#42 - Why parents should hesitate to give their kids a phone for the holidays with Gayle Cheatham

November 21, 2023
Gayle Cheatham

Episode Summary

In this week's episode, we dive into a crucial conversation with Gayle Cheatham, Co-Founder of Look Up Nonprofit. Gayle shares the story behind Look Up, and their mission to empower families to look up from their digital devices and truly connect with the world around them. She and Joey explore the common pressures parents face when contemplating giving their child a phone, shedding light on the addictive nature of these devices and the potential negative impact on children, especially young children. Their discussion even touches on the loss of real-life interactions for kids due to the nature of the screen's role in today's environment. Gayle even draws a striking parallel between the effects of smartphones and the early days of the tobacco industry. She also offers valuable insights for parents considering a phone for their child, emphasizing the importance of aligning with your spouse on tech boundaries and modeling healthy habits. Tune in for a thought-provoking conversation that may have you deciding to hold off on getting your child a phone for the holidays.

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Episode Transcript

Gayle Cheatham (00:00):

I don't know if you've ever had that moment with someone, a stranger in a store or taking out a dog for a walk. I don't necessarily have to say anything to that person, but we can make eye contact and that's a connection in that moment that I feel seen. Maybe I sympathize with what you're going through right now. Maybe we smile at each other. It's a whole level of human interaction and connection that our kids are being told a lie that they're connecting with their friends via snap and text. But as the mental health stats will tell you, they're feeling more lonely and depressed and anxious than we ever have before as humans.

Joey Odom (00:51):

Welcome back to the Aro podcast. Hey, it's Joey Odom, Co-Founder of Aro. And guess what? It's Thanksgiving week. You know, I'm thankful for you already. I don't have to say it, but I will say it. Anyway, I'm thankful for you, grateful for you. Thank you for being here. And we have a really, I think, practical conversation. Very strategically timed conversation. Three days from now is Black Friday, and a lot of you, I'm sure are considering phones for your kids. And I had Gayle Cheatham on the show today. Gayle is Co-Founder of Lookup, which is a nonprofit. Their website is life is offline.com, and they're nonprofit that encourages families to look up from their devices and that when we spoke with them for the first time a couple months ago, they specifically said, Hey, we would love on the podcast to talk right before people are buying phones for their kids for Christmas specifically.

And their reason why, and Gayle goes into it a lot, is when you give a child a phone as a gift, in some ways it's almost like a no strings attached. Here it is, have fun, do whatever. It's almost like you lose a little bit of agency and control. And for those of us who have kids with phones, we know you have to have all of the agency into that. It's not their phone, it's yours that you're allowing them to use. And so this is no blame, no shame, it's no demonization of technology. It's really a practical thought of, hey, if you've gone through the checklist and you do believe that right now is the time for your kid to have a phone, be really careful to not give it as a gift on Christmas. As fun as that may be, I get it. It is very fun to give your kid a phone.

So I really do understand or give 'em a gift that they really want. So I know that's fun, but for the good of your kids, she gives a lot of reasons why you should reconsider that and maybe think about going a different direction. I really enjoyed it. One little bonus with Gayle. She's got a little touch left of her South African accent. She grew up in South Africa and moved to the States in her teens, but that's a little bonus for you that you'll like a nice little delightful South African accent. But for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Gayle Cheatham gang. Black Friday is in three days and I bet a smartphone for your kids is on the list for some of you. Fair warning, that list might change by the end of this episode. See, our guest is going to encourage you to think twice. Actually, she's going to encourage you to look up. She's Houstonian by choice, south African by birth and Aro podcast right now. Please join me in welcoming to the Aro podcast, Co-Founder of Lookup, Gayle Cheatham. Gayle, it's so good to see you.

Gayle Cheatham (03:49):

So good to see you. Thanks for having me.

Joey Odom (03:52):

Yeah, it's great to have you. I'm really, really excited to have this discussion. We will get into a little bit of the premise, but I want to start first. Will you tell us briefly orient the listener, what is lookup?

