One of the first questions parents ask when they buy their child a smartphone is, “How do I keep them safe? What are the tools? What are the apps? How do I know what they’re getting into?”
These questions have been top-of-mind for START co-founder Krista Boan, as she continues to navigate the introduction of a smartphone into her own child’s life. Today on the podcast, she’s joined by Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes. He’s a regular voice in news and commentary about digital safety for children and families, and an expert on the tools, resources, and trends that are shaping online life for the next generation.
Join Krista and Chris for this conversation about the steps parents can take, the layers of protection available, and the ways that different apps and filters provide different kinds of protection.
Screen Sanity is Executive Produced by Krista Boan and START.
It is produced and edited by Mike Cosper for Cosper Productions.
[00:00:00] Krista Boan: 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 on 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 into some of the tension statements they’re 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.
All right, friends, today’s episode is coming to you as a follow-up to our last episode where I kind of shared my journey, crossing what we called the rickety bridge into smartphone world with my oldest child. So if you haven’t listened to episode 10, yet you can head there next, where you’ll be able to hear kind of all of my confessions about what a struggle that was for me, especially when it came, um, time to do the process of unboxing that sucker and kind of stripping it down of everything I could think of and applying my own kind of personal cocktail of filters and controls would act as a safety net for my daughter’s phone. And as we discovered together that this process is doable. It’s going to take some getting your head in the game and putting in the time it takes to install these accountability solutions.
And while we all wish that there were an easy button with this stuff, or some kind of geek squad, we could hire to come to our house and just make it work. [laughs] guess what? That doesn’t exist. So guess who gets to be the geek squad, you and me, which is crazy because most of the time technical stuff displays right over my head. So I feel like I could really use some on the job training to help me make sense of it all. And I’m so excited because today we get to kind of have a masterclass [laughs] on how to make sure that we are checking all of the boxes when it comes to internet safety and just kind of learn some of the secrets we need to know and order to gear our homes up in a safe and healthy way. And if… our, our professor of that class today is Chris McKenna, who is the founder of Protect Young Eyes.
One of START’s favorite organizations to partner with. If you have not heard of Protect Young Eyes, they just do a fantastic job providing resources for parents about concerning apps and trends and devices. And they have an incredible resource library, an even an app that provides tips and training on all things digital safety for the whole family. Chris is a man with never ending energy. When it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of our kids. He is the father of four amazing children, and he’s regularly featured in the news for his work helping families. And you might recognize him as one of the voices in the movie Childhood 2.0. so, Chris, welcome to the Screen Scene Podcast.
[00:03:11] Chris McKenna: Thank you, Krista. I’m so excited to be here.
[00:03:14] Krista Boan: Wow.
[00:03:14] Chris McKenna: I’ve also walked some of that rickety bridge and I’m excited to talk about what we can do.
[00:03:20] Krista Boan: I’m so grateful for the, the work that you’re doing, ’cause it’s visibly benefited my family, but there is this invisible layer of work that you are doing that a lot of us don’t even realize because, but it’s still impacting us because it’s impacting the culture more broadly. So can you tell us a little bit about, you know, your Senate Judiciary Committee testimony and, and the current work that you’re doing, kind of paint a picture of what changes are needed in our legislation to better protect our children’s wellbeing.
[00:03:49] Chris McKenna: Yeah, thanks for that Krista. So i- it’s important for us as parents to realize that the only significant laws that really protect children are over 20 years old.
[00:04:01] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:04:01] Chris McKenna: So the most, the legislation that we depend the most on is COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. And it was officially I think put into law in the year 2000, so three years before my space.
[00:04:15] Krista Boan: Wow.
[00:04:15] Chris McKenna: And at that point in time, what became the digital of adulthood was age 13. And that was a concession. The Senator Marky at the time was pushing for older, around age 15, but 13 was the most that he could get past-
[00:04:32] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:04:32] Chris McKenna: … back in the year, 2000. Imagine the-
[00:04:35] Krista Boan: Wow.
[00:04:35] Chris McKenna: … different digital risks that exist today compared to the year 2000. And if age 13 was considered a young concession in the year 2000.
[00:04:46] Krista Boan: Right.
[00:04:46] Chris McKenna: And that begs us to ask what should the real digital age of adulthood and privacy from targeted marketing and certain features that are highly addictive be, when it comes to placing precious young developing brains inside of these God like algorithms.
And that’s what we’re working on today, um, that has been sort of this two year process you referred to the Senate hearing. I had the awesome and terrifying opportunity to speak in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in July of 2019, which was the first then of sort of two years of hearings here that have snowballed towards where we are today. Um, you know, in front of Senators Blackburn and Blumenthal then who are now the ones leading the Senate Commerce Committee for the whistleblower testimony for the testimony that’s going to be happening next Tuesday with Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. And so that started the conversation that’s continuing to happen today. Unfortunately, it’s slow. It just takes time. It’s been a two year plus process of educating the legislators on what needs to happen because like no other time in history with the speed of change and the complexity of technology, the problems that plague us as humans in the digital space are more than what many of those making the laws truly understand, right?
