Parents need to keep an eye on kids' technology use

Below is my interview written by Karris Golden for the WCF Courier in which I share my thoughts on the challenges of parenting with technology. 

If you have a few minutes to stand in a line, do you play “Trivia Crack”? Does forgetting your smartphone at home ruin your day? Is it possible you can’t put down your iPad?

Do kids who learn from us emulate this behavior?

We are blessed to live in a golden age of technology. As a result, we must remember technology can’t replace conversation, community and other social interactions, notes California-based author and life coach La Shawn B. Wells.

He warns allowing kids too much screen time will leave some disengaged from their surroundings.

“I get it: Parents would rather not fight that battle with kids, so … they give in to technology and let them have the iPad or smartphone,” he says.

There’s a limit — or at least there should be, Wells cautions. It’s about balancing technology with social and learning experiences, as well as time-tested tactile tools.

For example, Wells’ practice includes coaching young athletes. To spark deeper focus and concentration, he requires they write dreams, goals and other notes by hand in notebooks. He cites studies that show doing so deepens the writer’s connection to his or her goals.

Despite Wells’ best efforts, technology can still encroach. Prior to the proliferation of smartphones, being coached included learning from what others were told.

Today, that’s not always the case. Instead, Wells has seen athletes go for their phones as soon as the coach begins talking to another youth.

“They can’t disconnect to focus, and they’re less likely to retain … because they’re not fully engaged,” he laments.

Wells outlines a plan for refocusing and reconnecting families in “The Seven Principles of Faith-Based Parenting: Tips for Raising Happy and Successful Children in the 21st Century.”

He was raised by a single mother who prioritized special chat sessions.

“There weren’t any distractions, and we didn’t skip it,” Wells recalls. “She didn’t have the challenge of fighting over technology.”

Wells and his wife, Toi, did contend with pressure to relax their standards. To them, the costs outweighed the benefits.

They raised three daughters — Talita, Tamani and Tylyn — with the belief technology is a tool, not an activity. They insisted on distraction-free family meals and scheduled regular, one-on-one appointments with each child.

As Wells notes in the preface to “Seven Principles,” their convictions netted a house free of “high school drama.” They also saw their daughters go to college on athletic scholarships: UCLA, San Diego State and Stanford, respectively.

This aligned with their desire to create a faith-centered, family-focused environment.

“We didn’t do it alone,” Wells writes. “We did it with God’s help. Our faith in our God and our spiritual walk together are the combined reason for our success as parents — and in everything we do.”

Those who don’t share Wells’ religious beliefs can find value in his parenting techniques. His principles work for parents who hope to improve family dynamics and dialogue.

“The key is to create time and schedule it like a doctor’s appointment you can’t miss — even if it’s only 15 minutes a day in the beginning,” he advises. “Find out what’s going on in your kids’ lives. Get them around the dinner table; that’s the first place to start.”