Gayle Cheatham (04:06):

So we are a new nonprofit and we started as two moms and a family coach and the therapist to empower families to look up from their devices and connect with the world around them. So we talk to churches and schools and just create awareness and we really want to empower families. We believe that they're doing the best that they can and they deserve to have all the information about this new digital era that we're living in.

Joey Odom (04:32):

Yeah, no kidding. How did that start with, was it something that, hey, you were seeing it in others. Was it something you're seeing like the tension in yourself? How did that in you and your partner, how did that begin when you just said, Hey, we got to do something about it?

Gayle Cheatham (04:50):

Well, two individual journeys. Tessa, my partner is a licensed therapist, and she got into it to just help teens with the normal stuff that we grew up with. And she very quickly realized that the world that we live in today is not the same world that we grew up in. And so she started doing research, wrote a book, and just really wanted to empower parents on what she was seeing in her counseling rooms before they get to that stage. And then I come at you as a parent, not an expert. I think it's something that you have shared on your podcast too, that learn from my mistakes.

I was working in corporate America when phones came out and emails and there was less in-person connection. And I felt the loneliness in my office, relationships in my marriage. And then as my kids started getting to the age where they were asking for devices, I really started to dig in and see what are we getting ourselves into and trying to protect them. So I've made a lot of mistakes along the way and I try encourage other families not to make those same mistakes. And so Tessa and I were on this individual journey and turns out we live in the same neighborhood. We're passionate about helping families. And so earlier this year, lookup was born.

Joey Odom (06:20):

That's exciting. I would say you actually are an expert as a mom who's made mistakes that makes you an expert. And I bet you probably a lot more victories than mistakes. So I want to just full disclosure for the listener, the timing of this episode is very, very strategic. We had a call a month ago or so and said, Hey, we want to have this episode come out right before Black Friday. And it was really, Hey, we want parents to rethink phones for Christmas or maybe not. I'll let you get into this. Maybe not even reconsider or rethink, but just be thoughtful and be intentional. Will you tell us why it's important to you that you have this conversation with parents, especially right now?

Gayle Cheatham (07:07):

Yes, it was really important for us to get this news out before the holidays because parents, grandparents, who doesn't want to give their kid the best present on Christmas morning, whatever, holiday, and that's fine. And we all love our kids and we're doing the best that we can, but it is a lifestyle choice. When you choose to give your child a device, it is going to change things and we just want parents to know what they're getting into. I thought I knew I had done all the research, I thought I could make the device safe. I had all the conversations with my kids, full disclosure, I gave it to them as a birthday gift, each of them at age 12. And looking back, I don't recommend giving it to them as a gift. It makes it very convoluted on, I still need to monitor this device and this device is mine, not yours, and I'm the parent. It feels more like a toy and it feels more like their device, I mean. Right,

Joey Odom (08:24):

Sure. It's really interesting because you're right, a gift is, I think by nature, it's almost like whether you're explicit or implicit, it's kind of a no strings attached thing. When you give a gift, Hey, this is yours, I'm giving you this. And so that that's effectively what you're cautioning against. Right. And so then do you think in some ways it's almost like it takes some license away from the parents or maybe even makes a parent feel bad when they attach some kind of restriction and guidance on it?

Gayle Cheatham (08:58):

Right. It's hard for the child to understand, well, you gave me this phone, but now you want to take it away or you want to read my private messages. It just makes things challenging. So I would caution against doing the gift, but then the next layer to that is as again, a parent who held off for two years thought I was doing the right thing. I have never heard from any of my families, man, I wish I gave that device sooner. It almost inevitably is something that has unintended consequences and parents wish they would've waited a little bit longer. And so I think when you're going into Christmas, the idea is often exciting to give them that wonderful Christmas morning, but you have to live with that choice going forward. You've now opened the door. It's going to take a lot of mental capacity as a parent to keep them safe. A lot of time. I recommend doing parental controls and things like that. I think it's more serious than getting a puppy for Christmas.

Joey Odom (10:14):


Gayle Cheatham (10:14):

Really is something you need to consider.

