Teens & Devices

SHOW NOTES:

Welcome to Relationship Helpers!  We’re so glad you’ve taken the time to listen to us today!  You’re catching us towards the end of our podcast, as we are about to take a break. 

Today’s episode marks our 97th episode. When we hit 100, we’re going to take a break from the weekly podcasts, but be sure to check our website as we will continue to update it with great information.

Technology’s Pros & Cons

Over forty years ago, it would not be uncommon for Vincent’s parents to tell him to step away from the tv screen claiming  “It’s going to hurt your eyes!”  Oh, how times have changed!  

People look at their smart phones nowadays to avoid real face-to-face conversations.

These days kids and adults alike are transfixed by a mobile screen device that is used to avoid talking in the waiting room or while waiting in the check out aisle.  It’s used in bumper to bumper traffic as an escape and it’s a substitute for having a real, face-to-face conversation.  When you don’t want to “people” you can go on Facebook.

Technology has its benefits, but also its pitfalls. Sometimes its use can be an unintentional mindless activity that makes us feel productive, but in the long run, what are we doing to ourselves?

Brain Development & Devices

Did you know that your personality—so much of who you are as a person— is centered just behind your forehead.  The prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain just behind your forehead, is responsible for decision-making, executive functioning, empathy and impulse control.

Device usage is shrinking our prefrontal cortex by 10 to 20 percent.

Did you know that device usage is shrinking our prefrontal cortexes by about 10 to 20 percent?!?  That’s a scary thought. No wonder so many parents bring their kids to our therapy practice wanting to know why their child suffers from attention issues, the inability to empathize with others, poor decision-making skills and social anxiety.

We highly recommend reading “The Digital Invasion” by Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd to get a stronger grasp of technology’s impact on children and what we can do about it.

The United States is becoming a nation filled with children with digital dementia.

We are a nation with children that have “digital dementia.” Neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer coined this term upon learning that because we are becoming overly reliant on technology, our brains our losing cognitive functioning.  

When we receive a “like” or a “follow” on social media, it hits the pleasure center of our brain like a drug.  Recently we had a senior in high school conduct an informal study among his friends.  He asked each one how often they check their phones.  The highest number was two hundred and forty five times in one day.  The lowest, sixty-nine.  The average:  147.18 times.  

Obviously this isn’t a formal study, but we know that teens are using smartphones prolifically. Imagine having two hundred and forty-five “hits” similar to a drug hit? We’re not talking about something lethal like heroin or cocaine, BUT the chemicals in our brains are not something to mess around with.  They alter how we experience the world around us. 

How Can I “Parent” This?

In our work as therapists, we often have parents tell us that their children “do so much better” when they do not have devices. For many of you listening to this, you may be thinking it’s too late.  What can you do now?

Children between the ages 2 to 5 should only have 1 hour of TV according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children under the age of two should have no exposure to devices or tv.  Those between two and five should only have one hour of quality tv programming that you watch with them.  If you have a child above the age of six, you should set a consistent amount of time that your child uses media. Take into account how much sleep they should be getting, along with physical and social activities. Device usage should not take the place of these activities.

If you have a teen that has had unlimited technology usage, you may be struggling with what to do about it now, especially if you’re seeing concerning behaviors.

How Do I Know If My Child is Using Too Much Technology?

Be aware that two hours of social media usage contributes to anxiety and unhappiness among teenagers. Signs that your child is suffering from too much exposure to social media and technology include: 

  1. Grades dropping
  2. Careless work
  3. Difficulty having conversations with others
  4. Anxiety surrounding routines
  5. Isolation
  6. “Phubbing” (choosing to look at phones instead of the people around them)
  7. Relationship issues surrounding device usage. 

How Do I Get Us Back On Track?

Some teens are looking at screens eleven hours per day. Some are on-screen more a day than they sleep. This degree of exposure also limits the amount of face-to-face conversations they have with the people that are important to them, most importantly family.

1. Intentionally Spend Time Off Devices

Make it a point to put your own phone down. Put away your laptops.  Turn off the tv.  Model “screen-free time.”  Make yourself available to chat with your child.  Plan activities such as bowling, hiking, any kind of FUN activity that you can do together as a family.  Help them to want to spend time AWAY from their screens.  

