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About the Author
Jonathan McKee is an expert on youth culture and the author of more than twenty books, including If I Had a Parenting Do Over; 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone-Obsessed Kid; The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers; and The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over twenty years of youth-ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide. For more from Jonathan, go to TheSource4Parents.com or follow him on Twitter.com/InJonathansHead.
Read an Excerpt
52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid
How to Engage with Kids Who Can't Seem to Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices
By Jonathan McKee
Barbour Publishing, IncCopyright © 2016 Jonathan McKee
All rights reserved.
The Coviewing Connection
Way back in 2004, I read about a California mom who learned the hard way that she didn't know as much about her kid as she thought she did.
Roberta "Bobbi" MacKinnon died from injuries after being flung from a playground merry-go-round propelled by a rope tied to the back of a vehicle. Bobbi and her friends had watched the MTV show Jackass and decided to try to copy their merry-go-round stunt. The result was fatal.
I read about the story in my local newspaper. Joan MacKinnon, Bobbi's mother, said, "I had no idea that she watched the show. Maybe I would have made her stop and think that this is dangerous fun."
I clearly remember my reaction reading Bobbi's mother's words that day. I swallowed hard and thought, That could be me! I don't know every show my kids watch.
In the silence of the moment, I heard the TV on in the other room. I thought, Oh great! My kids are watching something right now, and I don't even know what it is!
I popped up from my chair and ran into the other room. They were watching the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.
As I stood there in the doorway, I recalled a study I had just read in the journal Pediatrics, revealing the importance of parental guidelines with entertainment media. One of the techniques the authors suggested was "coviewing" — simply sitting down and watching entertainment media with your children so you can use it as an opportunity to talk about important family values.
So I sat down and watched SpongeBob with my kids (and found it quite hilarious ... especially that Patrick!).
In a world where we are constantly at battle with kids and their screens, coviewing can be a really fun practice where you join them enjoying screen time. After all, we're talking about a lot of screen time per day.
The screen today's teenagers stare at more than any other is that small one they carry around with them in their pocket. In fact, according to the Common Sense Media report I cited at the beginning of this book, teens spend two hours, forty-two minutes per day on their smartphones alone, then one hour, thirty-seven minutes on a computer, and another one hour, thirty-one minutes watching TV. That's just the "average kid." So your own kids may spend more or less time on these devices. And you can be sure that if your daughter doesn't watch ninety-one minutes of TV per day, she has a friend at school who is more than making up for it in her home.
The point I'm making is this: use some of this screen time as a point of connection.
No, coviewing is not the most social activity you can do as a parent, but it accomplishes two tasks:
1. It gives you a peek into their world of entertainment media. What shows do your kids watch? What online videos do they frequent? What is the content of all this entertainment? What lessons are they walking away with after watching it? Many parents have no idea what kind of entertainment their kids are consuming on their screens. Do you?
2. It provides you with a springboard for conversations about what you just watched. When a major character makes a decision, simply ask your kids a question when the show is over. "Was he right?" Sometimes that simple three-word question can spark a debate between siblings where all you need to do is sit back and eat popcorn while they do all the talking. Other times it may necessitate asking more questions to provoke further discussion. Don't feel the need to discuss everything you watch. This will quickly grow tiresome. But don't hesitate to jump on occasional opportunities.
Coviewing opens up a host of possibilities for conversation.
No, I'm not endorsing watching just anything with your kids. If you begin watching something with your kids and it is completely against your family values, then it's your job as a parent to say, "Sorry, kids, we aren't going to watch this." Or, better yet, ask them, "Kids, do you think we should watch this? Why not?"
Avoid overreaction. If you freak out every time you sit down to watch something with your kids, they're going to hide from you and only watch TV at their friends' houses. Make these coviewing connections a pleasant experience. Discover fun shows that you all enjoy watching together.
By the way, coviewing can be done on any size screen, not just on the fifty-five-incher in your living room (more on that later).
So look for those opportunities to simply enjoy some entertainment together. This practice can provide fun bonding times and sometimes a good springboard for conversation.
*Looking for some questions to ask your kids in this setting? Remember to turn to the back of this book where you'll find a chapter summary and sample questions to ask your kids for each of these 52 chapters.
Questions to ponder:
Do you know what your kids watch on their devices, on the computer, or on TV?
When is a good time for you to plop down next to your kids and "coview" with them?
What are some examples of content you won't allow to be seen in your house?
How will you address objectionable content without "freaking out"?
What is an example of a show your kids like that you can enjoy with them?CHAPTER 2
The Fine Art of Shutting Up
My oldest kid would be the first to tell you, "Dad loves to lecture." The problem is, the more I talked, the less my kids listened. It probably took me until my third kid before I finally got the hint: dialogue is far more effective than monologue.
Dialogue = a conversation. Both parties engaged.
Monologue = a lecture. One party dozing while the other rattles on and on.
One of the best parenting practices I've been implementing recently is simply shutting up and listening. Think about it. It's hard for us to expect others to talk to us when we're doing all the talking. If you really want to connect with your kids, the first step may be slapping a giant piece of duct tape across your own mouth.