Joey Odom (10:17):

Wow. So it's almost like tattooing your boyfriend or girlfriend's name and then you break up. You can get it removed, but it's really hard to get it removed and very painful. It's effectively permanent. So will you tell me a little bit, you gave one reason there, which from a parent is just a very exciting thing. It's an exciting thing to give your kid a phone. What are some other things parents are feeling and maybe it's just helpful to acknowledge some of the pressures that parents are feeling on the reasons why they give their phone. So what are some pressures that parents are feeling right now when it comes to getting their kid a phone?

Gayle Cheatham (10:58):

So the biggest two that I hear is my child will be left out. Everybody else has one. And I encourage parents to talk to the parents of their friends and really find out because chances are they're not the only one that doesn't have the device.

So there's that piece. The other piece is your child is going to be left out whether you give them a phone or not, it's a part of growing up and we all get left out at some point. Not everyone is our people. We're not going to be included at every party. And so it is a part of growing up that we can't avoid. And so accepting that and not making that the reason to get the phone. The other thing I hear a lot is, well, I don't want them to fall behind on technology. I want them to learn how to use it and this is the wave of the future careers and things like that. And I mean, I'm guessing you were in your late teens, early twenties when you got a device like this and I don't feel like we are falling behind. It was something that we were able to learn. And so I think just waiting for that emotional maturity for them to be able to make healthy decisions on devices is not going to hold them back in their future career, things like that.

Joey Odom (12:34):

Yeah. I segue, I want to come back to this, but I want to maybe give a little bit of context for the listener here even more so, will you talk about some of these dangers? Obviously it's a permanent thing, you have to be vigilant as a parent, but what are some of these reasons? And people may have heard this, but it's always worth hearing Again, what are some of the ways that phones given to kids, whether too young or just in general, what are some of these harms and dangers that you're seeing happen to kids when they get phones? Again, whether too early or just as part of getting a phone?

Gayle Cheatham (13:12):

Right. Well, I'm actually going to back up a little bit because I have been trying to not call it a phone. And it's a habit. And I think we have all been sold on this idea that these are phones and I'm for a phone. We all grew up with household phones. It's a safety thing that maybe your child is left there for a little bit and then they can reach you a phone. That transport sound waves is very different to the handheld computer we're talking about.

Joey Odom (13:45):

I I love this distinction. You're so right. I think about the percentage of usage of time I have on my quote phone. How much of that is actually being used telephonically, right? Yes.

Gayle Cheatham (13:57):

And I can tell you the kids, they don't phone each other. They're using it for entertainment. And at the very most, if they're contacting their friends, it's through SNAP or FaceTime, but there's no traditional phone that they're using. So to answer your question, the computer device that we give them is addictive in nature because the technology makes money the longer we stay on it. And so especially I struggle with it. I think as adults we all struggle with how much time we're on our phones and creating balance. But for children whose brains are still developing, who are very sensitive to that reward part, who don't have the fully developed frontal lobe and can see the consequences of their actions, it's really dangerous. And so the longer we can hold off, the more that frontal lobe is developed and the less of an impact that addictive nature of the device will have on them, but then taking that out, human interaction, eye contact touch, these are always that we naturally feel like we are loved and belong and we don't get that on devices even on Zoom where we can look at each other.

We cannot actually make eye contact. And I don't know if you've ever had that moment with someone, a stranger in a store or taking out a dog for a walk. I don't necessarily have to say anything to that person, but we can make eye contact. And that's a connection in that moment that I feel seen. Maybe I sympathize with what you're going through right now. Maybe we smile at each other. It's a whole level of human interaction and connection that our kids are being told a lie that they're connecting with their friends via snap and text. But as the mental health stats will tell you, they're feeling more lonely and depressed and anxious than we ever have before as humans.

