Utah parents Trevor and Kristine Schow have five children, including two daughters and three sons: “We cover everything, from dolls to dinosaurs and sports to dance.”
Paralyzed by Fear
The Schows often lead their family in active conversations at the dinner table. But when their teen daughter asked for a cell phone one evening, they froze.
"We felt paralyzed... 'What are we going to let into our daughter's life?'" said Trevor Schow, father of five children, including a new teenager.
"Raising kids in the digital age can be challenging and confusing and there's so much technology that's ever-evolving. Giving her a phone and figuring out how to manage it felt so overwhelming."
So, Trevor and his wife Kristine stalled. They put it off. "Maybe," they told their daughter, "when you're 16 or 18 or... never."
"But, in our minds, we knew that wasn't realistic," Trevor said, especially as their daughter was finding it hard to make friends or connect with youth leaders after a move because she wasn't able to communicate on the same channels.
The Schows needed a better way to prepare their daughter for her first phone and to manage screen time for their whole family.
"We saw the impact of technology overuse on our kids, even on [us as parents]. If we're on TV or our phones too much we get cranky. We refer to it as 'brain sick,' Trevor noted. "But if we just avoid tech, we can limit ourselves to some of its blessings."
A workshop to help youth develop their "internal filter"
The Schows tried screen limits, restrictive parental controls, firewall filters, and special routers- all to serve as fencing between their children and technology. It was a lot. And yet not enough to ease their minds.
Then, they found Family Tech University or- more specifically- "Family Tech University found us," Trevor explained. He had worked with and admired one of its founders at a previous job. When he and Kristine heard about the self-paced Internal Filter® Workshop, a course designed to help youth develop their own safeguards, they jumped on it.
"It was the missing piece," Trevor said. "We were trying to put all these filters in place, but at the end of the day, that internal filter is really the key."
It is powerful to realize that we can trust our children to
recognize when tech use has a negative effect.
Proactive Support to Set the Baseline
Before they even mentioned the online workshop to their children, the Schows scanned the entire program. They found 8 modules, addressing multiple areas of concern including pornography and social media. At first, they wondered if it would be too much too soon for their 12-year-old; but the ultimately decided to be proactive.
"There was not one negative, nothing was exposed to early," noted Kristine. "Family Tech University brought us a way to have conversations beforehand, so it was comfortable and created a baseline so we can come and revisit these topics."
This open communication benefited everyone.
One night, the couple's 12-year-old completed a module segment on texting and driving on her own and then came to her parents. Trevor recalled,
"She brought up the laptop and wanted to watch a video with us, saying, 'I've seen you and mom text while you drive and you need to stop.' It fostered a conversation and was such an awesome experience... we were all crying."
That moment helped Trevor and Kristine see their daughter's strength more clearly.
"I was nervous," Trevor admits. "But when we moved forward and trusted, we can see she's become just as committed as my wife and I about proper technology use."
Family Tech University changed the script...
enabling us to be wise and have that internal filter.
Calm conversations surrounding that new phone
After completing the Internal Filter® Workshop, the Schow's daughter earned her new phone. When she wanted a new app, she asked Trevor and Kristine to read up on it so they could talk about it later. Even though they ultimately decided against downloading it, the parents were impressed by the mature way in which their daughter managed the situation.
"The Workshop played a role because we had [the] conversations already, we were in a calm place," said Kristine. "It trained us to have these healthy conversations in a logical way instead of being emotional. It gives you a way to practice."
Having completed all of the modules faster than even her parents expected, their daughter now takes notice of how her friends are using technology, or how they are being used by it (as they are often glued to their phones).
"The Workshop made it so I am more safe... but now I'm going to have to worry about my friends," the teen said. Soon after completing the modules she told her parents that she felt everyone should experience this kind of training before getting their own phone.
Internal filters lead the way in choosing uplifting media
TV, computer, and video game use at the Schow household is now more thoughtful too. "When we get 'brain sick' we say 'let's talk about it and let's come up with ways we can avoid it,'" Trevor said.
For instance, instead of berating the boys for too much gaming, he and Kristine take note of grumpiness and ask questions to help them check in to see how they are experiencing technology.
"That has been the big change," Trevor noted. "It encouraged the culture in our family to just have that foundation and talk about it, to trust them and maybe be a little bit more forgiving sometimes when we all cross that line, that it's a learning process."
Kristine agreed, noting how she observes the kids talk through movie options to select uplifting media. "It is powerful to realize we can trust them to recognize when tech use has a negative effect. It's so much more powerful than me putting the line down."
A plan that comes with confidence and peace
As parents in the digital age, Trevor and Kristine don't feel paralyzed anymore.
"Family Tech University changed the script. It changed our thought process... enabling us to be wise and have that internal filter," said Trevor.
"It went from a place of fear to a place of almost empowerment: 'We can do this. It's not going to be easy, but at least there's a way'."
Interested in learning more? Visit Family Tech University's website. A tour of the Internal Filter® Workshop can be found here.