Healthy and safe use of technology for optimal mental health in the new normal of daily technology dependence
Audio only version
No Going Back? COVID-19 has changed the future of home-working and home-learning. In this interview with media-psychologist Dr. Don Grant, learn healthy ways to cope with our increased dependence on technology due to social restrictions and lockdowns. Discover some useful ways to set screen boundaries, normalise the abnormal, find human connection and optimise our mental health in an increasingly digital world.
In this interview learn about:
- Healthy device management
- How to set realistic screen boundaries and screen free time
- Strategies and skills for parents: how to normalise a school day at home
- How to manage our children’s on-screen time—including gaming, social media and TV
- How to maintain communication and monitor cyber bullying
- The value of face-to-face and the social connections that build dopamine and covalent bonds, and make us happy
- Ways to maintain a sense of humanity and connection in an increasing digital world
About Dr. Don Grant
Don Grant, MA, MFA, DAC, SUDCC IV, Ph.D is an internationally award-winning media psychologist, published researcher, addiction specialist, and Director of Outpatient Services for Newport Healthcare. He is also Chairman of both the American Psychological Association (Div. 46) “Device Management & Intelligence” and “Strategic Planning” committees, President-Elect of APA Division 46 (The Society For Media Psychology & Technology), and has been commissioned by APA to write the only book on “Healthy Device Management & The Practice of Good Digital Citizenship” they plan to publish. Dr. Grant also designs, presents, and facilitates CEU treatment strategy and educational training workshops on “Healthy Device Management” and “The Practice of Good Digital Citizenship” for treatment centers, clinicians, practitioners, educators, parents, and school communities.
In addition, Dr. Grant is a certified Doctoral Addictions Counselor, Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor IV, nationally certified group facilitator, and clinician/educator/program trainer. He received his B.A. with honors from the University of Michigan, MFA from the University of Southern California, and both an MA and Ph.D. (summa cum laude) in Psychology (with an emphasis in media psychology) from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara.
In 2015 Dr. Grant was invited to present his research at the APA Convention in Toronto. His global study on technologically mediated vs Face-to-Face recovery communities was hand-selected by the convention committee for individual external promotion through a dedicated press release distributed to all media, and immediately went internationally “viral.” For this (and his preceding work) Dr. Grant received the 2015 American Psychological Association “Early Career Achievement Award.” In 2012 he was also awarded an international “Best of Show” prize in London for his research on digitally delivered vs F2F recovery support.
In addition to dozens of webcasts, webinars, and podcasts, he has been a keynote speaker at many prestigious conferences and events. Dr. Grant’s media credits as an expert device management and addiction recovery professional include: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the TNB Network series; “Youth Suicide,” Good Morning San Diego and Fox News Networks among others. Print, interview, and author credits include: The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, APA Monitor On Psychology, The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, Us, and People magazine.
Dr. Grant is a proud board member of several not-for-profit organizations, including “ONE Recovery” and “Miriam’s House”. His current research includes investigations of the potential effects of social media, cyberbullying, cyberpornography, and the imminent rise of augmented and virtual reality-based opportunities, on adolescents, teens, young adults, families, and our culture/relationships-at-large.
Connect with Dr. Don Grant:
- Internet Gaming Disorder In Children and Adolescents with 18 co-authors
- Using Social Media for Sobriety Recovery: Beliefs, Behaviors, and Surprises from Users of Face-to-Face and Social Media Sobriety Support with Karen E. Dill-Shackleford
- Has Social Media Begun To “Sponsor” Addiction Recovery?: A Study of Face-To-Face Versus Online Sobriety Support
- The Digital Drug
Dr. Don Grant (00:00:04):
I am not anti-technology. I do not teach, promote or endorse abstinence from technology. First of all, it would be unrealistic. So, my platform, and what I work on and what I try to teach and where I try to give skills, is healthy device management and the practice of good digital citizenship. Meaning, trying to ensure that we behave behind the protection and veiled communication of screens and devices, the same way as we would IRL, as the kids say, in real life.
Kirkland Newman (00:00:37):
Welcome to the MindHealth360 Show. I’m Kirkland Newman. And if you, your loved ones or clients suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, poor memory, poor attention, mood swings, exhaustion, etc, I interview the leading integrative mental health practitioners from around the world to help you understand the root causes of these symptoms, many of which may surprise you, and suggest solutions to help you heal. If you like this interview, please do subscribe and forward to others who might find it helpful. If you want further information, please go to www.mindhealth360.com, or find us on social media.