It’s not an industry that they were in. It’s not as though we’re trying to solve a manufacturing problem, which many of them were a part of or other industrial problems that many of them probably had experience in. We’re dealing with issues that generationally, many of them just don’t comprehend and that’s not a knock or anything. It’s, that’s the complexity that we need to overcome in terms of education.
[00:06:36] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:06:36] Chris McKenna: So that those who have the power to make change, have the knowledge to make that change. And so that’s why it’s taken a few years here and why seeing some hope, some light, some positive change is what we’re starting to, to see, but it’s just taken some time.
[00:06:53] Krista Boan: Oh man, thank you, Chris, for, for standing in that gap for us. I, I, you know, I, I mentioned, you know, I’m boxing my smartphone and getting it set up. And at the end of that weekend, it, I mean, I am like 20 hours, 25 hours into like trying to figure out how to get this smartphone set up for my kid. And I just thought to myself, “This should not be this hard.” It shouldn’t be this hard, no wonder parents are giving up on this. And then I was like, I g- I was, my husband and I was like, “All I wanna do right now is hop on a plane and share my unboxing testimony with lawmakers because we need help. What’s happening is not okay.” So man, I’m just so grateful. You’re standing in that gap. Thank you.
[00:07:35] Chris McKenna: You’re you’re welcome. Happy to-
[00:07:36] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:07:36] Chris McKenna: … do it. So…
[00:07:37] Krista Boan: Yeah. So while we kind of wait for this process for our lawmakers to take action [laughs] I think, you know, I think I’ve got my daughter’s phone, um, loaded up with as many layers as I can to make sure that she’s kind of supported in this, what, what we call at START, smartphone driver’s aid, which-
[00:07:56] Chris McKenna: Yeah.
[00:07:56] Krista Boan: … she’s kind of a, this like learner’s permit stage, right? So at START, we call, we have a rule of thumb that we call Ride, Practice, Drive, which just means that she started out riding in the backseat, shadowing me as I used a smartphone for all of her early years. And then when she was ready, we gave her a learner’s permit with a very limited device, which at that time was a Nokia flip phone and then a gab phone. But now she’s graduated it to a strip down smartphone.
And so we can add new apps like Marco Polo and TeamSnap. And she doesn’t have social media, but this is where we’re at. And so after I strip that smartphone down to the bare bones, I then had to add internet filters and parental control software onto that bare phone. And at START and at Protecting Young Eyes, we both talk about this process and layers like, you know, an onion has layers [laughs] well, smartphones can have layers too. And so if you are a listener and you wanna take notes, there are really five layers that I’m gonna pick Chris’s brain on. So let me give you those really quick as a roadmap of where I’d like to head, if that’s oka.
Layer number one is just having an open, honest relationship with your kiddos. And I think at Protecting Young Eyes, Chris, you guys call this digital trust. The second is location, the idea that where we uses our technology often dictates how we use our technology. The third layer is filters at the router level or the wifi level. Now don’t panic. We’re going to dig way into this. The fourth layer is filters at the device level and layer number five is at the app level. So for example, the app TikTok, has parental controls, where, you know, as a parent, you can put in a four digit passcode to lock in your controls and side note of the big four, Instagram TikTok, um, Snapchat and YouTube TikTok is the only app that has true parental controls that cannot be top about by your child. But anyway, all of this is really good stuff that we are going to dig into, but I’d love to just begin with layer number one, which is relationship and you guys use the phrase digital trust. Is that right? Can you unpack what digital trust is and why it’s important?
[00:10:09] Chris McKenna: Oh sure. We could talk to episode 13 on that if we wanted to-
[00:10:15] Krista Boan: [laughs]. Good.
[00:10:16] Chris McKenna: My goal at Protect Young Eyes is to encourage families to use as little parental control as possible.
[00:10:26] Krista Boan: Okay. Tell me more.
[00:10:27] Chris McKenna: And that sounds slightly contradictory.
[00:10:30] Krista Boan: I love that.
[00:10:32] Chris McKenna: Meaning that I can’t stand the phrase parental control because I think that right away, it sets us up for an us versus them adversarial transaction-
[00:10:44] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative]
[00:10:44] Chris McKenna: … and that is not what creates digital trust. One of our foundations at Protect Young Eyes is something called the Digital Trust Framework-
[00:10:53] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:10:53] Chris McKenna: … that’s been developed after six years. And like I said, 1300 talks talking to parents. There are certain families who do certain things who tend to have kids who use technology in a good positive way. And when we talk to them, there are traits five of them, right? So copy me, co-play, curiosity, conversation, and then coaching. And that part of coaching is we want to embody a spirit of caring control and not just parental control. And the reason for that is we know this right, embrace the reality right now that your kids know more about their tech than you do.
[00:11:32] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:11:33] Chris McKenna: So if that’s true, think for yourself, if somebody tried to control in an area of your expertise, what would be your natural human response? Your natural response would be defensive and resistant to that because you know that you know more.
[00:11:50] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:11:50] Chris McKenna: And it’s gonna create this spirit of me versus you. Instead of me with you, especially if you’re a teenager who is from time to time going to see, er- or have more of a sort of rebellious tendency. So I just wanna put right out there that when we try to control all of the different variables, when it can the technology with our children, then I think we risk actually chasing them into the very places that we don’t want them to go.
