Tech-Balance Strategies for Parents and Kids


Written by: Where Parents Talk Staff

Published: May 13, 2024

by Katherine Martinko

Technology is the main parenting challenge of our generation.

According to entrepreneur Forest Bronzan, “There hasn’t been anything in generations that has affected parents for that long … Everything from birth through high school and beyond, parents are faced with really big challenges and big decisions around how they navigate and [handle] technology.”

Click for video transcription

Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a thought leader in the digital wellness space Forest Bronzan, is also a speaker, entrepreneur and father of two. He is co founder and CEO of digital detox, which aims to help all of us better understand and improve our relationship with technology. More recently, forest launched camp light created to support parents navigate raising kids in a technology dominated world. Forest joins us today from Oregon. Welcome, and thank you for being here.

Thanks for having me.

So let’s start with the big picture here. What led you down this whole path in the first place?

Yeah, it’s a really interesting story. So prior to digital detox, and camp light, I was in tech, I had a digital agency that was eventually acquired. And my dear friend, Levi, friends since middle school, he started digital detox, actually, in 2012, after a life changing experience, and the company started as this very experiential live events, summer camps for adults, digital detox retreats, and I was an early supporter, and brought my company several times. And unfortunately, Levi died of a brain tumor in 2017, at the age of 32. And so the company went on hiatus for a few years. And ultimately, I took it over and 2020 right before it literally 1520 days before COVID hit. So not the best timing for a live experience company. But my passion really started early on when you leave, I was inspirational, just in how much tech is impacting our lives, and through my previous companies, seeing how much I was impacted by technology. But when I had children, that’s when it really hit home. And I was seeing how much kids were impacted around the world, how much parents were impacted. And so we needed to do something about that. So digital detox, we focus a lot on data and understanding all the various elements of technologies and impacts on our lives. And ultimately, that led us to comply, which is 100%, focused on helping parents I think, is the parenting challenge of our generation. Everything from birth, through high school and beyond, you know, parents are faced with really big challenges and big decisions around how they navigate and parent technology.

Lots to talk about and what you’ve just described. But I wonder if we could start with a reasonable starting point that you would suggest for parents to think about when it comes to just a general overall approach to navigating technology with their kids today.

That you mean, at what point should parents start thinking about that? Before they have their first child? So I think before they have the first child, they need to think about what type of home environment do they want to set up? And how are they going to model that behavior from a very young age, what we’re starting to see now, in a later age, middle school, high school, is some behaviors that could probably be improved if we modelled different behavior at a much earlier age. So to answer your question, I would start before I had kids, if I could go back in time, you know, and I started getting really involved once my kids were probably two or three and taking it very seriously. But I wish I could go back a few more years and really set the stage from the beginning on how we’re going to go about the household how we’re going to view the relationship of technology in our lives. So you can’t there’s really no earlier point to start. But no better time than today, if you didn’t start yesterday.

So let me pick up on that point. Because I think it’s really interesting. When you look back on it, what would you have done differently do you think?

So, you know, my life was very different than I was running a fast growth, digital agency and tech company. So I was I was very tech connected, what I would have done differently is had much more clear separation of how I’m using my phone in the household. So clear work life balance, right, and separating that out, not looking at my phone in front of my kids. I think that’s a challenge and mistake parents make they think at a very young age, you know, it doesn’t really matter. You know, the kids playing, I’m going to be on my phone, but they’re they’re absorbing everything you’re doing. And they’re they’re seeing how you’re looking down here and possibly not with them. So very specifically, I would have had different rules where cell phones pretty much off and the household when I’m connected with my kids.

You alluded earlier to the fact that you visited other countries, and you’ve talked about this and viewed how other people in other cultures deal with technology and trying to have a healthy relationship with technology. Can you take us through some of the highlights of what has struck you most? As you look at these behaviors with technology in other countries?

