Sunday, November 12, 2017

Parents and Teens: Are We Addicted To Our Screens?

How Screen Dependence Is Impacting Children and Families

In recent years there has been a growing body of evidence that Internet Addiction Disorder has become a major health crisis in many of the world’s developed countries (Kardaras, 2016). Although Internet Gaming Disorder was included in the DSM-V (2013) under “Conditions for Further Study,” Internet Addiction Disorder was omitted. However, in an Executive Summary “Technology Addiction: Concerns, Controversy, and Finding Balance” (May 2016, pp.3-14) published by Common Sense Media, researchers investigated how “dealing with devices” affected the parent-teen dynamic.  When 620 adults and 620 children (ages 12-18) were asked the question, “Are We Addicted?” the results were as follows:

Parents say:
  • 59 % of parents feel their teens are addicted to their mobile devices.
  • 27% of parents feel addicted to their mobile devices.

Teens say:
  • 50% of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices.
  • 28 % of teens feel their parents are addicted to their mobile devices.

Recognizing the potential health hazards associated with excessive screen usage, in 2013 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement “Children, Adolescents, and the Media”, recommending that “Pediatricians and other health care providers ask two media questions and provide age-appropriate counseling for families at every well-child visit:
  • How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
  • Is there a TV set or an Internet-connected electronic device (computer, iPad, cell phone) in the child’s or teenager’s bedroom?” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013,p. 959)

The AAP also established several recommendations for parents regarding screen usage including the following: 

  • Limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to <1 -2 hours per day; discourage screen media exposure for children <2 years of age.
  • Keep the TV set and Internet-connected electronic devices out of the child’s bedroom (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013, p.959).
At times, we joke about our dependence upon electronic screens and we certainly enjoy a plethora of benefits from them. However, in a newly released book “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked” (2017, pp.26-28)), author Dr. Adam Alter states, “40% of the population suffers from some form of Internet-based addiction.”  He, along with other experts such as Dr. Victoria Dunckley, Dr. Nicolas Kadaras, Dr. Kimberly Young, and Dr. Kathy Koch have identified a host of clinical, psychological, neurological, social, and physical effects of both passive and interactive screen time, especially on children and their developing brains. In “Reset Your Child’s Brain”, Dr. V. Dunckley has identified a new disorder – Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS) – which mimics Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD); however, its causation is directly correlated to exposure to screens and ESS presents with a boarder variation of symptoms (2015, pp.17-18).

There is much to be concerned about.  Whenever I am tackling a challenging health issue and examining causation, I default to a behavior principle: The degree of access or exposure to or consumption of anything is a predictor to the degree of consequence – either positive or negative. As Marriage & Family Therapists, we are entrusted with restoring the health and well-being of our clients. With Screen Dependence, I am suggesting we start by informing clients of the health consequences and then moving them into a more balanced approach with their usage. As is true in addressing other dependent and addictive behaviors, there will be anger, denial, and resistance. In writing "Power Down & Parent Up", I took a family-friendly approach while imparting critical information and providing tools for moving forward. I always remind readers, real power comes in being informed.

Based on current thinking and research, the following guidelines are strongly recommended in moving towards healthier practices in our relationship with technology and with one another:

1. No screens whatsoever in bedrooms.  This includes adults.

2. All screens are shut off two hours before bedtime, for everyone! Spend time with one another, face to face, really connecting.

3. All screens should be kept in a common area.  This is critical for monitoring and supervising.

4. For families, this is important. Every family must have a Family Online Safety Agreement . By implementing a family agreement, you will bypass years of arguments and confusion over tech usage. More importantly, you will have safer and healthier children.

A similar tool is the Family Media Plan - sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics. You can customize a family plan for all your children given their different ages! It's super easy and allows you to add to their recommendations! 

For more information on raising healthy “Screen Kids”, take a listen to an informative and restorative podcast series with educators and hosts Dan Kenley and Ed Berger on Insights Into Education.  

Screen Kids Podcast 
Click link to prior blog. Then, click the link to listen to each episode at your convenience!

 Please visit us @ Holli Kenley
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

 Counselors, Therapists, Educators, join me at the 2018 Annual CAMFT Conference in San Diego as we explore...
 “Human Response To New Technology: 
Consumption, Consequences & A Corrective Response.”


Alter, A. (2017). Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement: Children, adolescents, and the media. Retrieved from

Common Sense Media.  Executive summary may 2016: Technology addiction: concern, controversy, and finding balance. Retrieved from

Dunckley, Victoria L. (2015). Reset your child’s brain: A four-week plan to end meltdowns, raise grades and boost social skills by reversing the effects of electronic screen-time. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Kardaras, N. (2016) Glow Kids: How screen addiction is hijacking our kids – and how to break the trance. New York, N.Y: St. Martin’s Press.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Screen Kids: An Audio Series!

Insights Into Education Podcast presents"Screen Kids!" 

Our  motivation is simple.

Our hearts are heavy with concern and care for your children's health and well-being.

This first part of a five-part series is a gentle introduction for parents, guardians, and for anyone entrusted with the health and well-being of our children.  Holli speaks with educators Ed Berger and Dan Kenley  presenting information about the damage electronic screens (smart phones, iPads, video games) have on our children's health. Because Holli is concerned that much of this new information will cause an overreaction and possibly generate guilt and negative responses, she takes a soft-spoken but professional approach.  She identifies dangers and offers courses of action that will alleviate these problems. The next episodes go deeper into the issues we all need to be aware of.

Real Power Means Being Informed!

Take a listen!   Screens Kids Introduction : Why Should We Care?

In the second podcast, Holli encourages parents and guardians to take a deep breath as we define "screen dependence" and delve into some of the clinical and behavioral effects of both passive and interactive screen time.  Holli focuses attention on "Electronic Screen Syndrome" - a new  disorder identified by Dr. Victoria Dunckley in her book "Reset Your Child's Brain."  Other behavioral effects are discussed such as "acquired" ADD and ADHD as well as the exacerbation of both disorders.

Take a listen!  Screen Kids II: Behavioral and Clinical Effects!

In Podcast III, Holli discussed the psychological and emotional effects of passive and interactive screen access and exposure. As a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, Holli explains her deep concerns over the detrimental impact on children's self-worth and self-esteem. In Holli's words, "With our kids measuring their worth and value from an unrelenting supply of artificial sources of validation and with many tweens - teens feeling more "disconnected and isolated" from meaningful relationships, studies have shown that depression  and suicide rates have increased drastically among youth." Holli also explains the damaging effects on children's healthy development of their emotional intelligence (EQ), which is paramount for their social development and in the management of their emotions.

Take a listen! Screen Kids III: Psychological, Emotional, and Social Effects!

As we move into Podcast IV, Holli continues discussing the psychological and emotional effects of screen time on our children.  From Dr. Kathy Koch's book, "Screens and Teens," Holli outlines five maladaptive life-messages which teens are internalizing about themselves and their cyber environments and briefly discusses their harmful consequences:

1. I am the center of the universe.
2. I deserve to be happy all the time.
3. I must have choices.
4. I am my own authority.
5. Information is all I need so I don't need teachers.

Holli also discusses some of the psycho-social effects of "screen attachment" (i.e. parents overly-connected with their children) and how that hinders their healthy development.  Holli concludes Podcast IV discussing neurological and cognitive damage to our children's brains. As Holli explains, "I'm not a scientist so I will keep this simple!"  However, she describes how early dependence on gaming, texting, posting, tweeting, social networking, etc. prematurely tap into the "reward system" of our brain's neural network setting children up for a  host of psychological, educational, and emotional problems. Holli quotes from the experts on addiction who detail how this early conditioning and desensitizing of children's reward pathways makes children more vulnerable to other addictive behaviors as they mature. 

Take a listen!  Screen Kids IV: Psychological, Psycho-Social, Neurological and Cognitive Effects!

In the concluding podcast of Screen Kids, Holli offers parents, guardians, and those entrusted with the healthy and well-being some practical strategies and effective tools for raising tech-healthy children!  First, she discusses four types of parenting:

1. Authoritarian
2. Permissive / Absent (Screen-attached from your children)
3. Authoritative 
4. Anxious / Ambitious  (Screen-attached to your children) 

Then, audiences are challenged to take an  honest inventory of who they are as parents and ask themselves "What is best for my family?"  With all of the concerns and consequences regarding exposure to screens, Holli stresses to parents and guardians,

YOU  have the power to make decisions about how you want to move forward!
YOU can start today being the kind of parent your children need you to be!

Holli provides four powerful strategies with tools for each in moving forward:

1.  Balance
2.  Boundaries
3.  Belonging
4.  Being Brave 

Take a listen!  Screen Kids V: Where Do We Go From Here?

Let's show our kids they are more important than our screens!

For more information, parenting guidelines and practices....
"Power Down & Parent Up" is here for you!

Available on Amazon !!

And, if you would like your children to learn how to DISCOVER, DEFINE AND DETERMINE their REAL worth, I invite you to get a copy of "Another Way!"

Another Way - a novel for tweens - teens

Please visit Holli Kenley for more healing resources. 
We would love for you to join us on FB Author Holli Kenley or  follow on Twitter !

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Raising Tech-Healthy Children! Help Is On The Way!!

Parents and Guardians, every generation has it challenges. We certainly had ours and our children have theirs! However, there is something very uniquely problematic about raising children in this digital age. The emerging and ever-present scientific advancements which offer 24/7 communication and social interaction and supposedly are "connecting" us to one another more rapidly and efficiently are the same technological tools which are changing who we are and cultivating a "disconnect" with one another.

Although research is  mounting in support of "tech-effects" on our children, 
we also know that adults are not immune to many of the psychological, relational, 
physical,and behavioral consequences of passive and interactive time spent on screens.

Why is this so hard to believe? 
Why do we want to turn away from what is going on? 

This is important.  I think the first reason is because we - as parents - do not want to think we might be doing something which is contributing to the harm of our children! What responsible parent would do that? Of course, we wouldn't.  I want you to know that you are not responsible for changing what you don't know! And, most parents have no idea about the dangers of  passive and interactive screen-time on their children. So, don't beat yourself up. Don't become immobilized in your guilt. Don't bury yourself in denial because your friends aren't changing their ways. At the conclusion of this blog, I am going to show you... How To Tech-Protect Our Kids with 4 Must-Read books and an amazing APP! 

Get ready to get informed. And then, get ready to make healthy changes! 

When I was growing up in the 50's, it seemed like almost all adults smoked!  It was a social thing. My dad smoked, my parents' friends smoked, and many relatives smoked, especially at parties and celebrations. Although I remember my dad smoking mostly outside on our patio, there came a time when he wanted to quit. He talked about how it wasn't good for his health or for his children's. I remember how over the years, the cigarette commercials started disappearing off the TV. Then, the bill-boards came down. Eventually, health warnings appeared on the cigarette packs. Slowly, people's minds began to change as they became more informed. And, as more years went by, laws began to change protecting folks who didn't smoke from the smoke of those who did. I believe neither my parents nor the parents of millions of other children wanted to endanger their kids' health (or their own). They just didn't know any differently. Today, with health concerns mounting around our children's degree of access and exposure to electronic screens, we have no excuses.

 We just need to be willing to become informed.
We don't need to panic or  move from a place of fear.
We have solid information and seasoned experts to guide our paths.

The second reason why I think we want to avoid addressing screen-time usage is because we - as adults - are enjoying our screens as much as our children! Look around. Parents are connected to their devices as well! Also, every day there are new gadgets, faster phones, three-dimensional apparatus, more intriguing, seductive games, and so on. Our friends have the newest versions and we want them too! And so, this too is important. This too is hard. We - as adults - must face on own issues of tech dependence, social comparison (keeping up with Jones family) and other tech-related problematic behaviors. We must be willing to acknowledge them, change them, and model healthy face-to-face relationships with our children and with one another.

 No matter what the enticement might be, we must remember...
"Too much of a good thing is not always a healthy thing."

Are you old enough to remember when there were no fast food chains? Ok, there may have been an A and W Drive-In or a favorite hang-out burger joint! But, it wasn't until the emergence of McDonalds, Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, and countless others that we experienced a huge shift in our diets, our routines, and even in our health.  Raising my daughter in the 80's and 90's,  I remember when health concerns first started surfacing about ingredients in fast-foods as well as in processed foods. As more information was released, I made necessary adjustments.  As a working mom, it was not always easy to make a home-cooked meal, but I made it a priority to make sure my daughter had healthful meals. I did not eliminate fast-food altogether. However, I was much more mindful as to how often we would get those yummy Big Macs and delicious fries! Over the years, many of the chains have chosen to make changes in their ingredients and to offer healthier alternatives to their menus! They have acted responsibly to the evidence supporting unhealthy practices and to the growing concerns of their consumers. As the consequences of over-exposure to screens continue to show up in our children's lives and our own, we - as parents - must to do same.

Becoming informed does not mean the eradication of popular practices.
It means becoming empowered to make the best decisions regarding their impact on our lives.

Protection means being informed.
Parents and Guardians, let's get started. Let's get informed! 

All of these resources are amazing! I've read each one thoroughly. Choose ONE to get started. Choose one which best suits your needs right now. Don't get over-whelmed with too much information at once. These are in no particular order - they are all great!

1.  "Power Down & Parent Up: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children"  by Holli Kenley

How can we navigate a tech-given world and raise tech-healthy children? I wrote "Power Down & Parent Up" to show you how!  It is concise - about 50 pages -  but it contains sound strategies to put into your parenting toolbox!  Remember, REAL POWER COMES IN BEING INFORMED!

2.   "Disconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids" by Thomas Kersting

I love this book because it was written from  a father's perspective!  Tom is also a psychotherapist, a high school counselor, and a coach on his son's team! With a compassionate and convincing voice, this amazing father offers a concise yet powerful approach for parents/guardians to reclaim the health and well-being of their children.  I HIGHLY recommend "Disconnected"! (92 pages)

3.   "Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World" by Kathy Koch, PhD.

This is an extraordinary book because Kathy addresses the problematic "life-messages" our children are learning about themselves and the world around them as a consequence of their time spent interacting with technology. "Screens and Teens" is a faith-based family-friendly approach.  Kathy provides plenty of exercises to implement with our children as well discussion guides for families to reconnect in healthy ways. (237 pages)

4.  "Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four-Week Plan To End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Syndrome" by Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D.

If you are a parent who is raising a child who is overly anxious, irritable, hyper-stimulated, inattentive, and unfocused (and who spends time on screens) or  a counselor, educator, therapist, doctor (pediatrician) who is seeing a rise or dramatic increase in  ADD, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and depressive symptoms in your child or the children you work with, PLEASE read this book. These children "may" be medicated unnecessarily. These children "may" be misdiagnosed and suffering instead from "Electronic Screen Syndrome". "Reset" is a research-based clinically detailed analysis of the effects on children's overall well-being as the result of screen-time. Victoria, a mom herself, offers a ground-breaking "reset" program which is family friendly, providing a step-by-step process for restoring your child's health. I believe EVERY clinician or individual who is assessing children's health should read this book.  (317 pages)

5.  "Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - And How To Break The Trance" by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

I know the word "addiction" is a scary word. Don't let that deter you from choosing this book. If you, or your children, or other loved ones are spending a great deal of time "gaming" (video games) and are finding it problematic to stop or cut back are not alone. Nicholas Kardaras describes how and why video games are designed to become "addictive" (as are other screen interactive behaviors) and he provides a myriad of proven strategies for recovering from screen addiction or reducing screen problematic behaviors. Having experienced gaming addiction personally, Dr. Kardaras speaks with a compassionate and caring voice. You will not feel judged! (246 pages)

Lastly, but just as importantly, I want to share with you a new APP - BOSCO - which is being launched as we speak!

What is BOSCO?  BOSCO is purely an awareness tool - not a control tool - and will only alert parents when its algorithm has shown that the parents' attention is needed.  This APP provides a fresh approach to digital parenting!

Because of my interest in cyber bullying and its impact on the well-being of our children and because of how vulnerable our children are to on-line predators and other dangers, I think this is a extremely valuable tool.  In the words of Enon Landenberg, Co-Founder of Bosco and father of three, "We imagined an alternative that would help us keep our kids safe without infringing on their independence." I highly encourage you to check this out!

In closing, I want you to know that these folks and countless others (as do I) care deeply about the well-being of our children. It is why we do what we do. There is no other motivation. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to them or to  me.  We are here to help and support you. I ask one thing of you...

Be brave....take a deep breath...and begin reading. 
This high-tech generation needs our best parenting...they deserve no less.

Please, don't hesitate to reach out ~
Join us on FB  Author Holli Kenley
Follow on Twitter Holli Kenley

For more empowering reads....

Tweens - Teens - Discover, Define and Determine Your Real Worth!

Parents and Teens: Are We Addicted To Our Screens?

How Screen Dependence Is Impacting Children and Families In recent years there has been a growing body of evidence that Internet Add...