2. Set Limits

Don’t allow social media usage among children under the thirteen year old requirement. Have limits for each person in the family.

Educate yourself on the different apps out there—be aware that many apps are deceptive and are not what they appear to be.  (Consider how some may look like a calendar app on the home screen but they are actually a deceptive app meant to hide unwanted behaviors.) 

3. Encourage Your Kids To Be Social

Help your kids learn to be social by engaging them.  Have them order their own food at restaurants.  Make them order pizza delivery. 

Have them schedule appointments on the phone. Don’t shield them from these tasks.  They learn how to do these things on your watch.  If you do it for them, they will be forced to try to learn how to do it as adults, or worse, they avoid doing them all together.

4. Dinner Time

Make family dinner time a priority.  This time is specified as ‘device free.”  

5. Show Discipline Yourself

Model healthy device habits yourself.  You can’t preach limiting social media or device usage without doing it yourself.  Turn off your devices and turn your attention on your children.  Have meaningful conversation.  

The rapid-fire social media environment lends itself to very little depth.  We’re constantly jumping to the next best thing.  It doesn’t allow room for having deep, meaningful experiences.  We’ve let gaming become how we do life, jumping from the next thing to the next.  As parents, we have to make the change. 

Resources:  The Center For Digital Wellness

The Digital Invasion  by Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd

096 Parenting: Teens & Vaping

SHOW NOTES:

Welcome to Relationship Helpers!  We’re so glad you’ve joined us for our 96th episode today.  We are winding down our podcast as we approach our 100th episode!  Today we discuss teen vaping.  Parents all over the country are having to play a massive game of catch-up with this new trend.  It’s not one that parents had to deal with when they were teens.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared teen vaping an epidemic.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared teen vaping an epidemic. According to a survey from University of Michigan, eleven percent of high school seniors, eight percent of tenth graders and three and a half percent of eight graders report vaping with nicotine in a one month period. 

Vaping devices and liquids can be sold to anyone over the age of eighteen.  Anyone under the age of twenty-seven is expected to provide identification to purchase them.

What’s In a Name?

Vaping devices are known as vape pens, juuls, pod mods, tanks, electronic nicotine delivery devices, e-hookahs and e-cigarettes. Vape liquids are called e-juice e-liquid, cartridges, pods, or oil.

Vaping devices can deliver nicotine, marijuana or flavored chemicals.  Think how jelly beans have hundreds of crazy flavors, so is true for vaping liquids.  

Is Vaping Safe?

The rationale behind vaping is that it is safer than cigarette smoking and is a means to quit smoking, yet there is no research to support this mentality.

There are ninety three harmful or potentially harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, as determined by the FDA. Vape liquids have fewer chemicals, but still contain the drug nicotine. Even scarier is that many of the chemicals in vape liquids are unknown or untested.

Have We Forgotten The Harm of Nicotine?

Continue reading 096 Parenting: Teens & Vaping

052 Parenting: For the Mother Who Needs To Have the Hard Conversations

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SHOW NOTES

Jill Martin is the mother of thirteen children.  She is a pastor’s wife, writer and fitness instructor.  She encourages women through her blog and community “Strong Hearts, Strong Women.” 

She loves to help people grow.  She has “no problem talking about the elephant in the room.” Her family has been very involved in her husband’s work with the church.

“Educating and equipping people is ingrained in who we are.”

Adoption

Jill and her husband had two children before entering into adoption.  They decided they would “(allow) God to be the chooser of our child.”  They wanted to be open.

The Unexpected Triple Adoption

The couple ended up with twin newborns, one needing open-heart surgery.  “They had wanted to separated the twins, at birth, and place one up for adoption and see if the other one made it.  The nurse was upset, social workers were upset, no one was in agreement, we got pulled into the picture and someone said, ‘Oh, the Martins!’ and that was the beginning of it.” 

In the bed next to the twins was another baby in the PICU that was born in the ER and before you knew it, there was three babies that was our first adoption.  It was basically triplet newborns, one needing open-heart surgery. 