Yeah, pretty much no matter where you go, it’s impacting us. We haven’t really found one country in specific that’s doing it. Well. I mean, everywhere everyone’s impacted from young kids to adults was recently in Europe and in the Canary Islands on this beautiful remote spot. People are addicted to their phones. I mean, everywhere people are addicted, so we haven’t really found any interesting kind of correlations there in terms As of this specific region that’s doing it better. You know, there’s some different kind of government protocols and rules around phones and schools and different countries so that that changes a little bit. But at the core of it, there isn’t any place on Earth, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, rich or poor, where you live, you’re impacted by the forces of tech.

Without question, and as you described earlier, and on your website as well, it certainly is the parenting challenge of our time. Can you take us through what led you to can plate being created?

Yes, you know, digital detox focuses on pretty much all ages and a little bit skewed more towards adults, right. And as we were diving into the data, and as we were helping adults from around the world, and for context, digital detox as partners and customers in over 90 countries now. And so, you know, we work with a lot of different people. And a common theme, not only for our own team, we all have children, but with everyone we were working with was just how challenging this was. And what was fascinating was that it wasn’t just, I think what the media portrays is that it’s this middle school, high school problem with social media and funds. So that’s a huge, huge challenge. But it starts so early. So you know, think of a parent that has a child that’s not quite in kindergarten, they’re still dealing with screen time and content. And then once they get into elementary school, it’s trying to navigate learning apps ad tech, when to get a phone, should they get a smartwatch? And then once they get into middle school, high school, it’s more of this question of, you know, when do they actually get the phone? What are they doing on the phone, social media, AI, porn, deep fakes, the list goes on. So seeing how big of a problem that was for parents, there hasn’t been anything in generations that has affected parents for that long. Yes, there’s, you know, consistent challenges that parents have faced for decades at certain ages. But one theme that impacts pretty much every age of parenting, that’s fascinating. And so, we wanted to create camp light as the space, the safe space where parents could connect and share their challenges and learn from other parents and also learn from experts. But an important part of that is that we’re not anti tech. So there’s a lot of digital wellness influencers, if you will, out there that are very negative, right, you know, the tech is only bad AI is only bad and hide your kids. And that’s just, that’s just not true. It’s simply not true. And even if it were, you’re not really going to get away from it, so let’s deal with it head on. So that that was the whole impetus of camp like, can we create this community and this safe space to look at the positive sides of tech? How can we use it in a healthy way, but then also be very vigilant about the negative impacts and deal with that?

It’s a very interesting approach, because certainly, you’re gonna have parents in the camp that says, you know, I wasn’t really exposed to technology as a kid. I’m just trying to go with it. But I do have, I guess, that fear of technology of embracing all the different aspects that it brings into my life, like, so how do you deal with a parent in that category as an example, who now has kids? So they’re approaching it from, let’s say, a fear based perspective? But you’re trying to change that and kind of undo that fear and make it something more healthy? What would be your approach there?

Yeah, it depends a little bit on the age, it’s a good question. And it kind of depends what their core fear is, right? And so it’s complicated, right? You know, a lot of parents, they’re afraid of child predators for one. And so that’s why they want to stay off of certain networks, others, they’re afraid of bullying others, they’re afraid of isolation and depression. So there’s a lot of different things and different trigger points. And so it really kind of depends on what you’re looking at. What we see more though, is parents struggling with how do I, how do I kind of continue my kind of morals within my own household and what we want to do, while keeping up with social pressure? That’s the biggest problem with So internally, many parents are like, yes, I want to wait to give social media. That’s what that data shows where I want to wait longer to get phones, but then all of a sudden, all of their friends habits, so then how do I kind of navigate that decision? Another huge one is bowling. I mean, cyberbullying is absolutely tremendously impactful, obviously. And it’s something that is very lonely. For parents, it’s not something that’s common to talk about soccer with other parents if your child is being bullied, right? And it’s also very tricky on when to approach the school, sometimes that can actually escalate and make things worse. And so navigating those nuances of cyber bullying and cyber bullying is taken not to digress here, but it’s taken a much more complex form is at a very early age in Roblox and, you know, very young games that kids are playing, there’s bowling, and it’s taken forms of, you know, very kind of micro slow paper cuts, if you will. So, yeah, it’s it’s very child dependent, parent dependent, and it’s, it’s complicated.

