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Hi, I’m Dr. Brenna Hicks, The Kid Counselor. I wonder if you know what your kids are doing when they are in front of a screen. That can be their personal phone, your phone, a tablet, and ipad, a laptop, a computer. I wonder if on a moment by moment, or daily, or weekly basis you are aware of where your kids are going, what they’re watching, what they’re listening to, what they’re reading, and what kind of damage that is doing. I am extremely passionate about getting kids off of screens. I wrote a book about it. It’s called Device Detox. If you want to check it out, go to amazon, it’s available in e book and in print book.
One of my greatest concerns and my deepest burdens is the amount of time that kids are spending on screens and that no one is aware of what is being put in their minds when they’re there. The screens are damaging enough. That’s what my book is about. Please feel free to check that out and educate yourself about how damaging being in front of a screen is, just as a whole for kids. Brain damage is actually observed on scans when kids are in front of screens.
But let me take it a step further, especially for the pre-teens and teens who are always on their phones, addicted to their devices, where if you take them away, they absolutely have meltdowns and they can’t function. I have a 14 year old girl who said she didn’t want to wake up the next day because she knew she had lost her phone and she “can’t live” without her phone. When you understand the severity of the addiction that our pre-teens and teens have to devices, it’s even scarier to think about what they’re getting when they’re on social media.
Your kids cannot have unfiltered, unparented access to social media. I need to say that again. Please do not let your kids be on social media unless you are sitting there with them and you’re monitoring what is being put in their heads. They’re on Tiktok, they’re on Snapchat, they’re on Reddit, they’re on Instagram, they’re on Facebook. And every message that they’re getting takes them down a slippery slope, toxic, devastating spiral because they begin to believe things that are not true and they are given information that they don’t understand. And it takes them down self destructive and damaging paths.
I see this every day. Every day, my office is filled with kids that are suicidal. They have self-diagnosed anxiety, they have self-diagnosed depression, they’re taking quizzes online and they’re determining that they have bipolar. They’re cutting, they’re suicidal, they’re telling me that they don’t want to live. They’re telling me that they’re never going to make it through this year. They’re telling me that they don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. They’re telling me that they’re doing drugs. Telling me that they’re sleeping with their boyfriend/girlfriend/whoever, just so that they can get some escape from the real world.
And it all comes back to the stuff that they’re getting on social media. It is so scary, and parents consistently tell me, ‘I have no idea what they’re doing online. I don’t even know how to check what they’re reading. I don’t even know how to monitor their accounts. I don’t know – how would I take that away from them? I can’t just take their phone away. What am I supposed to do? Get rid of every device in the house? I don’t know how you expect me to monitor this.’
It’s all excuses, and it’s lazy, and it’s hurting our kids. You have to take a stand to say, “I am going to keep you safe, and I’m going to protect you no matter what. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be fun. It’s not going to be a good experience for anybody, but long term it’s what kids need.” I was thinking back to my childhood growing up, I was never in front of a screen. We watched tv as a family at night, typically Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. And other than that, I was never in front of a screen. I didn’t look anything up if I had a problem. If I had a fight, if I was sad, if I was angry, if I was anything, I just processed it in my head and moved on. There is freedom in being not aware of everything that’s out there at all times. That is usually not true, not accurate. It leads you down the wrong path. It gives you misinformation, it’s confusing.
There’s so much junk on social media and online and it’s really, really horrible for our kids. Our pre-teens and teens are struggling to a degree that I’ve never seen. I’ve been in my practice for 16 years and from 2006 to 2015, I never had issues like this. Teenagers didn’t come in and tell me they were suicidal. They didn’t tell me they were depressed, they didn’t tell me they were anxious, they didn’t tell me that they needed to be baker acted, they didn’t tell me they were cutting, they didn’t tell me that they were starving themselves. They didn’t tell me they had eating disorders. And I see it all day every day.
And the only thing that is consistent in all of these kids is the time that they are spending in front of their phones. So please take this as a challenge with loving, kind, warm intentions. It’s not criticism. It’s not berating. It is a plea. As someone who sees this day in and day out, take a stand. Do what is right on behalf of your kids. I know it’s easy to let your kids just sit on the couch and stare at their phone. We don’t have to parent, we don’t have to discipline, we don’t have to worry – they’re sitting there, they’re on their phone, they’re looking at whatever and we can go do whatever we want. I know that’s easy but it’s not what our kids need.
Our kids need to be protected and kept safe. And what is on social media and what is online is neither. And spending too much time in front of a screen is also not safe. So it’s basically double whammy. So please be encouraged by this. I want us as society, as parents, as adults, as people with rational thought that our kids don’t have, we’re the only people that are going to say this isn’t okay. Our kids aren’t going to do that for us. It’s our job.
So I think that family values matter. I think that the family unit matters and I think that social media is dividing us from each other. In our families, kids are able to go in their rooms and ignore the rest of the family for hours. We ignore them when they ignore us. They’re happy to be at a table during dinner, not looking at anyone, staring at their device. It is divisive and it is ruining our families and it’s certainly ruining our kids. So stand up for your family. Stand up for your kids and put your foot down, draw the line in the sand, and say we’re changing things. There are going to be restrictions, and time limits, and monitoring, and awareness of what is going to be put in your brains because what you read, what you see, what you learn can’t be undone. So guard against that. It is my greatest plea. My greatest desire that we, as adults who love kids, do the right thing for them, which is making sure that they don’t have access to things that they have no business knowing and reading.
I have all kinds of information, more along this topic in other videos and other podcasts. I’ve talked about devices. So please explore those too. But thekidcounselor.com/newsletter also gets you lots more information. Thanks for being a part of The Kid Counselor Family and The Play Therapy Parenting Family. We’ll talk again soon. Bye.
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