A doctor details the dangers of technology for children | New
EVANSTON – “During COVID, when my two children were attending school online, I started to realize how much technology was impacting children,” said Dr. Lisa Strohman at the start of her presentation at Davis Middle. School on the evening of August 23. “I’m not against technology – I use it – but there is appropriate use and there is inappropriate use.”
Dr. Strohman was invited by Uinta County School District #1 and its Project AWARE program to give a presentation titled “Parenting in a Tech Addicted World” first to middle and high school students during the day, then to parents and family during the evening.
Strohman is a clinical psychologist who created the Digital Citizen Academy to proactively prevent and educate students, educators, and parents about issues resulting from the use of technology.
She currently has a private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona and lives in Kave Creek, Arizona.
While in graduate school, Strohman worked with the FBI Honors Internship Program and eventually practiced law for a time before deciding psychology was his strongest calling. Her specialty area in psychology is working with tweens, teens, and adults who suffer from the adverse effects of the overuse of technology.
Strohman is the author of two books: “Unplug: Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World” and, most recently, “Digital Distress: Growing Up Online” co-authored with Melissa J. Westendorf.
“We used to have a more stable environment that influenced our kids, our family, our school, our church,” Strohman said, “and then 10 years ago technology exploded and our kids are now influenced by foreigners.”
As an example of the effects of technology on family relationships, Strohman showed a video that showed some negative aspects of using technology. The video showed a family sitting down to dinner and the mother asking the children to talk about their day at school. The father is on his cell phone but pretends to listen, responding to the children’s comments, however inappropriately. At one point, the teenage daughter, frustrated with her father’s answers, answers his question about what she plans to do that night by stating that she is going to the basement to whip up some meth. The father’s answer is that he thinks it is good; it’s obvious that he didn’t listen to a word from the girl.
Strohman said his presentation included a review of information about technology, learning the psychology behind the concerns, and providing steps parents can take to protect their children from the negative effects of technology overuse.
“A lot has changed about what we call addiction in today’s world,” Strohman said. “Studies show that today’s teens spend an average of 14 hours a day on technology. Kids are getting access to all kinds of technology at a much younger age – the average age to get a first tech device is age 7. Young people today have never known a world without technology.
She then read the current statistics regarding the negative use of technology and the results on children.
2021 statistics show a 51% increase in teen suicide and self-harm; one in six teenagers self-harm. Suicide is the leading cause of death among teenagers, she said, adding that 80% of children under 18 are exposed to cyberbullying and shameful messages. Self-harm and reporting of suicidal thoughts have increased by 225% in elementary and middle schools, and reliance on technology contributes to limited ability for self-regulation.
“In my 20 years of experience as a psychologist,” Strohman said, “I’ve discovered that kids just want to be noticed. They have a lot of anxiety about what to do with their feelings and when they self-harm; after the initial pain, they say they get a “runner’s high.” This adrenaline rush can lead to more self-harm.
Strohman’s presentation showed a mass of social media sites and when she asked the young people in the audience how many knew about the majority of the sites, most of them raised their hands.
Strohman then asked how many people had already read the terms of service for one of the sites – no one raised their hands.
“There is no secret app,” Strohman said. “All of these sites are shared and when you put something on a site they have the right to share with anyone and can do whatever they want with the information. All sites can be used insecurely and can also be used safely.
Strohman reviewed a paragraph in the “terms of service” of one of the social media sites which stated that the site could sell, share, modify or do whatever it wanted with the information placed on the site. As long as the person is 13, she says, the industry automatically has access to everything.
Strohman said she lists the ages of her two children as younger than them on the sites they use, so they are better protected, listing them as under 13 on tech sites. .
TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, she said, and an interesting fact is that children in China are not allowed on TikTok.
She said the US is more lenient on technology rules than any other country.
Children under 13 aren’t allowed to access SnapChat, and Strohman said it’s the social media platform traffickers use the most to find victims.
“An interesting fact about (Mark) Zuckerberg, who started Facebook, is that 10 years ago he manipulated emotions on Facebook just to see if he could,” Strohman said. “Addiction is by design; It is intentional; this is how these sites make money.
Brain studies done with an MRI show that the brain is damaged by overuse of technology, Strohman explained.
In Internet-dependent adolescents, there is a decrease in functional brain connectivity and microstructural abnormalities. Studies show that technology addiction actually changes the brain.
An audience member asked at what age a child should have their own cell phone.
Strohman said he believes a child should not be given a personal cell phone until they reach eighth grade and should be supervised.
“The problem is that elementary students need to learn to make choices, and parents and teachers need to talk to them about this information,” Strohman said. “Ask your child what is happening at school; monitor their technical time and what they watch; search your own sites and family sites at least once a month and clean up unwanted information. Have ongoing conversations with your children about using technology.
Strohman pointed a triangle at a projection screen.
“Resilience is the triangle of well-being,” she said. “Resilience is the important link between mind, brain, and relationships that promotes well-being.”
In the previous meeting with middle school and high school students, Strohman covered many of the same facts and warned them about the terms of service of social media sites.
She began by sharing her own personal story of an unstable home life, surviving bouts of homelessness, abuse and neglect. Strohman said her grandmother was the stable influence in her life and encouraged her to pursue her education to improve her life.
When she asked the teens how many of them had friends who had shared a personal photo, almost all raised their hands, and when she asked how many read the terms of service on the sites, they all answered by “no”.
“I understand why teenagers post things online,” Strohman said. “They don’t want to be left behind; they may send something to their boyfriend because they don’t want to lose the relationship; or they are pushed to do so by friends.
Strohman spoke about the dangers of human trafficking sites, child pornography and child sexual abuse material online, then showed a video of a true story of a young girl who had shared a photo very personal of herself with her boyfriend who in turn shared her. with his friends and it went viral. The young woman tried to have it removed to no avail and was eventually bullied, became depressed and took her own life.
“Remember, everything you post becomes your digital footprint,” Strohman said. “Remember that human relationships are not Hollywood Tik Tok; the reality is harsh. Talk to counselors and your parents before posting anything online. The past is behind you, learn from it. The future is ahead of us, get ready for it. The present is here, live it. It’s your future.