Try it. It's amazing what you can learn when you just sit back like a fly on the wall, observing your kids and listening. Try this when you drive a car full of your kids' friends. Shut up, and they'll forget you're there. You'll learn many things about your son or daughter's world that you didn't know before.
Better yet, if you want to get your teenager talking, try this at the dinner table: put your own phone or tablet aside, ask a question, then resist the urge to talk.
It may take a few questions to prime the pump. My youngest never answers the first question I ask. I have to toss a few questions out there and wait it out like a fisherman. Eventually she'll kill the silence.
The same thing happens on my daddy-daughter dates. At first, my girls tend to be quiet. In my early years as a parent, I made the mistake of filling dead air with my voice. I'd talk and talk and talk. ...
Before I knew it, the entire night was finished and my daughters had said three words.
Not much fun for them.
Think about this for a moment. Most parents would love for their kids to set their phones or tablets aside, look up at us, and engage in meaningful dialogue. This sounds like a dream come true. The sobering question we may want to ask ourselves is, do we even give them this opportunity? Do our kids feel like they have a parent who would listen?
A youth worker I know recently polled her middle school and high school students, asking them to write down advice for their parents. I posted the responses on my blog (JonathanMcKeeWrites.com). The most common pieces of advice kids wrote down were "Hear what I have to say" and "Listen to me!"
Others wrote, "Talk with me more," "Respect me," and "Be more understanding."
Guess what? This isn't bad news. This just means that our kids want to be noticed and heard. (Maybe that's why they're spending so much time on social networks.)
Do your kids feel noticed and heard?
I've slowly been learning to shut up. Not dead silence — I just ask a few questions and then play the quiet one. Allow me to emphasize the word few. This isn't a chance for us to inundate them with irritating questions:
How was school?
Did you have any tests? How did you do?
Do you have any homework? Then do it!!!
Are you their parole officer or their parent?
If you really want to engage your kids in conversation, put some thought and creativity into your questions:
If school were canceled tomorrow and you could go anywhere for the day, where would you go?
Who would you want to bring with you?
What is it that you enjoy so much about this friend?
Questions like this unveil your kids' dreams, their favorite activities, and their favorite people to hang out with. Wouldn't that be good to know?
Provide your kids a listening ear. Make an effort to engage them in meaningful dialogue. Resist the urge to monologue.
Do you know how your kids would answer if you asked these questions?
What are you waiting for?
Questions to ponder:
Which is your tendency, dialogue or monologue?
Why do you think dialogue is more effective than monologue?
What are some questions that may provoke conversation with your kids? (I'll devote the entire next chapter to coming up with questions on the fly.)CHAPTER 3
We're only a few chapters into the book, and I've already encouraged you repeatedly to use questions as a tool to engage your kids. Maybe you're already wondering, Jonathan, how can we come up with these questions on the fly?
Sadly, I never think of the perfect question until about three hours after the conversation, when I look back in retrospect and conclude, "I probably should have said ..."
So what do you do in these moments? After all, this book is really about connecting with your kid, not correcting or disciplining your kid.
Maybe you've watched Netflix with your teenagers, and you can't help but notice one of the main characters in the show constantly engaging in irresponsible behaviors — with no consequences whatsoever.
You remember one of the most important principles in parenting today: Don't freak out. You don't want to overreact to the situation, cementing in your kids' minds, I had better never share any of my struggles with Dad because this is how he'll respond.
One step better, remember to replace lecturing with listening. This is where you ask a well-placed question to help your kids think through the ramifications of their choices.
The problem is you have no idea what to ask.
Maybe your kids tell you a story about a friend at school who is spreading rumors about another student. Is this one of those teaching moments? If only you could ask them questions that would help them think through their values and behaviors.
The world provides us plenty of teaching moments each day. It's our job as parents to use them every once in a while (I say every "once in a while" because our kids would quickly tire of discussion time every time they play their music). The key to springboarding these good discussions is well-placed questions. Sure, you can always collect creative questions from books (like the bonus questions I provide for each chapter at the end of this book, or my book Get Your Teenager Talking, which provides more than one thousand questions to ask). But what about those times when we don't have time to refer to a book?
Here are four quick, practical tips to help you ask well-placed questions on the fly. We'll use the example of driving with your teens, and they plug their phone into the car to listen to their favorite playlist. Note: Our kids are never going to be excited when we inquire about their entertainment choices. We're messing with something they cherish greatly. But questions are a far better approach than lecturing. The following tips are just a rough outline of how you could approach the conversation. You probably wouldn't ask all the questions, and you definitely wouldn't ask them so formally. The point is to give your kids a chance to share their opinions without interruption.
The first step to helping our kids think through situations is getting them to pause for a moment and simply observe what they just encountered. This can be achieved by merely asking, "What did she just say?"
This simple question nudges young people to stop and take notice of the image they just saw or the lyrics they're bathing in every day.
The next natural question is "What does she mean?"
Yes. Play dumb.
