Should Parents Monitor Their Kids’ Cell Phones? with Dr. Lisa Strohman

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

Many children’s main source of social interaction happens virtually, whether through texts, apps, or even gaming platforms. Unfortunately, this often leaves them vulnerable for exposure to a variety of online predators. So what can parents do to avoid this? In the third episode in a series with Dr. Lisa Strohman, she and the Amens discuss how a parent can monitor their children’s online activities, thus protecting them from both addictions and from dangerous people.

Read Full Transcript

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
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
Dr Daniel Amen: We're here with Dr. Lisa Strohman, a psychologist, attorney, author, has a great Ted talk. We also did a podcast with her before. We loved her so much we wanted her back.
Dr Daniel Amen: We're talking about technology and kids, really not just kids, it's technology and all of us and how do we protect ourselves? People get so excited to get their new Apple device or their Samsung.
Tana Amen: Or their gaming device.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or their iPad.
Tana Amen: And their gaming devices. But a lot of ... I mean, people don't even think about this, but people communicate with other people through these gaming devices. And certainly through all the online platforms.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, in isolation ... So I've seen a lot of Asperger kids over the years and the only social interactions they have are on the gaming devices.
Tana Amen: So that's what makes it fun.
Dr Daniel Amen: So how do parents protect the kids from, yes, the predators that you talked about, but also these international corporations that are desperate to-
Tana Amen: Well, they're sort of predators.
Dr Daniel Amen: -increase the mind share that ... We talked about Kellogg's and sugar cereals and you've talked for a long time. Well where do they put the most expensive cereals?
Tana Amen: Not the most expensive ones-
Dr Lisa Strohma...: The sugar.
Tana Amen: -the lower third shelves in the grocery store are the most expensive for companies to purchase that share of those, that real estate in grocery stores. Why? Because your kid will throw a full blown temper tantrum if they see something and you don't buy it. And that is the reason.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so they're going after-
Tana Amen: They're going after the babies.
Dr Daniel Amen: -stomach share. So they want heightened stomach share. But what we're talking about with these technology companies is they want mind share, they want to plant their company in this child's brain, whether it's Apple or Google or Microsoft or FaceTime.
Tana Amen: And it seems like one of the ways ... We can just let her speak. But it seems like one of the ways they do this, maybe you can speak to this, is they play on our desire to keep our kids safe.
Tana Amen: I know that's why I have it. And the kids in my family know that that phone isn't really for you. Yes, you use it for things other than for us. But if I find that you are not on my Life 360 app for any reason or your phone's not charged when you're out, you need to be home like that [inaudible 00:03:29] for me. You don't answer it, you don't have it. That's the rule. So that's the reason they have the phone. The other stuff is sort of secondary, but I feel like companies play on that. Like we can keep our kids safe.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Well, and you feel safe as a parent certainly when you're doing the right thing and you're using apps that are monitoring your kids and things like that. And so what it officially does is it creates kind of a security for parents to feel like it's okay to let them kind of go in here without the education and without the information because it's like, well, it's a reputable company. Like we all are using Gmail, we're using these platforms to communicate with one another. I think right now in the COVID situation where we've got kids quarantined and millions upon millions of kids are at home, they don't have the six hours, seven hours of social time, maybe sometimes nine hours a day they're involved in sports or music or things like that. So we're starting to put them online in order to interface with one another.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: And what I'm seeing is that you're getting servers hijacked left and right. You're getting companies that are looking at how do I create an opportunity in this? And I think that, Tana, we were talking about the predators on how they're going after this. They're literally going and hoping and assuming that you're going to let them go into these platforms and feel pretty safe about it because honestly everybody else is right now. And we want our kids to be social and it's not unlike our kids tantrum in the store. How many times do you have to be asked, I just need to go on for 30 minutes. Just give me 15 more minutes, extend my time. It's really hard to parent today with technology and understand what the dangers are when maybe you didn't live in the world that I lived in, which was behind the scenes in, the FBI looking at 150 agents that were working 24 hours a day pretending to be young kids and never unsolicited.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: And that was two decades ago. Now, internet crimes units, ICAC, Internet Crimes Against Children Units, are in every city. And what you have to remember is that literally like the playgrounds or the bus stops or ... I was always terrified because we had multiple cases of the ice cream men where kids line up. And all we'd have to do is grab their belt loop and shove them in a freezer and. drive off. You'd never hear a scream.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: So those days are over. Nowadays you've got kids going into these platforms that are bored, that are curious, that are needing social interaction and they're finding availability to do that. And so that's what these online predators who aren't necessarily always, I want to be really clear, they're not always the person in the dark hoodie that you think looks super sketchy and you can tell right off the bat that it's not something you want your kid talking to.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: I mean we have people who are teachers, that are in law enforcement, that are in ministry.
