Setting boundaries around technology and screen time is much bigger than keeping kids safe. We want kids to flourish and to have thriving relationships and experiences. Our guest on this week’s podcast has dedicated her life to that work.
Angie Daniels is the Program Manager for The Hope Center on the east side of Kansas City, Missouri. There, she works to serve kids in an urban community in the heart of the city. From Pre-K to High School, they work to provide a supportive, community-building and family-like atmosphere for kids outside of school. She’s also the mother of five kids who grew up in the smartphone revolution, all of whom are now young adults.
Listen in on the conversation about how phone-boundaries help kids to flourish, how The Hope Center is serving its neighborhood, and how Angie and her husband navigated their own use of technology in the home.
Screen Sanity is Executive Produced by Krista Boan and START.
It is produced and edited by Mike Cosper for Cosper Productions.
Krista Boan: [00:00:00] Hey everyone. Welcome to the Screen Sanity Podcast. I’m your host, Krista Boan, co-founder of START, where we help families raise happy and healthy kids in a world that is increasingly digital. We’ve had hundreds of conversations with parents everywhere who share that the number one battleground in their homes is screen time.
And, while we’ve learned that there is no easy button when it comes to parenting today’s kids, there’s also an unbelievable movement of parents who are stepping into the arena and fighting for their kids’ hearts. Each episode, our guests will help us dive in to some of the tensions families are facing and walk us through some of the conversations you’ll wanna have to prepare your kids for the road ahead.
Welcome to Screen Sanity.
Okay, friends. So, I’m coming off of a training session last night that we hosted in partnership with a school district that serves 30,000 students. And there was a moment where a parent shared openly about a tension that we’re all facing today, which is that so many of the essential functions in our lives have moved to a screen. We’re expecting to work on a screen and go to school on a screen, we get our news, shop, checking on friends. We entertain ourselves. And honestly just escape from pain on a screen.
But this parent said, you kn- you know, if I were gonna make a pie chart out of our screen time, I don’t even think I would know where to start. It’s all consuming. It’s constantly shifting. And I feel like any kind of limit or boundary I put on my screen time has vaporized as weeks of staying at home have turned into a year. And you can just feel the tension in her voice because she was asking a hard question. How am I supposed to keep helping my kids unplug from screens when I keep telling myself that these screens are helping her stay safe from COVID? And guys, my heart, it just stopped. Because she nailed it.
You know, um, I think parents today are certainly trying to tease out what it looks like to find spaces and rhythms of unplugging from these devices. But these devices have also become the centerpiece of school and social life. And I think we’re just all exhausted and asking ourselves is the fight really worth it?
So at START, we’re always keeping our eye out for people who are saying yes, it’s worth it. And helping us remember and imagine why we need to keep pursuing digital health for ourselves and for our children. Today’s guest, Angie Daniels, joins us with a long history of being passionate about helping kids become healthy and whole, starting with her own five children who kind of grew up in the throes of the smart phone revolution and are now young adults at universities and starting their careers. And she currently pours out her passion for helping kids develop into leaders through her role as program manager at the Hope Center, which serves an urban community in the heart of Kansas City. And I am just so excited to dig in and pick her brain.
Angie, welcome to the Screen Sanity Podcast.
Angie Daniels: [00:03:22] Thank you so much, Krista.
Krista Boan: [00:03:23] Well, just so y’all know, Angie is a bit of a legend in Kansas City and, I think, every community she’s ever lived and served in. But today’s the first day I’ve actually had my turn experiencing Angie’s magic. And we went through a little bit of a- [laughs] we went through a little bit of a hurdle, um, trying to connect today. We’re just so excited to be together. But I just kinda wanted you all to be aware that this a little bit of a first date situation that you’re joining me on. So if I kind of act like a fan girl, you know where it’s coming from.
Angie Daniels: [00:03:52] [laughs]
Krista Boan: [00:03:53] [laughs] So there- there are lots of places we could start and I imagine, Angie, that your journey as a mom is likely gonna weave throughout our conversation today. But I thought maybe we’d just start with the community that currently has your heart and your focus and your passion, which is this place called the Hope Center. Would you be willing to tell us kind of the story of this incredible place and the vision you have for this urban community?
