Episode 01: Let’s Talk About Helping Kids Navigate Life Online

How do we help our kids to have a healthy and safe relationship with all of the available technology at their fingertips? On the first episode of Let’s Talk, Amanda Chavez and Karlene Grabner are joined by Oshkosh locals, Kate Mann and Lindsay Loewe, to provide their expertise on everything from how brain development impacts their interactions with screens to having conversations that bring connection while setting boundaries. 

For supplemental articles and resources, visit: gooshkoshkids.com

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Meet our Guests

Kate Mann, Oshkosh Police Department
Kate Mann has worked for the Oshkosh Police for over 15 years and currently working as the Public Affairs/ Crime Prevention Officer. In this role, she focuses on community outreach, Crime Prevention programs, media relations, and our social media accounts. She is also a member of OPD’s Accident Investigation Team (Crash Reconstructionist), a member of OPD’s Drone team, and also on the Search Team for CART (Child Abduction Response Team).

Lindsay Loewe, Collaborative Wellness
Lindsay Loewe is a licensed mental health and substance use counselor and is passionate about the effects of screen time on the brain, especially the developing child and adolescent brain. She is actively involved in several school districts, community boards, and committees, and has two tween children of her own so she “gets” the parenting side of technology as well!

Meet our Hosts

Amanda Chavez, Owner & Creative Director, WiscoFam / Go Valley Kids / Go Oshkosh Kids
Born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, Amanda Chavez has a deep love for her community. As a busy mom of 2 little girls, she and her husband are always on the lookout for fun things to do and share with others. Her work combines all of her passions – motherhood, design, and community. Some of her other interests also peak through as well, including baking, photography, and sewing!

Karlene Grabner, Executive Director, Women’s Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation
Karlene Grabner is a graduate of Lourdes Academy and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where she studied finance and economics. She has shared her knowledge and passion for improving the Oshkosh community for the past 20 years through her work at the Oshkosh Community Foundation and Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. Karlene loves playing board games with her family, and when the weather is right, you’ll find them enjoying boating, wakeboarding, and kayaking with their dog, Bago.

Special Thanks

Liz Schultz, ProducerWiscoFam / Go Valley Kids / Go Oshkosh Kids

Marlo Ambras, Audio & Video Engineer, Ambas Creative

Transcript

Amanda Chavez  00:01

Hello and welcome to Let’s Talk the show that connects families and Oshkosh with folks to talk about your parenting questions. I’m Amanda Chavez here with my co-host, Karlene Grabner. And today we’re going to talk about online safety with Kate Mann and Lindsay Loewe. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of screentime social media and how our kids can navigate our very online world safely. Hi, Kate. Lindsey, thanks so much for joining us for our first episode. 

Lindsay Loewe  00:25

Thanks for having us. 

Kate Mann  00:27

Thank you. 

Amanda Chavez  00:28

The world, and our kids, are increasingly more online. It’s hard to keep up with where kids want to spend their time online and how to keep them safe while they’re there. We’ve been looking forward to talking to some experts about how to keep our kids safe 

Karlene Grabner  00:40

With us we have Lindsay who is a licensed mental health and substance abuse counselor Lindsay, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Lindsay Loewe  00:47

Yeah. Hi. I’m Lindsay Loewy. And like Karlene said, I’m a mental health and substance abuse counselor. I am here in Oshkosh, as well as Ripon. And I love focusing, unfortunately for my own two children, on technology and social media outlets and screen time and all the fun things that we as parents engage in, as well as our kids, engage in. So I am excited to talk with all of you today and be here. 

Karlene Grabner  01:19

Thanks, Lindsay, and we’re excited to have you. And then our other guests today is Kate Mann. And she is the Public Affairs and Crime Prevention Officer for the Oshkosh Police Department. Kate, you want to tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Kate Mann  01:31

Hey, thanks for having me on the show today. So like Karlene said, I’m the Public Affairs Crime Prevention Officer for the City of Oshkosh. I’ve been a police officer there for 15 years. And in my current role now for the last four years. And in this role, I work with media, social media, community outreach, and crime prevention programs. 

Amanda Chavez  01:52

So let’s talk about it. We have some questions that we saw over and over from parents trying to navigate parenting and technology, apps, screens all of it. Thought we would jump right in Lindsey, and talk about, this is something that even with my kids, we struggle with my kids are texting constantly, how can we get our kids to put our phones down? 