[00:12:20] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:12:22] Chris McKenna: we risk turning our little, very technically savvy sons and daughters into digital ninjas.
[00:12:31] Krista Boan: [laughs].
[00:12:31] Chris McKenna: But so I want us to just be a aware of that and, and almost use that as a talking point with our kids to say to-
[00:12:37] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:12:38] Chris McKenna: …. them, “You know what, honey, I don’t love having to put all this stuff on your phone. I know you don’t like it either.”
[00:12:45] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:12:46] Chris McKenna: “Or what kind of parent would I be if I didn’t try to protect you and me and our whole family from the edges of technology that can radically change the trajectory of our life.
[00:12:59] Krista Boan: Right.
[00:12:59] Chris McKenna: That for any of us, whether you’re 14 or 40, there are ways in which technology can absolutely wreck us. And so I wanna try some things here are some of my ideas, here’s some of the software I’m considering what are some of your ideas.”
And like use that, what can sound like a hopeless position into a hope full position of conversation to invite them into the very thing that you’re afraid of, which I think builds trust-
[00:13:26] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:13:26] Chris McKenna: … which I think creates, I think creates oftentimes greater acceptance-
[00:13:31] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:13:31] Chris McKenna: … of the parental control software when you’ve approached it from a caring control perspective. If that makes sense.
[00:13:39] Krista Boan: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. Okay. So how about layer number two, location?
[00:13:46] Chris McKenna: Sure. We have different places and a- you know, I’ve seen other organizations sort of adopt the same philosophy, um, that at certain places can be riskier.
[00:13:58] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:13:59] Chris McKenna: Krista to me, whether it’s professionally or in parenting, most of my decisions come down to a risk balance.
[00:14:08] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:14:08] Chris McKenna: I am looking for ways to mitigate risk to an appropriately low safe level for my kids. I can’t control all of of it
[00:14:15] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:14:15] Chris McKenna: … but I can mitigate a lot of it. And I just happen to think that teenagers who tend to use their internet connected devices in their bedrooms put themselves in a risky spot or bathrooms-
[00:14:27] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:14:27] Chris McKenna: … or I think school buses are an incredibly risky spot for digital exposures. And so we have different places that we say increase the of exposure. And COVID brought a lot of this to light as we were home more. And so we started coining the phrase, the toxic trio, and anytime you have internet access, accompanied by three things, bedrooms, darkness and boredom as the toxic trio, then you put yourself in an overly risky situation that whether you’re 14 or 40-
[00:14:58] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:14:58] Chris McKenna: … if you constantly find yourself with internet connected devices, when you’re bored in your bedroom and it’s dark, then eventually you’ll be tempted to make a bad choice.
[00:15:09] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:15:09] Chris McKenna: That’s what it mean by location.
[00:15:11] Krista Boan: Yeah, that is so helpful. And you know, both layer number one and layer number two are things that you don’t really have to wait until they have their first smartphone to be training them on. These are things that they can practice with that gab phone, or even when they’re tiny tots with iPads and such. That is really the best time to start developing digital trust and learning that we don’t use our devices in dark, private places, but layers three and four become especially important as they are kind of moving more towards having a personal device, like a tablet or a smartphone. And actually before we dig into layer three, I love a pulse check. Are you Apple, Android, what’s your pick? When it comes to safety?
[00:15:58] Chris McKenna: If it is time for a smartphone, then Android is always going to be a phone that you can exert more control over than Apple. And that gap is getting wider and wider with every iOS release as apple makes more and more of its phone, dark. So to speak from any sort of outside force that wants to know things happening on the iPhone, they’re doing it under the guise of privacy, which I understand, but what they’re ignoring is what I think should be the case. And that is more age based, default ways in which the iPhone interacts with its users.
In other words, every iPhone knows through the apple ID, the age of its user, therefore its level of darkness or its level of privacy. And it exerts on its user, user, I think, should be based on that age instead of the default posture of the phone, which makes it incredibly more difficult for parents. Um, but that being said, I know that surveys tell us that 88% of teens have an iPhone-
[00:17:05] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:17:05] Chris McKenna: … so they’re [inaudible 00:17:07] attention. Right?
[00:17:07] Krista Boan: Right. Right. So the most difficult one is the one that everybody wants. [laughs] So that’s why it’s so important to have layer number three, right. Which is a layer of protection for your family at the router level. So when devices are being used on the home network, um, you’re protected.
[00:17:27] Chris McKenna: A lot of people run to the Hills when you start talking about a router because it’s complicated and I don’t wanna touch it. And it’s like behind on the couch and I don’t even wanna think about it. And actually it is the most important digital device in every single home that is often ignored.
[00:17:44] Krista Boan: Yeah. And I appreciate you touching on that because if you are a listener listening and you don’t know what a router means, I need to confess to you that even after going through the process of figuring out internet filters several times with different laptops and you know, tablets in our home, I still struggle to understand a router. So Chris, can we just pause for a minute on this and zoom in and kind of like for my sake kind of slowly unpack, help us understand what a router is. So yeah. Is there, is there like an analogy or is there some kind of way that you can help us kind of think about it so that we can conceptualize what, how this works in our home?
