How old is too young for a phone? Is gaming harmful to our kids? How much technology is too much. We talk with Dr. Jay Berk, a licensed psychologist and an expert in working with children and families. He is the author of two books: “A Parent’s Quick Guide to Electronic Addiction” and “Codeswitching: Social Skills in the Screen-Age”.
In this episode, we cover:
Parents from time immemorial have worried about the impact of the “new technology” and this goes back to our great great great grandparents worrying about the influence of novels to parents of the 50’s worry about too much time on the phone, to parents of the 80s worrying about too much TV, and on to the present where we worry about screen time, texting, and gaming.
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Please pardon any errors, this is an automated transcript
Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome everyone to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show, as well as the director of the nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about a topic that is immensely popular right now for all parents, and that is helping parents and kids manage phones, the internet and gaming. I mean, we all have so many questions, how old is too young? How young is too young to have a phone? Is gaming harmful to our kids just so much more. In this show, we've talked with Dr. Jay Berk. He is a licensed psychologist and expert in working with children and families. He is the author of two books, a parent's quick guide to electronic addiction and code switching social skills and the screen age. This is a re air of a show that we're bringing back by popular demand. As you can tell this is a topic that almost every parent of tweens or teens and honestly, even elementary school aged parents are dealing with. So I hope you enjoy it this time around as much as you did the first time. Welcome, Dr. Berk, to Creating a Family.
Speaker 2 1:13
Thank you. And I appreciate the invitation. And my goal is to try to help your audience with as many helpful hints as possible. So I'm looking forward to speaking
Dawn Davenport 1:26
good, we could use it. You know, parents from time immemorial, have really worried about the impact of new technology, you can't see me but I'm using air quotes. This goes back to our great great great grandparents worrying about the influence of novels, and then to the parents in the 1950s, worrying about too much time on the phone and to the parents of the 80s worrying about too much TV and onto the present now where we're worrying about our kids with screentime and texting and gaming. So it does seem to a certain extent that this is a perpetual problem. And I think it's complicated because we parents, and I suspect that this would be the case in for our forebears as well. But we are digital immigrants. And I love that term. Because we didn't grow up with technology, even that. And I say that for even those of us who are fairly technology savvy, but we didn't grow up with it. And I see that distinction with my own kids who are digital natives. They did grow up with it. And there are they are just better at it than I am. Am I alone at seeing that?
Speaker 2 2:30
Yeah, so let's start off with the funny blog I wrote just recently, you might appreciate this. So I was asked to write a blog about it. And I was like, compared it to the Beatles coming to America. Do you remember what year that was?
Dawn Davenport 2:44
Was in the mid 60s? Yeah. 67.
Speaker 2 2:49
And everybody thought, oh, my gosh, the world has gone crazy. People have long hair, and the music's crazy and all that? And the answer is that it all sort of pans out. But I think the difference is, and this is that it's so much a part of society. You know, kids are asking for phones earlier and parents, you know, when we were kids, you know, it depends on your age. But, you know, 100 years ago, when I was a kid, there was one phone in the house, it was in the kitchen,
Dawn Davenport 3:22
with flooring very long
Speaker 2 3:25
to get around the wall. Your parents couldn't hear you talking your friends. Yep. And now one of the things is that parents don't know their kids, friends, they don't know their kids, friends, parents. They don't know any of that info. And so I think that that's a big part of it. And when you say this kids being digital natives, they know a lot more things about the technology. So funny story of just briefly. So I was running a zoom group the other day, and I was having trouble with kids sending in like, inappropriate kind of text to each other because they can send them. And then one of the kids, one of the kids who was eight showed me how to shut off the Zoom system where the kid could actually chat. I was like, I didn't know there was a master feature. But I'm learning everyday to it's like, I've been in zoom meetings for a year, but boom, there you go. So I think it is part of we have to respect the fact that kids know stuff. And it's also changing so quickly. Yes, the platform's change, the technology changes. It's a continuous movement that's occurring.
Dawn Davenport 4:35
Yes. And then what the current, just what we were up with whatever we think is the current social media of choice. As soon as parents find out about it, it changes and that may be in part because we find out about it.
Speaker 2 4:49
Yeah. So you know, the example I use is like views and Facebook, you're old. None of the kids use Facebook and you know, keep switching and now you You know, even discord, which is started off as a server for gamers, is now a place where even families have sort of invaded, where people are discord message and things like that. So it's, it's changing. So I recommend parents really know what your kids are doing keep up on the technology, because it's only going to keep evolving faster. And that's just a part of the game plan.