Basically, that makes our kids actually process the content — maybe even for the first time. This question subtly hints, lyrics matter. We're not merely shrugging our shoulders and saying, "Who cares?" We're taking notice. Sometimes our kids aren't really even paying attention to the lyrics. Sure, they may hear them. They may even be able to sing them back to you word for word. But they've never processed the lyrics and pondered them.
So innocently ask, "What does she mean?"
These questions lead to the next natural step....
Ask your kids for their two cents. Ask:
"How's that going to work out for her?"
"Has she thought this through?"
These questions provoke our kids to offer insight based on their own personal values. Instead of telling our kids how to think, we are asking them what they think. And as they're stumbling through their own values, ask them one last question to steer them toward truth.
Direct your kids toward your family values. If your relationship with God is important to you, then you may want to ask, "What does the Bible say about this?"
If your kids don't know the exact chapter and verse, be ready to direct them. Yes, this requires you to be in God's Word yourself so you know where to point. Don't worry; if you don't know a scripture offhand, don't be afraid to admit it and then suggest, "Let's look this one up later when we get home."
Again, you might not ask all of these questions. Your conversation may only require one simple question: "Is he right?" That question alone is powerful. Don't turn every TV show or car ride into a teaching moment. Less is more.
Well-placed questions open doors to meaningful conversations. If you're like me — prone to lecture — questions help you replace monologue with dialogue.
Questions to ponder:
Can you think of a time when a thoughtful question sparked a conversation with your kid?
Can you think of a moment in the last week when you could have paused and asked your kids a question?
How do you think your kids would have responded to those questions?
Could this discussion have led to dialogue about any of your family values?CHAPTER 4
The Teen Genius Bar
What do you do when you can't figure out an app on your phone?
If you're like me, you just give it to one of your teenagers.
"Alyssa, how do you block this idiot who just spammed my Facebook timeline?" went one of my many questions to my daughter.
Today's parents are raising a generation who seemingly came out of the womb clutching a cell phone. They've been using technology since before they spoke their first word, and they have a knack for it. By the time they're teens, many of them are walking, talking Genius Bars.
Use this as a point of interaction.
Young people love being the expert. Add to that the fact that most adults ignore young people; when you give a young person attention and respect, it will usually be reciprocated.
So if you can't figure out your TV, computer, or phone, ask your kids for help. If it's in their knowledge set, they'll usually be glad to show you how to do it.
Excerpted from 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid by Jonathan McKee. Copyright © 2016 Jonathan McKee. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsBeing Smarter Than the Smartphone,
1. The Coviewing Connection,
2. The Fine Art of Shutting Up,
3. Fingertip Questions,
4. The Teen Genius Bar,
5. The Family Docking Station,
6. The Value of Noticing,
7. Two-Player Mode,
8. The Late-Night Splurge Sensation,
9. Addressing the Elephant ... er ... the Smartphone in the Room,
10. The House to "Hang",
11. The Media-Fast Fulfillment,
12. The No-Tech Tuesday Tactic,
13. The Overnight Escape Strategy,
14. A New Perspective of Back Talk,
15. The "Yes" Factor,
16. The Hot Tub Adjustment,
17. Froyo Exchanges,
18. The Safe Source,
19. The Fire Pit Phenomenon,
20. The Playlist Connection,
21. The Serving Strategy,
22. The New Kicks Occurrence,
23. The Hunting Hush,
24. What's Your Favorite ...?,
25. Pocket It,
26. The Greasy Spoon Exchange,
27. Fostering Controversy,
28. The Fan,
29. No Tech at the Table,
30. Kitchen Creations,
31. The Wings and Rings Circle,
32. The My Big Fat Greek Wedding Method,
33. Netflix-Binge Bonding,
34. The School Shuttle Strategy,
35. The Tandem Connection,
36. Resisting the Stalker,
37. Under the Comforter,
38. Water Like Glass,
39. The Coffeehouse Couch Connection,
40. Memory Lane,
41. Here Are the Keys,
42. Peak Exchanges,
43. The Mani-Pedi,
44. The Cookie Dough Connection,
45. Poolside Moments,
46. The New Puppy,
47. The "Don't" Fast,
48. Tradition Momentum,
49. Guys' Night/Girls' Night,
50. The Number Two Pastime,
51. News Talk,
52. Mother's Day,
52 Reviews & Q's,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jonathan McKee has given parents an excellent resource in his newest book, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid. With insight from his study of youth culture and trends and his experience working with teens, McKee is well-prepared to share the advice he has compiled in this book. Citing research studies and using his own personal family experiences, he presents, as the book title suggests, 52 ideas for parents to use or springboard from to help their kids learn to communicate face to face. Easy to read, sprinkled with humor, these pearls of wisdom for engaging kids and helping them disconnect from technology are proactive, practical and seemingly easy to put into use. The chapters are short and succinct and at the end have several questions to ponder. The author reminds parents to notice and affirm their kids, to ask questions, to give guardrails and not shackles. Parents are encouraged to practice both bonding and boundaries. "If all we ever do is bark out boundaries, we'll hinder the opportunities to bond." (152) Included at the end of the book is a list of useful questions for parents to utilize as they begin to connect with their kids with the many helpful tips McKee has shared. A great resource for parents who want to build strong relationships with their children. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.