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Episode 151 - The Negative Impact of Smart Phones on Families and Family Law

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Smart Phones have brought so many amazing conveniences to our lives. We all feel their positive impacts on a daily basis. What we don't notice as easily, however, are the negative influences that smart phone use can have on individuals and families. In this show, Leh and Todd discuss those negative influences, how they have impacted families, and what we can do about it. By paying just a little more attention, we can limit the negative aspects of these amazing devices so that they are a positive tool for change and not an addictive toy that distracts us from what is truly important in life.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp and you are listening to the Meriwether and Tharp Show. Here you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis, and even from time to time, tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to learn more about us, you can always check us out online

Todd Orston: You are. You got that Barry White thing going on.

Leh Meriwether: Today is the love show.

Todd Orston: For listeners, yes. Leh, you are having a voice issue. I mean, you always have a voice issue, but whatever today it's more pronounced.

Leh Meriwether: It's actual way and a little under the weather.

Todd Orston: All right well-

Leh Meriwether: Yesterday couldn't even talk. It was boy like this.

Todd Orston: ... All right, well why don't we jump in and tell us what we're talking about today?

Leh Meriwether: Well, today we're going to talk about...

Todd Orston: Oh wait, I'm sorry. That's my phone. Hold on. Hello. No, no. That's not what we talked about. We agreed. No, listen. No, it's a meat lovers with stuffed crust and a veggie. Okay?

Leh Meriwether: Did you order enough for me too.

Todd Orston: All right. Thank you. And I want the $5 discount. Thank you. I'm sorry that was work. I apologize.

Leh Meriwether: That was work. I didn't know you started working for the pizza place.

Todd Orston: No.

Leh Meriwether: Did you start a franchise without me?

Todd Orston: No, no, I didn't. But hey, what are we talking about today?

Leh Meriwether: We're talking about the impact of smart phones on families and family law.

Todd Orston: Get out of here. That is a coincidence.

Leh Meriwether: Oh, my.

Todd Orston: Smart phones.

Leh Meriwether: Smart phones.

Todd Orston: All right.

Leh Meriwether: That phone is not that smart because it...

Todd Orston: I love that ringtone though. I mean, that was some old school coolness right there.

Leh Meriwether: Maybe old school. I don't know about coolness. All right. So well, in 2007, there was a technological innovation that changed the way we communicate in both good ways and bad ways. Do you know what happened on June 29th, 2007, Todd?

Todd Orston: Break dancing went out of favor.

Leh Meriwether: I turned 37. That was my birthday, man.

Todd Orston: Oh, okay.

Leh Meriwether: No, that was the day the first iPhone was released.

Todd Orston: Oh wow.

Leh Meriwether: But what's interesting is this innovation had actually started years earlier with the Blackberry. Remember the Blackberry?

Todd Orston: Oh, I do.

Leh Meriwether: It was first released in January of 1999. And even before the iPhone had come out, the Blackberry had earned the nickname CrackBerry because people were literally becoming addicted to checking their Blackberry phone. And I even recall one study where they looked at people's MRI scans and they looked at people that were supposedly addicted to their Blackberry and those that were addicted to crack. And apparently the brain patterns were very similar. The areas of the brain lit up the same ones for those that are craving crack and those that were craving to look at their phones, and hence the term CrackBerry. And in fact, in 2006 Webster's New World College dictionary named CrackBerry as the new word of the year.

Todd Orston: Which is why we named our third kid that.

Leh Meriwether: CrackBerry?

Todd Orston: No. I only have two kids and neither of them are one CrackBerry.

Leh Meriwether: The third you did make [crosstalk 00:03:56].

Todd Orston: No. I do not have a child named CrackBerry.

Leh Meriwether: It started with executives and people in the workforce. But when the iPhone came along, it really extended to everyone obviously, then the Android and everything. But the iPhone kicked it off as far as applying to everyone else besides those that may be in the workforce. And gosh, it is... And I want to start off by saying it's amazing the things that it's done. The smartphone has done for society, for the ability to get access to information. It's replaced so many tools. And I'm not saying we need to go back to an era of corded phones either, but by the same token, where has literally saved some people's lives, lots of people's lives on the flip side, it's also cost lives, it's impacted marriages, it's impacted kids' futures and it's expanded litigation and divorce cases.