Dawn Davenport 5:27
So how do parents keep up with what's current, and what's happening and quite frankly, with their own kids or on to?
Speaker 2 5:34
Well, the easiest part, I know this sounds bizarre, but the easiest part to start with is by spending some time and letting your kid teach you about what they're doing. And seeing what games they play and listening to what they're talking about. And also be aware of there are guides and there are ratings for games and things like that. And they're there for a reason. Now the biggest thing that parents face, because if you're a parent out there, and you're listening to this podcast, you're gonna hear this, you may set a limit, say your kids nine, and they want to play fortnight? And the answer is no. And they go well, all my friends play fortnight, it's my only way to talk to my friends. And then if they go to their friend's house and their friends playing fortnight, what do they do? So another thing is being kind of in sync with the parents of your kids friends, so that there's sort of commonalities of those rules between the parents. Another thing that I always recommend for parents is, you know, that you especially for younger kids, you have passwords, and you like kids now that you have the right to look at things, see people often compared to a diary that you don't want to really read a kid's diary in the old days. But the fact is, what we're saying is we are going to have access to this information.
Dawn Davenport 6:59
Yeah, it's not there's the idea of, of privacy is a whole different things when we're talking about what our kids are doing online, because of the danger available to them, or potentially,
Speaker 2 7:09
Brian, and there's a whole thing that schools should be doing, which is another whole topic that we could get off on, but I'll just be short on it, which is digital citizenship. Like if you see something, say something, what's appropriate, what isn't appropriate. Now, a lot of times kids will be on the server in the movie playing a game, like roadblocks and people will try to lure them off roadblocks onto an alternative server. And you have to let your kid know not to do that. Because then they're the rules aren't the same, for example, and roadblocks. For younger kids, they can't give away an address because the roadblock safety precautions prevent kids from doing that. But often other server they do, I've had kids where they somebody wants to send a picture of their house. Well, if you go on Google images, you can find that house anywhere in the world. So a lot of that technology can be a good thing or a bad thing. It also has a tag in the picture about where it was taken. So it's educating your your kids about those kinds of things. So I recommend to parents that you want to keep up on this info, because even the infamous thing now, six months from now we'll change.
Dawn Davenport 8:22
Are there specifically Good? Are there specific resources that you recommend that parents use to keep up with? What's happening? What are the current rules? How are they changing? What are the hit places that kids are going and, and that type of thing? What specific resources would you recommend? Well,
Speaker 2 8:40
I would say I mean, first, I can give you my website, which is J Bert phd.com JYBERK phd.com. And if people want to subscribe, I promise I won't spam them. But about once a week I send out an update just here's some things you should know. There's also some podcasts and articles on there that people can resource. They're the schools that kids go to sometimes they're doing informational nights, which I think is good. The National Institutes of Health puts out information and there are a lot of credible sources online if you're looking but even there are some YouTube videos that people put so if you're not sure like what is discord you can hop on a YouTube video that will explain to you as a parent what is discord? Okay.
Dawn Davenport 9:37
Let me stop here for a moment to tell you about a new educational resource. Thanks to the jockey being Family Foundation. We are thrilled to offer you free online courses through our adoption at.org learning platform. You would go to use this shortened link which is Bitly slash all cap J E F support to find fi I have courses, one of which is like parenting teens and tweens. And that dovetails nicely with this with the content of today's show. It's a practical approach to parenting during adolescence. And there are four other courses on that Bitly link Bitly slash JBf support, I'll get that you can get that will help you in your parenting. Each course is free when you use the coupon code JB F support at checkout. And that's all captive. So the code is JBf support all caps. All right, excellent. Now let's hit some general best practices. And I want to do that by age of the child because I think that's probably one of the better ways to set boundaries between what is okay and what is not. Okay, so let's start with elementary age kids. And as you pointed out earlier, things that in years past that we would never consider 489 or even 10 year old now are considered common. So what are some of the general best practices for children who are in elementary school? Let's start with the one you mentioned, cellphones, every eight year all I know, is begging for one. So according to them, everyone has one. Every other eight year old has one. So what are some talking about phones? What are some general guidelines that parents can use for? And what are the dangers, quite frankly, of having a phone? Maybe there aren't?