Angie Daniels: [00:04:19] Okay. So I’ll just walk you through. If you told me today, Angie, I would love to come visit you at the Hope Center and to see what you do in person, that would bless my heart. So, just know that’s an invitation for you, Krista. But I would say that I would invite you to come into our facility, which is in a school. And our school is the Hope Leadership Academy. So we share space with the school. But what we do, we have school by day, and then in the evening when school is over, we start having after school programs, which is our SAY YES Program and it stands for Save America’s Youth YES. So our SAY YES Program is from, uh, Pre-K or TK, kindergarten, uh, into fourth grade. And then after that we have our Character in Training program, our Junior Leader in Training Program and our Leaders Trainings in- in Training Program, uh, and they begin in the evening hours on Tuesday and Wednesday from 5:00 to 8:00.
So what we do, we are fully invested in our young people from the time they get out of school to hang with them for hours after school and to develop community and family life for them. So parents are working. Families are extremely busy. Uh, but what I love about the Hope Center is that we have an awesome staff that cares for the youth and families of our community. And we show it from the time that they show up to the time that they come into the doors of the school. Uh, we welcome them. We love them. We encourage them. We support them. We looked to develop them. And then we look to make sure that we, as a staff, set right examples and healthy examples for them to follow. [inaudible 00:06:13] and we start, uh, from the time they enter into kindergarten into high school and beyond.
Krista Boan: [00:06:18] And, as I’m thinking about those kiddos, those alumni who have kind of come back that you’ve been able to talk to, it occurs to me that a lot of them maybe grew up in an era before the smart phone revolution which a lot of, you know, a lot of people kind of define as, you know, 2012 was about when we started seeing kind of smart phones show up everywhere. Um, and iPads and all of- all of these personal devices. And I think maybe I’ve, I’ve read that you have just been at the Hope Center five years or seven years?
Angie Daniels: [00:06:48] Seven.
Krista Boan: [00:06:48] Seven years. Okay perfect. So you have probably witnessed quite a bit of change in terms of what kind of technologies you’ve seen coming through your doors during that time period. And, you know, while many of the experiences our youth today have are timeless like, you know, not getting invited to a party or not making a team or struggling in school or in family life, the reality of how our youth experience and process these challenges is very different today because there’s a new player in the game. The smart phone, the iPad. And, as I mentioned at the beginning, it’s challenging to be a parent in today’s world because it feels like there’s just not enough time in the day to keep up with the latest trends and the latest apps. And these challenges are everywhere. You know, the smart phone revolution is truly a global phenomenon. But in lower income neighborhoods, it’s even more heightened.
So, you know, according to research by Common Sense Media, lower income teenagers spend nearly 50% more time a day using screens for entertainment. And yet, we know that human interaction, face to face relationships are like, you know, gold. And that’s something you guys have really been intentional about protecting. Can you share with us more about how you guys think about and approach the use of personal devices in your after school clubs?
Angie Daniels: [00:08:20] I’ll just say because of my educational background and because, uh, we’ve been in ministry, my husband and I, for over 30 years, we’ve actually seen the benefit of young people not being so attached to their phones. But we had a standard from the beginning that sure, we know the kids have phones and we have a time and a place. I think there’s a time and a place for everything. So there’s a time and a place where, when they’re coming to the Hope Center and they need to actually text or call mom, uh, for some of them to let mom know that they made it from school to the Hope Center safely-
Krista Boan: [00:08:59] Uh-huh.
Angie Daniels: [00:08:59] … and I think it’s very appropriate to do. Parents wanna know. You know? And I-
Krista Boan: [00:09:03] Sure.
Angie Daniels: [00:09:03] … think the parents should know, uh, exactly when they get off the bus and if they made it to the Hope Center. Those are some good things and some good signs. What we try to do is try to make sure that they have a period, that we have a period of time where we have some downtime when they first come, uh, to the Hope Center so we can take care of business. And that means that we can make sure that all of those communications are taken care of ahead of time before we get into the feel of our programming. So let’s just say, like, from, uh, if it’s from fourth grade to high school, when they come in at 5:00 and they transition in from school, uh, we give them about 30 minutes, from 5:00 to maybe 5:30 to have a little downtime where they’re connecting with their peers. But also that they need to make those calls home so that their parents and families know that they’re safe.
After one hour of time that’s given for transitional purposes, when we start our dinner time, and this is what I love the most about what we do, when we start our dinner time, the, the students at the Hope Centers know, uh, that all phones are to be put away. I would say when we first started maybe seven years ago, it was probably not a new concept to them. But of course, as young people, you know, they gonna try it. You know?
Krista Boan: [00:10:19] Right, right.