Todd Orston: Or defined litigation. And by that I mean evidence relating to cell phone usage and information on cell phones or saved on cell phones has defined cases, meaning evidence of infidelity or abuse or things like that where we then gather that information and it becomes just an important part of the case to prove whatever it is we're looking to prove.

Leh Meriwether: Right. So I would take that as a positive that helps prove cases.

Todd Orston: Sure.

Leh Meriwether: Even in criminal matters, it's helped prove where someone was at the time that someone else disappeared. And you can line up cell phones and locations by cell phone towers. So there's all these great, wonderful positive impacts, but along with it comes the negative impacts. And that's what we want to talk about today because we want to make sure these devices that we're using are helping to enhance our lives rather than leading us in a path that can cause harm to us, our marriages, our children. And so we're going to talk about the things that we've seen impact everything from marriages to children to just relationships, co-parenting situations, the negative impact of on divorces. And then we're going to close out the show with things that we think that everyone can start doing this.

Leh Meriwether: And a lot of this comes from some recent books that have been written on the subject of dealing with distractions. And one of the biggest distractions is the smart phone right now. But speaking about the dark side of these phones, the lives that have actually been taken as a result of smartphone use, I mean, you don't have to look much further than the recent legislation regarding, "You can't touch your phone in the car." And I'm not... Georgia has a law regarding it. Most States, if not all States now in the United States, have laws governing the use of a phone inside of a car because as long as we've been recording accident deaths on the highway, they have been going down every single year.

Leh Meriwether: In fact, with the with Uber and people starting to use more Uber, DUIs are going down, people are using their seatbelts and between all the safety innovations. Deaths on the road were going down very quickly, until a certain point a few years ago when they started to actually rise again. And the data showed they were directly correlated to the use of phones in the car.

Todd Orston: Yeah. I read something from the National Safety Council, a report that said that cell phone use while driving led to 1.6 million crashes each year, nearly 390,000 injuries occurring from some of those crashes because of texting. Thus the reason why a lot of States are implementing and putting in place these laws, because look, we've all had our phones in the car. I'm not saying everybody has texted while they were driving. To this day, I'll be driving down the road and I'll look over and I'll see someone looking down, literally looking down while they're driving and I'm sitting there going, "That can't be safe." And it's an accident waiting to happen. I want to say this, the purpose of this show is not to get up on a soapbox and try and dissuade people from acting one way or another. It's really just a talk about, again, cell phones and the impact on people's lives, both positive and negative.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Because I'd rather all be positive.

Todd Orston: Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether: But you have to be aware of what's going on and you have to be intentional to do something about it. So on one end we see where they've caused literally injuries and death as a result of using them in the car, but are the more obvious things. The ones that are not so obvious are the impacts on families. And that's what we were going to focus on. Because I know... let's talk about marriages for a moment. You go to any restaurant and look around. My wife and I actually make a... I wouldn't say, well we people watch and you can look around and every single...

Todd Orston: Judge. Absolutely. All right. I get it.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I'm sorry. Forgive me if you see me in the... Hey, if you're looking at me and see me, it means you're not looking at your phone, but.

Todd Orston: Yeah. But it's when you look at them shaking your head in a disapproving way.

Leh Meriwether: I don't do that.

Todd Orston: That's where you cross the line.

Leh Meriwether: I just wave my finger sometimes. Where I go my finger that's kidding, I don't do any of that. No, but you can walk around a restaurant, like people will go out and spend a lot of money to go to a nice restaurant and you see a couple sitting across [inaudible 00:09:45] and they're both looking at their phones.

Todd Orston: I saw one, and I think I talked about it in a previous show, a year or so ago where a father and a daughter were sitting at a table and almost... we have a rule in our family, and I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but we don't allow cell phones at the dinner table, whether we're out or at the house. We were there and almost the entirety of that meal, the father was on his phone, the daughter was on her phone and I'm sitting there going, "Why don't you just do drive through?" Like I... Well I guess that would have been unsafe also. But I mean, yeah it has to impact the family because they're not connecting. They're connecting with their phones.