Speaker 2 11:27
Well, let's let's kind of slide up and down that for a second. So when parents asked me this, my first question is, why does your kid need a phone? And often it comes down to well, if they need to reach me. Okay, well, if you're a, where are you at that there's not an adult that could reach you if you need to. So sometimes, to be honest, I think it's one of the parents need to reach the kid, which I understand there are tracking now that you can now on the phone, so you could tell when your kid get off the bus and then get off the bus, and maybe you're using it for those purposes. Okay, now it has become a part of the fabric of society. You know, I would say this for teenagers, in that if you're a teenager, and you don't have a phone, even the coaches and the bandleader and they're communicating through Snapchat or something else, where kids that don't have phones are really at a loss. So I think that there are ways to introduce this, for example, there are watches now that you can set for younger kids that only call certain numbers, you can put apps on the phone that restrict this, you can put apps on the phone that you can tell anything your kid is doing. And I suggest to parents, again, a really sophisticated kid can find ways around any of those, but that there are those applications out there. So I think that for parents to be aware of that question, when you get why does your kid need a phone? Is there a particular purpose you're trying to do?
Dawn Davenport 13:12
Your I think I think you're spot on, I think you're spot on that that they will say that the child can reach me, but I also think that it is security for the parent, that they will have be able to both track their child's whereabouts, but also be able to reach their child if they need to. I think that's actually
Speaker 2 13:29
right. And then, you know, in the old days, they would call the school and the school would come get you right. And so your mom called she's gonna be late or something. But now that's that's different. The other is once the kid gets the phone, what are your rules about the phone? Where does the phone go? Who are you allowed to taxed? What apps are you allowed to use? There are hidden apps, there are apps that look like calculators that are actually different apps is a kid have to have their phone up in the room or not allowed to have in the room where you can see it all the time. And be aware that kids can be pretty smart. Funny story. A couple weeks ago, one of my kids had an iPad didn't have a phone. And the moms role was to plug it in at night and believe it on the kitchen table. He had been doing that for weeks. And he got she got a call from school saying he has fallen asleep in school. And here what he's doing is plugging in the the outside cover, but had the iPad in his room. So that was a pretty funny thing in a way. But again, it also is a discussion about trust with your child. So that's a real key in our in our discussion is that we're trusting you we're educating about this and that if you have questions concerned something comes up that's not right. What are you going to do? Because a lot of kids are afraid or don't know where to go or what to say or what to do.
Dawn Davenport 15:00
So if I'm hearing you correctly, as far as the age of introducing the specific the technology of the phone would be somewhat dependent on does the child need the phone. And also, as the child gets older, at some point, it does become as you point out kind of part of the fabric of that social fabric and for certain, but certainly by the time they're teens,
Unknown Speaker 15:21
which is amazing, but totally true.
Dawn Davenport 15:26
And then, and then there's some gray area and between between an eight year old and an 18 year old, so each family will have to make decisions in but then after you allow your child to have a phone, what are some typical rules that parents need to think about? You've mentioned a couple of them. One is who they can call who they can text, what apps they're allowed to install on the phone. That's certainly one. And then the other one that you've mentioned, is time of day that for film can be used?
Speaker 2 15:56
Yeah, when they're allowed to have it out, for example, if they're at school, are they allowed to have it or not? Some schools have rules about that some schools don't have rules about that.
Dawn Davenport 16:08
And even the ones that do the kids are, you know, putting it under a book and texting. Yeah.
Speaker 2 16:15
Some other things that I would say are that are really important are having your kids say their rules to their friends, so that they're not texting at three in the morning, because I will have kids that will go to bed, wake up at three in the morning, and then start texting with friends. Or if they're playing video games, they may be playing video games with people in different time zones, which is another thing to think about. Because if they're in a different time zone, they have to be up at a certain time to connect to those people. So that's another really important rule that goes into that process. Okay, and I always talk to parents about front end loading the rules. So if you break the rules, here's what's going to happen. Okay, that way, the kids not saying you took my phone, while you're able to say and this is a really important part as a parent is you made a choice to not have your phone anymore. And that's very different to eliminate the power struggle over the phone.
Dawn Davenport 17:21
So are there are there ways to cut off the technology for the whole house as you would cut off your internet so that nobody can utilize it? But can you do that with a with a with a phone, which is using data?