[00:18:23] Chris McKenna: Sure. So all of us probably have a monthly service that we call your internet service provider, right? Your ISP the Xfinity or the Comcasts or the AT&T U-verse of the world.
[00:18:38] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:18:38] Chris McKenna: And that means there’s some, uh, you know, box out somewhere in our neighborhood. That’s running a c- you know, a network cable into our home. And then there’s a outlet on a wall that, you know, usually it has, um, uh, uh, a cable that then connects to what is typically called a modem. Right? And so this is where the confusion comes in because we have, “Well, what’s a modem and why is it different from a router?” And all these things, a modem simply says, “Hey, I’m gonna take that signal and turn it into something computer can use.”
[00:19:10] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:19:10] Chris McKenna: A router then connects to that modem. Or sometimes they’re squished into the same box. The router then goes, “Okay, I’m gonna take that thing that a computer can use, and I’m gonna spray it all over the place wirelessly. So devices can use it.”
[00:19:25] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:19:26] Chris McKenna: So think of it like a sprinkler of a digital signal around your house. And just like a sprinkler has a certain range of coverage in a yard. The wifi signal is the same way. We’ve all experienced that, where we get to a corner of the room or a garage. And when we have a weaker signal, that’s because that coverage has sort of weakened out. Um, and so that’s all the router is doing. Is it’s allowing your computer to connect all the way through those various boxes to get to this thing called the internet, which is this complex collection of servers that live all over the world, giving us information. And when we think about it, so many of the different, you know, boxes and things in our homes are connected to that.
The Nest, the Ring, the Alexa, the Chromebook, the every gaming device. Now, every single one of them connects to the router, including that smartphone. Now I know smartphones have data plans and some tablets also have data plans, which more gets into then the software that you put on them, which we’ll get to in just a minute. But a lot of times when they’re in a home, you know, kids are going to be using the wifi because that’s gonna maybe cut down on data usage. If you have a plan that’s not unlimited all those kinds of things. And so getting that router filtered, we recommend the Gryphon router and people can visit our website and see that I have a brand new one on my desk here right now that I need to install this weekend. And it does, it does great. It gives me an app on my phone that I can control the orange Chromebook in my house while sitting in an airport and Atlanta, if I felt it needed to be shut off through the app-
[00:21:09] Krista Boan: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:21:10].
[00:21:09] Chris McKenna: … the Gryphon gives me on my phone. So it lets me exert that sort of individualized device and profile, um, kind of control in my home. So that’s a way-
[00:21:20] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:21:21] Chris McKenna: … that I would explain that. I hope that helps.
[00:21:22] Krista Boan: Yeah. That is helpful. Can I pause and say, ask, um, are wifi and router interchangeable?
[00:21:30] Chris McKenna: So yeah, I think, you could do that, uh, think of the router as the box and the wifi signal, you know, uh, being the thing that can spread-
[00:21:39] Krista Boan: A sp- a water.
[00:21:40] Chris McKenna: … around. Yeah.
[00:21:41] Krista Boan: The sprinkler.
[00:21:41] Chris McKenna: Yeah. That’s the water.
[00:21:42] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:21:42] Chris McKenna: So there’s the sprinkler-
[00:21:43] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:21:44] Chris McKenna: … and then that, which is sprinkled. [laughs].
[00:21:47] Krista Boan: Okay. Okay. Okay. So there’s a router, like a sprinkler that’s in my home. Right? But then, and you mentioned that there’s also kind of this, like with kids phones, if they aren’t connecting through wifi, they’re connecting through their 4G or their 5G or their data.
[00:22:07] Chris McKenna: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:22:07] Krista Boan: And so the that’s like a different sprinkler that’s like in the sky? [laughs].
[00:22:11] Chris McKenna: There you go. Right You have cell towers that are sprinkling coverage, everywhere that smart devices have the ability, certain smart devices with data plans have the ability to connect to. So that’s a whole nother sprinkler system that’s out there that again, is creating these handoff between our inquiries, our uses of apps. And then, you know, servers spread out all over the world.
[00:22:36] Krista Boan: Are there only two sprinklers? Are there any sprinklers that we haven’t mentioned yet?
[00:22:43] Chris McKenna: For Purposes of this conversation two is good.
[00:22:47] Krista Boan: Okay. Two is two sprinklers okay. [laughs]. Right. Before we move on to talk about that second sprinkler, let’s just kind of pause in regroup. So the products that we recommend at layer, number three are Gryphon, Circle. Are there any others? And then also, would you speak really quickly to kind of what the limitations of these filters are and just what we need to be aware of?
[00:23:14] Chris McKenna: So there, um, you, you mentioned Circle and I would also mention then Bark for Home.
[00:23:21] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:23:21] Chris McKenna: Circle and Bark for Home are devices that if you like your router or maybe your internet service provider gives you a router that you’re forced to use. And that sometimes is the case, then Bark for Home and Circle are devices that can be plugged into your router in order to let you exert some of that control over the router. It, you know, it quote sniffs or detects the internet activity, the, what, you know, that sprinkling activity that’s going on and it’s letting you then control Screen Time. You can shut off the internet. Um, in the case of Bark for Home, it’s a lot stronger on the filtering aspect Circle wasn’t made for filtering. It was made for Screen Time control.