Leh Meriwether: And what happens when you don't connect is that you'd start to drift apart. And so we've seen so many marriages that just wound up drifting apart. Everybody was so busy with activities and so when they did get a moment to get together a date night or whatnot, they didn't really get together. They were focusing on their phones, and it's unfortunate, but we're going to continue to talk about the impact that smartphones have had on families and divorces and we're going to also talk about what you can do about it.

Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess. Right?

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.

Leh Meriwether: Todd, please, tell me you've muted your... put your phone on airplane mode.

Todd Orston: Yes. The worst place it's ever happened to me, and I'm sure it's happened to a number of attorneys, was middle of trial. I thought that I had...

Leh Meriwether: Turned off the phone.

Todd Orston: It was after lunch, I thought I turned it off and right in the middle of it, I gave this look to the judge. I was just waiting for the gavel to fly and hit me in the head, so.

Leh Meriwether: Did you take it now? Was she [crosstalk 00:11:54].

Todd Orston: No. I had a good relationship with the judge and she just gave me a disapproving look, like the one you give to people in restaurant. And I turned my phone off.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. If my voice sounds a little weird, it's because it's a little messed up. I'm on the six side and actually lost my voice yesterday. So I apologize if I don't sound like I usually do.

Todd Orston: You're a lot better actually.

Leh Meriwether: Today, on Meriwether & Tharp Radio, we're talking about the impact that smart phones have had on families and we're mainly focusing on the negative impact. And we're not saying that we need to go back to an age of smoke signals or corded phones because there is no question that smart phones have provided a huge benefit to our society. I mean, there are so many tools that are available because of software cameras. I can do so much with my phone now that I could never do. I had to have multiple tools to do what I can do with one phone now.

Todd Orston: I mean, beforehand, you know what I had to do to crush candy. I mean, candy crush and you name the... I mean, for Tetris. I mean going old school. I would have to go into my garage and [crosstalk 00:13:19] and it's just ridiculous.

Leh Meriwether: But now you don't have to do that anymore.

Todd Orston: That's right.

Leh Meriwether: But we wanted to talk about the negative impacts because it's a lot more subtle and if you don't pay attention to it, what it can wind up doing is like where we left off the last segment, was it can wind up leading you from a healthy marriage into a divorce. And so we were talking about how Todd judges people in restaurants. But in our Thrive Group... The Thrive Group is something that my wife and I do and it's a nine-week course where we walk people through. They have to do homework every week and it's in a group setting with couples, but it's a marriage group designed to help your marriage thrive.

Leh Meriwether: And just this week we were sitting down and the subject of the week was communication. And the question that was presented in the group was, what can we do to help stimulate good conversation between spouses, especially when you go out on a date night. Because you can go on and as many date nights as you want, but if you sit there playing with your phone, there's no point in going on the date night. You might as well stay home and not spend the money. But what was amazing was everyone's answer was, "Well, we got to do something with the phone first. And we got to set it aside. We can't have it. It can't be part of our time together, that phone or iPad or whatever it may be."

Todd Orston: Well, it depends on if you can manage it and manage it responsibly, right? I mean there are some people who they can handle that and they both have phones and it's fine and they know when to put it down, when to pick it up and they don't lose the connection. The problem that I see is that it is a tool that can create a barrier between you and people. And so when we're talking about relationships, any barrier that gets put up can lead you down the path of having marital problems and potentially even divorce. So again, not judging people who use phones, I am on my phone all the time. It is a big part of my personal life and my work life. But at the end of the day, you need to know when to put it down. And a date night is not a time for phones. It's a time for the one on one human interaction with a person that you love tremendously and you want to have a healthy relationship with.

Leh Meriwether: They can even impact not just your marriage, but your relationship with your children. Because I mean, I've been in sporting events where I could look in the bleachers and half the parents rather than watching the game, are sending an email to their boss or their client or again, I'm not judging people, don't give me that look.

