96: Technology and Boundaries: Parenting in the Digital Era with Dr. Anders Beier

“We have, at best, sort of this view of technology as a benign thing in our lives. And at best, this kind of projection on technology, that it’s really what makes or breaks modern life…Most people are floored once they really do the tally and become more aware of how incredibly engaged they are and how incredibly time-consuming their personal electronics are in their lives.” As unique obstacles of modern times go, negotiating personal device use tops the list. The challenge becomes even more difficult as our children progress from early childhood into pre-teen and teen years and the issues of social media, video games and screen time escalate. Dr. Anders Beier is the co-founder and COO of the London-based non-profit The Centre for Technology Awareness. He also holds an MA in counseling from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA and a Ph.D. in Jungian Studies from Saybrook University in San Francisco. He works with couples and individuals on treating depression, anxiety and life changes near Aspen, Colorado. This week Dr. Viado and Dr. Beier resume their discussion about technology, focusing specifically on navigating the complications of parenting in the information age; brain chemistry changes with technology use; and developing boundaries with personal devices for our kids and ourselves. To listen to Dr. Beier’s last conversation with Dr. Viado please see Episode 28: The Shadow of Technology To keep up with Dr. Anders Beier, please visit: http://beiertherapy.com/ http://technologyawareness.org/ Other Resources: CDC’s Differences by Sex in Association of Mental Health With Video Gaming or Other Nonacademic Computer Use Among US Adolescents: https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2017/17_0151.htm Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain – Daniel Seigel: https://www.drdansiegel.com/books/brainstorm/ iDisorder Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us – Dr. Larry Rosen: http://drlarryrosen.com/2011/03/idisorder In this podcast, Dr. Viado and Dr. Beier discuss: ● The correlation between the misuse of technology and increased mental health concerns ● Parallels of addictive behavior and technology use ● Approaching technology with intention and mindfulness ● Tools and advice for parents of children interacting with technology Time Stamps: 5:30 – Neuroplasticity: How our brain changes with the use of technology 8:20 – The research on the effects of personal device use on adolescents 15:45 – Tools for using technology more mindfully 23:50 – When is the “right time” to give a child a personal device? 28:20 – Ongoing engaged parenting with technology and 29:30 – Resources for parents who want to learn more Quotes: 4:15 “We have, at best, sort of this view of technology as a benign thing in our lives and at best, this kind of projection on technology that it’s really what makes or breaks modern life and differentiates it from earlier, more primitive times…This is always what I invite people to do, a real conscious evaluation or tally of their engagement with their personal tech. Most people are floored once they really do the tally and become more aware of how incredibly engaged they are and how incredibly time consuming their personal electronics are in their lives.” 8:20 “I stumbled on a CDC study from 2017 which talked about, it was a study of 500,000 American adolescents and it found that adolescents who spend three hours or more a day on their smartphones or other electronic devices are 34% more likely to suffer depression and suicide-related outcomes – which means, suicide-related outcomes is another term for suicidality, suicide attempts, and completed suicides. And then it set the border as, when you do less than two hours a day, you have significantly less of this depression and suicidality showing up in these teenagers. And if you go above five hours a day of device time, this depression and suicide outcome goes to 48%. So you can say the rule of thumb starting to emerge – as reported by the CDC – is less than two hours of personal device time a day seems to be okay; whereas three hours or more is problematic and above five hours is fairly problematic.” 11:54 “Some of the things that we aren’t talking about, and I’m just saying this because people may not be aware, but things like sleep disturbances are a very significant problem. I don’t have the most current data but sleep disturbances for adolescents is a significant presenting clinical issue for psychiatrists and psychologists and psychotherapists because technology in various ways interferes with the teen’s ability to relax and fall asleep long enough to actually go into REM sleep without any number of dings and dongs going off under their respective pillows.” 13:20 “Part of what you’re talking about is the executive functioning suffering from this. There’s a reason we call it executive functioning and if it’s not working well, we have a whole slew of functional issues on the back end of that. That’s what you’re alluding to when you’re running this list of presenting issues in therapy in teens.” 14:45 “I invite the whole family to do it together because there is also a big part of holding the parents accountable because many times the kids and the teens are just following the parent’s examples. As I’ve encountered in my practice, a kid came in and described a normal evening at the household and that’s four people in four different rooms utilizing four to eight different devices simultaneously, which obviously means someone is checking Facebook while watching Netflix. Dad is checking emails from work, Mom is watching who knows, but there’s not a lot of interpersonal interaction going on in that family and I doubt that that family is an anomaly per se in this day and age.” 16 – “Anyone who has been in the clinical world has seen many many times how the parents drop off the sullen teenager at the curb and then dumps the teenager at the therapist’s office and says you know, “You know have five sessions to fix this person.’” And the therapist goes like “Wait a minute, here, I don’t really think this is the exact correct way of going about addressing what’s going on with this family. Why don’t you and your husband and whoever else show up next Wednesday at three o’clock and we’ll all have a conversation together?’” And the look on people’s faces…is one of like ”What is this person talking about? What are they saying? Are they saying that it’s not our teen that’s blowing up the household, that I could have a responsibility or that my husband could?” And of course, often it’s exactly that. It’s a systemic issue within the family that sort of comes out in a teenager that’s not getting good grades or whatever is going on with the younger person.” 24:37 “I think most of the time parents are looking for like ‘”Okay, my child is eleven, he or she should not have a cell phone, but they’re turning twelve on Thursday and I think they’re now qualified to have a cell phone.” And I wish it was that simple…I think part of what we’re talking about is a maturity issue frankly. One thing I always just say is, even though they hate it, buy them one of those terrible, old-fashioned telephones the first time around, the one that can’t do all the stuff and let them know that once they’ve proven themselves, they can upgrade to a smartphone…With the world we live in, there are definitely circumstances where it would be appropriate to give a ten-year-old a cell phone for safety, rides…I think buying a smartphone right out of the gate, a twelve-year-old with an iPhone? I’m just not a big fan considering what’s right at the fingertips of that person.”