Speaker 2 17:37
Wow. I can tell you 100 funny stories about this. But let me give you some that are really important. One is I have parents that have soft the router, and the kids will hop on the neighbor's router. Because if you ever look at your house, and you look how many wireless as you can get, and people say well, but they're coded. Well, I have a kid who's 10 years old, you can run a program to break any router code within a couple of minutes. That's easy to find off the web. So you can ultimately we have had situations a lot of times where the parents, the kid will threaten if you take away my phone, I'm going to kill myself, or I'm going to bust up the house. And the answer is you can call it 18 T or Verizon or whoever your carrier is, and you can suspend that phone. Okay, if you're ultimately that person now, there's been a lot of talk in the news lately, about kids calling the police on their parents believe it or not, because the parents took their phone. And so being aware from the start that the parents own that phone is really a key item. Also, some kids are smart, and they get what's called a burner phone. And a burner phone is the parents will take the regular phone. But what they don't know is that kid has a second phone that they bought off some kid at school that doesn't have cell service on it, but can hop on the internet. And they can make calls and text and do anything they want as well. So it depends. So for every action, there's a reaction. And again, I would come back to the trust issue with your kid and say that if you break the trust, then we have a problem. Okay, and if you accidentally break the trust, ie you didn't know you did something wrong. The sooner you report that to me, the better. Now I think that's really important. Another thing that's really important to kids to stress, which is huge, is that digital footprint and digital footprint means that everything that you do out there, it's out there forever. And so you may be at a party at a kid with like this sort of red solo cup in his hand. And he was not drinking beer, but everybody else was and there was a picture and with facial identification. He was in that picture with that red solo cup, you know, and it looks like he's drinking at the party. So every picture that's out there, you got to be careful with what's happening. And also talk to kids about forwarding pictures that are inappropriate, because you can get yourself in trouble if you get a inappropriate picture, and then you forward it on to other people. So educating kids about a lot of these rules is really important. And the other thing I would say about them is there's not a one time discussion, there's a repeated discussion about these types of things.
Dawn Davenport 20:30
Especially not only because technology is changing, but also our kids and their, as they grow in their expectations and what they're seeing changes. So for all those reasons, we need to, to keep the conversation moving. You know, as as you're, as you're talking about, for every rule, there is a way around it. And that is absolutely the case and going back to time in memoriam having curfews and people sneaking in, you know, making it coming in for their curfew, and then going straight upstairs and sneaking out the you know, off the roof. Yeah, out the window. So that I mean, this is again, nothing fundamentally new. But it does occur to me that that one of the things that I think that helps avoid rule breaking is having buy into the rules and having the rules created as a joint as a joint discussion, as opposed to an edict from on high. How effective is that? Which also means quite frankly, that parents may have to give some that everything that that's a common that the rules become a compromise. But is that an effective technique?
Speaker 2 21:36
Yeah. So there's a couple buzzwords out there, which are really good buzzwords to kind of talk about from it related to this. So the one is collaborative problem solving, which is great, which is really a discussion with your kid about, okay, here's, and this is what I would put your listeners, parents say, here's my concern, what do you think we should do about it? And stop talking? And give that time for the kid to respond? So rather than here's my concern, here's what we're doing about it. Here's my concern, what do you think we ought to do about it? And sometimes parents are surprised with the answer that kids come up with, which can be a really good answer, and very helpful. Number two, as a parent is if you're going to do a collaborative problem solving method, you also have to have negotiable and non negotiable rules. So what are things that are absolutes that you're not bending on? And what are things that you will discuss, and those may change over time. But I think those are important for parents to establish in terms of their process with developing these rules with their kids.
Dawn Davenport 22:49
And give me an example of a non negotiable rule.
Speaker 2 22:53
A non negotiable role may be you are not allowed to connect with a certain kid that they know has already done something really inappropriate. That would be an example another rule, a big one, we I could talk for an entire hour about this. You're not allowed to use my credit card or my Pay Pal account without asking me first. Because what a lot of parents forget is that they set up an account for their kid. But if their Pay Pal is linked in the phone, it's recognized in the device. And I have kids that are multiple times spent huge amounts of money in skins for games, or battle passes or things like that. And that is a real problem. So that would be a non negotiable in my opinion.
Dawn Davenport 23:45
Okay, that would make sense. This show would not and could not happen unless we had partners who believe in our mission, and these partners put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. One such partner is children's connection. They are an adoption agency providing services for domestic infant adoption and embryo donation and adoption throughout the US. They also do home studies and post adoption support to families in Texas. Another partner is hopscotch adoption. They are a Hague accredited international adoption agency, placing kids from Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana, Guiana, Morocco, Pakistan, Serbia and Ukraine. They specialize in the placement of kids with Down Syndrome and other special needs. In addition to kinship adoptions, they offer home study services and post adoption support to residents of North Carolina and New York. All right, so we've talked about phones and now and you have raised a couple of times gaming and I want to bring that out because for many families, gaming is a much bigger issue than felonies. So what are some of the what was talked about what are some of the event what are some of the good things about online games? And what are some of the dangers that parents need to be worried about?