Todd Orston: It's like the kids, they want a participation award, right? They're in the bleachers. "I'm here. So do I get a trophy?" "No, you don't."

Leh Meriwether: And I'm not... I mean, I had been in the bleachers responding to a text from somebody at work before, so.

Todd Orston: But there's a difference again, right? It's a matter of degree. If the entirety of the sporting event you are on your phone, why are you even there?

Leh Meriwether: Exactly.

Todd Orston: And if you think that your kids aren't periodically looking over at you and seeing that you're really not paying attention, you're making a mistake. But if you're there and you have to take a call or you have to jump on your phone for a short period of time, fine. Then you're managing it well.

Leh Meriwether: And we're going to talk about, towards the end, things that you can do even when you're at the game that help put up boundaries between you and that phone so that doesn't... so your use of the phone remains healthy and not unhealthy. Now, one other thing I just want to toss out there as the soul. There's a temptation to sext out there and the sexting and going back to...

Todd Orston: Wow, this conversation took a turn. Well, I mean, you sound a little like Barry White, but...

Leh Meriwether: And then...

Todd Orston: No, no, no. Let's not go there.

Leh Meriwether: But we see this all the time in the phones because it's so easy to snap a photo of yourself and then send it to someone. And I'm tired of getting those pictures from you, Todd.

Todd Orston: I'm checking out. I'm done.

Leh Meriwether: I'm just kidding. No. But...

Todd Orston: We've actually had people on the show and especially when you're dealing with your own children and sexting has become so prevalent. It is a practice that a lot of kids unfortunately are engaging in.

Leh Meriwether: A lot.

Todd Orston: And I can't say this in strong enough words when a child meaning under 18 sends a nude photograph to another child. It's not just they're kids. No, they are committing felonies. The child who is sending it is sending out child pornography. The child who receives it is in possession of child pornography. So, there are.. like I said, we've had a show on this where you have to take it incredibly seriously. I mean, I know that relates to kids, but then for adults, I can't tell you how many cases we have had where someone receives or sends photographs and that becomes evidence in a divorce case. So absolutely it's behavior that you really need to be careful before you engage in it.

Leh Meriwether: Especially if you have a shared, what is it? With the iPhone, with the iCloud. You have a shared iCloud with your family. Because we've had cases where there was an exchange of inappropriate photographs and movies and the children happened to see them. And talk about devastating, I mean... [crosstalk 00:19:25].

Todd Orston: Yeah, I mean that's-

Leh Meriwether: Could ever see their parent make it, I mean.

Todd Orston: Yeah. You just keep taking this conversation. No, and even if we're not dealing just with children, I've had cases where the party didn't realize that all of the... they had set up a backup to a family basically account, if you will, where all photos and materials that were being texted and emailed were being sent to this one location. So I had a client who was like, "My client's doing or my spouse is doing X, Y, Z." And I'm like, "Well, how do you know?" "Well, I have all these photos." I'm like, "Well, hold on. Did you break into the phone? Did you get this at illegally?" And they're like, no, we set up an account and it's every day, and I'm sitting there and I'm hearing like ting beat and more information is going into the account and I'm like, "Wow. All right." And yes that information got shared and used in that case.

Leh Meriwether: So I think Paul Ghanoun from Teen & Young Adult Defense law firm came on, I think it was episode 88 if you wanted to go back into iTunes or wherever you listen to the podcast and listen to it. He talks about, how the kids can get in trouble. So we're going to shift to problems with the kids, how they can get in trouble because they think, "Oh, it's just fun. I'm going to snap the selfie of me without my shirt on," or whatever it may be, and next thing you know, law enforcement's involved. Because someone else sees this photograph. Or what we've seen happen is somebody takes, usually a girl takes it or sometimes a boy takes an inappropriate picture, shares that picture with their boyfriend and then the boyfriend shares it with all his buddies. And next thing you know, every one in that group text is now has on their phones, child pornography.

Leh Meriwether: And so that's something you got to be really careful with. And so one of the other things I've noticed I think in that same realm is cyber bullying and we call it cyber, but it's really became... you start seeing it with the cell phone because, and here's where I think the biggest problem is with the cell phone and it's so convenient. You get mad, you get online, you post something really mean. Well, something that may be classified as cyber bullying. Whereas if you had to do on a computer, by the time you got home after whatever happened, you'd probably cool down and not post that same mean message.