You talk about the unique approach that camp light brings by, you know, gathering this parenting community to make really informed choices about technology as it relates to their kids can give us examples of how it works specifically, how Camplight works?

Yeah, so it’s an it’s an online platform, and it’s a private community. So picture like a Facebook group, but it’s not on Facebook, it’s it doesn’t have ads, it doesn’t have sort of the toxicity of Facebook groups and the judgment, it’s only for members. And we have different discussion spaces. And you can log in on app, you can log in on desktop, mobile, wherever you want. And there’s different discussion spaces kind of organized by age group. So pre K, K five, middle school, high school, etc. And in there, you could discuss what other parents there’s also other content sections with expert lead content, where we have live streams and recordings with our mental health professionals on different topics. That might be something very specific, we have Dr. Gupta coming on here and a few weeks discussing the ties between technology and pediatric diabetes, right? Or it might be a broader topic of when to get a phone, and just how do we have that conversation. And then we have lots of other really interesting content slang translations, breaking down trending influencers, things that are in the sphere of online tech and how it’s impacting us. But trenches might not be an ellipse. So we want to kind of create this full full functioning platform that allows you to connect with other parents and have that support, connect with experts, and then also have content to arm you with good decisions. And we’re not here to tell you exactly, this is exactly how you should do it more. So we want to arm you with what we know what we don’t know what the data shows. So you can make a really informed decision for your family. And ultimately, we want to get you thinking about things and more abstract ways.
Have you observed anything as camplight unfolds, and sort of these conversations are happening for us that that has struck you personally, whether as a professional or as a parent, when we’re talking about technology in the household?

Yeah, a few things. So we have a section specifically for bullying, right. And that’s been really amazing to see unfold, right, because parents are finally able to connect and share their concerns with other parents that know exactly what they’re going through. And so that’s been powerful, just seen some of the stories that they otherwise wouldn’t have been comfortable sharing and coming forward with. And now they have a community that has their back plus experts to give them really great guidance. So that’s, that’s been interesting. I think another interesting thing is just seeing how how lost everyone hits, like, again, like it comes in different forms, different ages, different regions. But at the end of the day, parents are really trying to do the right thing, at least camp members and they’re struggling. I think another really interesting thing is it’s it’s very regional specific. And so if you think about, you know, what child’s doing in New York, if you have a kid in San Francisco, it doesn’t really matter what the trends are. In New York, it’s interesting to kind of learn from perspective, but you’re not in the same social circle, mentally, and so you know, those, those things are going to change quite a bit. So it’s been, we’re brand new, like we launched about two and a half months ago. And so we’re evolving, and we have this great supportive community. And we’re iterating very quickly, based on feedback from members so we could create the most value possible.

I think what strikes me is the fact that it seems to be a very proactive approach, right? So let’s not wait until we have a mental health issue involving technology and our child. Let’s, you know, connect you and sow the seeds of quality information before the crisis arrives. Is that any of the feedback that you’re getting?