And although they do have content controls, they’re not as strong as I want them to be, but you get some of that Bark for Home. And so those are doing the same thing that Gryphon does. Gryphon does it all in one box. It’s like controls and router all in one. Whereas if you have, have a router that doesn’t have controls in it, then Bark for home can plug into your router in order to do the combination of those two things, give you what you’re looking for at that wifi layer. Does that make sense?
[00:24:37] Krista Boan: It does. Now, have you found that any of these products are better than others about not slowing down the wifi for the whole family?
[00:24:49] Chris McKenna: Well, so this is where the all in one is going to provide the fastest experience in my, um, in my experience.
[00:24:59] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:25:00] Chris McKenna: So, you know, the, and I, I know I keep mentioning it, but I mean, the Gryphon router was made for speed. Like it’s developed by, um, you know, guys who used to work in technology who couldn’t find anything to protect their kids. So they went and built a fast malware, preventing parental control, awesome router to do all the things. So our Gryphon has nine different devices attached to it at any point in time. And I’m talking to you via my Gryphon. I mean, everything that I do to Protect Young Eyes, to livestream webinars and everything happens through our Gryphon router. So that would be my recommendation for those that maybe through another solution experience, sort of a bogging down. I just think whenever you’re eliminating the number of things plugged in, you’re bound to have a better experience.
[00:25:53] Krista Boan: Okay. That is very helpful. Now we’ll Protect Young Eyes, come to my house and actually get it up and running [laughs] or is it pretty easy to install?
[00:26:02] Chris McKenna: It’s pretty easy to install. Um, and, um, I mean, honestly, there is, there’s a QR code on the bottom of the y- you know, router device that you’re going to get from Gryphon. You scan that with your phone and then takes you to a website and then walks you through the setup. You plug the things in, you put a password in the app and you’re off and running.
[00:26:23] Krista Boan: Off and running.
[00:26:26] Chris McKenna: So, yep.
[00:26:26] Krista Boan: That’s amazing.
[00:26:26] Chris McKenna: [inaudible 00:26:26].
[00:26:26] Krista Boan: Can I pick your brain on a couple of more options I’ve heard for this level? One of them is just, and this is something that we’ve experimented with in our own home, which is DNS filters. Can you tell us a little bit what those are?
[00:26:38] Chris McKenna: Yeah. So those who are slightly more tech savvy are gonna understand what that means. So the domain name system, uh, DNS, some commonly known name, maybe open DNS is one that maybe families have heard of. We prefer clean browsing, which is another clean DNS to break it kind of down into more of an analog situation. When I mentioned those servers that are kinda out there, um, think of those as like digital phone books that are just full of names and numbers. And every time we type, you know you know, in the case of most, probably all of your listeners type in English questions, where is the closest Home Depot, there’s a system that translates those words into numbers. That’s the domain name sort of system it’s that translation of human looking for this, but machine speaks this language.
[00:27:40] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:27:40] Chris McKenna: So we’re always reaching out to these means to find answers in digital phone books.
[00:27:46] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:27:47] Chris McKenna: What a clean DNS allows you to do is really just to only go looking for answers in phone books that don’t have porn or don’t have other categories, or let you exert control over the categories that you do have access to-
[00:28:04] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:28:06] Chris McKenna: … that requires though that, you know how to say, for example, get into the router that you like get into the dashboard, change the DNS that the router is using in order to go find answers and then close that dashboard. And then it’s going to use that clean DNS service. It’s really effective and it’s usually free, like clean browsing is free. They have free IP numbers, you know, IP address numbers that you just plug into your dashboards route, or the, your routers dashboard in order to, you, you know, force it’s filtering in different category controls. So that’s why it’s sometimes attractive because it’s really free, easy to manipulate for those who, you know, feel confident in doing that kind of thing. So..
[00:28:53] Krista Boan: Yeah. Okay. That’s so helpful, but you would not say that we need both, um, something like a Gryphon and like a DNS, these are either, or, right?
[00:29:00] Chris McKenna: Correct. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:29:02] Krista Boan: You don’t need both.
[00:29:02] Chris McKenna: [crosstalk 00:29:03].
[00:29:03] Krista Boan: Okay, great. So, okay. Let’s kind of regroup again. So that was all information about layer number three at throughout our level. But what happens when I travel down the road to my friend’s house, will my wifi filters kind of follow me there.
[00:29:19] Chris McKenna: So I then travel down the road, go to a friend’s house. Now, whatever I’ve done to get the Gryphon route are in place or whatever router you happen to use. It doesn’t really matter anymore because I’m using the data plan. Or I could be connected to wifi at someone else’s house that doesn’t have something like Gryphon. Therefore I have to depend on the device level controls like Covenant Eyes, like Screen Time, like Family Link, like Bark, whatever it is they have chosen. That’s why those are so important because they’re not always connected to my homes network.
Well, now we’re into level four, which is at that device level like-
[00:30:00] Krista Boan: Perfect.