Lindsay Loewe  02:14

Okay, I think, you know, the easy answer is we as adults learn to put our phones down. And then what I really want to highlight today, though, is yes, texting, but screentime in general, as well as our kids trying to form healthier habits and have healthier habits, you know, the first five years of a child’s life are probably the most crucial when it comes to brain development. I’ve got two kids. And so my kids are kind of constantly my guinea pigs. And I really found this interesting. So let me just share a personal story. My first son, he was born, new parents had all the gadgets had, you know, the little playmat that he would lay under with the blinking lights and the you know, all the sounds and the crunchiness. And that is the child who has some anxiety, and who loves to be on technology and who every day is asking me if he can, you know, go on the phone. He’s about 12 years old now. And my other son as I, as I kind of got into researching more about brain development and how overstimulation impacts brain development. My second son had nothing, he had just like the wooden IKEA a playset that didn’t have any blinking, no blinking lights, no sound, nothing flashy. So I really tried to focus with him on some of that natural stimulation instead of the overstimulation. And, he is the kid that can take or leave watching a movie or playing video games. Now, that could be a total coincidence, because of their personality. And yet, I still put a lot of value in overstimulation and appropriate stimulation. In the first five years being the most important. A lot of our kids are inundated with stimulation. And that stimulation continues on through, you know, early childhood, elementary years, middle school years, teenage years. And so in our culture in our society, their brains are really being formed to be overstimulated. And yet, they’re not able to handle that. Finding this delicate balance of what is too much and what is just right or even what is not enough. When it comes to texting. Texting is a great way for kids to stay connected. I am all for FaceTiming grandmas and grandpas and texting with friends, but really having it be in moderation. I think beyond texting and getting our kids to put the phone down, texting is a great way to immediately stimulate the brain. So if I’m bored, I might pick up my phone to check my text messages or see who contacted me, or what my friends are saying, what my friends are doing. So, in my opinion, and, you know, my opinion is not necessarily the right one, texting is just another form of stimulation. And it’s another connection that our kids have to a screen. And so encouraging them, “Hey, you’ve been texting enough today,” or “Let’s put that down for a little while.” Remembering back to some of the days when we were growing up with a landline or without a cell phone. And knowing if I’m gone for the afternoon, I’m not going to get a text message, I don’t have to check it. Right. So putting phone down. And texting, just I think has a lot to do with balance of stimulation. 

Karlene Grabner  06:14

So Lindsay, I have a couple thoughts off of every great thing that you just said. But my personal story, my daughter is 14, and is a very rough time putting the phone down at all. And for Kate, I’m going to ask next about the safety of that. But for you, I have a question now that she’s this developmental stage in her life. And for all the kiddos that had to go through COVID. And for some of them, the only form of communication was I mean, my daughter’s friends had FaceTime sleepovers where they were on the phone together so that they could feel connected with each other. So that has accelerated where I feel she and all her friends are today. So how do we reel that? How do we get them to understand that this that we’re not trying to be bad parents or bullies, we want them to be healthy with the devices that they’re using and a healthy amount of time? 

Lindsay Loewe  07:06

Sure. So I totally get it. I mean, even my 12-year-old, you know, same spot, and it’s kind of a constant battle with him. And I know I’m the bad mom. But I think what it is, I’m a big believer in informed decision-making. And I know Kate will talk about this a little bit as well, really providing our kids with the age-appropriate education or resources for them to learn about and know, maybe what they’re doing to their brain or how that constant glow of their screen. Whether it’s you know, a FaceTime sleepover, or texting or video game or watching something on their phone. I really think empowering our kids with the education about what’s happening, they can make informed decisions then. Now, we also knowing about the brain, we are adults, and so we do have a different brain than our children or our teenagers, even though they don’t like to believe that. So we as adults have to step in, if it’s too much. Right? Like most experts, including you know, pediatricians, say two hours of screentime a day. And if you think about it, that’s pretty crazy, because a lot of our kids are on their Chromebooks in school, and then they want to chill out with their friends on screens after school. So, again, I think it goes back to empowering our kids with the education being that adult brain to step in when we feel like it is too much. And then considering how can we really kind of balance this out as a team.

Amanda Chavez  08:59

Yeah, I know, with my kids, I have to like constantly be in check. Because I know I’m guilty of being on my phone or doing things and then realizing how long they’ve been on their devices. And so then sometimes I find myself lashing out too late. Like, I just realized my kids had been on their phones for an hour. And now I’m upset because they didn’t check it in earlier. I don’t know if you have any tips of like how to recognize it or make those adjustments?

