Our blog today is from our ADHD In Home Coach, Chrissy Sunberg, M.Ed., AAC.
On Wednesday January 10, 2018, I was joined by parents of the Rockaway Public School District as I presented on the topic of Behavioral Needs, Parenting, Parenting Style, Aligning Parenting Styles and the Caretaker's Time Out.
The questions, comments and discussions were lively! Thank you to all of those who attended and participated!
A study published Tuesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science finds that increased time spent with popular electronic devices — whether a computer, cell phone or tablet — might have contributed to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts over the last several years among teens, especially among girls.
Though San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge, who led the study, agrees this sort of research can only establish a correlation between long hours of daily screen time and symptoms of alienation — it can't prove one causes the other — she thinks the findings should be a warning to parents.
"One hour, maybe two hours [a day], doesn't increase risk all that much," Twenge says. "But once you get to three hours — and especially four and then, really, five hours and beyond — that's where there's much more significant risk of suicide attempts, thinking about suicide and major depression."
Twenge and her colleagues took a hard look at national surveys that asked more than a half million young people, ages 13 to 18, questions that get at symptoms of depression.
Twenge says the surveys asked students to respond to statements such as "Life often feels meaningless," or "I feel I can't do anything right," or "I feel my life is not very useful.
Between 2010 and 2015 Twenge found the number of teens who answered "yes" to three or more of these questions increased significantly, from 16 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2015.
By far the biggest increase was among girls — who were six times more likely than boys to report these or other symptoms of depression.
Twenge says the gender difference in the findings might be because the screen experience for boys — typically playing computer games — is a lot different than it is for girls.
"For girls, she says, "a lot of social media revolves around concerns about popularity — am I going to get likes on this photograph, do I look good enough in this picture?
The study also looked at survey responses to questions about suicidal thoughts.
"These include things like depression, thinking about suicide, making a plan to commit suicide and then actually having attempted suicide at some point in the past," Twenge says.
Her team found an increase in suicidal thoughts over that time period and, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increase in suicide deaths among teens from 1,386 in 2010 to 1,769 in 2015.
Again, the finding about suicidal thoughts was strongest among girls.
Financial stresses and anxiety related to academics and homework are often cited as factors in teen depression. But the overall economy improved between 2010 and 2015, Twenge notes. And surveys suggest the amount of homework given over that time period did not increase.
What did increase significantly, she says, was students' online activity, via computer games and social media.
Her research found that teens who spent the most time on their electronic devices were more likely to also show signs of depression.
Meanwhile, she says, the surveys suggested that hours spent in face-to-face activities — sports, parties, even just going to the mall with friends — seemed to be protective.
Nonetheless, psychologist Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, takes issue with the researchers' conclusion that online activity is likely behind a shift in teen mood. Przybylski says teens may now simply be more willing to admit they are worried or sad.
"It could be that young people are reaching out, telling parents, telling friends," he says, "and certainly not feeling bad about filling out a survey about how they feel."
And the study doesn't eliminate the possibility that financial strains at home may have contributed to any genuine uptick in depressive symptoms among teens, says Przybylski. Even though statistics suggest the overall U.S. economy improved during the time period of the study, the researchers didn't explore what was happening in individual households in terms of job loss, for example.
Changes in a family's economic circumstances, he says, can be a leading cause of a child's depression.
Twenge responds that though her findings don't prove cause and effect, they are in synch with results from other studies, including some randomized trials — that have found that when people spend less time on electronic devices they tend to be happier and less lonely.
Twenge says the findings should spur continued research and, in the meantime, should serve as a warning for parents that if their teen spends lots of time online they may be at heightened risk of depression.
While the strength of the findings may be controversial, many parents worry about their child's reliance on social media, says Adam Pletter, a child psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C.
Every day, Pletter says, he sees struggles between kids and their parents. Adults are often way behind, he says, when it comes to technology their kids are fluently using.
"We are digital immigrants," Pletter says. "We did not grow up with internet and cell phones — at least most of us did not. So there's a real dilemma, in that we're in charge of safeguarding our kids and teaching our kids how to be savvy digital users, and we don't have all the skills. Many of us are afraid of the technology."
Pletter offers workshops in person — and online — aimed at helping parents figure out ways to reduce their children's reliance, and in some cases, addiction, to screen time.
Trying to manage your child's electronics is a big concern for parents in the 21st century. If you are feeling defeated by the Smart Phone, I pad or the X-Box hopefully this article will help.
First and Foremost, technology is here to stay, if we like it or not. Our children will need the skills in the future. So, let's get SMART about it. While we know very little about the future of technology and how it will look, we do have many studies on the effects of excessive technology within time. While excessive use of electronics does not cause ADHD or learning disabilities, it can further compromise the ability of a person with ADHD or other learning difficulties to focus.
Can the answer to your child's technology use be moderation? I think so! You heard it before, "anything in moderation" is ok. Electronic use, in moderation, can be a fun activity and is not harmful. But when balance becomes inordinate, maybe it's time for some New SMART Rules for technology considering The New Year is here. Below are a few ideas to incorporate technology into your home that is non-intrusive.
First, show your child how to use technology properly and to their benefit. Monkey See Monkey Do. If they see that you are on your phone updating facebook or texting often, they will want to do the same.