Joey Odom (16:11):

Yeah, it's so true. Just a quick note on, and actually next week's Aro podcast episode, we talk Heath Wilson, his heath Wilson, Aro's Co-Founder, his wife Mistye. And I talk about the power of eye contact and really truly how much of a game changer that is in marriages specifically. I mean just that intimacy that you have with the person you're closest with or at one time you're closest with. And then for your kids that it's such a young age, there's so many studies, and you're right, even at the most basic level of inhibiting eye contact, our screens are doing that. And I think Gayle, not to rabbit trail too much on this, but this is in ways where I think it's such an opportunity. What a cool opportunity. We're thinking of this as a restriction like, oh wait to give your kids a phone. But it's more like what a cool thing you can give to your kid is the feeling of being seen and known and loved and having an intimate relationship. And again, not in a very close, when I say intimate, I mean just a close relationship with somebody else. What a cool opportunity we have. And just by delaying a little bit, that's a neat thing. You can give them a gift you can give them.

Gayle Cheatham (17:26):

Yes. And we learn so much from just interacting. Our kids see how we cook dinner or treat other people. And I think there's a real opportunity that they lose there. When you go grocery shopping or to the restaurants and you see all these kids on screens, they're losing that opportunity to interact and learn from their environment, learn how they fit into the world. There's a lot of little subtle things that we're seeing that it impacts now. And that's not even getting onto the explicit content, the predators that are out there, the human trafficking that is happening, that these people that are evil in the world have a direct line to your kids once your child has this device that's connected to the internet.

Joey Odom (18:18):

Yeah, it's so true. Tom Ting joined us a few months ago and the question he said, I said, okay, so when should you get your kids a phone? And his answer was, when you're ready for them to see pornographic images and just think, oh good. Okay, well that'll be never Again, that's a little bit an alarmist take on it, but you have to understand that possibility does open up infinitely whenever that device is in their hands.

Gayle Cheatham (18:47):

Well, I want to touch on that a little bit. Recent story. My son has had a phone for a couple years. He is very responsible. Does he make mistakes? Of course, he's 14 this year. I allowed him to have Snap. It was not something that I loved, but we decided that this, he had proven himself and for whatever reason, and so everything has been going fine. And here recently, somebody that he knows in person wanted to get back at another person that he knew and they were planning to send him explicit photos and all these things. And I share this not because I want to share what my son is going through or anything, but unless I physically took the phone away or blocked Snapchat, I could not stop that person from getting to him in that harmful way. And I just want parents to know that even if you have the parental controls, even if you have the discussions, even if you are present with your child, there are going to be moments that you are faced with something like this that you have now opened the door and it is not easy to shut it.

Joey Odom (20:15):

Yeah, that's right. And actually it does make me think of your puppy example. You don't get a puppy and expect that it's just going to be fine. No one does that. You do have a plan for it. You do know you're going to have to walk it. You do know you're going to have to clean up around the house, especially at first. And it is almost like, and I think parents are getting wiser on this, I'm hopeful of that, but just knowing that this is something that you're taking on. So even if selfishly for you as a parent just to say, I'm going to delay it. I'm not ready. I need to. And I think a lot of parents feel this way and in some ways maybe they don't do anything. They don't have a plan, they don't know where to begin, which is why I'm so glad you all are here. And I do have a question. You addressed this earlier on maybe one of the rationalizations, but this is the way a culture though. This is how people communicate. How do you address that when people say, well, it's just like kids have phones now. How do you address that? Whether it's reason, excuse, rationalization when people say, well, I'm just going to get my phone. That's just how it works. And part B of that question is the convenience factor of needing to be in contact with your kid.

Gayle Cheatham (21:29):

So many things in that,

Joey Odom (21:31):

I know I asked long questions.

Gayle Cheatham (21:35):

So I think that technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that we as a society are trying to catch up. And I don't know if everyone is going to believe this, but I truly believe that this is the tobacco industry where, I mean, my husband's grandmother was told to smoke while she was pregnant, and we know now how dangerous that is. I mean, it was just everywhere. And so I think that there's a lot of catching up in legislation and just education around this subject. Now that being said, I do believe that this world is here to stay. I believe that parents are doing the best that they can and I'm not anti-tech with the right intention and knowledge. It can be a very useful tool. And so as long as we approach it with that in mind, I think that we can move forward in a healthy way and keep our kids safe. Do I think that eight and 10 year olds need to have a smart device? No. There's a lot of other things that we as parents, if we want to be able to know where our child is or we want to be able to reach them, there's flip phones, there's light phones, there's the new bark phone that has only a call and text feature. There's watches. There's a lot of ways that we can solve whatever issue we want without exposing them to the full internet.