Lindsay Loewe  09:34

Well, I think you know, as parents, we also have to retrain ourselves. And honestly, this is a whole new frontier for all of us as parents and young parents coming up, right? So we can train ourselves while we are training our kids. I use training for lack of a better term, but how about you know? “Okay, I’m gonna give you 30 minutes to, you know, go on your phone or go on your tablet or watch some movies. Let’s set a timer.” And then the two of you together set a timer. And then that’s your reminder. Also, remind them that it’s time to get off. So timers are great. And there are even timers on phones that you can set time limits on that kind of stuff. And the apps will just kind of go dark. 

Karlene Grabner  10:27

So Kate, this, this question kind of goes to you. So when we did when we launched this partnership with Go Valley Kids and now Go Oshkosh Kids, we had done maybe 12, to 15, different focus groups with 20, some parents and each focus group before COVID took place. And of course, the audience of parents are terrified with understanding new apps not being as technology savvy as, as all of us would like to be and understanding how to navigate those apps, what’s hiding behind those apps in you know, terrified on the security and safety of their children and being able to use those tools. Do you have any tips for our families out there on how we can be better equipped to handle that kind of question?

Kate Mann  11:10

There are a lot of apps that are out there. And there’s new ones that come across every day. So I think it’s just really important to stay involved in your child’s life and just have those conversations with them. Like “Who are you talking with online? What apps are the popular ones? What do you have on your phone?” And even asking for your child’s password for their phone, because you got to remember, you know, you’re the parent, you’re paying the bill for the phone, you probably bought the phone, you cannot be entitled to ask for their password and set some rules and guidelines as to how they use that device. So I think it’s really important just to keep up to date with what your kids are doing. And Google is a great tool, you can always go in the search tool to see what are the most popular apps, What should parents be looking for, and things of that nature? 

Karlene Grabner  11:57

Well, and I find talking to, again, my daughter and her friends in those groups of people that, you know, I will say, “Well, who is, who is this person? I don’t know this name, of this person you’re following or talking to on Snapchat or whatever.” And she’s like, “Well, he’s a friend of mine.” Now I’m like, “Where does he go to school? What’s his parents’ name?” You know, and, and it’s interesting. And this probably goes back to Lindsay as well on brain development, because in her mind, she saw him once at a football game. So this is her friend. And in my mind, she you know, doesn’t know a thing about the person. So it’s hard also to reel in. How do you monitor that? But you’re right, the number one thing is being involved to the extent that we can be.

Amanda Chavez  12:37

I think having those conversations, right. Like, I know, being mindful of how I asked my kids questions always makes a difference, right? And where I’m coming from in that spot when I’m asking those questions. That was one question that we saw from other parents, too, was, yeah, is it okay to ask for their password and read their text messaging? My friend’s parents aren’t doing that. And those are there. Also location devices, you can put our location apps you can put on your phone, or kids’ phones as well. 

Kate Mann  13:07

Yeah, there’s a lot of different apps out there. But I really think it circles back around to having that open dialogue with your kids, and say, “Hey, I do want your password. I’m concerned, I want to know who you’re hanging out with. I am your parent, you’re my child, it’s my job to make sure that you’re safe.” And like you guys talked about asking those follow-up questions because I think the word “friend” is used pretty loosely nowadays. And, you know, Karlene did a great job like, “Okay, how do you know this person? Do they go to school with you? Have you ever met them in person before? Have you seen them? Or is it just a screen name?” That now it’s somebody maybe in a different state that you’re talking to? All you see is a screen name. People can hide behind that screen name and misrepresent themselves. So that is very important that you do know who your kids are talking to, either you’ve met them or have seen them before, because there are so many different strangers out there online. And sometimes they’re targeting kids. 

Lindsay Loewe  14:32

I completely agree is the parental or the caregiver involvement, I think, really, is probably one of the most important part of any of this. 

Kate Mann  14:46

Yeah, I totally agree with that. And then I think it’s also important that parents have that conversation with their kids too, about not putting personal information out there online. So their name, address, where they go to school, how old they are, then also something else to touch upon, too is what type of photographs are they putting online as well. And they might think that they are putting in a photograph online, they’re going just to their friends. But once that photo is on there, it’s on there forever. And maybe people whom they didn’t mean to see a photo, now can see a photo and it can be passed around, and can be very damaging. And depending on what type of photo it is, there can be some criminal consequences as well. 

