Is Quarantine Causing Online Addiction In Children? with Dr. Lisa Strohman

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

With schools and organized activities shutting down during the coronavirus quarantine, kids are stuck at home with limited options to occupy their time. As a result, many are turning to online activities, such as binge watching and video game marathons. What can parents do to keep them from becoming addicted to this behavior? In this episode, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen welcome back Dr. Lisa Strohman for a discussion on how to monitor kids while at home.

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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.
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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome, everybody. We have a very special week for you. We have a returning guest, which is actually rare for us. But we just adore Dr. Lisa Strohman-
Tana Amen: So amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... who is a psychologist, an attorney, an author, a mother who established Digital Citizen Academy,, to help keep families safe from online dangers. Her background working as a visiting scholar with the profiling unit at the FBI during one of the most tragic school shootings in the U.S. helped create her passion to help proactively prevent and educate students, educators, and parents on the issues related to technology. We're going to talk about ... you know, kids are home now.
Tana Amen: Right. And parents are home now.
Dr Daniel Amen: And technology usage has gone way up. [crosstalk 00:01:47]
Tana Amen: They're on their devices too much.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: We all are.
Dr Daniel Amen: They're using the devices. And they've done this for a long time, but now parents have to work. So, the devices are now becoming babysitters. Welcome, Lisa. It's so great to see you again.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me back.
Dr Daniel Amen: What do you think COVID-19 is doing to the mental health of the kids in America?
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Well, I think that the kids, the parents, the educators, I think business leaders ... I think everybody is impacted from an emotional standpoint. In my clinical practice with my teens and my kids, anxiety, depression, just overall stress. It doesn't have to have a clinical diagnosis for it to impact us. But it is not a normal situation to have to be quarantined and secluded from people who bring you joy, support, just emotional balance. We're seeing a lot of issues psychologically that have been interesting to me. Because those people who haven't had any sort of symptoms now are jumping in and saying, "Hey, what is this? I don't know what this feeling is."
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, no question. The isolation, the loneliness. And so more and more people are turning to online ways to feel better, and your work has demonstrated that's not always the best strategy. How can parents keep kids safe during the pandemic? I mean, we know don't go out, don't go on groups. If you go to the store now, you should be wearing a mask.
Tana Amen: And are you seeing something different during this time than you've seen before? Is there something special we should be paying attention? I actually feel like our kids ... my two nieces and my daughter are on their phone are on their devices less because we're home, but we're keeping them busy. But we're here more than normal, and they're there with us more than normal where they're normally with their friends more than at school and stuff like that. But my question to you ... at some point during our four episodes together, are you seeing something different during this time coming up on social media that we need to be aware of for kids?
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Absolutely. I think that what I really see is opportunists taking advantage of it. And I think that from an educational standpoint, we are trying to keep the meter moving so that our school-aged kids are moving forward and getting the content that they need so they progress into the next year. It's a difference between maybe being in a community where it's a one-to-one device, and the kids are getting access to their teachers. They can get content versus an inner city school district that doesn't have any technology, and they're getting a packet of papers. It may be 20. And then they're closing the school, and that's it for the year.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: So, the differential is really interesting. Just the nerdy scientist in me is looking at this and saying, "There are a lot of parents that are paying attention to it, but what we also have to balance in is it academic, creative, thoughtful use of technology, or is it going down the rabbit hole and trying to see if we can watch everything on Netflix, including Tiger King?" That I'm pretty sure nobody would have watched- [crosstalk 00:05:16]
Tana Amen: Don't get me started. Do not get me started.
Dr Daniel Amen: That is the best psychiatric show.
Tana Amen: No. No. I hate it so much.
Dr Daniel Amen: There is so much to Tiger King.
Tana Amen: I can't. I can't. It's like a train wreck. I just can't watch it. I just can't watch it.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: So, my world is a bit like that. I'm looking at these families, and I'm peering in, so they're bringing me into their worlds. And they're saying, "My kids are punching holes in the wall, or they're either really acting out because they might be gaming too long." Which you both know it just lights up that brain and gets them really aggressive and unregulated. They're not figuring out maybe that those are attached as soon as they need to, so that's what we're trying to do obviously with this podcast is like just talk about how increased use will in fact impact us behaviorally, emotionally, physically, all of those things.
Dr Daniel Amen: learn. Tell us a little bit more of your origin story. Why did you get interested in online security for kids?
Dr Lisa Strohma...: My first steps into the world was as a child myself, having been introduced to one of the first video game platforms ... I'm sorry Xbox. Look at how [inaudible 00:06:37] need to be. The Atari. I remember I couldn't turn it off, so I have that addictive potential. My grandmother talked to me about it, and then fast forward, I learned that about myself. Got into the area of looking at forensics, human behavior, motivation. That's when I applied to be part of the honors internship program with the FBI. I was very fortunate to have been placed within the profiling unit in [Quantico 00:07:06]. I worked in ... at the time, CASKU. This was pre-9/11, but it was Child Abduction Serial Killer Unit. That's all we did.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: I started having night terrors. It was some of the most horrendous work. And I remember thinking our biggest fear was really looking at the abductions that these predators could do in vans, cars, around bus stops. There was a geographic limitation on it. Fast forward, I was there doing my PhD, and that's when Columbine happened. It really unfolded how the internet was giving access not only to our kids to put things out there, and communicate, and share their unedited thoughts, but it was literally a two-way conduit. These predators now could go after our kids in communication, in thought control, in grooming and learning.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: That's really where I remember as a PhD student looking at this insane science behind technology and psychology hasn't been discussed. I was really kind of at the bleeding edge ahead of where we are today. And thankfully, we're catching up.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and I really ... When we come back, I want to talk more about the psychology of technology, and how important it is for parents, but also for adults to understand. Because I believe these devices were created to be addictive. Stay with us.
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