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, we share a lot of data, we share a lot of, you know, analysis on news stories. And ultimately, parents want to kind of take that and put it into perspective. One thing we really emphasize, you know, whether it’s a decision around a phone or tech rule, or social media is it’s so specific to the child, the home dynamic, the community, the school, there’s not a one size fits all. So I’ll give you an example. A common question is, what age should I get a phone? Well, that’s really the wrong question to ask, we should be asking, you know, first, what do you want to do with a phone? Right? It’s very different depending on what you’re doing a phone is a device, what you do with it’s very different? What’s the temperament of the child? What’s the personality of the child? What else are they doing in their life? What’s their portfolio of activity look like? What’s the family dynamic look like? So there’s so many questions to ask that we can’t just give a blanket age of what age to give a phone, right? And so, you know, can’t wait. We have those discussions, and we help folks kind of navigate around how to think through some of those big decisions without shaming, I think it’s a huge part. There’s so much shaming that goes on right now with between parents and parents, you know, feel really isolated with what they do, and templates, a non shaming environment. And so one example would be you know, we’re pretty hard on pushing waiting as long as possible for social media for a lot of reasons. But if for whatever reason you give access to social media early, great, we want to help you get through that because you’re going to struggle much more More than other parents. So we want to be here to support you. And I feel we need more of that support and empathy now than ever, when there’s so much shame going on, whether it’s parent has a child on an iPad at dinner, or they give access to phones or social media earlier, shaming is not going to help the community in the conversation. So we need to support each other and arm people with success.

Now for us, you allude to the data, both globally and sort of regionally. Can you take us through some of the sort of top level most striking findings as it relates to adolescents and or their parents or even younger kids? And technology?

Yeah, absolutely. And and to digress briefly to set some context with digital detox launched the door score about a year ago, and this was, you know, very comprehensive measure of how technology is impacting your life, you could take it for free digital We, since then, we had a lot of requests from schools to have students take it. And so we adapted it, and we recalibrated the measure for students, specifically high school and middle school students. And now around the country, students are taking the score through the score through the school. And so yeah, it’s fascinating on the adult side, I guess we’ll start there, there’s this common theme of people and adults using technology to avoid human interaction. So one hot stat point is something around 65 70% of adults pretend to check their phone to avoid talking to someone else. Right. And so that’s, that’s interesting, right? There might be some cases where that’s helpful in a safety situation, but mostly, it’s not. And so we’re using it as a crux to avoid human connection, which is concerning. You know, some other ones. When we get into children, it’s fascinating with high schoolers, we’re seeing a huge percent over 50%, recognizing the impact that has on them, they’re raising their hand saying, I don’t like how I feel, I could see and realize the mental and physical impacts it’s having, I just don’t know what to do about it. Something like 65 70% Plus, say they wish their parents waited longer to give them phones and social media. So this is coming from actual high school students. This isn’t speculation amongst doubles. But the really interesting trend, and this is for both adults and children is just how much it’s impacting sleep. And we measure this in sort of an indirect way. But for example, students, it’s something like 90% are scrolling right before bed and north of 25% are checking notifications in the middle of the night. And those are two of the worst things you can do for sleep, right. And we could get into the kind of neuroscience of sleep and how that impacts adults, it’s not too much better either. And vast majority are scrolling right before bed. And, you know, checking many are checking notifications and all night. But for for a child that’s still physically developing. Sleep is even I would argue even more important so that that’s an easy fix, where it should be non confrontational, and, and very easy for parents to get on board with look like, Let’s put aside disagreements on social media and phones and schools and everything else. Let’s just agree. You know, no phones in the bedroom, no scrolling an hour before bed and no notifications and middle the night, just that alone is going to make students healthier, and ultimately happier.

So on that point, then Forest, how would you say that camp light would help a parent potentially, you know, square that circle, if it were, as it were, in terms of their own behavior change within that community? Like, understanding that maybe this is a pain point. Now I’m in this community that is pointed out, but then what happens to support that parent to maybe make that change in their own home?