Lindsay Loewe  15:30

To touch on, to touch on that and kind of bring in the brain development piece that we’ve talked about before. This is exactly why the adult parent or caregiver brain is so important because a child and teenagers brain is literally not equipped to think into the future that far ahead. Which is why kids and teenagers are so impulsive, because the part of their brain that controls impulsivity, and controls rational and healthy decision making isn’t yet formed by any means. And so we have to bring in that adult brain to say, hey, let’s think through this, if you post this, or when you posted this, what happened. And, you know, kids and teenagers will also learn by experience, they will have natural consequences or social consequences that help teach them to future think, you know, down the road, but we really have to remember that the teenager isn’t necessarily posting something or doing something, because they think it’s okay. They might just not have the brain capacity to know it’s not okay. 

Karlene Grabner  16:55

Well, and Lindsey it part of this, the reason we started this podcast is because the parents A. were asking for it in our focus groups, because they were telling us they wanted, you know, just honest dialogue on how do you handle this? How do you handle that? What are experts say about that? What would local people say about that? Because, again, all of us can Google what’s, what are the biggest apps and what are those, but to hear from people in our community, and have these conversations is what I think our group wants. But with that, I do laugh because I have shared the story with people before and I’m picking a lot on my daughter today. But she did share a very inappropriate, or her friends did, shared a very inappropriate picture of herself. Not bad in all retrospect. But it was funny because she’s a good kid and gets straight A’s and who’s involved and is just a great kid. However, when we approached her and said, “This is just not okay.” What Kate said before is what she said to us, “This was only for my small friend group of six people.” Well, it was up on one of the six person’s computers, and the person behind them took a picture of it and then sent it out. And she in no way shape or form could even fathom the conversation of what do you mean, this is for this small group? They’re the only people who are allowed to see it. And even with that, I’m like, “Wow, I feel you’re smarter than that.” But you could see in her face, she was like, “No, no, no, it’s called on one of the sites it’s called for your eyes only. So it’s only a limited group of people. But she didn’t even understand how we could get past that at all. 

Lindsay Loewe  18:25

Yeah, that’s, you know, that’s a great example, because that is our digital world right now. And unfortunately, that is, you know, the younger demographic is exactly who are being marketed to, because they don’t have the capacity and the ability to really think through decisions. Their impulsive brains, and their in-the-moment brains, God bless them, are front and center. So, you know, all of Kate’s perspectives of online safety are really also important for parents and caregivers to know. 

Amanda Chavez  19:06

I think the hard thing is, and I think it goes back to those open conversations, always changing, right? And so tomorrow, there might be something else or something different, like you could have your child’s phone as locked up as possible, right? And they’re still going to find different ways they could use in their friend’s phones or your computer or something else that isn’t as locked down. When my kids were little, we had a friend that recommended one time to walk through stranger danger scenarios. Like, could you do scenarios like this with kids as well? 

Karlene Grabner  19:40

Like role-playing?

Amanda Chavez  19:41

Yeah, like, is that something I don’t know if that’s something you could do, but yeah. 

Lindsay Loewe  19:46

Yeah, why not? 

Kate Mann  19:48

And I think I would really open up that dialogue. “Hey, I just want to bring some possible scenarios or situations to the table. I just want to talk them through with you like if somebody online asked you for this, what would you do?” And just talk through it because maybe their answers might surprise you. And that would be a nice way to open up that discussion without, you know, trying to maybe be, quote, unquote, you know, controlling or whatnot. So you, “Nope, we’re just talking about it, I just want to see what your thoughts are on it. And maybe, you know, as a parent, I can learn from you, too.” You know, kind of just to have that platform. 

Karlene Grabner  20:25

That’s great advice, Kate, tomorrow, we’re expecting like 12 questions, or 12 role-playing situations we could do with our kids. Because that is that’s a great idea. I mean, I haven’t thought about yet either of “Yeah, what would you do in this situation?”

Kristin Nelson  20:38

This is Kristen, I work with Amanda at Go Valley Kids, and I am a parent of two children, five, and actually now six, and nine. So they’re getting older every day. And I guess my question is that, as children become older, and they’re interacting with their friends online, they’re obviously quite tech-savvy. And even if parents have the passwords for their kids, they have their WiFi controlled, it’s pretty easy for kids to be able to bypass those security efforts by their parents. So even if a parent thinks that they’re doing everything, right, and they think that everything is secure for kids, kids are still bypassing those by using their friends’ accounts, or getting their parents’ passwords, how can we make parents even smarter than their kids? Like, how can we keep the advantage of that? And why should we care about that?