Todd Orston: Whatever happened to the days of good old fashion in your face bullying. I mean, seriously Leh, it's... All right. I'm not in favor of that either.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, don't. But I mean there is something to doing something face to face but when you don't have to face them. I actually know we need to face the time because we're out of time. But up next we're going to continue to talk about the impacts of smart phones on children.

Todd Orston: Hey everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.

Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it. If you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp Show. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online Well, today we've been talking all about smartphones and we're focusing on how they have negatively impacted families and the practice of divorce law even. And we're talking about it because we think that smartphones are great and they are an incredible tool that can be used to really help people, but at the same time, when you don't pay attention, there's a negative side.

Leh Meriwether: There's a dark side to the smartphone. And we're just wanting to share what we've observed over the years from practicing family law and just the changes in dynamics and cases. And because we are very fortunate that we get to work with co-parenting counselors and counselors that deal with children. And not only we learning the law, we actually learn a lot about dynamics of families and children and that thing as a byproduct of divorce law.And so we have seen these things and personally through our divorce cases, we've read about them from, speaking of smartphones.

Todd Orston: Yeah. That's pretty dumb actually. At the middle of a show.

Leh Meriwether: I know. So, we talk to counselors. We're engaged in psychologists. We engage psychologists in cases. So we wanted to share what we've observed and learned about this so that we can all be intentional about the use of these amazing tools so they don't negatively impact our families and our children. Left off where you were talking about kids and...

Todd Orston: And cyber bullying.

Leh Meriwether: Cyber bullying because it's just so easy to just post something that's negative.

Todd Orston: Yeah. But you know what? Let me now bring it into the adult realm. And cyber bullying is maybe more prevalent with kids, but it happens with adults. And I've had cases where there was just rampant cyber bullying. I mean we deal, first of all, obviously we deal with abusive texts where there is that kind of direct communication. But I've had cases where on Facebook and in other places on different applications, people are just bad mouthing and attacking their significant other. And I can tell you right now things that I've told my children for a long time, once you put it out there, it's out there.

Todd Orston: I say to everyone listening, because I can't tell you how many times I've been able to pull that information offline and go into court. So when somebody is sitting there going, "I'm the victim here and I feel abused." And that and I start pulling out screenshots from Facebook or other applications or texts where it's clear that there's an instigator and it's not my client. I use that information and judges take it very seriously.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, because it's easy. It's hard to do something, confront someone face to face. And I've had cases like that too, where you meet this particular person and they seem so meek and mild, but when they get behind their phone, boy they can say some hurtful things.

Todd Orston: Well, that sort of defines the internet. I mean anytime you read an article and then you read the people that are posting, I guarantee 90% of those people, if you put them in a room in a formal discussion, they wouldn't respond the way they're responding in writing because they are hiding behind the fact that they're not there. It's just easy for them to post and then walk away.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And I think the fact that having a device in your hands makes... the internet is part of it. But the smartphone took it to a whole new level because you could be in your car posting something negative, which we've seen happen. So there's not that delay between, you hear something on the radio or something happens to you and in the past you'd have to get back to your computer. And so there was that distance between the stimulus, and your response. And the longer the distance in time, the greater the chance you're going to calm down and not say something bad. The smartphone takes that away. And going back to the communicating face to face, it's interesting how to see this current generation of kids struggle with face to face communication.

Leh Meriwether: There was something, I won't say the business, but I was talking to somebody recently and they had some 20 year-olds working for them and they were asked, "Hey, will you go talk to these people?" And they're like, "What? Do I really have to do it? Well, what's wrong? Well, adults intimidate me and I don't want to talk to them in person." We're like, "You're 20, you're an adult. I don't understand what's going on."

Todd Orston: They just have been trained though. Meaning...

Leh Meriwether: They've practiced.