Angie Daniels: [00:10:20] So as they tried it, we were very committed to actually reinforcing that, you know, rule for us is that, you know, when we’re at the dinner table together, we wanted them, uh, to create family atmosphere and fellowship. So again, we encouraged them, you know, simply put your phone away. You know, your mom or dad, they know where you are. You are safe. We’re good. As a staff I would say because we model that as well, that we’re not on our phones constantly, you know, we know that when we’re engaged with the students, we actually set the example so we have our phones away.
Uh, and then, you know, there’s a period of time when, you know, parents when they need to get in touch with us, we look at our phones before dismissal time to make sure that we’re not missing any messages that we need to respond to. [crosstalk 00:11:08] If you come into the Hope Center during dinner time, you would see, you know, all of us fully engaged. Our phones are away. We keep the kids extremely active, uh, and engaged in our activities as well as, uh, our program and in our teaching times, that there’s absolutely no time and they love what we do. We love what we do. Uh, they love [inaudible 00:11:32] that it is not even a missing factor or component.
What you will see is that I am a serious picture taking. And so I like to capture all of the moments that we have with our beautiful young people and all the things that we do with them. So my phone is out. But it’s mainly, it’s definitely not for communicating with people. It is really capturing those beautiful moments that we see ongoingly that happens all the time. And, and we invite the kids as well. When their phones are out, we’re like you are welcome to take a picture, uh, to take selfies of the group that you are with at that moment. That’s an appropriate time to do. But it’s not, you know, looking at, you know, Facebook and Instagram and doing all the other things, disengaging. We keep them fully engaged at where we are and what we do.
And for seven years at our Hope Center, nobody, no parent has ever complained or no parent has ever said, like no, I want them to be, you know, have their phone accessible to me at all times. And our parents are so respectful for what we do, they don’t even call or they don’t even engage. When they need us to know something, then they will. At- the kids are dismissed at 8:00, then maybe at the 7:30, 7:45, uh, hour, when they know that they need to do a communication to us, we expect or we ask them to, to directly message us so that we’ll be in the loop. And then that way they don’t even have to talk to their kids, you know, per se. And then they let us know, like, when they’re outside at 8:00, they’ll say, you know, we’re outside. We’re ready for pick up.
Krista Boan: [00:13:03] Well, you all are doing great work. And, you know, there’s so much I love about what you just shared. But there’s one thing in particular I wanted to hone in on. And it’s something that I am learning in my own home, which is that sometimes it’s okay to kind of create these opportunities and these spaces in our daily lives for what we’ve been thinking about as a front porch situation. So when your kids come in, you give them 30 minutes, um, that’s just pure grace, permission to connect, permission to check in. And, you know, you don’t, like, right when they walk through your door, you don’t have a hard, like, put everything away. You allow them to transition kind of softly. And to have those check points that they need to kind of get taken care of.
But then after a little time on that front porch, you, you basically move them into what is kind of like a family room, right? Where, you know, in the family room, it’s just the people, you know, we know and we trust in here. And we’re gonna be present with each other and have some face time. So I love that. Have you found that same kind of rhythm to be something that you established in your own home as a mom? And what kind of things did you experience and try to help your kids unplug? And I know that each kid’s different.
Angie Daniels: [00:14:26] No, absolutely. Uh, honestly, my husband and I, we were the directors of Hi- Higher Ground, a leadership camp. And, uh, one, one thing that we, we did at camp, at KAA, was that the kids couldn’t have their phones. Uh, and so, and even staff members were not allowed to have their phones during camp. So it was actually a culture that was cultivated for us for 12 years before we actually got here to Kansas City. We lived on a campground in the summer for almost three and a half months, uh, where our devices were always put away because it was camp, you know?
So five of my kids, they’ve kind of grown up in that culture. And they understood, you know, that the, the phone just wasn’t that important when you’re highly engaged in people. And it actually made a big difference. What I found out most is- what I found out most and what I’m thankful for the most is because I didn’t even know, uh, like 12 years or, you know, 15 years ago, how valuable unplugging would be. Because I was able to unplug and because the phone wasn’t as significant to me even as a mom and as an adult, I actually was able to keep a lot of focus on parenting that way. And then I was able to challenge myself, and my husband of course was as well, engaged in our endeavor to parent together, that we just did not want the devices to consume our lives.
