How Does Social Media Affect Children’s Everyday Lives?

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

In part 2 of a series with child psychiatrist Dr. Jay Faber, Tana Amen and Dr. Faber dig into the topic of social media, and how it affects today’s youth. With some children spending as much as 5-7 hours a day on social media, it’s becoming more and more important that we understand the effect it’s having on children, specifically in regards to purpose, presence, and actual social skills.


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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. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.

So I'm back with Dr. Faber. So thank you for joining me again. Dr. Faber, if I didn't mention it in the last episode, is one of our child psychiatrists. So we're so excited to have you and we're going to talk today about something that is such a problem and I hear it so much from a lot of my daughter's friend's parents, the parents of my daughter's friends, social media.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, yeah.

Tana Amen: And you hear it from parents all the time.

Dr. Jay Faber: Parents, all the time, yeah. Yeah.

Tana Amen: So talk to us about what you hear and what the problem seems to be.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, I mean there's several factors we see but I think the bottom line is the kids are spending oodles of time playing Minecraft and Call of Duty and the parents don't know what to do. And by lots of time we're talking about five to seven hours a day.

Tana Amen: Yeah, when you first said five to seven hours, I thought you were going to say a week.

Dr. Jay Faber: No.

Tana Amen: I almost fell out of my chair when you said a day.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, yeah.

Tana Amen: How do you even spend that much time a day on social media? I would want to shoot myself in the foot if I did that. I would die.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, yeah. No, it's ...

Tana Amen: How is that possible?

Dr. Jay Faber: Well here's one of the trends we're seeing, so people go to high school, graduate, and all of a sudden we're done. And when you think about changes and stresses that's probably a big one. And for the kids that aren't going to school or don't have a purpose, they're not sure what they want to do, what do you do? You get some pleasure from going from level one to four and some purpose in playing these games.

Tana Amen: Okay, so you just touched on something really important because that's big part of the book that Daniel and I wrote together, "The Brain Warrior's Way", hence the name of the podcast The Brain Warrior's Way, is purpose. And so I practice martial arts and we focus a lot on purpose. And it's not just about learning a new form, it's about how you live your life. Bushido, way of the warrior, it was a model for living your life. And so it's got to be purpose driven.

Dr. Jay Faber: There you go, yeah. And when you think about purpose, it's not like all of a sudden you wake up and here's your purpose. It is a warrior's way. You do have to ...

Tana Amen: It's something you do ... Right.

Dr. Jay Faber: ... put some work in and aggressive about it to find out what it is you want to do with your life.

Tana Amen: Very interesting. So, yeah that lack of purpose can be really devastating to a lot of people.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: So studies show though that people who spend too much time on social media, not only are they not present, not only does it drop IQ points, but you're more likely to be depressed.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, you're more likely to be depressed. I just saw a study two days ago, one out of five kids are spending way too much time at night on social media. And by way too late, they were 12:00, 1:00 in the morning texting all their friends. And then they wake up in the morning and boom, they're sleepy, they're tired, they can't do their school work, their sense of wellbeing is coming way down.

Tana Amen: Right. Well being on social media actually does interfere. The screen itself, the light itself, interferes with your sleep.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: So that alone, kids already have a harder time sleeping because their melatonin, their circadian rhythm is different.

Dr. Jay Faber: Different yes.

Tana Amen: So their melatonin releases later. So if you add to that now I'm going to stay social media, you're really messing their cycle up.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah. No, it's the blue light, that's a whole nother conversation in and of itself, but absolutely.

Tana Amen: yeah.

Dr. Jay Faber: yeah.

Tana Amen: So it's really going to mess things up. When you said that I was so stunned. Our daughter Chloe, we've got her so busy. So we often joke that it was our little evil plan, our devious little plan. She's homeschooling now and she's very involved in the arts. And it actually wasn't intentional, it just worked out that way. She's so busy that she's just got so many things going on. She's involved in her church group, she's involved in a global leadership group. She's got all these things. She's so busy. And one day she looked at me and she started laughing. She goes, "I don't remember the last time I was on Instagram." And she goes, "My friends thought that I sort of dropped off the face of the earth." So we checked her phone and she's on there an average, if you average it out, 10 minutes a day. So when you said five to seven hours a day, I don't know what other kids spend on there but I thought you were going to say a week and that would've been a lot.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: But a day?

Dr. Jay Faber: A day, yeah.

Tana Amen: And the only secret, the only difference in what we're doing is keeping her busy with things that she loves and that are purposeful. So purpose.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, but that's one of the beauties. The stuff you're doing, I think parents would be open to hearing. It's like, "Here's what you've got to do." It's more than just getting good grades in school, which is important, but all the other constructive activities, the church, the groups, all that adds up to make life more meaningful.

Tana Amen: Right. Right, and we do focus a lot. Granted, she's been hearing this since she could walk so there is that. It's that she's been hearing about how it's bad for your brain and how it drops IQ points and doesn't make you all that smart. And so we've been pushing on that for a long time. So she has that advantage, but it's never too late to start learning that. It's never too late to start teaching even your adult kids why it's important. But one of the things that we've always impressed upon her is this younger generation, tell me what you think about this, I mean it's what I notice with my daughter's friends, they're not present. They're not present. They don't communicate that well face to face. So they're losing that ability to walk up and confidently shake someone's hand, look you in the eye. That's going to affect their ability to get a job.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: That's going to affect their ability to interact in a social world. I feel like the world's becoming less social.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah. And with the social media piece, a lot of the kids think the more friends you've got on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, the more social you are. Well, there are studies coming out saying, "Well those social skills in those kids are actually less." It's almost like a false boost.

