In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are once again joined by psychologist and author Dr. Lisa Strohman for a final discussion on kids and technology. In this episode, Strohman and the Amens give you practical tips to make your family’s technology habits happier, healthier, and safer.
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.
We are back and we are still here with our friend Dr. Lisa Strohman and her book Unplug. I'm loving this topic. This is just so good. I'm actually learning a lot. This is amazing. So thank you for being here with us. It's really validating a lot of what I've felt and thought over the years, especially for parents who are not staying connected with their kids and paying attention to what's going on in their worlds.
And you touched on something in the last episode. In this episode, I'd really love for you to give us more tips, practical tips, but also address one thing. You talked about how, why do kids need technology if you are dropping them off, if they're with a tutor, if you know where they're at? But not all parents know where their kids are at and not all kids feel secure in their environment. So what do we do about those situation? I was a latchkey kid. We didn't have phones back then. But what about those situations?
Dr Daniel Amen: And because of that, you actually had an anxiety disorder.
Tana Amen: Severe.
Dr Daniel Amen: When she was nine, her mom sometimes wouldn't come home and she would end up-
Tana Amen: She was working nights.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... calling the bars trying to hunt her down, and you actually drove a number of bartenders crazy.
Tana Amen: Yeah. Well, 24 hour restaurants. Yeah. I mean, we didn't have phones back then. I mean, I used a landline, but what do you do for those kids who are latchkey kids who walk themselves home, who don't have the perfect environment at home, who have come from broken homes and parents are fighting and not letting them call, those types of situations? What do you say to that?
Dr Lisa Strohman: Excellent point on that situation because I think that we have more and more families that are divorcing or you have kids that are coming from fosters or you have these kids that need some sort of belief or comfort that they have somebody looking up over them. So again, it goes back to if the kid's using it as a tool whereby they're like, "I'm feeling uncomfortable in this situation because there's a stranger in front of me," or, "I'm uncomfortable in this situation because I got home and one of the windows was open. I'm going to call. I'm just going to walk myself through the house while I have an adult on the phone that I trust." Excellent use of the phone.
If they're using it because they're not learning that internal locus of control, so in psychology there's external locus of control and internal. External is everything around me is in control. It makes me feel better. The things inside of me don't. So that's the balance or the line there. And again, divorcing parents, you want to understand, your child needs to still learn how to internally manage themselves. And so don't let it get that far where you feel like you're kind of beholden to your child to answer the call so they feel better and just pay attention as a parent to that.
But it's an excellent point that I think a lot of kids need some sort of security in these transitioning times with them. And it's still our job is the adults in the room to teach them how to have that internal fortitude, grit, get them into that place where they feel confident in themselves.
Tana Amen: I like that. I like what you said about are they using it as a tool or are they being used, and that's pretty important. That makes sense to me.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, it completely fits with the evil ruler concept of mental illness or the fact that you're in a war for the health [crosstalk 00:03:57].
Tana Amen: Well, and all of these companies like Apple saying, "Do you mind if we track your location?" Yes, I mind. Why do they need to track my ... Even the apartment building that we have up in LA, "Can we track your location?" No. Why do you need to track my location? Why does everybody need to track your location? It's crazy.
Dr Lisa Strohman: We don't. Well, they sell it, right?
Dr Daniel Amen: Let's do tips. Based on your extensive experience, and we have seven minutes, give us as many tips as you can that our Brain Warrior families can start to implement. The first one is be aware that you said. What else can they do?
Dr Lisa Strohman: The second thing is is sit down with your kids, and that's why I always give us free trial out because I think you sit down with your kids and go through the key concepts of where they are developmentally. Do they understand the terms of service? Do they understand what it means when you say yes to downloading an app? Do they understand that there's a geolocation service based on each one of these apps, right?
Our kids feel like there's a lot of things that are free in this world because of technology, and the adults typically understand that that's not true. Everything is an exchange. Everything is a transaction. And so if we're giving ourselves an app or a free trial of an app on technology, they're typically taking something from us, whether it's our facial recognition data, whether it's our tracking location and they resell it. So that's how they're making their money or they're advertising to us.
So get the terms of service would be the second thing, is sit down with your kids and say, "Do you really understand what this means?" Because I think kids of course, depending on their age, they're smart enough to understand this. I want to tell you, Tana, for your 16 year old, you sit down and you go through the terms of service on Instagram or TikTok-
Tana Amen: Oh, she'll freak out.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Oh, absolutely. It's a global license that they're giving away that they can resell and their image can be on billboards anywhere in the world and they never have to tell her. That's frustrating.
Tana Amen: I didn't even know that. That's crazy.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Absolutely true. Yeah. That's one of the app presentations I do. Yeah, they can take it and you license them on all of them to take it and resell it. They can even modify it. So if they want to change her face or body [crosstalk 00:06:05].
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh no, I think the whole world is watching me all the time.
Tana Amen: Oh, I do too. I'm convinced of it. Everybody's watching me.
Dr Daniel Amen: When Edward Snowden came out and said ... what was it? The CIA is basically watching everything you do, I'm like-
Tana Amen: My life's not that interesting, but-
Dr Daniel Amen: When you grow up Roman Catholic, like I grew up, like seriously Roman, you think God is watching and judging everything you do. So it's like now God, the government.
Tana Amen: I'm fine having God watch me.
Dr Daniel Amen: Apple, Google.
Tana Amen: Everyone else, I'm not so sure. But I give up. It's like I know they're watching, so I'm just going to give them a [inaudible 00:06:39] or something.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay, more tips.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Yeah. So mood changes. So this is a challenging one. Littler kids, elementary school, so I'll kind of break it down. In elementary school, you start to see mood swings. You start to see friend group changes or you start to see grades shift at the elementary school age. That shouldn't be happening there. So that's a huge sign.
Dr Daniel Amen: Online bullying.
Tana Amen: Online bullying happened to my niece in fourth grade.
Dr Lisa Strohman: It's a real thing that people ... Again, kids don't know how to talk about it, and when they do talk about it, parents freak out and they take their technology away. So guess what? Kids don't talk about it.
Tana Amen: They don't talk about it. You teach them to lie.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Right. That's the challenge of with our kiddos. So that elementary school age, you shouldn't be seeing those massive mood swings. You shouldn't be seeing that. When you get to middle school, middle school to about sophomore in high school, that's when I tell parents the wheels come off the bus. You're going to have to belt in and really kind of prepare because mood swings, them telling you that they hate you, that their friends are more important, they don't want anything to do with you, that's all pretty normal. But it's exacerbated by technology because if you allow them in the bedroom and you allow them to shut the door, to me that's as bad as letting them get on a field with a football in a helmet.
Dr Daniel Amen: So what should parents do with-
Dr Lisa Strohman: It is a dangerous part.
Tana Amen: Interesting.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... because a lot of kids when they're 10, 11, 12 do get phones and they often will take them, will keep them at night. So what is your thought, is when you go to bed, the phone needs to be in my room?
Dr Lisa Strohman: There should be a central charging station. As parents, we should role model. We should not have our cell phone in our room. There's absolutely no reason why people are sleeping with their phones at night. Kids are not trauma surgeons that need to be woken up at 2:00 AM because there's a crisis in the world. There's a minute amount of people in this world that need to be able to answer their phone in the middle of the night.
Tana Amen: And it should be on silent anyways.
Dr Lisa Strohman: I always say ... Again, people are like, "Oh, I need it for my alarm." Really? They're like 4.99 at Target at this point, so there's no reason that you need to have your phone next to your bed. In adult couples, it is absolutely a wedge that goes in between couples because we're looking at our feeds. We're paying attention. We're reading articles, whatever it is that we want to give excuses for. It is not what we should be doing and we be role modeling that for our kids. They need that sleep. It is priority number one for developing brains is getting them sleep, nutrition, all of those things.
Tana Amen: Could not agree with you more. [crosstalk 00:09:10] Now he wants to change the subject.
Dr Daniel Amen: Central charging station.
Tana Amen: Don't sleep with your phone.
Dr Daniel Amen: I actually read myself to sleep, but I have blue light blockers on my phone.
Tana Amen: And leaves it on the bed. It drives me crazy. I throw it off the bed because it just drives me crazy. It's the mistress. I call it the mistress. I call the phone the mistress. Drives me insane.
Dr Lisa Strohman: I would say try it for a week. What a great Christmas present, holiday present, right? But give a week without technology in your bedroom and see how things change.
Tana Amen: Get the mistress out of the bedroom. Did you hear her? I heard it.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Another tip for kids-
Dr Daniel Amen: You're both leaving me speechless. All right, other tips.
Dr Lisa Strohman: I'm never going to be invited back.
Tana Amen: No, you are, for sure.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Another thing I think with kids it's to recognize is when you see them changing weight rapidly. And again, this is hard because of puberty and that age-
Tana Amen: But they're not moving.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Yeah. So they're not moving as much. They're not active as much. So again, I always say if you're going to allow your child access to technology, then counterbalance it with something. Are they doing a musical instrument? Are they doing an activity? Are they doing a sport? So in my house, real sports before fake sports. You absolutely get technology time on the weekends. We don't do any technology Monday through Thursday. Weekends we allow it, but it's only if you're engaged in a real sport, so you have to be on a team sport or participate in sports and you have to have done your music every day during the week because I know that that helps build neuronal structures in their brains and what they need to do, so another little tip.
Tana Amen: It's interesting. You and I were talking about this before we started. Our daughter, she started noticing it in probably eighth grade that when she spends a lot of time on her phone, it's proportionate. She starts to not feel well. She starts to feel anxious. She's very anxious anyways, so he starts to feel anxious. She starts to feel depressed. She starts to compare herself to other people. And she pointed that out to me, which we've been telling her forever, but she actually then fortunately notices it. And so she started limiting herself, which I thought was fantastic, which we would anyways, but she did it to herself to an extreme, which I thought was amazing. So she would stay connected to her friends but she wouldn't really spend a lot of extra time surfing through Instagram and stuff like that. So I thought that was actually really interesting that she would notice that it made her feel bad.
Dr Daniel Amen: We're going to have to stop. But Lisa, tell people how they can learn more about your work and how they can use that to protect themselves or children.
Dr Lisa Strohman: I would encourage the listeners to go to DCAkids.org. We are 100% behind parents, families, kids understanding how to manage, balance, have healthy relationships with technology, how to use it as a tool and not have it use you. That's our platform and that's what we try to do every day at DCAkids.org.
Tana Amen: Got it. This has been so informative, even for me. I have to say, I learned a lot. This was great.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you so much. I look forward to having you back after we have this discussion.
Dr Lisa Strohman: Thank you.
Tana Amen: Thank you so much.
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