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The Digital Era: A Response

The following are my thoughts as inspired by Dr. Alcalay’s submission to this blog. As you read through his article you see that we are teaching our children to look outward to non-person-based objects. He further states that this overall set of behaviors is affecting our adolescents’ identity and self development as well as their emotional health. I would like to remark on that.


As parents continue to choose to allow their children to focus on external non-person objects, they are inadvertently agreeing to ignore that very child. In general, by allowing children to have an external focus, parents are not helping with the development of the child’s own truth or definition of self. There are a further number of challenges that develop as a result of an absence of focus on the child. Without an understanding of Self, the child may grow not knowing what they prefer, what they like, what they wish to experience, or what they dream.


Without interaction with others, the child may not develop a sense of who they are separate from others. They probably will not develop a sense of social comfort or social skill. Consequently, the child may feel a sense of being not good enough because they don’t have a way to develop a good feeling about their self. At the beginning, we learn who we are by seeing our dreams in others and then transferring that into our Self. For instance a child under 3 has a blanket or stuffed animal to which they are attached. This object is so they can internalize the primary parent: that person who gives them safety, acceptance, and understanding. Without a sense of self that is positive or theirs, the child can become frustrated and fearful leading to anger and aggression as a secondary reaction to the prior emotions.


If our children begin to feel frustrated and angry and they do not have parents with whom they are interacting on a teaching caring level, they become more internally judgmental. Consequently, they then may become more angry and lonely and frustrated. At this point, they may learn to believe that bullying is okay and that aggression is okay. If the television, games, and more are desensitizing them to aggression, bullying and more, this can be a lethal combination. Consequently, they may grow to think their aggression is an acceptable form of expression for their fear-based emotions. Worse, they may not even have a language to express their fear-based emotions.


In the absence of knowing who they are and knowing their emotions, it most probably can lead to an intense sense of shame: the feeling that they are not what others think they are; that they are not good enough; that they are different than others and therefore not acceptable; and so much more.  It is at this point that you may be able to see how easily all of the external focus can lead to an increase in anxiety and obesity.


There’s a further thought, if in fact our children of today are not learning who they are as a person, they are not defining their integrity, remorse, or responsibility in the way that we, the generation of their parents, learned. This can lead to an intense sense of entitlement. I think most of us are aware of the problem we are having in this country with entitlement. Furthermore, without remorse or responsibility being strong in the development of sense of self, our growing children become detached and further desensitized to their own expression of aggression and anger.


Without socializing with others and learning who they are, our children will probably have a much greater propensity to take things personally. Add to that the fear they are not good enough and then they would be even more apt to take things personally.


At this point I think all of us can start to see how the children growing up today run a high risk of not only not knowing who they are but not being able to define themselves through or with or separate from others. Consequently, they may flounder. We are also seeing a rise in suicide, substance abuse and sleeplessness coupled with ADHD and anxiety. That is for another response. Meantime, do we need to wonder why? At what point do we step in and create a stop? At what point do parents begin to say “my only job is to develop in my child the ability to have happiness in this life”? At what point do parents begin to understand that their only job is to create safe boundaries within which a child can explore and grow. When we allow the media, games, and entertainment to raise our children there are no boundaries and there is no safety.


While there is no handbook on how to raise a child? People like Dr Alcalay and I are here and willing to answer any and all questions you may have. We invite all of you to write back or call with your feedback, questions, and concerns. Feel free to tweet @kristenbomas or respond on the website of Facebook. We welcome an interactive platform so that we may serve you and your needs.


The Digital Era

I would like to thank Dr. Edan Alcalay for his contribution and partnership in this blog as well as his fellowship on the podcast. Edan is an amazing psychologist and man. It is a great privilege and joy to have him join us on my blog. I am honored to be able to introduce him to all of you.


The Digital Era
Kids spend almost 8 hours per day in front of a screen….Couple that with media multi-tasking, watching a movie and texting or facebooking while surfing the Internet, and it now jumps to 10 hours per day. That 1/3 of a kid’s life is in front of a screen!!!


How is that not going to influence our youth? Anxiety has risen over the past 30 years, ADHD has increased, and Obesity. 25% of youths are diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder, 1 in 9 have ADHD and Obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. Alarming!!


Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems. Exposure to video games also increases the risk of attention problems in children. Children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully than children who don’t (Ozmert, Ince, Pektas, Ozdemir, & Uckardes, 2011). Too much exposure to violence on TV and in movies, music videos, and video and computer games can desensitize children to violence. As a result, children may learn to accept violent behavior as a normal part of life and a way to solve problems (Huesmann, Moise-Titus, Podolski, & Eron, 2003).