Tana Amen: Ah, so the more they focus on those numbers, which it's a competition.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: I see the kids. It's a competition. I'll hear them say, "Well how did so-and-so get that many followers?" So their whole thing is on getting followers, getting people to like you or whatever or getting video clicks or whatever.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: And so what you're saying is that doesn't translate to social skills in real life.

Dr. Jay Faber: Exactly, yeah.

Tana Amen: Okay.

Dr. Jay Faber: But it's a fooler because the kids think it does.

Tana Amen: So fascinating.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah. And so I'm telling you it'll be a big topic the next five to 10 years because the social ... You're right, the social skills, conflict resolution, finding passion, it gets lost in looking at pictures and wondering how many more people I can connect with on social media.

Tana Amen: And one thing I've seen and you may have heard this or I'm sure you have your own ideas about it. My daughter brought this up to me. So she actually decided she wanted to homeschool. She didn't like the way she saw things going at school.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: And she was popular. There was no social issues why she chose to, it wasn't because she didn't fit in or anything like that. She just wanted to be able to focus. And so she's a very, very intense, serious kid and she wanted to be able to focus and move her life forward.

Dr. Jay Faber: Forward.

Tana Amen: But she really didn't like the way things were going at school, the lack of focus, the lack of consideration she was seeing. There was a long of mean girl stuff going on and a lot of drugs and a lot of things that begin to happen. And it happens earlier than most people think.

Dr. Jay Faber: Would think and realize.

Tana Amen: So sixth, seventh grade is where it's starting. And a lot of parents are like, "What? No it isn't." Yes, it is. And if you don't know that then your kids just aren't talking to you.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: So it might not be happening with your kid if you have one of those unique kids, but it's happening. So yeah, we're pretty fortunate to be able to know that. But she came home and it was so interesting. Chloe said something to me that was so interesting. She said, "It's so much harder to be popular now." And I said, "What do you mean?" She goes, "The idea of being popular is silly. Why try?" And I said, "What do you mean by that?" She said because of social media, because it's like there's so much taking people's attention away, there's so much going on, your attention's constantly being taken in different ways. So to be popular, you have to do something more outrageous and more and more and more outrageous than the next person. So Daniel had mentioned one day about somebody who got into trouble for sending naked photos, someone that he knew that got in trouble for naked photos.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: And she's like, "So?" Chloe went, "So?" And he was like, "What?"

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: And she goes, "That's not a big deal anymore." She goes, "I know you want to think it is." She goes, "That's like the next ... Everyone's doing it." But she goes, "It's not right", she goes "is that they're doing it because they don't know how else to be popular anymore."

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: They have to do something outrageous. And it stunned me. It's not that they're doing it to be bad, it's they're doing it to get attention. Because in a world where everything is just moving so fast, how do you get noticed?

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, and so now you're hitting to me a key point for parents is how can we help teach our kids true recognition?

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Jay Faber: And how do we develop that?

Tana Amen: What really matters.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah. And it gets into self-esteem, it gets down to parents reading books, having discussions like we're having now, have your church groups or whatever, talk about some of these real issues. Because a lot of parents will say, "Don't do this." Well, why are they doing it in the first place?

Tana Amen: Yeah, that doesn't work.

Dr. Jay Faber: You got to get to the cause.

Tana Amen: In the history of the universe, that hasn't worked.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, yeah. And so yeah, so the nude pictures, the outrageous things, and then you think of kids, it's their sense of omnipotence and nothing's going to happen.

Tana Amen: Yeah, nothing's going to happen.

Dr. Jay Faber: And then they try to apply for college and someone says, "Well let's look at Facebook or Instagram." And what do they see?

Tana Amen: And they do, jobs now, they check Facebook.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, yeah.

Tana Amen: They check Facebook, one of the first things.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yep.

Tana Amen: And there's no being able to say, "Well I was just a kid."

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: Because they care.

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.

Tana Amen: But to hear that from my own kid, the wisdom. She just knew why they were doing it.

Dr. Jay Faber: Well, and it sounds like she's getting recognition from other places too.

Tana Amen: Oh yeah, right.

Dr. Jay Faber: And that speaks highly for setting up structures at home where you get that.

Tana Amen: Yeah, it's very interesting. So I love that. So if they want to reach you, Dr. Faber, as one of our child psychiatrists here at Amen Clinics, so you can reach out either to our call center or do you have an email or a phone number, your assistant's phone number?

Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, probably the best way would be to call my assistant at 949-266-8612.

Tana Amen: Perfect.

Dr. Jay Faber: And then if that doesn't work, doc, D-O-C, Faber, F-A-B-E-R,

Tana Amen: Okay, perfect.

Dr. Jay Faber: Great.

Tana Amen: Thanks doc.

Dr. Jay Faber: Thank you.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free, signed copy of "The Brain Warrior's Way" and the "The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook" we give away every month.