[00:30:01] Chris McKenna: … that, I would download onto my iPhone or onto my Android device. Covenant Eyes uses Screen Accountability, which is artificial intelligence that’s been trained with pornographic images for years to identify that which appears on the screen as either porn or not porn in order to block it at a more intelligent level, instead of just the binary website level of, has it been categorized as porn or not, which is sometimes a false positive. Now it’s not perfect technology. All the organizations that are moving in this direction, which is the right direction to go, because at some point, well, probably get to a spot where most of the internet is dark, meaning it’s gonna be hard to analyze much of it.
[00:30:47] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:30:47] Chris McKenna: So we’re gonna have to do it at that device level. And so the few organizations that are going that way have a jumpstart on that. It’s not perfect, but it is the way of the future. So…
[00:30:58] Krista Boan: Okay. I love that. So let me ask you this…
[00:31:00] Chris McKenna: Now we’re into level four, which is at that device level like softwares-
[00:31:04] Krista Boan: Perfect.
[00:31:04] Chris McKenna: … that, I would download onto my iPhone or onto my Android device. Covenant Eyes uses Screen Accountability, which is artificial intelligence that’s been trained with pornographic images for years to identify that which appears on the screen as either porn or not porn in order to block it at a more intelligent level, instead of just the binary website level of, has it been categorized as porn or not, which is sometimes a false positive. Now it’s not perfect technology all the organizations that are moving in this direction, which is the right direction to go, because at some point, well, probably get to a spot where most of the internet is dark, meaning it’s gonna be hard to analyze much of it. st of the internet is dark, meaning it’s gonna be hard to analyze much of it.
[00:31:50] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:31:50] Chris McKenna: So we’re gonna have to do it at that device level. And so the few organizations that are going that way have a jumpstart on that. It’s not perfect, but it is the way of the future. So…
[00:32:01] Krista Boan: Okay. I love that. So let me ask, ask you this, the one we used is Canopy. We’re just trying it. Um, that’s probably in the same category, right?
[00:32:09] Chris McKenna: It is. Yep. Canopy uses artificial intelligence. I’ve I, I know, um, the team over there well, they’re great.
[00:32:17] Krista Boan: Okay, awesome. So here’s a question. Why do you need both Gryphon and Covenant Eyes or Canopy be it’s because the fourth layer, right?
[00:32:26] Chris McKenna: They’re… Correct. They’re doing different things-
[00:32:29] Krista Boan: Right.
[00:32:29] Chris McKenna: … when I leave the house, Gryphon is no longer doing its job. Now I’m gonna make the conversation complicated for just a minute.
[00:32:40] Krista Boan: Yeah. That’s okay,
[00:32:41] Chris McKenna: … but I promise I’ll resol- I’ll promise I’ll resolve it.
[00:32:42] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:32:44] Chris McKenna: Gryphon also has an on device option that you can enable, for example, the VPN on my phone. And that would then cause whatever controls I have on home my wifi and layer three to travel with the phone, no matter where it goes.
[00:33:04] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:33:04] Chris McKenna: So that’s an extra paid on service that, um, that Gryphon offers, but it’s really just the same thing as, you know, software that you would buy otherwise. It just matters do you like the features that Gryphon’s sort of portable VPN service has compared to Bark or compared to Canopy or compared to Covenant Eyes. That layer four is probably the one that’s most complicated because there are so many different options.
All of these different software providers have a slightly different secret sauce. That’s their, and we all kind of want the perfect one that gives me control over all the things that I want control over, but it just doesn’t exist.
[00:33:47] Krista Boan: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:33:48] Chris McKenna: So that’s where it gets, it gets really tough.
[00:33:51] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:33:51] Chris McKenna: So…
[00:33:52] Krista Boan: Definitely. Um, so it w- okay, so that was layer four. Let’s talk about layer five.
[00:34:01] Chris McKenna: Right? That I’m gonna be in an app. Those are easy free, enable them any controls that an app might have that after you download it, you’re given options to do certain things, then definitely get those enabled. So that, you know, you’re, you’re protected, um, in those things. Because here’s the, uh, uh, common difficulty. Is that an app like TikTok, for example, you, you know, unless you are, I, I’ll say on an iPhone Covenant Eyes, can’t see into TikTok.
[00:34:36] Krista Boan: Right.
[00:34:36] Chris McKenna: Bark can’t see into TikTok.
[00:34:39] Krista Boan: Right.
[00:34:40] Chris McKenna: Right? And so this is where whatever the app provides enable those things, because those places are often walled off with encryption that m- you know, most traditional parental controls, um, and in a lot of digital spaces, they just can’t touch.
[00:34:58] Krista Boan: Yep.
[00:34:58] Chris McKenna: So that’s why, and I know timing wise, it’s not gonna make the sense made for some listeners, but there’s a hearing that’s happening, you know, soon for the apps on the heels of the whistleblower, you know, disclosure. And so we get to ask Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube, very specific questions because it is important that these apps have default controls of their own since they’ve walled themselves off from the rest of the device.
[00:35:23] Krista Boan: Yeah. Yeah, totally. Um, I think Chris, a situation that I ran into just recently, I had a friend who totally bou- bought into Bark and, um, assuming that she would be able to, asu- m- I mean, assuming she’d be able to monitor everything in Snapchat. And I was like, “Oh, I don’t know. Like, I don’t know like, did you feel like they advertise that to you?”
