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Can Technology Encourage Mass Shootings? with Dr. Lisa Strohman

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

This week’s guest on The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Lisa Strohman, was working with the profiling unit of the FBI when one of the most horrific events in our nation’s history occurred. This event sparked her passion to educate parents and children on the dangers of technology. In this episode, Dr. Strohman shares some of her most surprising revelations from her life’s journey with Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome everybody. We have a very special treat for you this week. I've been wanting to do this. We're going to talk about digital trouble, digital addictions. Is your phone, your computer, your iPad, part of the evil ruler that is stealing your attention and stealing the attention, really stealing the pleasure centers of your children?
With us is Dr. Lisa Strohman. I'm so excited to have her. She's a clinical psychologist and author, public speaker and the founder and director of Digital Citizens Academy, which you can learn more about at dca.org. She established Digital Citizen Academy to proactively prevent and educate students, educators, and parents on the issues resulting from technology use and misuse.
Dr. Strohman has spent more than a decade working with adolescents and families in her private practice and working with schools to address the challenges with student mental health, which is just getting worse and worse. She was a visiting scholar for the FBI working on homicidal pedophilia when Columbine occurred, giving her the opportunity to be on the front lines of how technology impacts our youth.
She has continued to work with law enforcement and the FBI on safety and cyber crimes involving adolescents while also lending her knowledge and guidance to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Lisa, welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Thank you for having me.
Dr Daniel Amen: So how did you get involved in this?
Dr Lisa Strohman: It was a little bit happenstance, I would say. It was where I was in grad school. I was doing a law psychology program. At the same time, I applied to be an honors intern at the FBI and was placed into this unit where ... This is pre 9/11, so it was this unit that was all profilers. So we did child abduction and serial killer work and it was awful, I will have to say. I mean, you're seeing pretty much the worst of the worst, but my mentor at the time was the workplace school police violence expert and he was becoming a very good friend of mine and was really helping me along in this kind of vast space of bad people that exist in the world.
And unfortunately, that's when Columbine, [inaudible 00:03:42] in Colorado happened, and I was front and center to see NSA and CIA and all of the FBI obviously come together and look at what these two young men had done and had posted about pre-cell phone, pre-iPad, pre-technology for 17 months. I remember being in my 20s and thinking, where were the adults? Why did we miss this? This is technology. This is the ability to find things where people are [inaudible 00:04:15] and we missed it. I remember thinking somebody has to do something about it. And that's how I got into this field of understanding and looking at the psychology and technology and how they interplay with each other.
Tana Amen: That's so true.
Dr Daniel Amen: Say a little bit more about how technology impacted Columbine. I find this so interesting. When bad things happen, it's easy to call those boys bad and what they did was evil. The harder question is to go, "Well, why?" So that we can learn more about it. I actually had the opportunity to get the scans for Kip Kinkel. Kip was the mass shooter the year before Columbine based on my work. They scanned him in Portland. And he had such a damaged brain and he'd seen psychologists, he'd seen psychiatrists, he'd taken Prozac and Ritalin, but nobody looked at his brain. And so I try to champion, you have to look at their brains because how do you know what they do? But there's so many other factors. And maybe if you could just talk a little bit about technology and the Columbine killers, that would be interesting.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Yeah. I think what I see in these situations is that you do have these troubled kids and whether it's early trauma or whether there's something that's going on in their life that you particularly have this open unique window to be able to see that the rest of the world doesn't get, and it's this science that some people don't understand that we have. So the psychology of looking at behaviors and consequences is what we typically only have to look at. And when I looked at these two young men, Klebold and Harris, they definitely had this ability to have been intervened upon through law enforcement because they'd been arrested almost a year prior, had been collecting bottles and looking to do things, and so they had some contact with law enforcement. So there's already an incident there that ... of course hindsight, 20/20 ... was missed to do an intervention. And one of the parents knew about the kind of obsession with guns and things like that.