Todd Orston: Right. They're so used to hiding behind a phone to deal with difficult or even avoid difficult situations. I get it. I can understand why it's like, "No. I don't want to have that kind of a difficult conversation face to face." Because like you said, they're out of practice.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And I mean, out of practice, dealing with all those nonverbal cues which you lose when you communicate through the phone, all those nonverbal cues. And we had a whole show about how the nonverbal is... what does it? You have the study, it was like 75% of most face to face communication is nonverbal.

Todd Orston: Most communication. I mean, basically what the study found was that the nonverbal cues and the nonverbal form of communications is actually far more important than the verbal. So it's not just what you say, it's truly how you say it.

Leh Meriwether: How you say it, yeah.

Todd Orston: And look, going back to kids and finishing that up. We've all heard, we've all read, we've all perhaps even seen. Cell phones, the behavior of other kids and just the way that they're used in the things that are communicated, you have higher rates of suicide. You have kids dealing with depression because they're dealing with cyber bullying. You know, there are so many negative things that have come about because of the behaviors that people are exhibiting on cell phones.

Leh Meriwether: Right. I think my understanding of the current stats are suicides, the second highest cause of death in college students. It's the third highest cause of death in high school, middle school students. And there was a recent study where they tracked the prescription of anxiety medication and depression medication between 2013 and 2017 and during that four year time period, it literally doubled in pediatric and kids. The prescription medication doubled. I mean, that's scary.

Todd Orston: And we're not saying all of that is due to cell phones.

Leh Meriwether: Right, but...

Todd Orston: It is a part. It is a part of the equation that can't be ignored.

Leh Meriwether: All right, so let's talk about parenting. Obviously there's a struggle there. You've got to teach your... you don't want your kids to text and drive. They're the ones who are most susceptible to getting in an accident. And when you are a parent and your child sitting behind you and they see you texting and driving, that's what this whole intentionality comes in. You can't do that because you're setting the example for them when they get behind the wheel. And here's the other thing as far as parents go when dealing with kids. So trying to get them to pay attention sometimes because they're constantly distracted by the phones.

Leh Meriwether: Now I'm thankful that both my kids do a good job putting their phones down. But I do notice a struggle with kids figuring things out because they're so used to that instant gratification. They get online, they type something in and they have an answer. But as soon as you get hit with a problem, you can't just type it in and get the immediate answer, you've got to do some research. You've got to dig deeper and I had just seen kids shut down because especially this current generation, they've grown up with cell phones in their hands and they are used to getting that instant access to information.

Leh Meriwether: But information alone can't solve problems. I mean, what was it like at 9/11? My understanding is we had an enormous amount of data about the hijackers and if you looked at the data, you could tell that they were planning something, but nobody was looking at the data because there was just so much data. And that's the same thing. These kids have access to so much information, but they never learn how to process it properly to problem solve. All right, so let's talk about co-parenting. Let's talk about co-parenting. I think one of the biggest struggles I see with co-parenting right now, and so there's co-parenting, I'm referring to a couple that's gotten a divorce and now they have to co-parent is that it's so easy now to...

Leh Meriwether: Well, first off I see two biggest things. One is the grounding issue, like discipline. So one of the best ways to ground a child today is take away their phone because they've gotten so used to it. I mean, I know when I was growing up, if my parents took away the keys to the car, boy that was devastating. So I did everything I could to make sure that never happened. Well, you could do that to kids today. I don't care. Let's get on their phones and communicate with their friends.

Todd Orston: All throughout kindergarten, I did that to my kids. I was like, "No driving." And I'll be honest with you, for me it just didn't work. Sorry. That was bad. That was... We'll erase that one in post production anyway.

Leh Meriwether: I mean, when you have parents not getting along, you can't use that as a disciplinary tool and usually it's a great tool but I've seen cases that we're going to talk about next where one parent will buy a second phone for the child and to avoid that child being punished by the other parent when it comes to the phone. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep I guess, right?