Where did it all begin… Ronald Reagan. Well, in the 1980’s the Reagan Administration promoted Free Enterprise, ‘let the people govern themselves’. Businesses flourished, economic freedom, somewhat. Just prior to that, in the 1970’s the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a ban on advertising to children. In the 1980’s, nonetheless, Congress refuted this and called the FTC a “National Nanny”. Marketing companies exploded with advertising campaigns targeting children. The “Nag Factor” was developed where companies learned that if they convince children vis-a-vis commercials to buy their products, they would “Nag” their parents to purchase it.


Saturday morning, perhaps one of the most exciting times of the week, was where back to back cartoons held a TV spot from about 7am-11am. These cartoons were scientifically engineered to have one outcome- SELL. They would have a psychologist on staff in order to manipulate their naive audience. Martin Lindstrom wrote a book called Brandwashed discussing how multi-billion dollar companies spend exorbitant amount of money to brainwash its consumer. Smells, sounds, colors, placement of ads, height of point of sale, are all just a few examples of many. Strollers, bibs, much of kids’ necessities now have licensed character from Elmo to Buzz Lightyear. Infants as young a 6 months old, are able to form “mental image” of marketing campaigns. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that “nearly all of America’s 6-years-old could identify Joe Camel, who was just as familiar to them as Mickey Mouse.”


It gets worse, a study by Chen et al. (1999) found that 1 extra hour of MTV was associated with an increased in potential adolescent alcohol abuse by 31%. Socially, marketing companies have glorified alcohol in order to create an alluring attraction. Not only are the effects of alcohol reinforcing, but the social lubrication and communal component has its benefits as well. With identity being one of the developmental components of adolescents, marketing companies through branding can contaminate this identity search. The branding that companies project on the public becomes the integral part of the self (Aaker, 1996). Through various forms of advertising, marketers embed their brand into the psyche of their target population. Specifically, U.S. Television alcohol advertising has reached 89% of youths under the legal drinking age (i.e., ages 12 to 20) (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2008). When the Federal Trade Commission looked into this issue, they stated that there is some evidence that advertising plays a role on underage drinking, yet it is “far from conclusive” (Federal Trade Commission, 1999; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). However, subsequent studies looked at 13 longitudinal studies published in peer-reviewed literature, following up a total of more than 38,000 young people (18 and younger) from 13 studies to assess the impact of marketing on adolescents, suggested that exposure to media is associated with a greater probability that adolescents will commence alcohol consumption, or consume more if they are already drinking at baseline (Anderson, De Bruijn, Angus, Gordon, & Hastings, 2009).


Cellphones, our fifth limb, is engrained in us so much that the first thing that people do when they wake up is check their phone. Also, what many do is browse their cellphone at night which according to According to Harvard Medical School sleep researcher Steven Lockley.

  • “Blue light preferentially alerts the brain, suppresses the melatonin and shifts your body clock all at the same time
  • “Your brain is more alert now and thinks it’s daytime because we have evolved to only see bright light during the day.”

This influences our circadian rhythm, and as we know, if we have a difficult night of sleep our emotional/mental heath is poor. Children, especially need at least 8-10 hours of sleep every day for proper development. This is the time where neural connection and synaptic pruning occurs. Millions of American Youth watch television and have a cellphone. Youths who watch more than 2 hours per day of TV are likely to be overweight (Strasburger, 2011). Moreover, in a study among adolescents, intensive mobile phone use was linked to poor perceived health, both directly and through poor sleep and waking-time tiredness (Punamäki, Wallenius, Nygard, Saarni, Rimpela, 2007).


We need to start making changes before it is too late…

What can a parent do?

  • Eliminate background TV.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Keep an open communication.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV.
  • Set school day rules.
  • Avoid using TV and video or computer games as a reward.
  • Unplug it:
  • You might designate one day a week a screen-free day.
  • Suggest other activities:
  • classic activities, such as reading, playing a sport or trying a new board game.
  • Set a good example.
  • Make viewing an event:
  • Plan to see a movie in a theater.
  • Choose a show and pick a specific time to watch it.
  • Plan what your child views. Implement TV Parental Guidelines.
  • Make a list of the programs your child can watch for the week and post it in a visible spot, such as near the TV or on the refrigerator.
  • Use parental control settings on your home computer.
  • ESRB Ratings
  • Preview video games before allowing your child to play them
  • Watch with your child — and talk about what you see.
  • Record programs.
  • This will allow you to skip or fast-forward through commercials selling toys, junk food and other products,
  • Pause a program when you want to discuss something you’ve watched — such as a depiction of family values, violence or drug abuse.
  • During live programs, use the MUTE button during commercials.

For more information, please contact
Dr. Edan M. Alcalay, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
direct: 561.350.4464


Kristen Bomas, PA
398 Camino Gardens Blvd., Suite 104
Boca Raton, Fl 33432


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