But I mean, are you sayi- what you’re saying is that there are limitations to what Bark can see, right? Like they’re not gonna be able to show you everything in Snapchat that happens.
[00:36:01] Chris McKenna: That’s right. So this is where pointing towards Android, even though I know a lot of teens don’t wanna start off with an Android, this is where a service like Covenant Eyes. The only hope that you have to monitor anything inside of Snapchat is if it’s happening at the screen level, because-
[00:36:18] Krista Boan: That’s artificial intelligence level’s is that what you mean?
[00:36:21] Chris McKenna: That’s right.
[00:36:21] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:36:21] Chris McKenna: That’s right. And so now Bark on an Android device does have some visibility into publicly shared stories and a few other things.
[00:36:28] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:36:29] Chris McKenna: But in, in Canopy, if you, you know, look at them, they, they have, um, the ability to work some in the photo app of a phone-
[00:36:38] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:36:38] Chris McKenna: … to prevent the sharing of nude photos. So there are some ways that you kn- you know, are creatively trying to, you know, work their way into these places.
[00:36:47] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:36:47] Chris McKenna: But you know, on an iPhone with Snapchat, nobody sees anything. It is locked off and they are actually quite proud of that. I’ve sat across the table from Snapchat in Washington, DC-
[00:37:00] Krista Boan: [laughs].
[00:37:00] Chris McKenna: … having a conversation about these things. And they… you know, and some people would say, “This is good. This is the tension between privacy and protection that always exists.”
[00:37:10] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:37:10] Chris McKenna: Because they wanna guard the privacy of all of their users. And I think we all appreciate that at the same time. I think that in the, this goes back to having 21 year old laws, because we’ve defined a digital adult as age 13, all of these apps apply adult-like rules to everybody 13 and up. And we, as parents-
[00:37:32] Krista Boan: Right.
[00:37:33] Chris McKenna: … would say, “Wait a minute, there’s still a minor.” So what we really are trying to carve out with much of our work Krista, is a change of attitude around what do we do with kids up to age 17 when they’re still minors, instead of treating all kids who had a 13th birthday, like they’re 30.
[00:37:52] Krista Boan: Yeah. So good. And you know, it kind of loops us back to that layer number one, that digital trust layer. Right? But to kind of close the loop on layer, number four, I know that you mentioned you have been through the smartphone plunge yourself. I was. Would you be willing to share what filtering you are currently using at the device level on your own kids’ phones?
[00:38:15] Chris McKenna: My daughter’s almost 17 years old. The only thing that we use on her phone is Screen Time. Okay. Now she’s a part of our family sharing plan where I can turn off her phone whenever I want, or, um, you know, control the different ways in which she uses her device. But I don’t, in fact, I’ve told her, I really don’t want to.
[00:38:35] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:38:35] Chris McKenna: Why? Because I know the passcode of your phone, we’ve operated under a system of trust. Lauren, My goal for you is to exert as little control over your-
[00:38:45] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:38:46] Chris McKenna: … phone as possible until you give me a reason to change my mind.
[00:38:50] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:38:50] Chris McKenna: And so for us in layer four, for her given this seven year history that I have since her very first internet connected device, which was at age 10, a hot pink Kindle.
[00:39:00] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:39:01] Chris McKenna: I’m going on that. And in layer four, I have Screen Time along with our culture of accountability around how we use our devices. Now, other families as kids are still on the training zone are going to hopefully apply more stringent controls in that layer four-
[00:39:18] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:39:18] Chris McKenna: … like a Covenant Eyes like a Bark.
[00:39:20] Krista Boan: Okay.
[00:39:20] Chris McKenna: But that’s what all lives in that layer.
[00:39:24] Krista Boan: Okay. So you are using Screen Time. So to clarify Family Link on Android and Screen Time on apple, those are both doing internet filtering. Is that right?
[00:39:37] Chris McKenna: Yes. Both Family Link through Google SafeSearch and also on Screen Time through the content and privacy restrictions they do block known pornographic content.
[00:39:50] Krista Boan: Okay. That’s good to know, but I probably don’t need Family Link plus Bark plus Canopy. Is that correct? ‘Cause lots of layers feel really safe and cozy to me, Chris. [laughs].
[00:40:07] Chris McKenna: No, in fact they’re competing with each other. I would think, I think that Canopy-
[00:40:11] Krista Boan: Oh…
[00:40:11] Chris McKenna: I would, I think that Canopy and Bark are probably competing with each other and are canceling each other out in certain ways and probably-
[00:40:19] Krista Boan: It won’t [crosstalk 00:40:19]-
[00:40:19] Chris McKenna: … walk down the device minimally. Yeah. They won’t, they, they, they can’t coexist based on my experience.
[00:40:26] Krista Boan: And so one of them is either winning or possibly they’re both killing each other out, [laughs].
[00:40:31] Chris McKenna: Yeah. And minimally, they shouldn’t both be on the same device.
[00:40:36] Krista Boan: Thank you so much. Um, this is all about like asking like authentic questions, right?