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd on Meriwether & Tharp Radio. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online Well I'm talking quick because we're almost out of time and we are in our last segment and we've been talking about how smart phones, how they can negatively impact families and their impact on family law. And we've covered a lot of material and we want to leave room to talk about what do we do about this to make sure that smartphones are always, I mean we're focused on the good things about smart phones and how do we avoid the bad things. All right, so wrap it up with co-parenting. We talked about how it can, it-

Todd Orston: It becomes almost like a what's the...? Tug of war. Because one parent is like, "I need to punish and I'm going to take the phone away." And you were saying and I've seen it also where the other parent just buys another phone, and then it's like, "Okay, you're the good parent, you're the bad parent." And it becomes this unhealthy tug of war that you need to avoid.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So you need to be on the same page with that. The other problem I see it is, it's so easy just for... well the really parents need to be talking about decisions for their children. But sometimes you'll see one parent go, "Well you know what? You just need to call your dad or text your dad about that. Don't ask me." Rather than the parent getting the information, going to the other parent, discussing it, they just shove off that communication on the child, which they should not do. And the other thing on the co-parenting that I see is that it's so easy to misinterpret a text message and as a result you can have something just absolutely blow up.

Leh Meriwether: And we've seen it where, well, let's say you're in the middle of a divorce, so they're not divorced yet and somebody sends a text message because it's so easy. There's no distance between the stimulus and the reaction or the response. And they fire off a text message that they regret later when they get the lawyer bill because-

Todd Orston: And it may not be deserved. It may be like, "Are you going to drop the children off today? I hate you. How can you, of course I'm going to, why would you even ask that question? Why would..." And it's like, "Oh, hold on one second. I was asking..." This is just a logistical issue and it just blew up into something it didn't need to be. And quite often we'll look at a situation that there's some craziness going on and we have to reach out to opposing counsel. And when we dig down, it's like, "Wow, it did not need to get to this point."

Leh Meriwether: ... Yeah, but that text message will end up costing them $1,000 in legal fees and going back and forth and they turned out and sometimes both lawyers go, "Man, I really wish the parties had figured this out on their own." Even though we bill for it. But sometimes we [crosstalk 00:36:49]

Todd Orston: It was unnecessary.

Leh Meriwether: It was unnecessary. [inaudible 00:36:50] all your focus on what's good. So let's briefly talk about what we've seen with the practice of law. That was one example how it can increase fees because the form of communication may not be the best form of communication because you lose that nonverbal element of it. The other thing is we've seen is that expands the litigation. It can make it incredibly expensive. And I know I've said this on the radio before, but I had done a deposition where there was multiple emails that were used during the deposition and at the end of... the court reporter asked, "What did you ever do before emails?" And opposing counsel said, "Tried a case in one day instead of three." And it's true.

Todd Orston: It's true.

Leh Meriwether: And it's true because the text messages and emails, they're evidence-

Todd Orston: It becomes physical evidence that you need to take time in order to organize and present to the court. So you're right. I mean, things were a lot more streamlined.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, a lot less expensive. I mean just litigation in general, even outside of family law has been expanded as a result of electronic communication.

Todd Orston: Yeah, well and then building on that, it's something we've also talked about before. When you're talking, when you're communicating rather with your attorney, because of the ease in communicating via your smartphone, it becomes so easy to... you have a thought, you put it into a text or you put it into an email to your attorney and boom, you shoot it off and then five minutes later you're like, "Ah, you know what? I have another thought." And you send that email. And then you look and it's like you're sending 10, 15, 20, 30 emails a day.

Todd Orston: Well guess what? Every time your attorney opens up that email and reviews and other email, you're getting charged for some time to review and even respond to the emails. So we see people that even after being warned, they are just communicating again and again and again and the bill starts to go up.

Leh Meriwether: That's so easy. There's some more stuff I wanted to get into, but I'd rather... we'll say that for another show. I want to talk about what we can do about all this stuff. And let's talk, we'll talk about some practical things and I'm going to share some books that I think it would be real helpful for folks to read to help with this, to avoid the negative dark side of the smartphones.

Leh Meriwether: So the first thing I like to recommend is turn off the notifications on your... Because you can go to the phones and turn off the notifications for your email, your text messaging and that sort of thing. I think you can even go to the extent of that, you can put do not disturb on that. That was the second thing, but you can make it where you don't know there's a ton of emails in your inbox so you're not being pulled to your phone constantly to check those emails.