Lindsay Loewe  21:37

Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. If I need anything tech in my house, I just asked my kids, and they do it in like three seconds. So you know, even somebody as passionate about this stuff as I am I, I can’t keep up. So, that’s where I really go back to what we’ve been talking about, and the importance of communication and open dialogue. And also, there has to just be natural consequences sometimes. And, you know, that’s really how our kids and our excuse me, our kids and our teenagers are going to learn is they might bypass something, and get themselves into some type of trouble or tricky situation. And we can’t always prevent that from happening. And we don’t want to necessarily prevent that from happening. Right? That’s where like, kind of the helicopter parenting comes in, and that also has a negative effect. So as parents, we’re kind of doomed no matter what we do. So staying as aware as you can, and having open dialogue, having a good, you know, relationship with your kid teaching them about online safety and informed decision making, while also understanding that, you know, you can’t necessarily protect them or stop them from everything. 

Kristin Nelson  23:06

Right. I guess, since my kids are so young, they only have like a Kindle with very limited, like a half hour screen time, if they are on it. They don’t have a phone of their own anything like that. How should our conversations, progress from a parent who has small children who are just starting on screen time, versus, you know, getting a little older and having a device of their own versus having, you know, a device with full freedom? Because I think what you’re talking about having that helicopter parent, I feel like that’s where I am right now, because obviously, my kids are very small. And those things have to change, how can you start having those right conversations with your kids, and then have that grow to allow them more freedom as they grow older? 

Kate Mann  23:47

Sure, you know, I think that as you introduce more time, or more, more, you know, kind of free rein on their device, or introduce new devices, those are really the time when you want to have some of these conversations. The other tricky thing about kids and teenagers is we know that they’re only retaining a certain amount of what we’re talking to them about. And so we can have a lot of proactive conversations. And they might not remember all of that, as you introduce more time or new devices or, you know, more ability, have the conversations with them. And then, you know, kind of be that helicopter parent for a while and allow them to show you that they’re being responsible or that they’re being safe. And, you know, you as the parent know how much you want your child’s progress in that in that kind of technology world. 

Karlene Grabner  24:52

Well, and I would say too, it’s interesting, we have like an unwritten rule, I guess you could say or unwritten code, with all the other parents that our children hang around with that it’s important as the community of our kiddos that we’re protecting from a bigger level than just mom and dad or grandma and grandpa or just or just Mom, because sometimes that’s, that’s unrealistic. But if there are people in our kiddos worlds, whoever that may be, maybe it’s a great teacher, or it’s, you know, having those trust conversations of, I’m open and not gonna be that parent that’s gonna yell or say, not my child or something like that. And we want to know, if they’re headed down a path, that doesn’t feel correct. I think that’s important to lean on our community as people that can also look out for our kids, if that makes sense. 

Lindsay Loewe  25:42

Yeah, that’s an excellent point, Karlene and those can be hard conversations to have as an adult, right? Especially when it comes to our children, we want to raise them really well, and if another parent comes to us and says, “Hey, just so you know, like, my child received this text or saw this picture, I just wanted you to be aware.” Try not to be defensive. Try to just like, Take a couple deep breaths. And alright, this person cares enough about the safety of all of our children, and the well being of all of our children to bring this to my attention. So let me just, you know, soak it in, and then thank them for their time and do what I need to do as a parent on the back end. 

Kate Mann  26:30

And I think another resource too, that parents can lean on is the school resource officers. We have one in each of the high schools, and we also have an assigned to the middle schools as well. And they are a great person to be able to talk to because they know the kids pretty well, because they see them day in and day out at school and are up to date with you know, usually what’s taking place there, or what the newest apps are things of that nature, too. So I think it’s important that parents remember to reach out to their school resource officers as well. 

Amanda Chavez  27:01

Thank you for talking with us. 

Karlene Grabner  27:03

Yeah, fascinating, amazing advice and conversations. Thank you. 

Amanda Chavez  27:07

It’s like a good conversation starter, right Karlene? And, we could talk all day about this and still not cover everything, but the tips and the reassurance that we’re all trying our best. Right? 

Karlene Grabner  27:18

Right. 

Amanda Chavez  27:19

And there’s still more we can do. 

Karlene Grabner  27:20

Yeah, there’s a lot right? And after this, you’re going to put some articles up supporting this conversation on Go Oshkosh Kids?  We’ll continue this conversation on gooshkoshkids.com, with resources, both from Lindsay and from Kate, as well as some other resources. And thank you again for joining us. And thank you again to our guests, Kate and Lindsay, and thanks to our producer Liz Schultz, our audio and video engineer Marlo Ambus. And of course, my co-host Karlene Grabner, and the support from the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh, let’s talk again soon.

27:51

Let’s Talk is brought to you through Go Oshkosh Kids’ partnership with the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. The Women’s Fund of Oshkosh works to improve the lives of women, girls, and families of communities in Winnebago County through philanthropy, grantmaking, and education.

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