But where technology comes in is MySpace at the time was akin to say their Instagram or our Facebook, where they could go in and they could post, they could write, they could pontificate on their ideas and what they were going to do and what it gave back, which is what happens with us even today in the same challenges we're having today is that it creates a silo of people who believe in you and believe in what you're doing and they're encouraging you in ways that a biased or a disturbed mind would read into. And so that's what I saw is that this is a very minute population, but they're coming in and they're like, "Yeah, you should stick it to the man," or, "You should do this." So that information that they were getting was very, very untethered and not sound advice, but that was feeding them continually. There's nobody coming in to the contrary.
Tana Amen: That's so interesting. And one thing you said that I really like, you talked about how, where are the parents? I've had that thought so many times. So we have a 16 year old. She homeschools now, but she went to a very large high school in our area and it was really interesting to me. We're very close. So I'm a part of her social media quite frequently. We'll sit down and she'll show me stuff on her Snapchat, okay? So there are these venues where kids can post and parents can't really see it because it disappears, right?
So we've got all these different things, but she would show me what's going on. It's one of the reasons she wanted to homeschool because things were getting out of control at school. She felt like the social scene was so intense. This is in eighth grade. I'm seeing her Snapchat where there's these massive parties and they're showing these little Snapchat images of her friends doing drugs or they're passed out in a pizza box because they've drank so much and they're throwing up and one girl got drugged and I'm like, "Where are the parents? Why is this happening? It's eighth grade. Where are the parents?" And my daughter laughed. She said, "Mom," she said, "The parents at that party, they hired a bouncer because they weren't going to be there." A bouncer? I'm so confused.
But right there, to your point, there is indication that there is trouble. There is trouble. That's trouble and there's no parents and when they do find out, because I saw this happen a lot, when they would find out when there's a fight that happens at a football game because of intoxication or a girl ends up in the hospital in an alcohol-induced coma, it's whitewashed. It's, "Oh, they're kids. It's a rite of passage." And that's confusing to me. I don't really understand. What's going on with the adults in that situation, in all of those situations? Why are we not doing more?
Dr Lisa Strohman: Well, I would say in this situation, particularly in those settings, I look at a cell phone or a device, personal device for kids. It's like a cloaking device for them, right? They can use hashtags, they can send addresses, they can drop pins. All of these things on apps that are like Snapchat, like you said, disappears, by the way, to everyone except for law enforcement, because I would say 95% of the cases that I see evidence on is from Snapchat. So what I educate kids on is it doesn't disappear forever and it is out there and they are holding out information on servers and they need to recognize and understand that that is evidence against them in colleges, in first employment, in crime cases.
And to the parent issue in hiring a bouncer and if they think that that's washing their liability, I will tell parents right now, and this might be the most important thing your listeners hear, A, you would never let your child probably go out on a motorcycle without a helmet. You wouldn't let them go out without a bike because you're protecting the most important part of their being is their brain, their ability to think for themselves and manage their life, but yet we hand them a device that we know creates brain damage. We hand them a device that allows them to cloak and hide that they're doing pill parties and drug and alcohol and all the meanwhile, you as a parent are completely liable.
It is your cell phone. It is your policy. It is your contract. So if your child sends a death threat, if your child gets in trouble, if they're selling drugs online, that comes back to your liability. And I've seen countless parents have to go into their umbrella policies and their homeowners policies and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for that. So it's terrifying to me. I don't know how to spread the message louder and faster. I mean, this is always helpful to have these conversations, but you're right to be totally terrified by this.
Tana Amen: It's amazing to me because there is no such thing as washing your hands of liability when you have a child. That concept-
Dr Daniel Amen: I think most parents don't think about it.
Tana Amen: I don't think they know.
Dr Daniel Amen: And we are supervising children less than ever before in human history because at least here in California, 90% of moms work outside the house. It's not a statement on that, but God gave you parents to be your child's frontal lobes until theirs develop, and theirs actually don't finish developing until they're in their middle 20s, and we're giving these kids devices at 7, 8, 9, 10 when their brains aren't developed and these devices addict them and they're actually created purposefully to addict them. There's a great book on this called Hooked, and it's basically how do you create addictive gadgets? And so when we come back, I want Lisa to talk a little bit about the history of how technology has changed over the last 30 years and over the course of this week, we'll talk about some very specific things parents can do about it. Stay with us.
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