Second, try planning a non-traditional competitive Family Game Night using the x-box or Wii. It's a night the entire family will be excited for. You can try Wipe Out for the Wii or Family Game Night 4 for the X-Box 360.
Third, make electronics a reward incentive. After your child finishes his homework or other responsibilities, he can earn 30-45 minutes daily or whatever you feel is appropriate. For screen time to be a motivating incentive – it needs to be offered and restricted, wisely. You can keep technology use just for the weekends as well.
If your daughter is into updating her status on Facebook every hour or your son just can't get enough of DanTDM, remember you can come back to this article anytime as a reference.
Another excellent resource for all things technology and family are called common sense media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
Please reach out and let us know how your New Years Rules for SMART Electronics are going in your home.
He has summarized for us, as parents of adolescents, the signs of anxiety, ways to decrease the experience of stress when switching schools.
Teenage anxiety is a growing problem. Anxiety issues usually stem from worrying about the future, low self-esteem, and keeping such concerns a secret. Unfortunately for teenagers, most parents don’t recognize anxiety in their children. Usually, it’s because parents don’t notice, can’t tell, are too busy running the household, or don’t believe their child has such problems. Some studies suggest that close to one in eight children suffer from severe anxiety. Typically, children who suffer from anxiety are younger than college age. They often don’t talk about it and don’t try to get help. Teen anxiety and stress can only become heightened when a family relocates and a teen must switch schools.
Adults may have to relocate a family to a new city due to a divorce, new job opportunity, or economic reasons. When a teen must relocate to a new environment and school, anxiety and stress can get in the way of socially adjusting. The teen has no control over the situation, and resentment against a parent or the unfairness of life can also be a factor in anxiety. Teens can become homesick for their old life and stress over a future in new, unknown surroundings. Although the onset of stress and anxiety may be difficult to stop or diagnose, once recognized, there are many things a parent can do to help.
Tips on Recognizing Anxiety
The first step in recognizing whether your teen has anxiety is to look for the following signs:
- Wildly disrupted daily routines
- Isolation from peers
- Inability to sleep and concentrate
- Drug use
- Uncontrolled body movements and tics
- Poor and worsening school performance
- Avoiding peers and social situations
- Excessive, angry sarcasm
- Silent treatment
- Homesickness after a move
Consider that as a parent, you may be suffering from anxiety as well. Children look to their parents to learn how to react to life situations. If you express fear and anxiety, they will pick up on that, learn from it, and model their own responses. Learn to develop a poker face and know that your child is watching you and learning from you, especially in times of stress.
How to Lessen Stress After Switching Schools
A move during the school year and switching schools can be an awfully stressful experience for teens. They must uproot their lives, make new friends, adjust to new surroundings, and fully let go of their old lives. This can be a tall order for young people. Engage in a conversation and discuss what they are leaving behind and what they will gain in the future.
The following are steps you can take to lessen stress:
- If possible, arrange for a guided tour of the school to alleviate worries about the future
- Do your best to transform anxiety about the future into enthusiasm
- Encourage teens to enroll in social clubs and help them look for extracurricular activities that they are excited about
- Try to help your teen look for a silver lining
- Consider a family visit to a therapist if all else fails
Be Involved in Your Kid’s Life and Talk It Out
The best way to combat teen anxiety is to be involved in your child’s life. Talk out all problems to find a solution. Ask them about what’s going on and do your best to listen. Some other tips to help your children include:
- Don’t ever rationalize anxiety or make it seem like an acceptable problem to have
- Tell them there is no shame in having anxiety or stress, not to repress or ignore such feelings, and that it’s best to talk it out
- Emphasize that they can talk to you about anything
- Give them every outlet possible to help eliminate their stress
Teens will always deal with anxiety problems. Be involved in their lives, learn the signs of anxiety, and always talk things out. By making sure your children feel no shame or guilt for feeling anxious, they may be more likely to open up to you. Giving them the security and support they need during such a difficult transition will always be the best way to help them adjust.
For my own child who seems to struggle with transitions, I've set it up with her that if she is able to get through the morning routine with minimal meltdowns, she will score a lunch at Panera's - her favorite, broccoli cheddar soup!
I encourage parents to set up a reward system in advance of situations that may be a struggle for your child, and be consistent. Don't over or under indulge your child. As your child shows greater strength or self control, it becomes easier to maintain that behavior. Further, your child's self esteem increases as well.
Take a look at a blog that I contributed to written by Kristen Acevedo, who also confirms that sometimes, bribery works....
However, what happens when you are the parent of a child who is suffering from PANDAS/PANS? Where do you go? What tests do you request? Unfortunately, you will become your child's advocate and you may need to direct his or her treatment.
The first stop is your pediatrician and request a blood test looking for strep as well as the ASO titer. Then, find a PANDAS/PANS expert in your area who will prescribe antibiotics and help you manage the symptoms.
It's also unfortunate that often times, your medical doctor will direct you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Within our practice, we are all too aware of PANDAS/PANS or other underlying physiological reasons for a child's behavior, such as hypo or hyper thyroids, diabetes, or Celiac's to name a few.
Scary Mama shared this blog that clearly describes a mother's experience and observations of her child's behavior that just didn't make sense, and we are passing it on. The more awareness we have, the better.
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Back To School
DSM-V Revised Definition Of Autism
Should I Tell My Child That He/she Has Autism?