We had a one year old and a two and a half year old at home.  After that, everything seemed easy. It’s not like we said, “let’s go adopt three newborns that were all prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol and one needing open-heart surgery and make our life crazy. It’s just how the Lord worked it out.”  

God’s The Best Designer of Families

This journey helped them to feel confident that God is the best designer of families.  They trusted in Him through the process, through the experiences. The family has learned a lot about putting others first and serving.

Many of her adopted children have disabilities. The biggest common denominator is that they had poor prenatal health.  Many exposed to drugs and alcohol. 

Many people are nervous about adopting children with prenatal exposure and with special needs.  Some are afraid that they cannot handle that and try to avoid these types of adoptions.

The Martin’s have children in wheelchairs, on feeding tubes, on oxygen, kids with Down Syndrome, autism, and spina bifida.  Jill admits that she has been nervous and afraid at times, but that she don’t let that stop her.  She still does what God asks her to do. 

For the family as a whole, “The kids have experienced things many other kids have not,” Jill finds.  At the time of this interview, the family is preparing for their terminally ill son’s death.

The family “is intentionally walking that journey with your children as they watch their sibling get ready to be with Jesus.  That is a new road for us, but we are honored.  We feel privileged. We can be a part of that, and help our children to journey that in a good and honest way.”

Fitness and Stewardship 

Jill feels that stewardship goes beyond tithing. All of the parts of your life are part of stewardship. 

“It’s important for us to be the best vessel we can be, so we can be a better servant.”

Through her fitness coaching, “you might be doing a lot of pushups and squats, but I’m going to make you talk about the deep, dark stuff as well!” She says, “no matter how many push-ups you do, if you’re heart’s not right with the Lord, then you’re a hot mess and so we have to push ourselves to work on all the things.”

It’s important to be physically, emotionally and spiritually strong.  It’s not good to be deep in the Word, but “not be able to get off the couch.  How’s this good? It’s a package deal so that we can do all the things that God asks us to do.”

“I don’t want to NOT do things because I can’t, but because God said not to.” She compares taking care of your body to people who want to do mission work, but who are in a lot of debt.  If you are a good steward of your money, you don’t have that obstacle in front of you. Just like taking care of your body.

“How could I take care of all these kiddos in wheelchairs if I wasn’t taking care of myself?”

Parenting Strategies

“People always want to know ‘Do you have time to take a shower?’ I live by systems.  I love systems because they keep my brain in gear.”

There’s a lot of routine.  She uses routine systems with chores, laundry, dishes and meal-planning. “We are very intentional. We plan our menus, we plan for schooling, we plan our days, otherwise we would be like a circus around here.”

This makes it easier for the adults, but even better for the kids with developmental delays because they know what to expect.  This gives comfort to kids who have come from chaotic backgrounds.  

One thing that gives Jill comfort is that she has “let go of things.” This means she will use paper plates, and not let it get to her.  She advises giving yourself permission to let go. 

Create traditions, routines.  These are simple, little things.  That kind of structure lets kids know what to count on.  It creates a sense of home.

How Do You Deal With The “Big Stuff?”

“Be willing to talk about the hard things.  You have to make yourself do it.  You have to bring up the conversation. Know that there’s no right answer. We all love answers and kids look to parents for answers, but it’s alright to say “I don’t have the right answer. There isn’t just one answer.”

Teaching your kids to talk about the hard things is important.  You don’t have all the answers, yet still talk about these things anyway. “You don’t have to be the expert.”

The Martins are acutely aware of this now as the family transitions through the terminal illness of their son.  It has provided opportunities for the family to ask questions and to learn more about themselves and God.

“God designs your journey different from my journey.”

Also important is to recognize different personality styles: “I’m an extrovert, but she may not be.  I have to find that middle ground with her.  Tell her it’s okay if you need time to think on it and let’s plan on a time tomorrow afternoon to talk about it.” 

Help her see that it’s okay to have different personalities.  It’s good to learn personalities before things get hard. You’re more competent to wrestle the hard things because you’re not second-guessing yourself.  If we understand that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, then there is space for grace.  

Teach your kids how to cope by helping them identify their favorite activities and encouraging them to do it when times get difficult.  Help them process it and see what God is doing in their lives.