Our kids were kind of accustom, uh, to growing without the phone at the dinner table themselves, or at any meals, you know, to be more specific. But, again, I think we’ve kind of- my husband and I, we just set the precedent so early in their lives that it was almost like a non conversation, which is good, because there was an expectation that we modeled. And so, again, we made the, the, the meal table, you know, our home table, extremely important, that we wanted to connect with them. Like we didn’t care at the time when we had dinner if somebody else was calling. It was not- never a person or something that was so important that we had that excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I have to take this call.
You know, I, I’m very thankful, you know, that my husband and I, we set that standard very early. When we were at the table with family, it was about family. And so we had a hard enough time trying to connect with all five at one time!
Krista Boan: [00:16:49] Yeah.
Angie Daniels: [00:16:50] And [crosstalk 00:16:50] sure that they were heard and that they were valued and they were listened to and they felt that we were very present with them. Uh, that was a hard enough job in itself. But I couldn’t imagine trying to do that while they would be on a phone or be disengaged with our conversations. And I do realize that once they got older, so now that they were high schoolers and they became, you know, college students. So when they came home, it was still pretty much a standard. They’re like, no, when we go out to dinner together, it’s like put your phones away. And sometimes they joke with, uh, myself because I- when I take my phone out, they know I’m taking my phone out to take a picture. And so they’re like-
Krista Boan: [00:17:30] [laughs]
Angie Daniels: [00:17:30] … oh no, mom. Put the phone away. We said we’re putting the phone away. But they know it’s really just to take a picture and capture the moment. But really when we’re together, we have, you know, set that as a high priority and a high value of our family culture that we want them to be fully present with us and we want to respect them the same way that we don’t want to, you know, say, like, hey, we do one thing but then we expect you to do another. So, you know, we, we walk the talk and talk the walk, uh, at the same- at the same time so they- that they don’t get confused.
And, I mean, when there’s something important, you know, if my husband has to step away or I have to step away and say let me take this phone call, or let me just text for a second, it’s like almost with anything else. You say excuse me. You know, pardon me. Forgive me. Uh, I will do this as soon as I can and I will be right back. You know? In the conversation as soon as I finish. So I- it- there- there’s always grace-
Krista Boan: [00:18:24] Oh gosh. Yes, Angie. And it is so clear that there is grace woven throughout the culture of your family. I can just imagine your kids surrounding you at the table poking fun at you and it sounds like so much fun. Like, I wanna be part of your family. [laughs] And there has to be grace, right? Because as important as it is for us to model and have good expectations for our kids about appropriate use of screens, there’s also this need to have this clear expectation that you’re also gonna, you’re gonna get interrupted and it’s not always gonna be perfect. And it’s- it’s gonna be messy. Um, and so I just love how you and Marvin are modeling that, um, with your kids.
Would you be willing to share with us how you’ve thought about the role of technology and phones and screens and how it’s impacted your relationship as a couple?
Angie Daniels: [00:19:15] I would say, you know, for my marriage, and we’ve been married, my husband and I, Marvin, we’ve been married for 30- 30 years now, going on 31 years. We’ve started off really making sure that, in our marriage, that we prioritized one another. And so that, again, means that when it comes to, uh, the devices, the phones and well, television or whatever else, we really try to make sure that we have set the standard for one another, that we unplug and that we disengage so that we can fully, uh, engage and, and love on one another. And that’s valuing, uh, our time, giving each other attention, and just making sure that we treasure all the time that god has given us that we don’t wanna waste it away by being distracted by our phones and our devices.
I think it’s important to say sometimes it can be really awkward, you know, when you go out, you know, when your spouse and you all are used to- you’re used to being plugged in, to actually turn everything off and to actually just say hey, it can wait. You know, until we finish. You know, one hour and a half together or two hours, it’s so tempting that you wanna look and that you wanna, you know, just make sure that you check in or whatever. But then once you get accustom, like anything else, I think it takes practice and I think it takes discipline.
So we have so many disciplines when we do so many other things. But I think somebody actually needs to develop something where we can actually have a honest conversation where we discipline ourselves, uh, from our devices. And I think that’s a skill set that we really need to teach the younger generation so that they don’t miss out on life, uh, always watching somebody else’s life that may seem more exciting than theirs, only because they’re not living at the moment but they’re just watching.
Krista Boan: [00:21:07] Oh man. Angie, that’s so good. I just love your, your modeling and just hopeful that you just being able to share how it works at your organization could be replicated in, in other, in other organizations because it- it’s providing space for those kids to really develop and grow.