Speaker 2 25:07
So let's start with this. What percent of kids do you think game?
Dawn Davenport 25:14
Defy? What age kid are you talking about? I would think it'd be very high, but
Speaker 2 25:17
it's over 90%. That amazing. And Grandma and Grandpa are now gaming too. So gaming is not just kids anymore, which is pretty amazing, right? Yeah. So. So when you look at a gaming continuum, if you think about this, most people game fine. Okay, they recreationally game, and it to recreational game. It's fun, it's challenging. And the kids that do well are the kids that have a balance. So I also call it pay to play so you can game as long as you're exercising, you're still doing things with friends, you're doing this, when you start to see kids have problems, which is really about seven to 8% of the population. They're starting to have grades problems, friends problems, sleep problems, those types of things. And then when you're talking about severe problematic gaming, now leaving the house and things we're talking about 2% of the population now. So how can games be helpful? Well, there is now eSports, which a lot of parents may want to be aware of, if they're listening to this podcast, esports are going to be huge. So imagine in our day, the kid came out with a leather jacket saying football or soccer or swim team, there will now be esports team. Okay, there are huge arenas being built for esports. And if you watch what's called streaming now on Twitch, you'll see that kids spend a lot of time not just gaming, but watching other gamers. So it is something that kids talk about kids talk about the lunch table, kids socialize with their friends, they game with their friends, and that can all be very healthy, if done, right. And I have kids that play chess with their friends and do other games to other than just, you know, the traditional sort of fortnight video games type thing. So that's an okay, use of the gaming model that works for many people. Kind of healthy recreational part.
Dawn Davenport 27:24
Yeah, so you're saying it's if your kids are sleeping enough, they're doing well in school, they're eating? Well, they seem to have real life friends, they're probably doing okay, then. They're not, they're they've got things in balance. And this would be not significantly different from a kid who is obsessed with, you know, whatever. 15 years ago, kids were obsessed with
Speaker 2 27:44
Brian, and what happens is, you'll see that over time, they'll get bored with gaming, they want to do things with their friends or change games. And it's sort of like anything else that you know, it's a process for them to go through. Versus if your kid is sitting in the dark gaming all the time losing their friends, grades are going down, you're getting calls from school, now you've got a different problem. Now, what I call this is the reason behind the reason. So they're the problematic gamers are usually a problem going on, like an undiagnosed learning problem, depression, anxiety, social phobia, something else that goes along with it. Now I do coaching all over the world. And I have clients from many different countries. And, you know, as we talk about this, some countries are better do educationally some are different. But for example, some kids as they go along and they have a learning disability, it's undiagnosed, then they start having problems, and then they use gaming as a way to avoid, it's an avoidance tool. And what I can say to you is, if you're a parent out there, watch this gaming continuum, and that if your kids starting to slide, you want to get help earlier in the process, rather than later. The longer it goes on the bigger problem it becomes. Now also, in terms of games, let's talk about there's many types of games, though. So there's first person shooter games, and there's roleplay games. And the role play games tend to be more of the individuals who are creative and or actually, a lot of individuals who are on the spectrum play those games. Many of the kids that have that are ADHD, play the first person shooter games, and then there's of course a sports games like Madden and those kinds of games as well. So knowing what types of games your kid plays also tells you something. Again, I would say sit with them and watch them play, learn what they're playing. And be aware that there are some intrinsic things that are built into games that are that keep kids coming back. And if I can mention those are second that would be good if they have enough time. So one is what's called a loot box. A loot box is where There's you pay money and there's a mystery thing that you open up. And it's basically gambling. And it keeps kids very involved and coming back, just like a slot machine. A second is what's called your skin, which is what you look like in the game. And the last thing you want to be as the default skin, that means the skin that you came with. And so you want to look cool. And so kids will steal money to buy things. There's actually skin gambling that you can do. And in games, there's in game gambling that you can do within game money that you turn money into in game purchases. So you want to be aware of some of these things that are built into gaming nowadays. The last thing that I want to mention is this is the biggest one parents last was I tell him to get off the game and he doesn't get off. Well, the reason he doesn't get off is because if he quits in the middle of the game, he's letting down his friends, and the game can ban you. Okay, when we were kids, you know, your TV show lasted a half hour you're watching Gilligan's Island or some at 730 was over, doesn't work that way in video games. So my my position with parents is to say to your kid, what are you doing? Why? What's the problem of getting off the game, explain it to me, rather than just pulling the cord or yelling at your kid.