Yeah, that’s a really smart question. So a couple of ways. One, in terms of making the change for them or their child, a lot of it comes back to education. So like, why asleep important? Let’s start there. How do phones in negatively impacts sleep? Let’s get there. Okay, let’s, let’s arm you with that data. Now, let’s put into place how can we make some healthy changes. And with that, you know, we’re giving tips on, you know, actual conversation points with your child or with your spouse on, we call them scripts, we have a script section where, you know, here’s kind of verbatim, you know, some conversation starters. And here’s some responses on the pushback. And then ultimately, you know, it’s the supportive community. So we just had a post a couple days ago, someone saying, Yeah, I’m struggling with this. Does anyone have tips? So like, let’s put the pros and the experts aside just like Parent to Parent, does anyone have tips on how to overcome this? And someone else common said, Yes. Got Your Back. Here’s what I did. I bought an $8 clock from Amazon. So I didn’t have to rely on my alarm. I put the phone over here. And yeah, so ultimately, it’s a very kind of organic accountability system, if you will, because you have other parents that are there for the same reason and in the same boat supporting it.
So are there any tips for us that you can share just in general with your depth of knowledge on this topic with respect to the fact that, you know, it doesn’t matter what aspect of Like if you’re talking about technology is involved, whether you’re going to the dentist, you know, or you’re you’re looking at a menu and a QR code on your, on your device or whatever it is. There are so many different ways that we rely on these devices. How can we? Or is it fair to say that we need to unreliable on it more as a way to have a healthier or more healthy relationship with technology?

We could spend a whole episode talking just about this topic. So you know, specific to, let’s start with adults, maybe the QR code in the restaurant, I wish restaurants wouldn’t do that, you know, in some cases, it’s more efficient. I think at the end of the day, you need to just take inventory of what’s actually needed and value adding to my life and efficient, and then what’s not what’s taking away, I recently, just last week, did a cleanse of my phone and removed apps that just aren’t adding any value. They’re distracting, right. And I only have the critical ones on there that I that I use daily, that are productive, that are adding value to my life and not taking away. So a lot of that takes, you know, first some self reflection and some very kind of careful thought and being really honest with yourself. And then second, it’s taking action to actually make changes to the environment. habit change is really, really, really tricky. And I don’t know, if you’ve read atomic habits by James clear, it’s a brilliant book. And it talks essentially, I don’t want to quote James here, but it talks essentially about like how you need to change the environment. So just saying, I’m going to spend less time on Instagram on my phone, that’s really hard for humans to do, the better action would be to just delete Instagram from your phone, or move it to another folder far away that’s less accessible and less exciting. But to answer your question, yeah, I mean, I think it’s everyone’s a little bit different. You know, some, you know, they might work in social media, though, so they need more access. So I think the first step is really identifying what’s really important, what’s actually needed. And then second, coming up with a plan to actually have a little bit more balance. And there’s some kind of really good parameters around that, you know, if you have children, don’t be on your phone around your kids like that should be time with your kids. And if you’re teaching them something that’s different, but if you’re playing a board game, or you’re playing, watching a movie, whatever it is, have that time focused with them and not distracted by a device, that should be an easy starting point. In terms of children, I think it’s a great opportunity at a very young age to start having those conversations of, you know, look, technology can be beautiful, it could add some tremendous benefits to our life. And here’s where it could cause some trouble, right. And so having those conversations at a very early age is extremely helpful. And then also just talking through the narrative of your own use with your kids. So for example, with with my kids, I’ll be like, Hey, here’s the reason that I’m having to go check my phone right now. So I don’t think I’m just mindlessly checking my phone. It’s for something for grandma, and we need to get her this thing. And I need to check this thing. And it just I need to do that right now. I’m sorry. And kind of talking through and then also calling yourself out, like, Look, I just checked this, I didn’t need to check this, I’m gonna do better. And so I think having that open conversation could go a long way with kids.

Speaking about your kids, I’m curious, because you talked about you would have done a couple of things differently before they were born. But what does device exposure look like in your household with your two kids who are in grade four and one, still young, but certainly impressionable all the same?