Effective Methods of Discipline

Say Less

“I’m a chatty person, so the biggest thing for me has been to learn to say less.  Sometimes they don’t need me to tell them what they did wrong, they just need to deal with it.  We tell kids what they’ve done wrong too often.”

“How Many Times Did I Tell You Not To….”

Kids are not learning how to accept responsibility for their actions when we just point out what they did wrong. They are only reacting to what we told them they did wrong.

If we want our kids to take ownership of what they’ve done, I start with, ‘Try again.’  My other famous line is ‘What happened?’

Kids want to turn it back onto the parents, so it is important that you ask them what they did.  Tell me what you did, and we’ll go from there.  It calms the parent when the parent says less, and asks the kids to tell what they have done.

“We have a few kids with behavioral problems stemming from their lives from before they were adopted.   Attachment disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, but at the end of the day it boils down to defiance.”

Don’t Take It Personally

The hardest thing is not to take it personally. It can easy to feel like they are being spiteful, and they maybe are, but even if they are, it’s still about them.  It’s a selfish thing.  They are immature emotionally.

“They are turning the table on you, but it’s not about you.  So, I have to remind myself of that. You also have to be consistent. They complete their restitutions (if they’ve broken something), I inspect it, and if it doesn’t meet our standards I say ‘Try again’ and ‘What can you do differently?’”

“They are looking for the loophole.  You have to be consistent and persistent. I need to be tougher than my kids’ toughness.  I need to be stubborn back, but in a healthy way. I need to do it in a way that says, ‘No, I’m the authority here and you’re not. Try again.’  Is a boss going to let you away with these things?” 

Jill explains to her kids, “I’m not doing you any favors by letting you off the hook all the time. Do what was asked of you, try again, follow directions, let me know when you’re done.  I’m training you to be an adult.” 

“This will also teach them how to respect what God asks them to do in their life.  We don’t need them to be expert loophole finders, because that will teach them to find loopholes with God.

Speed Round

What are you most excited about today?

Jill’s son is terminal and they are purposefully going through the journey.  Her kids are asking the hard questions, but it is good to see them grapple with these things as it prepares their futures as adults. 

“To see your children face these things is exciting because in the middle of the hard there’s also hope.  You see where they are going with it.” 

What is your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God?

“When I was younger, feeling to need to know the answer all the time.  There was a blessing to it because of the pursuit.” 

“Who doesn’t love black and white things?  As I get older, I know it’s just not that way.  I stumbled in figuring out how to make more room for grace – how to accept there are many answers.

“Obviously Jesus is the only exception, but in other areas there are some gray areas.  There are David’s and Paul’s in the bible, they are very different, but both gifts in the Bible that God has made.  Being different is okay.  You are a gift to this world and the more I pursue understanding that I get over the temptation for the right answer all the time.”

What has been the best advice you’ve ever received? 

“Pursue God first in all things.  Don’t rely on someone else’s answers.  There is a temptation to ask a hundred people, but go to God.” 

“Find the answer from your relationship with God and the Bible.  When you hear other people’s advice you can weigh it against what you’ve already learned.” 

Who do you admire most, other than a biblical figure and why?

Jill most admires her husband.  The two have opposite personalities and different tactics, but their core passions are shared. 

“It’s important to remember that God made him that way just as much as God made me this way.”  Don’t allow that (difference) to be an irritation; (then) that person becomes a gift to you. This also allows you to give room for grace. 

What is your favorite book, besides the Bible, and why?

Brene Brown’s “Rising Strong”.  “It’s about getting back up.  It’s not about falling, because we all fall, it’s about getting back up and doing that in a way that’s really honest and intentional.”

What is your most effective relationship habit?

“Talking about hard stuff.  Nothing goes under the rug here.”

Parting wisdom

“With all you’re getting, get wisdom.  If you have time in the day, don’t waste it on Netflix.  Listen to podcasts, sermons, read books, music.  Things that will put life back into you.  Use your time well.  You’ll never regret reading things that build you up.”