Dawn Davenport 31:25
And also to to front end that one by saying before you start this game, come talk to me so that we agree in advance how long you're going to be on it, what's coming up, when we're going to eat or whatever or what time bedtime is, and so that you don't begin the game, if you're not going to have time, and then have less negotiate on a time than the week where you can play and you won't be interrupted. And you won't have oh, that's
Speaker 2 31:48
an excellent answer. And the other thing that's added to that now is mobile gaming. Because he used to be out of a yard of a console to game with but now you can be in the car on the way somewhere and be mobile gaming.
Dawn Davenport 32:05
Yeah. Wow, that is big. Are you appreciating today's expert based show on gaming and Internet safety? If so, please tell your friend about what you learned and how you can hear more from creating a family, we would be so grateful for your help to get this content and more resources like it in their hands. So please let your friends know about the grading family podcast. Okay, so you talked about that parents need to when they start seeing a problem, nip it in the bud get involved early, start addressing it, don't let it go on. But what are the signs that our kids aren't too involved? And now let's talk specifically about gaming. So what are the signs that parents should be looking for that says, Alright, we need to we need to get involved, we need to learn more, we need to get involved, we've got a potential problem?
Speaker 2 32:55
Well, I would say that for sure. If you're getting calls or emails from school, or parents or other people saying there's this problem, to have your kids get very secretive about what they're doing, that would be another symptom that would be there. Oftentimes, their friends are changing. You catch them sneaking up in the middle of the night on things. That's a problem. They're kind of the same signs that you would be looking for, for a lot of issues. But it's a little easier to hide them in the electronic world. Because for example, you don't know those kids friends now an example would be they switched to all cyber friends, they've lost all of their what I call terrestrial friends, well, if your kid has no trust your friends anymore, something's going on. Okay, if all of a sudden they start dropping out of activities that they used to really enjoy, that would be something if their mood is changing more than the average, for example, teenager, because teenagers argue with their parents anyhow. But their mood is changing more, that would be something to consider. And at that point, I would have the parent once again, ask that open ended question. This is what I'm seeing. I'd like to talk to you about it and open that discussion first. Now also, some parents don't realize that they'll be like, well, I can't get my kid to come see a therapist or something. Sometimes you don't have to go with your kid first. Sometimes it's parents just seeking out the console first themselves and saying this is what I'm seeing what should I do? And then maybe involving the kid is another thing. Also if touching base with somebody asked who knows them a coach, the school counselor to see does somebody else seeing the same thing? And is there something they used to be aware of? I think those are some touch base. items that would be important.
Dawn Davenport 35:01
Okay? Do you believe that there's a set amount of time or a range of amount of time that different aged kids should be on the screen each day? So,
Speaker 2 35:13
you asked me about references and things, the World Health Organization actually put out some recommendations on that if people go to the World Health Organization website, they'll see this but what I believe is, here's what's really hard about that question, I get this question 15 times every day. So here's the tricky part. So the tricky part is that kids today don't have books anymore. And so they have a Chromebook. And are they on the Chromebook for school? Are they on their Chromebook on YouTube? What are they doing? Are they switching screens, back and forth, things like that. So if you're, for example, concerned about your kid, and they're doing Hallmark, and you're not there, you might be checking their history to make sure what they were on and when they were on it. Because technology is so much a part of life. Now, maybe they're just chatting with their friends, okay. And that's where the discussion comes in. They're not gaming, they're just chatting with their friends and his friends that they know their friends are online, we used to go to friends houses, but kids don't do that a lot, especially now during the pandemic. So it's open to that discussion about what you're doing and how much time you're doing what you're doing. Now, there's things called a streak. I don't know if you've heard about this or not before, but a streak is how many days in a row that you're in contact with a person. And if you get streaks, you get certain items and things like that. So if the kids like trying to push a streak, that's something different. So the parents are aware of that, versus they're just chatting with their friends that they know. So I can't give you a recommendation of amount of time, because it depends on what they're doing.
Dawn Davenport 36:59
And do different types of technology have different risks and different benefits, you're alluding to that, you know, because we, we talk about it as being digital time, screen time, or whatever. But there's so many things that you can be doing, you could just be hanging out, hanging out on social media, you can be watching YouTube, you could be playing games, you can be watching porn, all of those are online. And all of those have different risks and benefits. So how is a parent to figure out what the benefits are and what the risks are?