Joey Odom (23:16):

Yeah, you're so right. And then I believe this is a very real, my daughter said this, this is before she had a phone. She wanted a phone so badly and she said, dad, but if you're think getting me a phone, she goes, I would rather have have no phone than be the one who has the green text bubbles, which is such a, it's so silly. But when you get into the ME phones and barks and all that, they do run on the Android system. They do have, you will be a green bubble texter, but if you do it, and you said this earlier, and I think this is so important for parents, if you have a community of people who is aligned with you and they are on the same page with you, then it makes that so much easier then no, you're not the only green bubble texter. No, you're not. And so you find those people who are aligned with you. To me, and I know you said it to me, that's one of the most important things is find your community people who are thinking and parenting just like you. Being that community is so important.

Gayle Cheatham (24:16):

And it goes back to what I said earlier about being left out. You want to be the blue bubble, not the green bubble. There's so many different layers of them feeling left out. And so that's not a good thought. And that's one of the things that Lookup is trying to do. We really believe that it takes a village. And so we have these free community events. Our members have monthly zooms because we want people to not feel like they're the only one facing this problem. They get tools from other parents that have maybe been through that. They have a pact. One of the best things I did was with my son's best friend's mom, we had a pact that we would not get our child a phone until we spoke to the other one. And so we always knew that they were in it together. It really takes community.

Joey Odom (25:08):

Absolutely. I love that.

Katie in Charlotte, North Carolina emailed the other day and said, I purchased Aro for my husband and our family. I'm excited to use this as a family. We have three kids and we want to try to be present with them and not always on our phones. My husband and I both have talked about being on our phones less and I'm hopeful this will help Katie. We are hopeful as well. We're excited for you, for you and your husband and your marriage, for your family, for the way you interact together for family dinners. We're really, really excited for you. If you're interested in learning more about Aro, just go to goaro.com

So the people are in on different continuums and you addressed this and I want to talk about three categories of people and you just to give a couple different maybe little tasters of how you address it. So you talk about the no tech yet family, a family who doesn't yet have tech. You talk about kind of an introduction to screens, the family getting ready and then a reset. So will you hit a little bit of maybe just practical thoughts or tips for people who are in that season? And I want them to go to the website as well to learn more and get your material because you address a lot of this. But three categories, family who doesn't yet have tech, a family that is ready in an introduction to screens and then maybe a reset.

Gayle Cheatham (26:32):

So first everything we do is no blame, no shame. I love it. And it's never too late. So whatever phase you're in, we want meet you where you are. Every family is individual and we just want to help you do better at whatever stage you are. So for the people that have no tech, it is changing all the time. And like I mentioned, there's so many different devices that you can get dependent on your needs that a lot of people are jumping to the iPhone or the smartphone, but you could maybe get away with a watch or a standard home line to suit your needs. So it's really exploring your family values and what you really are looking for by looking at this purchase. The other side of that is just talking about the downside of these devices. Like we talked about in-person connection and eye contact.

And a huge thing is resilience and boredom. Our kids need to feel those uncomfortable feelings so that they can build those skills to deal with life. And so holding off on the screen gives them more of an opportunity to do all of that. And then talking about the tools that you can use. I used to take a little bag to the restaurant for my kids to have special toys and things to play with versus bringing a screen, which I know is easier, but it's just looking at the pros and cons of each. And then for those that are looking and kind of address this, looking at introducing the tech, what types of and what values you want and how you want to use it. We have a tech agreement as well that you can get on our website. And the funny thing with that is we are dealing with children and they're cortex that's not developed yet.

So they're going to make mistakes. It's not like they're signing and that they're going to follow all the rules, but it's a good way for you to know that you have covered all the important things and what the expectations are and then follow through so everyone's on the same page. And then if you are in that season where you've maybe given too much too fast, then we work through how to back that off. Sometimes it is a full family detox, cold Turkey, sometimes it's a staged approach. It just really depends on how your family is experiencing the tech and how it's playing out.