Contact Jill:

Blog:  https://www.martinfaithandfitness.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StrongHeartsStrongWomen/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/stronghearts_strongwomen/

Jill Martin
Jill Martin

Jill Martin is the mother of thirteen children with many of them with special circumstances. In this episode, Jill discusses how she manages so many responsibilities. Jill gives advice on discipline. Jill describes how she discusses the hard issues with her kids and gives encouragement and tips on how to do it.
Jill Martin is the mother of thirteen children with many of them with special circumstances. In this episode, Jill discusses how she manages so many responsibilities. Jill gives advice on discipline. Jill describes how she discusses the hard issues with her kids and gives encouragement and tips on how to do it.

040 Parenting: Protecting Your Child From Pedophiles

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SHOW NOTES

Tracy Lamperti is a therapist from Brewster, Massachusetts who has been working with families for twenty-five years.  She has worked as a rape crisis counselor as well and alongside child protective services.  On today’s show she discusses how to protect your family from sexual abuse.

Early on, Tracy provided child therapy services.  During this time she found that children are a product of their environments, not a diagnosis.  It was unrealistic to place great expectations on children in therapy when changes do not occur in the family system.  Now, Tracy works more with couples to help create a healthier, more supportive environment for their families.  

Disarming the Pedophile

Pedophiles don’t want to get caught.  If you’re doing the wrong thing, and don’t want to be caught, you have to learn the skills to accomplish this.  That’s where grooming comes in. 

Levels of Grooming

Grooming is all about how the pedophile develops a relationship with the potential victim and with the victim’s family.  It is very subtle.  Many times they start with something very benign—things that won’t get the person in trouble.  

Secrets & Bonding

An example of grooming, would be keeping secrets.  They may say, “When I was a kid your age I used to dress like a superhero, I would be in the bathroom and put on a towel like a cape.  Don’t tell anybody because I would be embarrassed if anybody knew that. 

The child then identifies with the pedophile through empathy. In effect, the pedophile is bonding with the child.  It communicates that there is something special about this child.  If the child tells another adult this story, the child does not pass the test, and will likely not be further pursued by the pedophile. 

The pedophile is searching for a child that will keep secrets.  If a child keeps the secret, the pedophile will increase the level of secret-keeping.

During this time, the child has developed a bond with the pedophile and does not want the pedophile to get in trouble.  The child thinks ‘I’m the keeper of him getting in trouble or not.

Touching

Recently a teacher was charged with raping two children at a school in her area. Many ask, ‘How can this happen?” Tracy provides an example of the beginning of how a pedophile may approach touching a child.

She states that a teacher could place a pencil on the other side of a seated child and reach across the child for the pencil, brushing against the child’s chest.  If the child doesn’t say anything, then the teacher may try another physical strategy that is more invasive.  The pedophile will then continue to up the ante until they get caught or until they get their devious needs met.

A teacher may choose a child that needs extra help.  They may act like the parent’s ally.  Another example she gives is of a priest who molested children.  He had gone into these children’s homes and prayed with these families—he had their trust. 

Protecting Your Child From the Pedophile

1) Parents need to ask the right questions.  There will be times your child will be in the care of others (school, camp, babysitting, etc.) and you need to be prepared to ask questions.  (FIND THE LINK FOR THESE QUESTIONS BELOW!)

2)  Family dynamics. Sin happens in the dark.  Abuse happens in dark places where there is not openness.  Children are less likely to be open with parents when there is not open communication in the family.  What’s worse, because of the advent of internet technology, many parents are even more disconnected from their children.   If kids don’t feel comfortable, they need to be able to have these open conversations.  It starts with having conversations that aren’t as heavy.  

Parents need to be very mindful of lies of omission.  If a parent tells a child to wait to tell another parent something, it forces the child into a situation where they don’t know when and how to talk about things.  They wonder ‘when do I tell and when do I not tell?’ 

It is important that parents make a safe environment for children to discuss what has happened that day and their feelings about it.  Oftentimes, children do not feel safe to talk to their parents because they get yelled at.

Speed Round

What has been your “a-ha moment” during your work?  It is way easier to prevent trauma than it is to treat it.

What is your most effective relationship skill? Taking a breath, turning things off and gathering around and interacting with each other.  Communication without distractions.  Children need to experience family time without tension and pressure.

What are you most excited about today?  She is privileged to work with the dark places with people.  Help people work towards wholeness.