Todd Orston: Yeah, but my only pushback is how am I going to find out that the local buffet is having a sale on meatloaf? I mean I need that notice. All right no? All right.

Leh Meriwether: No.

Todd Orston: Okay.

Leh Meriwether: I'd go with that.

Todd Orston: But you're right. I mean the notifications are constant and I would say 99% of the notifications I get, I don't need.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I've turned them off on my phone. I've turned off the emails, I've turned off the well, another one was removed social media from your phone. I have removed social media from my phone. People may think that's crazy, but I'm just going to look at it when I get home on my computer or my iPad. But I'm trying to avoid that from distracting me during the day.

Todd Orston: Yeah, and what you're saying, I hear you. You're not saying don't use social media. You're saying if you have an issue with it and it's a nonstop kind of thing. If you have multiple devices, take it off of the one that's with you all day long and save that kind of behavior until you get home.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Set aside the time just to deal with that and that way you're not being distracted throughout the day. One of the things, I don't know if it's on the Android, I know it's on the iPhone is do not disturb. Which I love that function. When I get home at night, it kicks on and you can't get a hold... the only people can get ahold of me are my wife, my children and my parents.

Todd Orston: I do it all the time. You keep bothering me, it doesn't work.

Leh Meriwether: That's why I can't get over. So use that do not disturb function. It is so powerful and you can leave it so that like for my parents, like I'm worried that maybe something may happen. I need to go there and check on them so they can get through to me, but no one else can. So use that. It's use it on your date nights. Going back to... you don't want to be interrupted, but you do want to get a call from the babysitter because you're worried about that. Then you can put the babysitter's phone number as one of ones that can get through the do not disturb. So you can control these things. The smart phones have a lot of software on it that can really limit what you're being impacted by on the phone so that dark side has a software to protect you from it.

Todd Orston: The best advice I would give, and it's also a baby step kind of approach, just figure out times when you want to focus on connecting, whether it's connecting with your spouse or your significant other or your children. And if that's dinner, like for us in my family, we know why kids use their phones, we use our phones, but there are times and places for it and so dinner, absolutely and I credit my wife for this. She's steadfastly said off your phones. I mean unless it's an absolute emergency, don't even look at your phone at dinner.

Todd Orston: So pick those times dinners or just figure out like a half hour at the end of the day when you and your significant other are together, put the phone away, don't look at it, don't even think about it, and that's going to help you build on the healthy connections with those people.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. What a great idea. And one of the things I... Years ago, my parents actually allowed me to buy an old boat from them, and so I was considering not doing it, but I realized that when we were on the boat as a family, nobody's checking our smartphones. I was trying to figure out the connection.

Todd Orston: I was getting there. So I decided to...

Leh Meriwether: I'm like lets talk about phones and I bought a boat, right?

Leh Meriwether: No, but what I did was I did-

Todd Orston: That's a NyQuil talking.

Leh Meriwether: I decided that I would keep the boat and spend some money to, because it's like a 39 year old boat. Let's spend some money to make it nice so we could go out on it and-

Todd Orston: I'm not going boating with you. How about that?

Leh Meriwether: It's [inaudible 00:43:23] way or it doesn't sink. But anyway, that's one of our times, especially during the summer where nobody's touching their smart phones. It's just focused time on the family. We do the same thing at dinner. So find the times to do that. And I want to share a couple of books that has some other great ideas and then... Cal Newport wrote a couple books, one's called Deep Work and it's all about developing your ability to focus. And he also wrote. I would read Deep Work first, followed by Digital Minimalism.

Leh Meriwether: Greg McKeown wrote a book called Essentialism and Ryan Holiday has a recent book out called Stillness Is the Key. And so all these have really good practical tips on how not to allow that smartphone and social media and those kinds of things steal your focus and that time to really connect with your significant other, your spouse, your children, or even friends. And so I hope these tips help and...

Todd Orston: I was about to text you that we're out of time.

Leh Meriwether: Everyone. Thanks so much for listening, and if you want to go back and listen to this show and others, you can always check us out at