Speaker 2 37:35
Well, therein lies I don't think there's any one formula to this. Let me give you an example. One of the kids I work with, he's on the internet a lot. But what he's doing is he's watching origami videos. And he makes beautiful origami. Now, are we going to limit that? Well, not really, we're going to say we still want you hanging out with kids and doing well in school, but he is doing those things. So that's a healthy use of YouTube, right? You can go to YouTube and learn how to do about anything nowadays to fix your car to fix your electric or whatever you want to do. So I think that it depends on what use of technology they're doing. Now, again, this has that open conversation or checking your kids history, or putting an app on there that tracks a keystroke app that that you can track where they're at. There's also some programs where while your kids online, you can actually see what they're doing. Okay, this is why like schools nowadays have technology if a kid types in suicide, or searches suicide, it sends a flag to the district, and you will get a call from the district technology people.
Dawn Davenport 38:51
So do you think that parents should tell their kids what apps they have installed on their devices?
Speaker 2 38:57
Ah, um, I say that to parents to say to your kid, I have the right to I own the phone, or I own the, you know, it's a school laptop or whatever. And I have the right to put these things on there. So I'm not always having them, tell them exactly what's on there. Because some kids will just go on YouTube and look up how to route around whatever it is. And again, that depends on the kid. But once they're doing that, that again, strikes that bell of trust. And if there's a trust problem, there's an issue probably going on that they want to be aware of anyhow.
Dawn Davenport 39:38
And what would you say you have a trust problem is indicative of a deeper problem. As an example, what are some of the deeper problems that you may have if your kid is absolutely flaunting the rules going around breaking you know, waking up in the middle of night, sneaking, doing things like that? I agree with you that it's indicative of a bigger problem, but What would be some of the bigger problems that that might indicate?
Speaker 2 40:03
So that goes into that reason behind the reason and things I would see is they're depressed, they have anxiety, they have social phobia. They're racking academic problems. They're cutting, for example, kids that caught, find other kids that cut on the internet. Okay, so they find an accepting crowd of where that's okay to do. Same with eating disorders. Yeah, as a matter of fact, people post their cutting pictures. So you know, when you look at these things like Deviant Art, good, actual idea that people could post art, and people could comment on it, but then it becomes where people start changing into some inappropriate stuff. That's not really good for kids to be on. So all of these things have their pluses and minuses with that. So I would say, again, deeper issues would be, you know, your kids getting suicidal, depressed, anxious, social phobia learning problem. They have self esteem issues. There, they've lost a friend group. Maybe they've moved, and they don't know how to fit in with kids, and they're struggling. And they need a social skills group. You know, there are lots of remedies for these things that are there. But it it does reflect something causing that issue.
Dawn Davenport 41:35
You know, a particular challenge for those listening to this in our audience. Our families who are adopting or fostering older children or teams, is that often our kids come to us from environments where there has been very little supervision, or very little rules at all considering about internet use. And so it is not only are they new to our home, and reeling from the change, and everything that is happening there. But they're also now up against the fact that they're new parents us have rules about the internet, when for them, it may have been a lifeline for it may have been there only and even if it wasn't there certainly weren't any rules. So how do we get healthy habits established with kids who have never had any or very few limits set to anything that they do online?
Speaker 2 42:31
Yeah, interesting question because I ran a children's home. And I've been involved in that residential treatment for a long time. And what I can tell you is there's a disproportionate amount of adopted or foster care kids in residential treatment centers. Now, when you look at that, about why they end up there, oftentimes, it's sort of what you're describing, the horse has already been out of the barn, they didn't have rules, or their rules. And I say this in a loving, caring way. Their normal was your abnormal as a parent. So for example, they didn't go to school because they were 10 and had to take care of their six year old brother who was sick. And that's their normal, and it becomes abnormal. So what I recommend for parents that are fostering or adopting, is to look at the environment that that child came out of, and look at the reasons that they might be doing those things. Now, if you look at Maslow's hierarchy, that's just basically survival is first, food, clothing, shelter, safety basically, comes in the place. So if I have a young man who was in foster care for years, and went to different homes and things, and he does some real inappropriate stuff on the internet, but that is his coping skill from being violent. Now, it's not a great choice. But choice becomes Do you want him violent? Or do you want him doing some inappropriate stuff on the internet, and we're working towards more appropriate ways to manage but understanding where he came from is a huge piece of it. Now, maybe the parents have info maybe the foster care parents don't sometimes the information is accurate, and sometimes it's not even accurate, what you're getting, when you're in those situations, especially kids that have been through multiple foster homes. In many situations. That's a very tough deal. The other recommendation I would give to do parents in those situations like foster care parents, is to introduce those roles, sort of in a process with them kind of what's the most important ones first, and then leave up in the room for discussion for For example, you can do blank, but it has to be in the living room where I can see it. So there could be some compromised material there. Because once they're behind closed doors, you don't know what they're doing. But they're not just gonna go from being out of the barn to all of a sudden, following all your rules, that would be really surprising. If you're adopting or you're fostering, there's really good support groups out there. And I would also recommend getting support from podcasts like this, and foster care support groups, and parents have been through it, that can give you the recommendations. Now, last thing I would say is that often, hearing it from another kid can be a huge way to go. So sometimes hearing it from your foster parent doesn't have as much clout as hearing it from another kid who goes, Hey, this is pretty reasonable. And that peer to peer network can be very valuable in that circumstance.