Tana Amen: Businessmen.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Right. So I think that it goes back to technology is the platform that allows people to have these sexual predilections to explore that world. And kids are curious and they're going to have conversations with people. So I put predators in two piles. I put the ones that are ... There's a group that are intentionally going after our kids. The cappers that go out and capture photos, like really learn, groom and do that. And then I think that there's kind of this innocent predator, which sounds really weird coming out of my mouth, but they're really normal people that just have these desires and interests that are behaviorally inappropriate, that it feels like they can go into these worlds safely because it's behind a computer in a private area.
Tana Amen: But does that grow? Does that often grow? If they start that behavior, then does it turn it into something else?
Dr Lisa Strohma...: I mean, I think ... We talked a little bit about this last time and we had talked about doing one on pornography. I really think that we're growing a culture of young boys into pedophiles because we have such an early sexualization of young boys now. So average age is eight of first porn exposure in chronic use is at 11.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: So if you're ... The same way a fetish attaches to say, a tire or to a shoe or two feet or things like that, these fetishes attach during these highly sexualized experiences for anyone. And so for young boys to have early exposure via technology and devices, I think we are going to be developing a culture of pedophiles because they're attaching that sexuality at such a young age to such a young population that's among them.
Dr Daniel Amen: So what does it do to these young boys' brains. I mean you're really talking about pre-adolescent development.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Yeah, right.
Dr Daniel Amen: What is that going to do for them developing a healthy sexual relationship as adults? Really going to make it dramatically hard.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Incredibly hard. If not, impossible. I think that you've nailed it on the head. I think that they don't know how to communicate in person. Nobody's looking at each other in the eye. I think that we look at kids oftentimes and say, "Oh, they're just shy." And we're missing that level of anxiety. Maybe that technology-induced ADD, if you want to call it that. And we're looking at the outside as parents and we don't really want to go in and say, "Sure, my nine-year-old has a sex addiction and that his anxiety is related to how awkward it must feel for him to be looking around sexually now at other people."
Dr Lisa Strohma...: That's not what's happening. Parents don't want to think of their little boy that way. And so it's hard. It's understanding that if you have a nine-year-old that's detaching from a mom specifically, and is all of a sudden saying, "Please give me privacy and do these things." There's probably been an exposure that's happened and there's things that are going through that child's brains. You have to sit down and talk about it. And that's really hard. Parents aren't as comfortable doing that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Protect them from it, does putting parental control on a child's phone protect them from early exposure to pornography?
Dr Lisa Strohma...: I think it gives you a fighting chance. Because if you have a parent who's decided to put on parent monitoring, it tells me you have a parent that's thoughtful there. They're engaged and understand that there are things out there that we should be concerned about. And that to me, is the number one thing. The monitoring part is hard. Because as a parent, we have busy parents, we have parents that don't know how to use the monitoring. We're not really sure if kids ... I've got kids that are jailbreaking their phones left and right now. And they're disabling Life 360 so it looks like it's active and parents have no idea.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: There's all sorts of ways that kids can navigate around that. But if you've put that device or that monitoring system on their device, then you know that you've had that conversation with them. So it helps. But it is about having that conversation over and over again.
Tana Amen: Yeah. When my daughter started middle school, there was a very large ... she was home-schooled, it was a very large school that she was attending. It was seven through 12, which right there I didn't like seventh through 12th [inaudible 00:11:17] that bother me. But she very open. She and I are very close and she came home and I had a sense it was not going to be good when she started at a seven through 12 school anyways, so I sort of prepared her for a lot of stuff, but I didn't realize that she came home and she said, "Mom, most of the boys are looking at porn on their phones at school." And I was like ... She was like, "No, it's just normal. It's normal."
Tana Amen: And so I'm like, "No." And so we have to have kind of like, okay, there's so many things. I mean we started from the beginning, went through all the problems with it, but I said, "Ultimately, honey, one of the biggest problems is that's going to be the expectation that they have for a female, longterm girlfriend, for a wife. That's going to be what they expect. And that's not real. How do you ever measure up to that?"
Tana Amen: It's ruining this whole generation of boys. It's ruining intimacy. It's ruining ... Men cherishing women. It's ruining this idea that we are not perfect, but we love each other. That's not what it's about. And so they're starting this, but for it to be the norm for them to be having ... She's like, "No, they just all walk around with it on their phones laughing and they think it's hilarious."
Dr Lisa Strohma...: Yeah. And the porn challenges where they show each other it and try to get the most grotesque response and things like that. So it escalates it into areas that are like bestiality. And it's not normal, but you're that parent who's having that conversation and not everybody has the comfort and doesn't really always know how to do that.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's so important. I had a 14-year-old patient and I mean, he was completely hooked on pornography and when I had the parents, they sort of thought, well, it was normal and all the kids were doing that, which just horrified me. And he ended up going into a technology addiction program. And I think those are just going to increase as time goes on.
Tana Amen: Yeah, no, it's sort of frightening that we're raising this generation that has this unrealistic views of people, relationships, what they're supposed to be like. And yeah, it's ...
Dr Daniel Amen: And there's some evidence that actually blunts their prefrontal cortex development and ultimately pornography, light cocaine, wears out the brain's pleasure centers and then it takes more and more to get the same dopamine response in the brain. So you're basically deadening the pleasure centers in the brain and that's a disaster for brain development.
Tana Amen: Right. And that's why they ... it takes more and more to become stimulated.
Tana Amen: And one thing, you keep mentioning we should be having these talks with our kids and I think a lot of parents have no clue how to have that talk or how far to go. I'd probably go to the opposite extreme. So I [inaudible 00:14:17] tell her to watch documentaries on sex trafficking. I mean, I scared her to no end. Like I totally instilled an anxiety disorder because of the way I grew up. I didn't even grow up with technology, but I grew up in such an unhealthy environment that I'm like, "You sort of live in a bubble and you need to know what the real world is like." Because she's like, "Nothing's going to happen to me. I live in Newport." And I'm like, "Okay, we need to have a chat." And so I burst the bubble.
Dr Daniel Amen: And now, because my wife is [inaudible 00:14:45] I'm never going to-
Tana Amen: Never. It's never [crosstalk 00:14:50] I told you so.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because I'm like, what bad thing is going to happen? We live in Southern California.
Tana Amen: Told you so.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yes. Now you can't find the toilet paper and paper towels.
Tana Amen: I have toiler paper. I did not go hoard it because I already had it.
Dr Lisa Strohma...: You have a childhood like that, like we were totally fine.
Tana Amen: Right, exactly.
Tana Amen: So I think knowing how to initiate that conversation, knowing how far we should go would be important.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, let's talk about when we come back when we were here, we'll continue with Dr. Lisa Strohman and her website, you can learn all about her work Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from Brain MD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at for a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.