Yeah, yeah. So I want to talk about that. And I think another important part and back 20 Other questions on what was something surprising about camp light, I think what we’re finding we’re seeing this in other data around the world, is just how much parents are reflecting on their own use, and how important that is, you know, a lot of parents will, for lack of a better word, complain about their child’s use, oh, my goodness, they’re on their screen so much they’re doing this, but they really need to look at themselves first and get your house in order, before you can expect your child to be in order. So in terms of, of our household, and it’s it’s evolving, you know, I think one thing parents need to do is be flexible and nimble things are going to change. We’re not going to always stick to an exact plan, there’s going to be days that we need to deviate from that plan, and that’s okay. And we explain that. So we’ll say look like today, we’re having more screentime that’s okay. This isn’t like everyday stuff. So setting that expectation. So yeah, my son’s in fourth grade. My daughter’s in first grade. They my daughter asks a lot about, you know, when will I get a phone and what age should we get a phone and we have those conversations and we tell them like, here’s some of the reasons that we’re gonna wait. And here’s some of the things that are concerning in terms of their own use. Like we watch a lot of movies together. I love movies. It’s a great pastime. It’s time for us to snuggle and great popcorn and laugh and bond. And so yeah, on weekends, we’ll have movie night. They have iPads for learning couple learning apps that they use at school some learning we prefer to do exclusive Utley analog just kind of depends on the child. But they’re not on them, you know, aimlessly scrolling YouTube, zero social media. And then my wife and I were pretty diligent about our own use in in the home. So I have a home office, when I’m working, I’m working, when I’m not working, I’m not working. And we’re rarely on our phones in the household unless it’s someone calling something school related. If there’s something like real quick, we need to check, but we’re not, you know, holding the phone with us around the house, unless it’s something entertaining, if we want to put on Spotify and have a little dance party, great, that’s awesome. Or if we want to, you know, look up, you know, some funny clip that we want to share with the family. That’s, that’s great, too. With no phones in the bedrooms, that’s a pretty hard roll and no technology in the bedrooms. Bedrooms should be a space for other things not for for technology. And yeah, we try to just to be very practical about it, you know, there’s going to be times that, you know, they want to watch some good stuff. And that’s great. You know, it’s some downtime. One thing on that note, a common question that parents ask is how much screen time is okay? And that’s also not the best question to ask. It’s so dependent on the kid, and again, their portfolio of their life. So, you know, child, one that you know, is doing zero extracurricular activity, not meeting their academic requirements, not meeting their social requirements. That answer should be almost zero versus, you know, a child that is involved in whatever it is sports or extracurricular, and meeting all their other responsibilities, and they’re exhausted, and they need some downtime. Great, that’s, that’s actually healthy to have some of that downtime on a screen. So I don’t know if that helps. But essentially, you know, we’re some of the common things, no phones at the bedroom, no technology at the dinner table. And then we’re very mindful moreso of our use, and then it’s sort of this ebb and flow of okay, what are we watching as a family? Do you get some extra time individually to unwind?

One of the unique challenges of parenting certainly are the different ages and stages that you go through. So the rules that you have in place sound fantastic. Now, have you thought about what that’s going to look like down the road, and especially with respect to what you do, and having all this additional insight as you do about older kids, and families and what and what technology looks like for them? Are there rules that you think you will hold fast on in your own household.

So it’s difficult to put a specific rule seven years out, tick tock might not even be around in seven years. So saying tick tock is not going to be allowed when you’re in eighth grade, that probably doesn’t apply so much. It’s more about kind of fundamentals and foundation, I feel that, you know, in our house, we’re creating a really great foundation of, you know, we prioritize connection, we prioritize, you know, learning in a non tech way. But we also recognize there’s some fun uses of tech, we want to use that my, my son’s learning some really advanced things on the computer. And that’s great. We want to continue harnessing app. One thing that we really encourage parents to do with elementary school aged kids is to align with other parents in the community. That’s one of the most important things. So we’re going to be hosting an event at our home in the coming months where we have, you know, some of our children’s friends parents over to just discuss, like, how will we all align, because that’s the biggest thing that goes wrong, you could be as a family on the same page with how you want to go about the next, you know, four or five, six years. But then if everyone else is on a different page, that’s where it creates just this complicated dynamic. And so the more you could get other parents on the same page, and just have that open discussion, if everyone’s aligned, the better. So we’re going to, we’re going to put a big emphasis on that of having those open conversations with other parents in the community.