We do hear often s- from parents whose kids are on screens a lot that, you know, they lose their sense of identity or place. And they lose their sense of community or that they lose their sense of grit. Um-
Angie Daniels: [00:21:41] Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Krista Boan: [00:21:41] … and resilience. And sometimes even their sense of hope. So we’ll finish up here with just a dear Abbey question. If you could speak to a 10 year old who is glued to their screen about why it’s important to unplug or put boundaries around their screen use, and, and really I’d love for you to share what they might miss out on if they don’t.
Angie Daniels: [00:22:08] Well, uh, I’ll, I’ll speak as Dear Angie so … Uh-
Krista Boan: [00:22:13] [laughs]
Angie Daniels: [00:22:13] … [laughs] little 10 year old, I would really encourage you to put away your phone and get in the game. Which means to be very, very present at where you are. I love young people. And I know one thing about young people, they have a real sense of curiosity and a real sense of discovery. And at 10, there’s so much of the world that you can participate in. You don’t have to watch the world. You could actually be in the world and actually participate in some great things. And so I would say, uh, find some healthy individuals who you can have some great conversations with. I know this may seem old fashioned a little bit, but it always helps to actually pull out a couple of board games and actually play games. We do that at the Hope Center as well, from 5:00 to 6:00 we just have a game time where we have all kind of board games out. And that helps you to engage.
So I would say please find some ways that you can engage with an individual face to face. That means that you can actually practice those skills of actually healthy communication where you can actually look at somebody in the eyes and then you can actually talk to them face to face, person to person. Uh, that could actually share your mind with them and share your thoughts and share your feelings and share your emotions. And actually know that somebody actually values you and wanna actually hear from you. And you actually do yourself a disservice when you disengage and you plug in to the phone. And you tune everybody out. Because, believe it or not, people love and value young people and they always wanna tune in to you.
So just think of others a little bit above yourself when you think about picking up that phone. Just think that if I pick up my device, then I’m limiting somebody else from actually getting the very, very best of me. And I’m probably ignoring the very, very best of somebody else at that very present time and moment.
Krista Boan: [00:24:25] Yes! So good. And actually, thank you. And I would love to just kind of wrap up our episode by doing-
Angie Daniels: [00:24:32] Okay.
Krista Boan: [00:24:32] … what we always do every episode. Um-
Angie Daniels: [00:24:35] [crosstalk 00:24:35]
Krista Boan: [00:24:35] … we do a- we do a rapid fire question. So-
Angie Daniels: [00:24:37] Okay.
Krista Boan: [00:24:38] … the first one is, your favorite piece of old school technology. It’s the, you know, the kind that you have to explain to your kids ’cause they’ve never seen it before.
Angie Daniels: [00:24:46] [laughs] Okay. My favorite piece of old school technology would be the VHS and my VHS video tapes.
Krista Boan: [00:24:55] Fill in the blank. Being a kid in 2021 is …
Angie Daniels: [00:24:58] Ah. That’s a good one. Okay. I’m sorry. Uh, being a kid in 2021 is invigorating!
Krista Boan: [00:25:09] Oh my gosh. I love that. [laughs] So good. Okay. Your favorite app.
Angie Daniels: [00:25:18] My favorite- okay. My favorite app, honestly, the bible.
Krista Boan: [00:25:21] Yup. Favorite trick you use to keep your tech in check.
Angie Daniels: [00:25:27] Not being able to find it.
Krista Boan: [00:25:37] [laughs]
Angie Daniels: [00:25:38] [laughs]
Krista Boan: [00:25:38] I think- I think we’re soul sisters.
Angie Daniels: [00:25:38] [laughs]
Krista Boan: [00:25:38] Uh, the internet breaks down for 24 hours. What do you do to unplug?
Angie Daniels: [00:25:43] Uh, I’m reading a book or talking on the phone.
Krista Boan: [00:25:48] Yup.
Angie Daniels: [00:25:48] Yup.
Krista Boan: [00:25:50] So good. Angie, thank you.
All right. Well, wow. I just love listening to Angie. It’s so encouraging to hear from somebody who’s on the other side kind of of raising kids and says that, you know what, it is hard to put boundaries around that screen use but it’s worth it. And I’m so inspired by the way that she’s pouring that out for the kids at the Hope Center.
If you enjoyed listening in as well today, I would just invite you to consider subscribing to our podcast on your favorite podcast app. Or maybe even leaving us a review. Um, those kinds of things are what help us spread our message and make an impact and help families. So we’d love you to be a part of that.
And until next time, just stay in the game. The world is still pretty big, folks, but screens, well, they’re pretty small. Keep looking up.