Joey Odom (29:22):

And the thing I like about what you all do is you do come alongside, that was three of I think seven different instances that you all mentioned on the website, but you'll come alongside at every different stage knowing that everybody's at a different point. And again, which I love, the no shame, no blame. That's exactly the way to think about it. Give yourself grace. I think as parents we get down on ourselves and that actually doesn't typically lead to anything productive. And if you can say like, okay, that's fine, I felt it because this is what's funny. We encourage our kids to do this all the time. We don't do it for ourselves. Hey, it's okay, you made a mistake, get up. It's all right. But for ourselves, we just stay down in it. And we know for our kids this is a good thing they can learn from. But for us, we're also learning this. You have two kids, I have two kids. Tessa has four kids. Heath, my co-founder, he has four kids. We are learning every step along the way. And even the fourth kids probably a lot different from all the other three kids. So we got to learn from that. And again, what I like though is you come alongside no matter where you are in the stage with screens and help them through it and help give yourself grace and help learn from it and continue to improve.

Gayle Cheatham (30:32):

And you hit on this a little bit where a lot of times we need to look at our own habits and what we're modeling for our kids and make sure that we're modeling healthy technology use.

Joey Odom (30:45):

Yes, for us, I think it's funny, the way we think about that is that when we give our kid a phone, it's almost like we have these hopes for how they're going to use their phones and we say all the time, your kid won't rise to the level of your hopes. They're going to fall to the level of how you've modeled it for them. They're just going to mimic what you did, what's normal to them, or they'll stay within a very similar bandwidth because that's just what's normal to them. And this gets into, and this is one of my favorite things that you all do within the agreement, you talk about this concept of a code word for a family. Will you talk about the family code word and what that means?

Gayle Cheatham (31:26):

Yeah. So it's funny, my code word for our family has actually become lookup, but this is when and anyone in the family gets to use it. But if you are trying to talk to someone and notice that they're on their phone and not paying attention, then you use the code word as an automatic, Hey, pay attention to me. And with no fault or judgment or anything like that, it's just allowed and everyone gets to call each other out. The other thing I love is narrating what you're doing on the phone. So when you're talking about modeling, then there might be a time where my daughter comes to me and she needs something for basketball, and I may have heard it processed it and now I'm looking at my phone ordering that thing. But if I don't narrate to her that I have heard you and I am working on it right now, it is easily construed as I'm not paying attention to you. My phone is more important. Maybe I'm playing a game, we're doing emails. So the code word and the narrating are two of my favorite tools.

Joey Odom (32:41):

That's dangerous. If you start narrating everything you're doing on your phone, that could get a little dicey and your people realize around you how much you're not listening to them when you're doing something else. Yeah, I feel like there could be a good skid out of that. That could be funny. And someone like, yes, honey, I'll do that right now. And then you proceed to go do whatever else. It is the agreement. I like the lookup agreement. The thing I like about it is it gives you have your goals, the communication balance, safety used for productivity, the four goals, but then you have these suggested expectations and then you illustrate how those, those expectations fall within the goals. What's cool about that is it gives a good framework for families, but it also allows them to be flexible within that framework, within those, see what works for their family. Right. Alright, so let's ask a direct question that I can't imagine I'll get a direct answer to, which is good, which is when should kids get phones?

Gayle Cheatham (33:43):

I was expecting that one.

Joey Odom (33:46):

That's probably the question. That's the question you get most, right?

Gayle Cheatham (33:49):

It is, it is. And I really, really wish that I could just throw out an age and it was the standard for everyone and it worked for everyone, but it's not like that. And it really doesn't matter what age. There's never going to be a push easy button like, oh, we've reached this. Now you can just coast. It is constant communication and adjustments and boundaries and growth. And so once you're ready to start that. But as far as the kids, I would say Tessa likes to say name at least 10 harms that come from social media and smart devices. And that really makes sure that the child is aware of what potentially could happen. And we can't be with them for 24 7, so we need to empower them to protect their hearts and brains. And so if they can name some harms, showing emotional maturity is a big one. Having the discussions, the open communication, trusting that they will come to you if they see something or something happens. It's really just some markers that you look for. There's not a right age.

Joey Odom (35:17):

Yeah, and I do studies, we're having evolving thoughts here really on this as you see these, the movements that give a certain age, whenever they become, whenever they're ready for phones or hey, hold off until this certain age, there's an element of that that I don't love a broad rush. I like your answer here because it gives like, okay, every child's different. Everybody's on a different stage. And then there is the very practical, you said it early on, people don't regret when they wait a little bit longer. And it does, if you listen to pediatricians and they say that with alcohol specifically with kids, that's one of those things you don't do in a little bit of an exposure therapy or normalize it or it's like, oh, just give 'em a little taste when they're 13 or something. The longer I saw stat, I think it's the longer you wait to expose a child to alcohol, the chance of them becoming alcoholic go down drastically.

It's like if you wait until 20, there's a 92% chance they won't become alcoholics. But if you get 12, then there may be some correlation and causation in there. But studies are showing the exact same thing happens with phones. And you're right, it's allowing that brain to develop. And there's probably a big element of sleep and rest in there too and how good that is for kids. But it is a good thing to hold off. And I do wish, I think we gave our kids phones when they were 13, 12 or 13, and I wish I'd have held off a little more. I wish I would've initiated with the Tru Me watch Tru Me phone bark. I wish I would've held off on a lot of these to let them develop even more because, because it is a good thing for them to allow for that develop to develop. So I like your answer because you are isolating it. And the most important thing I think you're saying here is when you're ready to do the work too. As a parent, that's huge. If we can realize we're going to do the work.

Gayle Cheatham (37:23):

Yes, yes. I saw a meme once that said, nobody told me 70% of parenting was monitoring their phone, which I feel

Joey Odom (37:34):

70% of good parenting, right? You got to stay vigilant on it.

Gayle Cheatham (37:39):

And going back to your brain, I'm so fascinated because of all these studies that are coming out about alcohol addiction and the developing brain and just the pruning of the brain and how reinforced habits create that reinforcement in our brain. And so it goes back to the earlier we give them a phone and the earlier they use that for coping, numbing, researching. The more they pick up the phone at a younger age, the more of a habit that is for them, and it's harder to break. Whereas if we can hold off, they get to practice other skills.

Joey Odom (38:17):

Yeah, absolutely. I want to go back to where we started, and again, it's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so that means it's three days before Black Friday. Will you give to us again what parents should be thinking about right now if they're considering giving them their kids a phone for Christmas? Just hit us between the eyes here.

Gayle Cheatham (38:41):

So definitely what we just talked about as far as have you had all the conversations? Do you know about the different options out there? Why are you looking to make this purchase? Just get real honest with yourself and then at the end of the day, whatever you decide that, that's for your family. But we just need to be really cautious about what we're bringing into our homes and whether or not our child and whether or not we are ready for it. And then the other thing is if you want to contact us at Lookup, we have a holiday wishlist. And why I like this for my clients is sometimes our kids don't know what they want or they need a little prompt and so they just come at you with the technology. This is a little list that says it's got things, something that I can wear that makes me feel good, something to be creative, something to enjoy outside. It has all these little categories and you'll be surprised at how often your child really wants something else that maybe was just a little prompting you can get to, and they're just as happy on Christmas morning or whenever it is, just by digging a little deeper and seeing what they are interested in.

Joey Odom (40:07):

So I

Gayle Cheatham (40:07):

Think the phone is kind of an easy thing.

Joey Odom (40:09):

Yes. Yeah, exactly. I agree. And the thing, this is just something I had never considered and you said at the very beginning is if you've gone through all that checklist, like you said, have you had the conversations, you've asked yourself, why are you doing this? Are you ready yourself as a parent to be more active, more vigilant? Do you really need the iPhone or can you begin with something else? If you've had all those conversations and thoughts with yourself, and by the way, another best practice we can consider if you're part of a married couple or part of a partnership, be United. I think that's huge too. Actually, I'm pause right there. Why don't you speak on that? Why don't you speak on that real quick?

Gayle Cheatham (40:50):

Yes, I'm glad you said that because that is one of the biggest things is to make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page with what those boundaries are going to be for your child and make sure that you both understand the modeling technology and the communication and the parental controls. I very rarely see it happen where mom and dad are on the same page. And one of the biggest struggles too are divorce parents and having to co-parent. And that's one that I still have challenges with guiding parents through because you have two different set of beliefs and house rules, but definitely you want to be on board.

Joey Odom (41:38):

And I know, I believe married, divorce, whatever it is, we want the best future for our kids. We all do. We love our kids, we want, and by the way, we spend huge amounts of time and money to help their future success, violin lessons and sports and tutors and all of that. But then we hope for the good thing, we hope for good results on the thing that could derail the most, which is the phone that can derail the most. So it Paris listening, whether you're divorced, whether you're married, whether you're a single parent, whatever it is, you love your kid, this is for the good of your kid. And the last thing to send off on, if people have gone through all that checklist, they've decided, yes, this is the right time for me. I want to encourage them with what you said, which is consider not doing it as a Christmas gift. That's so Gayle. I'd never thought about it that way because, and I'll let you say it again. Tell us again one more time. Remind us why should it not be the gift?

Gayle Cheatham (42:43):

I actually think you said it at best as No, you

Joey Odom (42:47):

Said it

Gayle Cheatham (42:47):

Best. When we give gifts, it's no strings attached, but the phone is something different and we are paying for it and we need to monitor it to keep them safe. And so giving it to them as a gift sets them up for this belief that it's theirs when it's not really. And so it just makes things a lot easier to handle.

Joey Odom (43:14):

Gosh, we appreciate you guys. Thank you for what you and Tessa are doing. Will you tell people where they can go to learn more about Lookup and get more of the resources? The resources are so great, the holiday wishlist and the family agreement, the lookup agreement, we tell everybody where they should go.

Gayle Cheatham (43:30):

Yes. Thank you and thanks so much for everything you're doing. I love the intentionality behind this podcast and everything that ARA does. So life is offline.com is our new website. Well, it's the same website that you've seen, but Lookup nonprofit was a little bit more difficult to find and we truly believe that life is offline. And so if they go check us out, then we have the tech agreement out there. We don't yet have that gift list, but they can contact me and hopefully we'll have it out there soon. We have our different programs and different ways you can get involved. We just really want this to be a cultural shift of intentional, mindful connection.

Joey Odom (44:20):

I'm very biased, but I think it's coming. I think we have a bunch of parents who are realizing the damage, the potential damage and understanding their agency in it. And it's because of people like you and Tessa. We're super grateful for you all. So thank you for everything you're doing and thank you for joining us today on the RF podcast.

Speaker 3 (44:38):

Thank you.

Joey Odom (44:44):

I hope that gave you a moment to just maybe reflect and think through your decision if it's time for you to get a child, a phone or not. And if it is, that's great. You know your kids a lot better than anybody else does, but those are some really good tips on how to approach it, what to do afterwards. And the lookup is doing great work and we're super grateful for Gayle and the team. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving. This is, as I said at the beginning, we are very grateful for you listening. I hope that the Aro podcast is something that's kind of part of your weekly routine, that's part of your family's routine. I hope it's something you share with your spouse if you're married so you can have meaningful conversations. And I hope, and this, I'll give you an encouragement going into Thanksgiving.

I would encourage you to, when it's time for the Thanksgiving meal, to set aside your phones. Put your phones. If you have an Aro box, put it in there. If not, put it in a drawer and just be fully present with those people who matter most. I know you have to talk with family members all across the country probably that day, but when it's time for the most important people, just fully be there and maybe even just turn it off altogether or even more. Why don't you even give it to your kids and let them hide your phone so you can be fully present with your families. That is what matter, the family around you, the family you have. Thank you for being part of the Aro podcast family. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving. We can't wait to see you next week on a super, super, super special episode. You're going to love next week's episode. See you soon. 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.