[00:40:42] Chris McKenna: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:40:43] Krista Boan: This is, it’s just [crosstalk 00:40:43] so much.
[00:40:44] Chris McKenna: There, there’s gonna be, uh, outside of pairing up Bark with Screen Time or pairing up, um, Coveted Eyes with Family Link. And those are the Google and Apple solutions. Any other software that you’re trying to put on a device they’re going to almost without a doubt, compete with each other or cause problems for each other because they’re both trying to operate in the same sandbox.
[00:41:15] Krista Boan: Oh, my goodness.
[00:41:16] Chris McKenna: So you’re not gonna be able to layer your Coveted Eyes with Bark. You’re not gonna, because they both use the VPN and the device can only have one VPN at a time.
[00:41:24] Krista Boan: [laughs].
[00:41:24] Chris McKenna: You can’t layer Bark with canopy. They won’t talk together. So-
[00:41:29] Krista Boan: Oh, my gosh. T
[00:41:30] Chris McKenna: … that’s really important.
[00:41:31] Krista Boan: I did it all wrong. Okay. I’m gonna have to, I’m gonna have to… [laughs] see, this is why we should have done you first. Before I got my phone. This is what we should have done. [laughs]
[00:41:43] Chris McKenna: You’re learning it’s okay.
[00:41:45] Krista Boan: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you, Chris. This has been amazing. Are you ready for some quickfire? Rapid fire questions?
[00:41:51] Chris McKenna: Bring it, let’s do it.
[00:41:52] Krista Boan: Oh, okay. So your favorite piece of old school technology, the kind you have to explain to your kids because they’ve never seen it before.
[00:41:59] Chris McKenna: [laughs].
[00:42:00] Krista Boan: [laughs].
[00:42:00] Chris McKenna: It’s so funny. The CD player in my car. [laughs].
[00:42:04] Krista Boan: [laughs].It’s still there. Huh?
[00:42:08] Chris McKenna: Still there. It’s still have it. And they all kind of wonder what is that little like [inaudible 00:42:12] opening for? Yeah. So…
[00:42:13] Krista Boan: Yeah. Yeah. ‘Cause you probably have a Bluetooth one too or something. No, you maybe don’t maybe don’t you probably have a DVD one anyway. Okay. So, uh, question two, fill in the blank. Being a parent is, in 2020 is…
[00:42:28] Chris McKenna: In 2020 or 2021?
[00:42:30] Krista Boan: I’m gonna start over. Okay. [laughs] fill in the blank. Being a parent and 2021 is…
[00:42:38] Chris McKenna: Wonderful. I love it. I actually, other than the human impact, that is really hard. I have enjoyed the way in which being locked down own a little bit has brought my own personal family closer together. Honestly-
[00:43:00] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:43:00] Chris McKenna: … working from home. My kids hang out in my office, they lay on my couch. They’re constantly Zoom bombing my calls and I love it.
[00:43:07] Krista Boan: Yeah.
[00:43:08] Chris McKenna: So I’ve enjoyed that. It’s a really intense phase of fatherhood with kids that are 11, 11, 10 and 16, almost 17.
[00:43:16] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:43:17] Chris McKenna: And it’s awesome.
[00:43:21] Krista Boan: That’s awesome. I love that. Favorite trick you use to keep your tech in check.
[00:43:27] Chris McKenna: My favorite trick that I use to keep my tech in check. Is that for my own personal stuff or just for my home?
[00:43:37] Krista Boan: Uh, for your personal stuff.
[00:43:40] Chris McKenna: Oh goodness. Well, I have two men who are my accountability allies who have the right to ask me at any point in time through Covenant Eyes, how I am using the internet. So it’s important that my kids know that even dad needs help using technology well.
[00:44:02] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. So good. And the internet breaks down for 24 hours. What are you gonna do to unplug?
[00:44:10] Chris McKenna: Go for a 10 mile run Krista, that’s easy.
[00:44:13] Krista Boan: Really? [laughs]. That does sound easy compared to parenting these days. [laughs].
[00:44:18] Chris McKenna: Well, it’s not easy to do, but that’s an easy answer. I find solace in running. I don’t run with headphones.
[00:44:23] Krista Boan: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:44:24] Chris McKenna: I [crosstalk 00:44:24] through sort of in country. I have cows across the street, to me and two lane country roads and sunshine any day.
[00:44:34] Krista Boan: Awesome. Okay. Y’all if you are like me, you might have a few pages of notes to review, and [laughs] apparently I need to take a deep breath and remove some of my excessive filtering apps off my daughter’s phone. But if you aren’t able to take notes, I just wanna let you know that you can find the full transcript of this episode on our website, westartnow.org/podcast. And Hey, if I learned anything in this episode, it’s that raising kids in this digital age is hard, but it’s even been harder to do it alone.
And so that’s why we at START developed the Screen Sanity Group Study, which is an interactive handbook featuring video guided group sessions that you can grab, and you can use it to spark face to face conversations with other people in a casual setting. You know, have a wine night, have a book club, and just get together and talk about these issues.
You can grab your copy today on Amazon, or you also could download a free copy @westartnow.org. Until next time, keep building that digital trust so that our kids can know that life is big, but screens are small and keep looking up.