Dawn Davenport 46:04
So what I hear you say is, is, first of all, try to understand what experiences your child has come to you from and, and and understand that, that they didn't, that this was their normal. And so make change gradually from that standpoint. And then the second thing I heard you say was to prioritize your the things that you will compromise on the things that you can't compromise on. And and focus on the on the biggies first. And then third, try to have other, have your child be aware of what other kids that he will be, or she will be hanging out with? What their rules are to help normalize? What your rules are? Would that be a good sign?
Speaker 2 46:49
Right. And then the last thing I would say to that, too, is that in that situation, also having other people talk to your child is helpful to teacher, guidance counselor, Scout leader, church person, something like that. So it doesn't seem like the parents are always the ogre, if that makes sense. Sure. Yeah. Makes sense. And it diversifies the sort of the, you know, that heavy burden that's there. And it's like, okay, wait a minute. You know, other people are telling me the same thing that's maybe make some sense to me. And I find that parents feel that goes a lot better than just the age old. The rule is the rule. Why? Because I said so. And possibly for parents that remember your parents saying that when we were kids? You were like, Okay, I didn't argue but nowadays that does. It's a different culture of kids out there.
Dawn Davenport 47:47
Well, yeah. And I think in this case, our kids think that they number one know a lot more than probably accurately think that they know a lot more about what is actually happening, what's available, and ways around it than we do.
Unknown Speaker 48:02
Yeah, and sometimes there's truth to that. Right. Yeah.
Dawn Davenport 48:05
I suspect often there's truth to that. Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Speaker 2 48:09
And it's and it's gonna be constantly changing. And so just when you think you got it, it's different. Even engaging, remember, originally gaming, the original video game was Pong. And if anybody's laughing out there, if you remember Pong, but the thing about Pong is you needed 25 cents, and you were standing next to the other kid in an arcade, it was actually a social experience. But now, you know, just think how far those things have changed in that short period of time. Oh, it's amazing, right?
Dawn Davenport 48:43
Yeah, it really is. And I think that honestly, sometimes we as parents just feel overwhelmed by the, how rapid things are changing and, and how much we're supposed to be keeping up with things. And it just feels like, Oh, let me just throw in the towel. But that's not really a luxury that we have if we've gotten
Speaker 2 49:01
given a bad place. But also, you know, on the positive note, as we're kind of getting down to the end here, you know, there are advantages to it. Now, right now, you can give your kid a debit card that you can add money to and you can see exactly what they're spending. And that can teach financial literacy to a kid, where you have the ability as a parent to monitor that at all times. That's, that's actually pretty cool. If kids diabetic, they can wear a device that scans their blood sugar level, and you can see it as a parent know what it is. So you know, there's a lot of very positive attributes to this. And most of it, honestly, is positive if done right. It's just the negative stuff becomes so apparent. Now the last thing I would say is if your kid makes any kind of threat, suicide, self harm or something, don't take it lightly. Take it seriously. because you know there are many kids, especially during the pandemic, increase the suicide rates in kids. And they if they make a comment, take it serious and say if you say you're going to harm yourself, and later they were say I was just joking or manipulating. The answer is we don't see it that way. We take anything that you say seriously.
Dawn Davenport 50:23
Anything that would harm you we take very seriously, right? Yes. Well, thank you, Dr. J. Burke, for being with us today to talk about helping parents and kids manage digital technology and gaming. Thank you very much and to our audience. Thank you so much for listening. We will see you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai