My guest this week is Josh Ochs, the founder and digital citizenship author of smartsocial.com. With a background in marketing at Disney and a love for all things technology, Josh Ochs combines both to help teens and tweens use social media as a portfolio of positive accomplishments. Josh travels the nation speaking to over 30,000 kids each year sharing with them tips they can use to create a positive online presence. Josh’s book: “Light, Bright and Polite for Teens” teaches kids of all ages that everything they post on social media will eventually be discovered by their parents, teachers, their school Principal and someday colleges and employers. He shows families and teenagers practical examples they can use to always keep it “Light, Bright and Polite” by posting photos of community volunteer projects that will help them shine online. Josh Ochs’ other 5 books teach people and brands how to shine online.
In this episode, Josh and I discuss the importance of teaching kids and teens how to maintain a positive online presence. Josh shares with the audience his top tips on encouraging children to use social media for the better by instilling in them the knowledge of what their digital footprint looks online and how they can utilize it for future college and employment opportunities. Parents can help keep their children safe by opening up a dialogue about online profiles, tech use and implementing guidelines on technology in the household. To learn more about Josh Ochs click here.
Need help with improving your child’s behavior naturally?
Setting Limits On Tech Use
- Actively engage in dialogue with your children about their tech use
- Actively engage in dialogue with parents in your child’s community of friends i.e. whose house they frequent etc.
- Use the apps your children use
- Being in the know will open your eyes to the true awareness you need to have and help you create that communication with your children on the right topics
Tech Guidance Tips
- When should my child have a cell phone?
- Smart Social suggests the following
- 0-10: no phone, sometimes allowed to use yours to watch videos or use learning apps in your presence
- 10-13: time for a flip phone for emergency use, text and sms only
- 13: cell phone safety contract
- 14: smartphone without social apps
- 15: smartphone with social apps allowed but limited and monitored
- Dr. Nicole’s Tip: For children with developmental delays
- Smart Social suggests the following
Where to learn more about Josh Ochs…
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
Be Aware of Your Digital Footprint … 00:08:27
Setting Limits On Tech Use … 00:20:39
Tech Guidance Tips … 00:28:00
Why Flip Phones Are A Good Starting Point … 00:33:40
What Age To Begin Social Media … 00:35:00
Episode Wrap Up … 00:41:00
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone and welcome to the show. I am Dr. Nicole and today, we’re going to talk about kids and social media, including things that parents need to be aware of to keep kids safe and help them present themselves well online. I see so many families who struggle with issues related to tech use in kids, particularly the whole online world of the internet and I work with many children and teenagers and young adults who have gotten themselves into some pretty troubling situations with things that they posted online or things that have happened online. And as a parent, that can feel really overwhelming because there are a lot of things we need to think about to help teach our kids and help keep them safe but we didn’t grow up with all of these devices, all of these platforms, even having the internet at our disposal, so it can feel confusing and overwhelming to us. So to help us sort through all of this, I’ve invited Josh Ochs on the show today. Josh is a founder and digital citizenship author with a background in marketing at Disney and a love for all things technology. Josh Ochs combines both of those things to help teens and tweens use social media as a portfolio of positive accomplishments. He travels the nation speaking to over 30,000 kids each year sharing with them tips they can use to create a positive online presence. His book: “Light, Bright and Polite for Teens” teaches kids of all ages that everything they post on social media will eventually be discovered by their parents, teachers, their school Principal and someday colleges and employers. He shows families and teenagers practical examples they can use to always keep it “Light, Bright and Polite” by posting photos of community volunteer projects that will help them shine online. Josh also has five other books that teach people and brands how to shine online.
Couldn’t ask for a better expert to talk with us about this topic, welcome to the show, today, Josh.
Thank you, Dr. Nicole. It’s an honor to be here and I like your enthusiasm around those topics. We’re approaching it in a positive way so we can get ahead of it rather than looking at it as a negative requirement. So thanks for having me on!
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Absolutely. And I do think this is such an area of confusion and overwhelm for parents and they go, “I know that I should be aware of what my kids are doing online, I know that I should probably be monitoring this and talking about this with my kids. I don’t even know where to start, I don’t even know what I should be concerned about!” So I’m excited for you to just provide some helpful, basic information and simple tips today. I’m curious though, with your background, how did you get involved with teaching kids and families and professionals about these things?
Great question. So I got started at a very young age, learning from smart marketers at Disney Studios how to brand things, which I think that now that we have devices, we don’t think about that quite as much. And they would take projects, and these are the projects that passed by my desk. Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lion King — Because there are lots of revisions of them over the years, and it’s coming out again here soon. Such a great franchise, such a great brand, and then Power Rangers, which is kind of silly, but very, very profitable. And these would pass by my desk and I’d have to do some nerdy stuff on them and I would learn how they would brand these produces that one — and I’m going to use terms that I’ll use here later in the podcast, but they would have a product in a store, now there were a lot of DVDs at the time, but nowadays, we have a plush toy if you’re at Target or Walmart, and they would brand this product in a way, on a shelf, Dr. Nicole, so that you say, “Wow, I’m going to take this and put it in my cart and take it home with me and trade dollars for this product. And that’s an important thing that I think a lot of us forget, is you have to have so much value behind it before you see it that you want to take it home. And I then later on tested all my techniques by running for city council in a suburb of Los Angeles against the incumbent mayor, who is now a dear friend of mine, and I ran a very positive campaign using digital tools, so I was very scrappy. I met people on their doorstep and then I followed up using social media, very reverse to what some brands are doing. They use a lot of hashtags and stuff. And I did a very old school, because I’m an old school marketer, with digital tools, very high-tech, using Google spreadsheets and everything, and we really did a blend that caught the eye of a lot of brands, and I lost the campaign by 350 votes, so I was very close to the incumbent mayor who had years of experience. I ended up leaving a very positive footprint and more positive than I even started with, and brands said, “Look, we were rooting for the underdog, that’s a great case-study. Will you fly to our city and will you teach us how you did things totally different and really caught up to the people that had 8 to 10 to 15 times the amount of money and they had decades of experience, and you ended up with people liking you.” And so this is kind of the start of taking a calculated risk, and I tell students: Try projects, do this kind of stuff and then tell the story of if you failed. And I didn’t fail, because I ended up with a positive image. A failure of losing in a public office race while you’re meeting tons of friends is not a failure but rather, wow, it’s so cool that I didn’t get that office because I get to travel around and teach people how to win their online image.
So I ended up traveling the country teaching brands, it was a different way of looking at positivity on the web, and a proactive tactical approach and stop using the buzzwords. So long story short, I made good friends with the mayor that I ran against, he wrote the forward for my first book where most of the people liked us and at the end of it, I ended up launching my online “How to Shine Online”, and nowadays, as I travel the country, I show students — “Look, I didn’t have much, but I understood the internet better than all of my competitors. All the other candidates. They had all this experience, there were lawyers and all these things, but they didn’t understand that the first thing we do”, Dr. Nicole, the first thing that adults and students do these days is when they want to learn something — I encourage anybody, if you’re not doing this, if you want to learn something, you can simply go to Google or YouTube to say, “Hmm, I can become an expert on this in 5-10 minutes if I pick the right video, the right blog and just do my own research rather than wondering, “Well, I think it’s this.” You can literally sometimes be a little bit smarter on a subject matter. And I knew that I would be one of those things that they’d search for, so they’d see me and then they would want to go to Google to search for me, and in my presentations, as I start it off, I go, “Look, I started my race for city council and I knew one thing would happen. They’d see my sign and they’d probably — I’d greet them on their doorstep, because I knocked on — I met 3015 voters on their doorstep and that took a few months to do 100 doors a night, sometimes, and I knew that they would go to Google and say, “Who is this guy? He seems nice, I see a picture of him with his dog on the thing.” And I knew that they would go to Google and I knew I had to own the first page of my Google results and that’s what I teach students now, is, the way in which I got so close was understanding how the internet was my second interview. First interview was in person, the second interview is how do we shine online? And that’s what I teach people, how to shine online so that opportunities come your way, it ends up fixing up a little bit of bullying, a little bit of digital safety, a lot of other things, but it takes a lot of hard work.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, I love that you take the approach of helping kids to understand the positive ways in which they can use social media, YouTube, the internet, because so often the focus is on the dangers and the negatives, which is an important thing, but what your helping kids and families to see is, “Look, this is the reality of our world and you can use this in a positive way”, but that means we have to help kids understand that sometimes the ways that they’re interacting or behaving online or the kinds of things they are doing are not portraying themselves in a positive light, right? So I’d love to have you share, what are some of the things that you commonly see kids, teenagers, young adults doing that we should be aware of, that are really creating a negative footprint for them online or maybe are could cause problems for them?
So I want to talk about a couple of things and answer your question in a really wholesome way, if you don’t mind. One, I want to tell parents a couple of ideas that they can do to make sure that they’re talking to kids about this issue in a wholesome way. Number two, How to talk with your kids about it, what to do in actual activity, and number three, we’ll talk about some other stuff. But first of all, a lot of parents, and God bless them, it’s wonderful but there are often times we will say, “Don’t do this.” For instance, “Don’t touch that hot stove, it will hurt you.” What is that child going to want to do? They’re going to want to go and touch that stove, what does fire mean? But when we do the approach we take, it’s something that parents could possibly consider. “Alright, so are you hungry?” “Yes, I’m so hungry” “Great. So do you want spaghetti or this or this, what are we going to do? Okay, great. Come in, you’re going to help me cook, I’m going to show you how to use that hot stove, that sharp knife, we’re going to show you the purpose behind all this stuff. Now that knife can cut you, but I’m going to show you how we’re going to slice the tomato to make a delicious dinner, then we’re going to put it away. You can use it with me and we’re going to do it together, but you need to be careful because it’s going to hurt you, but I’ve got a bigger picture. When you walk into this kitchen, you’re going to understand how it all works and what can go right and wrong, because in my eyes, you’re a little adult. I’m going to treat you like an adult.”
Every time we talk to kids about social media, today, I’m going to talk to you about how to get into college. I know you’re in middle school, but I’m going to show you how to get hired and fired using Instagram today and Twitter! I’ll teach you exactly how to get fired. Kids go, “Woo!” And even in one-on-one, in our mentor sessions that we have at smartsocial.com, when we say, the first greeting is “Hello students, I used to work at Walt Disney Studios.” I have to position myself as an expert and then we say, “Listen, today, in my eyes, you are an adult. I’m going to give you tips and tactics, I’m not going to hold back and we’re going to give you practical and tactical stuff that you can throw out the window or you can use right now to move on.”
So that’s one of the things. I never tell a student what not to do. But rather, I show them how the whole kitchen works, which I think is very important.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, and I think also you’re providing really clear guidance, right? You’re encouraging parents to say, “Hey, this is a joint activity”, you don’t just hand your kid the device and say “Go at it and figure it out yourself.” What you’re talking about is really guiding them to understand how these things work and how to engage in healthy ways with these things.
And it’s just like a knife. We would never hand our kids a very sharp knife at the age of five. I’m not saying people are giving their kids a phone on their own at five, but they are sharing stuff. So just a little bit of guidance, a lot of dialogue, we have that as part of our 9-step program that we have that every family follows to be careful. This second thing that we do with students, this is a ground-breaking thing that students are already doing but they never do it with their parents and it is so simple and it’s really the cornerstone of everything we believe to keep people safe, to give kids a purpose online instead of just a pastime and it’s super simple, you ready for it? Super easy: Sit down with your kids and Google yourself or their names online and see what comes up. It’s that simple. And when you do that, no longer are you going: “Don’t do this, it’s someday going to hurt your reputation!” Now all of a sudden, your kids are going “Wait, that’s not me! That person is arrested, that’s a mugshot! What’s that!” and they’re seeing other things,and then you and the parent can say, “I know, that’s weird, right? Well, this is interesting.” And what we call that is “auditing”. Googling your kids is step one, it’s auditing your kids online. It opens up a whole dialogue where your kids are going, “Huh, interesting.” And then they’ll go “Wait, that’s a picture of my private Instagram account. That shouldn’t come up!” And that opens up a whole other dialogue, there are security breaches that we talk about in our program, our mentorship, we clean things up. And that’s a starting point that not enough parents do, and at the end of my student speeches, every student goes home and goes, “Mom, I learned how to Google myself, look what I found and look at this!” And it turns out kids are Googling their parents, staff members at the school and all kinds of other things, but they’re never — and they Google themselves, but they never realize that other people search for them. So that’s a starting place for student is to realize that everything you do on Snapchat, you want to play over here on this playground that you think your parents are a part of? Well let’s Google you, then let’s talk about where do you want to go to college? Career, major — start in elementary school. Start very, very early.
And in middle school, we tell people: Start building a portfolio online. So you’ve got activities. You kind of talk about wanting to volunteer, you love softball, you’re pretty good at playing the piano. These are the things that we’re doing. Let’s start putting that onto a private portfolio, and we have a way that we do that here so that we can start the kids — because 90% of behavioral stuff — now, I’m not a Ph. D, But I do speak to 30,000 students a year, and we’ve got about a million to 2 million people on our website, we get feedback. What we found from all the councilors in schools and principals and experts is that 90% of the behavior that we can change starts up here, so that when we get a kid designing their activities and their messaging that they are proud of, then they tie it to their real identity, they start to realize, “I have something that I’m good at that I’m working at, I’m proud of this. I have group photos of this!” They’re now using their systematic approach, “I’ve put in the little folders, I’m starting to put that online with my parents sitting right next to me. My parents are well-equipped to understand that it will be private, but I’m building my resume in a creative and fun way that someday, when my parents are ready, in freshman, in high school or sophomore or even in middle school,” we hit the publish button, and all of a sudden, it starts coming up on Google slowly, so when I’m applying to a college 3 or 4 years before, I have this beautiful little website, joshochs.com or .net or whatever that is, and I’ll put that in my application and I’ll say here, this website is congruent with all the activities that you see, because I know that my online — this is a 3-Dimensional version, if you have time. If I make it into that final squad of resumes. By the way, employers are going to search for you. And if employers aren’t searching for you, then they’re probably not doing the due diligence they should. I’d say that 80%-90% of employers are or should be doing a simple search online to see what comes up.
More often than not, adults have come up to me at the end of my speeches and some students, but mostly adults saying, “Hey” — and I heard this from my councilor, she had her masters degree and she said, “Josh, I couldn’t say this because my boss was in the room, but now that he’s gone, I’m a counselor at this school, but when they were interviewing me, I walked in the room and they had printed out my personal website that I was highly encouraged to do in my masters program, to do my my masters thesis to build this small website to talk about what I had worked on for the last one to two to three years part-time.” And she said they printed that out and they put that on the front of, above, on top of my resume. Because it was a 3-Dimensional version of how hard I will work. And she said, “I think that’s what gave me the chance to work at this great school. I was ahead of the crowd because I just showed it online, my authentic self.” So that’s what we show students. All these different things, it takes hard work. Then it really ends up in a portfolio.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love that idea. I don’t hear anyone else talking about that, and I think it’s a great way to not only set kids up for success as they move forward, but as you said, to even boost their self-esteem and their self-confidence in the meantime. Kids tend to focus so much on maybe the negative or the things that they’re not good at in comparison to other people, especially on social media, right? But for them to start to highlight and think about and present their accomplishments, their interests, I think that’s just a great way to bolster self-esteem and help kids feel good about what they’re doing.
I’ve got to tell you, I got an email from a mom, I won’t name her, but she’s a wonderful person, and I sat down with her son and her, side by side, to build this portfolio. She emailed me the next day, and I get these from time to time and it’s not because we’re special at Smart Social, but I think the process and the systematic approach of just trying and trying and then seeing when kids’ eyes light up is important. Her email was a little bit like this, “Josh. So glad we sat down to go through the mentorship program to get my well-behaved son, great kid, by putting his projects and activities into a story” we have a three-pronged way to do that. “Hi, I’m Caden,” his name is Caden, he’s got a great little beautiful website. “I’m Caden, I’m a junior or senior at this school. I went to Haiti and volunteered and lived with a family and did some amazing stuff. Here is my travel, my art and this —“ and the mom started saying, “I had no idea he wanted to pursue art as a career and in college”. Only this mentorship program where we had to put his activities down and he had to write a paragraph about it, coming from him, the child is the adult in the room. Let’s hand them the keys to the vehicle and say, “Here you go. Here is your chance to shine. Here is your chance to have fun with this online, we’ll do it together when you’re done.” So he started writing and it ended up being a beautiful website portfolio that he had to be creative online with. But she said, “I never would have known that he wanted to do that.” Even though he’s a well-behaved, amazing child, it took this to bring it out of him!
