that could be a time with yourself, with your kids, with your family, with your spouse, whoever that is. But I'd like to hear maybe what you've noticed so far as you've had Aro for the last probably six months or so.

Sam Hess (10:24):

Yeah, so I mean, I think of what I've noticed is that your kids notice, they notice you and they notice you on that device. But one story I do have, I'm an early riser and my son is two, and my routine is typically I get up early, I work out, and then I have this isolated time where I'll have my coffee and kind of sit on the couch or the chair and relax and scroll through my phone sometimes mindlessly. And sometimes there's a newsletter or something that I'm reading. But then around that time, my son, who's an early riser two will get up and he'll kind of go to the counter and make himself a bowl of cereal and he'll be crunching away. And that was our routine for a while where I would sit there and kind of scroll through my phone and he'd be behind me crunching, crunching away.

And then one day, shortly after I got Aro, I said, you know what? This is the time. So I went to the Aro and I put my device in it, and I went and sat next to my son and kind of looked at me and I looked at him and I said, Hey bud, what's going on? What are you excited for the day? And he started telling me about his school day and what he was interested in doing. He's like, Hey, dad. Our team lost last night and started talking to me about how his team lost. And he was all disappointed. And it was a time for me to be able to coach him through that disappointment, as small as that seemed. And then the funny anecdote we talked about is we talked about charts.

Joey Odom (11:56):

That's S-H-A-R-T for the listener sharks.

Sam Hess (11:59):

Yeah. And how you can't trust the fart son, you can't trust the farts. So in all of that time, I went back to the device and checked it and it was 17 minutes. And then in all of that time, in all the conversation we had, I was like, okay, that's a good start. That's 17 minutes. But then I started doing the math on it. I'm like, okay, that's 17 minutes today and that's 17 minutes tomorrow, so that's going to be an hour by the end of the week. And then eventually that hour will alternative days and possibly weeks. And then that time building relationships with your kids, you don't really get back. And that's one of those things you think about being present with your kids, and I'm spending this time with my kids, but really, are you present? Are you getting it out of you?

Are you getting what you want out of that conversation or out that relationship with your kids? And it was a really powerful moment for me that really kind of changed my approach to what and how I engage with my kids because from the outside you say, oh yeah, you're home. You're home with your kids. You knew he was having cereal. You were there with him. You were having breakfast. I wasn't having breakfast. I was doing my thing on my phone while he was eating and I was not engaging. So those are those minutes you can't get back. And I think those culminate into stronger relationships with your family and that bond that when they do leave the house or they do go off into their own space, they have those connections with you and they have the capacities and the wisdom that you help instill with them to go be the better person to their community, their society, and their kids. So it was really kind of a powerful reflection and moment for me.

Joey Odom (13:36):

God, I probably told that story 20 times since you emailed us the first time with it. And it's, the thing I love about it is exactly what you said is that it's those actually going back to what you found you were missing, you were missing mini moments. That's why you said at first where you noticed the phone getting in the way of those mini moments. And I just think about you recapturing that you just created something brand new with that 17 minutes. And I think maybe this is for all people. I think I notice it myself, and you just mentioned it. And so I wonder if it's more common for dads to do this, but I always want to do the grand gesture. I want to do the very big thing. And so because I want to do the grand gesture, I leave out the small gestures and I don't focus on the tiny things and I forget the minutiae and the small, and as a result, I just don't do anything at all.

Because I even think my daughter and I went to a daddy daughter dance a few years ago, and so you wrote down like, what's something fun that you could do with your dad, and what's something fun you could do with your daughter? So we both wrote down something and then we compared, I wrote, go to Paris. She wrote Go ice skating down the street. And I was like, dang, it's not that huge. But we overlook the small, and so to your 17 minutes is an inspiration because Julian may or may not remember that. I bet you he won't forget sharks, but he may or may not remember that moment. But I do know because of how you felt, you're going to continue on and continue to do those things.

I will say when the sharks are great, and by the way, Google that at your peril listener, but as I retell that story, I usually just say they talk about sharks, S-H-A-R-K-S, just to avoid all the sharp discussion. But I'm glad we got the uncensored version today. I would love for you to, as maybe other dads who are listening, or even maybe moms who are listening, who this could be for them or even for them to forward moms, is a good time to forward this to your husband. What's some encouragement or advice you'd give to other, let's just make it specific to dads. What would be some encouragement or advice you would give to dads when it comes to your technology and your family and your kids?

Sam Hess (15:58):

I mean, simply be present, put down your phone. But I think going back to something that resonated with me, and I've repeated this story over and over is something that you posted or wrote in your newsletter about the 75% of the time that you're going to spend with your child is before the age of 12 and 90% of that's before the age of 18. And I guess the question you have to ask yourself is how do you want to spend that time, right? Do you want to just be present and be around and be kind of the dad that's there, or do you want to engage with your kids? And what are the barriers to engagement? And for some, it could be work life balance, some could be some other extraneous factors. But if your barrier is your phone like it was for me, then put it away and engage with your kids and use that time to spend that quality time with your kids and reengage.

Joey Odom (16:53):

It's so basic. It's so good. It starts with one small step. It starts with 17 minutes, and you have, man, you've inspired me. I think about you a lot whenever I'm at home. As much as we think about this, it still is in those moments where maybe I'm a little bit tired and maybe I do want to scroll EPN or whatever it is when I just think No Gianna needs me. No, Harrison needs me. So I'm grateful for you, man. Thank you for being a good dad. Thank you for raising a good boy, a good girl, and thank you for what you're doing as a principal of, I remember, I think as most people do, I remember all my principals, all my teachers growing up, and the impact that you have, the ability you have to inspire those kids and then also to inspire the teachers to dig in with them. So I'm grateful for everything you're doing at home and at the workplace and let it be noted. It's 7:00 AM where you are right now. So you got up early to talk to Aro podcast listeners, which we appreciate as

Sam Hess (17:53):

Well. I'm an early riser. Joey,

Joey Odom (17:56):

You've been up for hours. There's nothing, Sam, thank you brother, very, very much. Thank you for all of this and your words and your inspiration and very, very appreciative for you.

Sam Hess (18:08):

Likewise, Joey. I appreciate the

Joey Odom (18:09):

Opportunity. Hey, thank you for joining us on Voices of Aro. Hey, if you're an Aro member and you would like to be part of Voices of Aro, just shoot us an email at stories@goaro.com. If you are not yet an Aro member and you want to learn more, go to our website, goaro.com or follow us on Instagram @goronow. Lastly, if you would do me an enormous favor, will you please leave us a five star rating wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you so much for joining us on Voices of Aro. We can't wait to see you next time on Voices of Aro or The Aro Podcast. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support and to our executive producer, Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.