You know, it’s really interesting from the perspective of just how much technology has infiltrated our lives in recent years, and especially as a result of the pandemic. The fact is, and I’m sure you’ll agree that candlelight, and maybe digital detox wouldn’t have to exist. If we weren’t at a point of crisis. I don’t know how you would characterize it, do you think we’re at a crisis point or past a crisis point, as relates to how technology is being used, especially by kids?

Well, it’s interesting you say that, you know, our, my, like, co founder, Levi Felix, he was a visionary in 2012, seeing how much Tech was impacting our lives then and that was before tic tock, I believe Instagram as we know it, so it was impacting us, you know, 12 years ago, and it’s even more so now. So it’s interesting, I think we are at this fever pitch COVID had just detrimental effect on how we interact with the world and how we embrace technology, some cases in a good way, and in many cases, an unhealthy way. I think what’s fascinating though, is you’re starting to see teams raise their hand and like I mentioned, say I don’t like how this feels this isn’t good even have flip phone movements around the country and small areas where they’re turning in their smartphone for for an old school flip phone. I think another interesting thing is we’ve we’ve never seen this acceleration of awareness. So if you go back to seat belts and cars, it took decades for car manufacturers to introduce seatbelts to save lives. It took some states over 100 years to change the age of tobacco use, right, I think California was over 100 years for them to increase the age for smoking tobacco. And so with technology, you know, we’re in a relatively very short window, since we’ve had access. And now we have dozens of states suing big tech, we have other states implementing legislation around appropriate uses of tech, we have the Surgeon General declaring, essentially a state of emergency around loneliness and the impacts of tech. So I can’t remember time in history, we’ve seen this much activity from this many different groups in this short of a time period. So to answer your question, yeah, I think we are at this fever pitch. We’ll see what happens. I think there’s a lot that could happen this next two, three years. But we’re there’s a lot of framework being laid, and it’s going to be interesting. I think the challenge is you still have a lot of parents that at the end of the day, aren’t putting emphasis on improving their own habits, and ultimately rely on technology as a crux to parent a little bit easier, right? And in some cases that’s needed. Look, if if it comes down to am I going to go to the job interview and get the job? Or not have some screen time, then yeah, of course, that’s actually a good decision. But yeah, I guess to answer your question, I’m optimistic in terms of just how much activity there is right now. I’m still concerned on many parents that we serve and talk to about their overall sentiment.

Along those lines, which parent would you suggest, reach out or become part of camp? Like, at what point in their parenting journey? Can they should they be ideally?

So it’s interesting, you asked that, you know, when we started camp lay, you know, we were thinking it would appeal much more to middle school, high school parents right there in the thick of it with social media. We were surprised to see how many parents we have pre K. And that’s fascinating that they’re really trying to create this foundation, and they’re trying to understand how do I navigate it in kindergarten? I’d say the earlier the better. Right? You know, once you’re it’s much easier to have those age appropriate discussions when they’re in second grade than once they’re a junior in high school. Once they’re there. Yeah, of course, like we want to help them support you. But it’s, it’s harder to backtrack than to set the foundation. So earlier, the better I’d say the sweet spot would be somewhere in that second grade on up, right, you know, you’re starting to see tech a lot more in schools, there’s a lot more access. They’re playing Roblox and Minecraft in many areas. And you’re a couple years away from the big question of when do I get a phone? When do I get social media so that kind of second early elementary school grades a great starting point, and then depending on the child, it’s probably going to continue through middle school in high school. But that’s sort of the beauty of Camp light. Like we’re there for the entire journey, no matter where you start through pretty much end of high school sometimes beyond.
Finally, Forest, what would you say to a parent of family, who is really struggling mightily with this whole issue in their home? Perhaps, you know, they did all the things you shouldn’t do when their kids were younger, etc, etc? What would you say to someone like that to give them hope about how they can help themselves have a more healthy relationship for themselves and their children with technology?