What has been your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God? Time and distractions.  She has to keep reminding herself distractions will not help her relationship with God.  These aren’t God’s ways or what He intended for us. 

What is the best advice you’ve received? Slow down.  Remember that prayer is available to us every second of every day.  

Who do you admire the most, other than a biblical figure? Her husband.  He is good about being “present”.  A very good listener.  He sees things she can’t see.

What is your favorite book, besides the Bible, and why? Aesop’s Fables.  She really appreciates children’s stories with deeper meanings. 

Parting Wisdom

Take your time with things, slow down, look people in the eye.  Be available to people.  Try to bust distractions.  

She gives an example of how her son was into Star Wars.  Her husband would notice when something was bothering him.  Her husband would say to him,  “I feel a disruption in the force…” It became a strategy for them to have conversations about feelings.

Contact

Child Safety Forms, What To Ask The People You Have Entrusted Your Child’s Care To

www.tracylamperti.com

Protect Your Children From Pedophiles. Learn how pedophiles groom children and the ways you can keep your child safe. Great tips from therapist specializing in sexual abuse, Tracy Lamperti.
Protect Your Children From Pedophiles. Learn how pedophiles groom children and the ways you can keep your child safe. Great tips from therapist specializing in sexual abuse, Tracy Lamperti.

037 Parenting: Build a Loving Family With Adopted Children

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SHOW NOTES

Naomi Quick always knew from a young age that it was her calling to adopt children when she had a family. But for most of us it’s a difficult decision to make – perhaps you don’t feel 100% ready or that it’s too much responsibility.

On today’s show, Naomi joins us to share her journey of having four children and adopting two children with her husband. We uncover some of the gaps in the adoption process, and the right mindset to hold. Naomi Quick is a blogger, author, speaker and mother of six children. 

“Children Are a Blessing, Not a Burden”

Society too often labels having children as burdensome and trouble-makers. Be mindful that children are a blessing and the next generation of God’s tribe. Equally, Jesus is the savior – not us.

We’re not here to save children, but to give them a safe and open environment to grow and flourish. The child battles with you, not against you.

The Gaps in the Adoption Process

From Naomi’s personal experiences with adoption and supporting other parents, the adoption process often neglects the parents and the rest of the family’s own experiences – “trauma triggers trauma”.

If you feel you need to address some past traumas, it’s important to address them now so they don’t affect the adopted child and family dynamics.

For example, Naomi was a people-pleaser.  She struggled to come to terms when one of her adopted children didn’t respond to her affection. It hurt even more when they would respond to the rest of the family.

She learned to let go and overcome this behavior. She focused her energies on building an open, safe environment for the children.

In addition, important paperwork or histories of the adopted child can get lost in the bureaucratic process. This can be stressful, but always remember that the child has enough fear already – it doesn’t matter what age they are – they don’t need your fears. Focus on providing them with a loving home. 

“Embrace Your People”

Your family is your tribe. Slow down and be present with every child. Ensure they play together.

For example, Naomi has an ‘open-door policy’, where all doors are open in the house when they play, so no child is neglected and they’re in line of sight with you.

In addition, give all children equal one-to-one time with you and your husband so they can all equally connect closely with you.

Naomi describes adoption as “spiritual warfare”: as parents you’re fighting for their soul. You learn to be comfortable in difficult situations.

If you’re considering adoption, sign up to Naomi’s webinar to learn some key tools. Provided both parents agree to adopting, you’re giving children with difficult pasts a chance to grow into their full potential. 

Resources:

127Living.com

‘Don’t Waste Your Wait: Embracing the Journey of Bringing Your Child Home’ by Naomi Quick

FREE Webinar: Foster Care & Adoption – 5 Keys to Starting the Journey Out Right

‘Anything’ by Jennie Allen

Are You Considering Adoption? Read this first to help you understand the process, the areas in your life you need to change to prepare for adoption, and some of the things to expect. Adoptive mom and author Naomi Quick explains all these and more.
Are You Considering Adoption? Read this first to help you understand the process, the areas in your life you need to change to prepare for adoption, and some of the things to expect. Adoptive mom and author Naomi Quick explains all these and more.