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Teens & Technology: Addiction, Secret Codes, Bullying & More

In the past few years, advances in technology have had major impacts on the physical and mental health of children and teens. 

Whereas family members used to all sit down together at mealtime, the current disconnection has caused parents to lose touch. They have no real, intimate personal communications with their kids. 

Dr. Lisa Strohman suggests looking at technology use the same as you would a treat such as chocolate cake. Sure, you'd love to have it every day (multiple times a day), but that wouldn't be healthy for you and it will have consequences. Parents need to introduce balance when it comes to devices and media use. For example, implement text-free Tuesdays where you all do something to communicate face-to-face, such as playing a board game. 

Another huge issue that technology has brought about is that of online harassment, or what we now call cyberbullying.

It's very difficult to escape from this type of bullying. Even if you use typical tactics to block or "unfriend" a user, there are ways for the harassers to get through. Recently, an 18-year-old took her own life after having to endure months of attacks via anonymous predators.

If your teen or pre-teen seems withdrawn, newly introverted, or is having obvious mood shifts, don't be afraid to approach him or her and ask the hard questions, such as "Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?" Oftentimes their feelings are such a big burden, they may feel relieved to let it out.

Emerging acronyms make it easier for kids to bully other kids without parents necessarily knowing what's going on. Lisa shares just a few of the more popular ones:

KYS: Kill Your Self
KMS: Kill My Self
182: I Hate You
DIRL: Die in Real Life
FUB: Fat Ugly Bastard

Some of these are in jest, but such messages could be interpreted by certain kids as truth. Those kids are part of a vulnerable population, and anonymity can allow for more aggressive attacks.

As a parent, if you come across a seemingly "secret code," a simple Google search will likely give you information on what it means. 

One piece of advice Lisa gives both kids and parents is to resist the impulse to respond on social media. Commenting on a Twitter or Facebook post can be like adding gasoline to a fire. Don't assume that others have the same mindset as you. Be cautious about who you're interacting with online. Someone who posts vicious claims probably doesn't have the same moral compass as you.

It's a new world we live in, but not all hope is lost. 

Listen in as Dr. Strohman joins Dr. Friedman to explain the impact technology has on your teen (and family dynamic), as well as how you can combat the negative and foster the positive.
Teens & Technology: Addiction, Secret Codes, Bullying & More
Lisa Strohman, PhD
Lisa-StrohmanDr. Lisa Strohman is the founder and director of the Technology Wellness Center, one of the first organizations to address the global issue of technology addiction and overuse. As a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Strohman has spent more than a decade working with individual, family and adolescent clients struggling with issues including depression, anxiety and addiction.

Recognizing the growing challenges parents now face with their children, and the increasingly serious issues her young patients are dealing with due to our growing dependency on technology, inspired Dr. Strohman to launch the Technology Wellness Center, which she co-founded with Dr. Melissa Westendorf JD, PhD in 2014.

After growing up in California, Dr. Strohman attended the University of California, Davis, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She then completed a joint, integrated program in law and Psychology at Villanova and Drexel Universities, where she met Dr. Westendorf.

During her undergraduate career, Dr. Strohman gained experience as a lead program coordinator with Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT), as a family reunification therapist and a hospice counselor. While attending graduate school, she performed research in substance abuse, risk communication and child abduction. Her avid interest in public policy earned her the honor of becoming a legislative intern for Congress. She was also selected as an honors intern with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and invited to become a visiting scholar with the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime division as she completed her dissertation.

After earning her Juris Doctorate, Strohman worked at a large law firm, while completing her residency at the Arizona State Hospital in both a clinical and forensic rotation in clinical psychology. She eventually settled back into her counseling practice as the clinical psychologist with Lifescape Medical Associates, where she utilizes her training in cognitive behavior therapy to help patients.

In addition to establishing the Technology Wellness Center, Dr. Strohman and Dr. Westendorf developed an assessment test (TUC) to help parents identify if their child is at risk from technology overuse. The two have also co-authored a book, Unplug: Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World, published in July 2015.

In an effort to educate parents, caregivers and students, Dr. Strohman frequently speaks at schools, parent organizations and with students to help raise awareness and offer preventative tools and resources. She is also frequently featured in the media as an expert source for issues related to technology use and behavior.