The first thing I’d say is you’re not alone. Look, that’s the majority of us, right? We’ve made mistakes, we’re human, we’re parents, we’re trying to do our best. And life is messy. And raising kids with tech is messy. So you’re not alone. There’s other parents just like you, that’s the first thing. Second is it’s it’s never too late to make change in our lives as adults or for our kids. And, you know, some habit change is much more difficult than others. But with technology, it’s all possible like and so while technology addiction has similar profiles of that of heroin and other hard drugs, it’s it’s a different withdrawal profile. Right. And so it’s, it’s possible to improve. So yeah, I’d say that it was also goes far to say is, you’re still the parent, right? And so if you feel you’ve lost control, and technology and your kids are dominating, that there’s exercises, and there’s ways to get that control back and to get back into that parent seat. So keep your head up. We have your back, and you’re gonna do great.

Forest Bronzan, founder and CEO of Camplight, we so appreciate your time and your perspective today.

Yeah, thanks for having me.

To help parents deal with this issue, Bronzan, an investor, speaker, and father of two, runs two companies that strive to improve society’s relationship with technology. Digital Detox provides tools to establish a healthier lifestyle balance with devices, and Camplight is an online forum for parents to learn about and discuss tech issues in the family.

Bronzan spoke to Where Parents Talk host Lianne Castelino from Oregon about his ongoing work in the digital wellness space.

Bronzan says parents should start thinking about how they intend to use tech in the home even before their first child is born. After all, it is harder to backtrack than to establish good habits early on. Reflecting on his own life, he says, “I wish I could go back a few more years and really set the stage from the beginning on how we’re going to go about [handling] the relationship of technology in our lives and household… But there’s no better time than today, if you didn’t start yesterday.”

Camplight’s forum discussions have opened Bronzan’s eyes to just how lonely many parents feel in dealing with these problems. Cyberbullying in particular has become far more common, but it’s an awkward thing for parents to discuss. There is deep shame
associated with making certain choices. Camplight strives to be a judgment-free space that advocates for delaying social media, but is willing to meet parents where they’re at.


Data collected by Digital Detox reveals interesting trends—that more than 65% of adults use tech to avoid human interaction, and over 75% of teens wish their parents had waited longer before giving them social media. Disrupted sleep is another common

Bronzan, who is not anti-tech, urges adults to evaluate tech’s impact on their daily lives. “Identify what’s really important, what’s actually needed.” Then, take steps to change the environment and set yourself up for success in practical ways, like doing a phone cleanse (deleting distracting apps) and implementing strict parameters for phone use in the home, e.g., no phones in the bedroom or at the table or outside of work unless necessary.He is clear on one point: “If you have children, don’t be on your phone around your kids.
That should be time with your kids.”


When quizzed on the appropriate time to introduce devices and social media to kids, Bronzan avoids stating a specific age. Instead, he urges parents to consider “the portfolio of their life”—what they’re doing for extracurriculars, how they’re doing at school, what their social life looks like, what the family dynamic is, etc. “There are so many questions to ask that we can’t just give a blanket age of what age to give a phone.”

His parting advice for families struggling with screen time: You’re not alone. It’s never too late. You’re still the parent. “If you feel you’ve lost control, and technology and your kids are dominating, there are ways to get that control back and to get back into that parent seat. So, keep your head up. We have your back, and you’re going to do great.”

Related links:

Related articles:

Wake Up Call: Why Managing Smartphone Use in Children is Critical According to Science

Digital Detox Summer Camp for Youth Expands to Canada

How Social Media and Digital Technology Impacts Kids

Staying safe Online and on Social Media: Paul Davis


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