I’m not saying it has to be an outsider, but it’s a little hard for parents to wear this hat and that hat and that hat and to be the uncool parent. I want to pause for just one sec, may I? And just a little tiny PSA for any parent that’s listening to this right now. If at any time your middle schooler or your high schooler are really upset with you at once a month, once a week, because you have taken away some kind of a privilege that comes to consuming media, meaning turn off the Netflix, get offline, we’re going to put your phone away during dinner, we’re going to have a no-screen hour — if your kids, I’m going to say the rude word, if they hate you, if you feel like your children hate you, you’re a great parent. You’re doing a great thing and I applaud you. I am your cheerleader. Taking a device away that is consuming their time but not adding value. Now podcasts can add value, instructional YouTube videos can add value. There’s good parts of screen time, but I say that a lot of it can be bad. If you’re taking that away and your children are very upset at you and there’s an argument, hey, I’m here rooting for you, and Dr. Nicole as well, as you can see her enthusiasm.You’re doing a good thing by being a great parent and caring less about your children liking you and more about parenting them and loving on them so that when they’re 25, they’re an awesome person. Because the amount of time that we spend on these devices — we do calculations in our mentorship program, over the course of two years, when you spend an hour a day on YouTube, here’s what it turns into, 300 hours or more per year on YouTube, and at 700 hours, you can be fluent, almost, in Japanese or in a language or be amazing on the piano in that amount of time. So do you want to suck up all the content? We’re just trying to explain to students, if you’re forcing them to do something productive and they dislike you, we are on your side. We love it, we’re rooting for you, you’re not alone, keep up the good work.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, you’re doing a great job as a parent. I always say if your kid is happy with you all the time, there’s probably something wrong, right? I mean that’s — and I think that kind of stuff is so challenging for parents because we don’t like to be the bad guy, we want our kids to like us. A lot of parents worry about, “Oh my gosh, if I put restrictions on what they can do online, checking on social media, that’s going to be a problem with them and with their peers and they’re not going to be able to socialize and so it’s challenging.” I’d actually love for you to speak to that, because that, as I’m thinking about it in clinical practice, that’s probably one of the biggest objections that comes up from parents around setting limits or boundaries for their kid with phone use. Well, the other kids are on it all the time and so if I put some limits or set some boundaries with my child, then he’s going to lose out socially, he’s not going to be accepted as a part of this social group, or he’s going to miss out on time with friends. I’m sure you hear that a lot too, but what are your thoughts on that?
Alright, so I’m going to bring it back to me — adults that are listening to this right now: What we all are looking for, and I am seeking and children are asking for is a little bit of accountability sometimes. I’m joining a CEO group that really helps me take smartsocial.com to the next level to reach more people. One of my dreams is to reach all of North America to keep them safe, mentally, healthy, well students and their portfolio and their website so they’re getting into college. So we have big goals, but how do we get there? Well I’m joining a CEO group that’s going to keep my feet to the fire, that’s going to: Quite frankly, it’s going to be a little difficult, like are you doing that? Are you achieving your goals? You’re doing this too much. And we tell parents, it’s going to take that village to raise your child. You are — I’m going to use an analogy that people giggle at: You are Swiss cheese. Delicious, but you’re going to have holes in you. You’re a human being, and it’s time to fill those holes with amazing olive, which could be an uncle that’s in business or an aunt, a CEO of a big company. Send your children to lunch with aunt Sally who is going to show them, whoa, and give them wisdom. Because that aunt, that uncle, that trusted adult in your life is going to be a little cooler than you and that’s totally fine. They are also going to be hearing your son or daughter talk about things that they might not share with you, but since they’re so trusted in the family, that village person, that person a part of your community is going to then give you feedback, give them feedback and share with them and listen to them and probably not want to go, “Well don’t do that!” because that’s your nature because you’re so busy, you’re wearing so many hats, you just want to fix the problem. They might even listen. So we tell people, look, go join together with those other parents, do not just let your kids go to their house, go talk to the parents and say, look, here are some of our family’s objectives. What do you like, what do you not like? And really join together from the top level so that they’ll help enforce that. And I know that’s hard, I know it’s difficult, but when you’re working with them, you’ll also know who’s safer.
Yesterday on the news, some child came to school with a bag of drugs and they said — they applauded the child because it turns out some family members at the house had lots of drugs. The child had to tell an adult because there were no other adults. You would not want to send your kid to that house. So in other words, do a little bit of research. Same is true for the apps. You’ve got to be on the same apps as your kids are on. There are apps out there called anonymous, and I’m not trying to do a plug, but at smartsocial.com, for free, we have, I think, the very best list in the world of the 100 good, medium and bad apps and bad social media challenges that have been shared 11,000 times nationwide, puts us on the news even without me, news organizations will post about it. The anonymous apps are bad and that’s part of the apps that you’ve got to be on, you have to know about. If your gut, your inner gut says, “I don’t know about this”. Stop right there and move into the green zone. The green zone helps you build a positive online reputation tied to your real past, your real background, helps you get into college, helps you impress Google, which builds a positive reputation. It could be bad, but it’s like a sharp knife that can be designed to cut tomatoes. It has to have a lot of good that can eventually outweigh the bad, and that’s what the bad apps are all about. If the bad side drastically outweighs — statistically and how far it can go to hurt you, outweighs the upside, then we have to have a serious discussion about getting off those. So my final answer is talk with those parents and really hold the children accountable on both ends, in both homes if you can. It’s not what we do in this house. It is that, but also it’s really about talking with those parents if you can, and you’re going to learn a lot more too, what are they doing over there? Are they playing this game? Are they all about Fortnight in elementary school?
That’s one of our tips: Remember, it’s going to take a village. You are Swiss cheese. You’re delicious and amazing but you’re going to have holes in you and that’s because we’re human. Find people complimentary to you to fill those holes which will be all about a dialogue and a place that your kids can go to in a healthy manner to talk to those people. Surround them so that you can have a well-raised kid.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
What I’m really hearing is that communication, parents being actively engaged and involved with kids related to all aspects of digital media use is really important and that communication piece of not just talking with our kids and being engaged with them about what they’re doing online, what is in alignment with your family’s values, what the rules and limits are all about, but also extending out and talking to the network of people involved in their lives and communicating about, “Well, when my kid’s over at your house, what are the rules in your house for that? And what kinds of oversight do your kids have?” I have four children and we have been very surprised at times with families that seem to have good limits and boundaries in place for lots of things safety-wise, and yet, their kids had completely unregulated device and internet use. And our kids have come back from being in people’s homes sometimes and we are floored at what has been allowed or what adults in that environment are not aware of and it’s caused us to certainly realize that we need to be using more questions and talking with our kids about that more and the families, the kids that they’re hanging out with. It’s a big deal, but that engagement piece is what I’ m hearing, you’re saying listen, parents, you have to be engaged in having these conversations and dialoguing continuously with your kids about these things.
Yes, you’re 100% right. I have a slide in my presentation that I start off with. I’m very tactical so I’ll go: Key Take-Away 1, and I’ll go through 10 key take-aways. And number 1 is: The best social media safety resource is not avoiding the internet. Maybe it’s a fad — keeping your kids away from the web. The best social media safety resource is having an ongoing healthy dialogue with your kids about the apps they’re on and what their future is. You are the only social media safety tracking app that’s going to wake up at 4 AM and protect your kids. No-one else about your children like you do. So you have to go in there. You can’t be like, “Oh, I downloaded this app.” You can not outsource the protection of your children like you outsource to Uber to get your kids around town sometimes, right? So that’s the one thing that’s really unfortunate, and that’s why I’m honored to be on your podcast here today because we’re trying to spread getting ahead of these things. I have some nerdy slides. When should my kids get a cellphone? Why a flip phone can be a good start for your students, and what age should your student be on social media? Could I walk through a couple of those?
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I would love that because you’re talking my language with that, do it.
Now, for everybody watching right now, if you’re watching on YouTube, you’re going to see the slides. If you’re listening to us on a podcast, I will as best as I can, clearly define what we’re looking at so that it should be really easy, but I’m going to share my screen for everybody else that is watching. We’re going to go from there. So the first slide, and I say nerdy, but it’s really tactical: When should I give my kids a cellphone? Now the first thing, Dr. Nicole, is that for every family, this is a menu. You do not need to eat from this. If you want to adjust it or pick from a part of this menu and run with it, great. Please know that the relationship you have with your kids is very special and could be very, very, different that this. But parents are just craving, just give me it! So as a leading learner, I don’t call myself an expert because I think everyday, these tips change, and when you become an expert, you sit back in your recliner and you think you know it all. So we’re learning everyday, I’m going to give you some of the latest and greatest tips that we have pulled from people. So tip 1: Our suggestions for when you should give your kids a cell phone are: Ages 0-10, no phone. That means that they don’t have access to things. They can borrow yours a little bit to watch stuff, but you’re in the same room as them. If perhaps they must have a phone, let’s say your spouse and you are separated or divorced and your son or daughter stays with another family, if you must have a phone and you want to communicate directly with your child, then at ages 10-13, it’s time for a flip-phone. That means that they can text, they can SMS, they can make phone calls, old school. Kids hate making phone calls but it is the lost art that we must give them again. Get on the phone with somebody, “Oh, but it’s so awkward!” Yes, but you will be ahead of the game with other people.
So 10-13 is time for a flip phone if you have to. The battery will last longer. In a ghetto way, they’ll be able to text. It’s hard to do but it’s great and it’s great for emergencies and you’ll know where they’re at. Okay, next. Age 13. It’s time for a cell phone safety contract. These are the apps you’re not allowed to download. If you ever want to download an app, we have to approve it, we’re going to look at it, we’re going to do this: We’re going to take your phone away if you break any of these rules, blah, blah, blah. You can do a cellphone safety contract and a social media contract, which we’ll talk about in a minute. 14, kids hate me for this, it’s time for a smartphone without social media apps installed. Training wheels in the state of California, at 15, you’re allowed to drive with a trusted adult, you’re allowed to drive a car if you have a learner’s permit and that’s trying things out, being careful, right? Having wisdom. And that’s what smartphones without these consuming apps are giving you. And then at 15, not that they’re wise by anything, they think they’re wise at 9, but a smartphone with social media apps installed so that we have at least shown them that this device has a purpose for communicating and Googling. We think Googling is great to learn. Hey, let’s look that up, let’s read it out loud, let’s purpose with your screen time.
So I’m just going to review it for everybody that’s listening here real quick: Ages 0-10, no phone. It’s our professional suggestion, you can adjust that. And there’s no shame if you’ve already given your kids a phone. 10-13 is a flip phone, we’re going to talk about flip phones in one sec. 13 is a cell phone safety contract, 14 is a smartphone without the apps and 15 is a smartphone with the apps. Your kids are going to hate me, but our goal is not for them to be happy right now, our goal is for them to be safe, protected and at 25, the most awesome individuals that people want to hang out with who are well-adjusted to the way the world works and are working well with others and are also getting good grades and are learning how to work hard, and that’s our mission for your kid, at least.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Absolutely, and I love this. You and I have talked about this before and I am so in alignment with this. And the other thing I would add to it for those of you listening who maybe have children whose developmental level is somewhat below what their chronological age is, you can think about these guidelines that Josh is talking about from a developmental standpoint. So your child may be 15 years chronologically, but if they’re functioning at a somewhat lower age level, you want to think about using these suggestions that are aligned with where they are developmentally. There are a lot of 15 or even 14 years olds that we work with at the clinic, who from a responsibility and a cognitive standpoint and just a social awareness standpoint are more like a younger child or maybe an early middle-schooler, you want to really take that in mind, where they are developmentally when you’re thinking about what’s going to be appropriate for them.
So smart, and so well-put. Can I share this slide here with everybody, why a flip phone can be a good start for your kids?
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Love it, because I talk with parents about this all the time.
Now flip phones offer students the chance to connect and communicate without the downside of social media consuming their time and comparing them to others. I hit on these four C’s a lot. Connecting is what the good side of social media is, and communicating. Email is there, direct messaging within reason on Instagram is there. “Hey, you want to come to this event?” “Hey, it was great to see you” Like really developing relationships in real life and following up. But as soon as we hit the consuming where it’s “The feed will not fulfill you” is one of my favorite phrases. The feed does not fulfill me. I’ll jump off it for a week and I’ll jump back on and I’m happier. And then comparing. So really, flip phones give the good side of communication without the bad. Without apps on your kids phone, you can monitor their activity, review their phone bill to see who and when they’re texting and calling, and prevent them from talking to strangers a little bit more.
Flip phones encourage real conversations via phone because texting is a little harder with the keypad limitations. Kids hate talking on the phone but it’s a really good start, right? Now please, parents, consider not calling it a dumb phone. Call it a flip phone. Here you go! Here is your flip phone, this is great, you’ve got a phone! And they’ll feel like they’ve got a way to get around town, they’ve got wheels. Yeah, it’s a clunky little car but they’ve got a way to get around town, think about that first car. Oh it’s not a Porsche, but you had a way to get around, and it was kind of cool.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, and I have to say, I’ve yet to have a kid that I’ve worked with, including my own children at home, who when they fuss about, they’re like, “Oh nobody has a flip phone, that’s so dumb!” I say, “Well, okay, it’s fine, you don’t have to take it at all.” “Oh, okay.” Suddenly, the flip phone looks just fine, right? If my options are the flip phone or nothing, suddenly I’m going to be okay with the flip phone.
Yeah, exactly. I’ve got one more slide to share, and I hate to take so much time, but this is such a huge thing. Do you mind if I share what age a student should consider to be on social media?
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I would love for you to do that because I think this is a question that a lot of parents have.
Alright, so the question for all the listeners is: Oh, this overwhelming thing. First the device. And the device is a drug and the social media is a layer on the drug. If you do not see that device as a drug, then we need to have a serious discussion, you need to talk to Dr. Nicole because of what it does to your eyes, the dopamine hit that we all get when we get a text, that little tiny rush, we need to see that as a sugar in moderation. It really is, and doctors and people much smarter than me have come out and said this rush that you get is equal to some very bad drugs. So what age should my student be on social media? Our professional recommendation is ages 0-13 are private. Meaning we should not be able to go online and find out where your kids are at, where you live, what they’re doing, what Starbucks they’re at after school, and we should not be able to contact your kids because there are some very bad people that we do not want your students to have access to, or them to have access to your students. But at the age of 13 and you’re seeing this special 13 age from me, have a family discussion regarding what the student should eventually be known for. Meaning, what eventually are you going to be most proud of ending up online, and this 13 really could start at 5. Where do you want to go to college, what do you want to do? The online branding aspect is a big part of our mentor program. What do you want to do, where do you want to go, what are your activities? So 13 is: How are we going to start thinking about that? It could be at 12 when you’re developing a portfolio. 14-15 is time to build a personal portfolio and it could be 12, 13, 14, 15. We can post positive volunteer photos, accomplishments, projects, activities online and then by the age of 17, colleges will be able to find a positive online footprint for your student.
Now, in this slide, what we would professionally recommend is that at the age of 13-14 is the chance for them to start to get on and maybe even 14 or 15, start to get on Instagram. And I would professionally suggest, probably the age of almost 14 years old, if you could work on that and they can work with you to develop a username and so on, but you’re going to notice here, I’m talking less about social on the slide, Dr. Nicole, I’m talking more about branding, because if you develop a personal website — now, the website scares some people, so let me be more gentle with it. Personal portfolio that almost looks like a Google Doc that looks beautiful, that has a publish button that you do not need to publish until your family is ready for that. Your family has to be ready, but at the age of 13, 14, 15, it’s time to start branding your student before they’re on social, oddly enough. Schools are flying me around the country now, Middle schools, saying we want a brand first, and then what we tell that is, Instagram is an extension of that brand, because kids want to be on Instagram. Snapchat is an extension of that brand. So that when people search, they see that softball, chess, water polo, student activities, whatever those are, and now social media has a purpose instead of it just being an island that is a pastime.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, and I think this also helps give kids the frame of mind of wanting to preserve a positive reputation for themselves online too, so they’re taking the time to build this portfolio or highlight their accomplishments and they’re going to be thinking more when they’re having interactions on social media or posting things, they’re going to have that more in their mind about oh, is this what I want out there representing me? Which is a really important thing that they need to be thinking about.
100% agree. And it really is a little bit of a different take away. I’ve actually got a later, a newer slide that’s very, very similar, but this is a slide I — 0-13 is private. Let me update this data just a little bit, because that slide was great, but I think this is actually going to be better. At 12, it’s time to have that family discussion regarding what your student’s online brand should look like. At 13, a social media signed contract, we’ve already talked about that, but at 13-15, build that personal portfolio. Start putting positive volunteer photos online, get on Instagram as an extension of that because are dying on 13. By the way, before 13, it’s against the terms and service of Instagram to do that. It changes. Sometimes it’s 12, sometimes it’s 13, but we recommend 13 as the very earliest. 14-15, it’s time to publish that portfolio as a website, so it improves your kids Google results and at 17, it takes 2-3 years for that to slowly float up. Colleges will be able to find a positive online footprint for your student. And if you go and Google me, you’re going to see a couple of personal websites on the first page because I built a portfolio that I publicized, and then I’ve got my corporate site, we’ve got all these sites for me that we use as an example. But it’s just as true for me, I use these techniques to make sure that I shine online to put my best foot forward and push out all those other bad results eventually.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Awesome. Such great, practical take-aways for families. I realize that we could probably talk about this for several more hours, there are so many aspects of this, but I want to make sure that parents and people who are listening know where they can find out more about what you’re doing and some of the resources you mentioned like the guide to apps and things like that. Where is the best place for them to go online to access your resources that you’re offering?
Yeah, so it’s smartsocial.com and along the top you’ll see popular teen apps, that’s a pretty popular page, and all kinds of other different resources that we have. A lot of them are free. And then just opt into the newsletter and we’ll show you a bunch of different stuff as time goes on.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, and I highly recommend that you check out the resources that Josh and his team have available. I send families from the clinic there often to just get more information and he’s just assembled a wide variety of really great things. So Josh, thank you so much for being here today and for sharing your wisdom and your strategies. I know everybody finds that very helpful.
Thank you Dr. Nicole, I appreciate it.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Alright everybody, that’s it for this episode of the better behavior show, we’ll see you back here next time.