Kirkland Newman (00:01:15):
Dr. Don Grant, thank you so much for being here on the MindHealth360 show. So, Dr. Don Grant is a media psychologist. He’s an internationally award-winning media psychologist, published researcher, addiction specialist, and he’s the director of outpatient services for Newport Healthcare.
Kirkland Newman (00:01:32):
He’s also chairman of both the American Psychological Association Device Management and Intelligence and Strategic Planning committees. And he’s the president-elect of the APA division, the Society for Media Psychology and Technology. And he’s been commissioned by the APA to write the only book on healthy device management and the practice of good digital citizenship, which they plan to publish.
Kirkland Newman (00:01:54):
So, there are so many other elements to your biography. You’ve done so much. And I’m going to put all those in the show notes. But I think for now, let’s just leave it at that. You’re a total expert on media psychology, social media, technology. And you were one of the participants in the MindHealth360 healthy device, how to navigate technology and devices for our mental health, which we put on with the How To Academy a couple of years ago almost.
Kirkland Newman (00:02:23):
So, in May 2019. And we haven’t released that yet. And before releasing that, we wanted to acknowledge the fact that over the last year, things have just changed completely. We’re completely dependent on technology. We’re completely glued to our screens, whether it’s kids, adolescents, adults. We’re on Zoom all day, we do pretty much everything on our screens.
Kirkland Newman (00:02:48):
And so, my question to you is, my two boys are on their screens 16 hours a day as far as I can see. I’m sure it’s not healthy. And the contrast with what we’ve been trying to do, which is deal with technology addiction, the threats of social media, which you and Mandy Saligary were helping us with, to now, where there’s no way that we can ask kids to get off their devices, they’re on their devices all day, we’re on our devices all day modeling thing.
Kirkland Newman (00:03:16):
So, my question to you, Don, is what do we do now? How do we navigate the fact that we’re all forced into this situation, which frankly, is not that healthy from a mental health perspective? What are the things that we can do to make this transition smoother and to ensure the mental health of ourselves, our kids, our adolescence in this new world, essentially?
Dr. Don Grant (00:03:43):
Right. And first, I want to say thank you. What you do and the work you do is exceptional and spectacular. And the way you approach it, and that you have such commitment and such intelligence and insight and commitment and dedication and passion for this, I’m so appreciative and grateful for you. Because the people who do what I do really need people like you to do what you do. Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of talking heads.
Dr. Don Grant (00:04:11):
And we don’t really get to expose what we’re do in our work in our research. I couldn’t be, as the kids say, a bigger fanboy of you and your work. And I actually want to, you might want to take this, your boys are only on their devices 16 hours out of 24? Wow, that’s fantastic. I mean, we’ll take the winds where we can get them, right? But what you brought up has been, of course, the question for people who do what I do, and for me.
Dr. Don Grant (00:04:43):
And I just want to put this umbrella as I always do over everything, I am so not anti-technology. I love technology. I love devices. I love the platform. I mean, I’m all in. I got the earbuds. I got phones. I am not anti-technology. I do not teach, promote or endorse abstinence from technology. First of all, it would be unrealistic. So, my platform and what I work on, and what I try to teach, and what I try to give skills is healthy device management and the practice of good digital citizenship.
Dr. Don Grant (00:05:21):
Meaning, trying to ensure that we behave behind the protection and veiled communication of screens and devices, the same way as we would IRL, as the kids say, in real life. So, I just want to make that clear to your audience, that I’m not up here or here trying to say, what has happened in the last year, it’s, the best word I can use is, ironic for what me and my colleagues do. Because we’re trying to teach healthy device management. And suddenly, unexpectedly, and without precedence, we became so dependent and increasingly reliant on these devices.
Dr. Don Grant (00:06:05):
And I want to say, and I mean this, I am so grateful for that, for the devices. It’s a dialectic where it’s, on the one hand, I feel one way, but on the other hand, I’m so grateful, because I’ve been saying to people, I mean, no one saw this coming. No one could have seen it coming. But could you imagine if this had happened 10 years ago, and we did not have the ability to connect even with a video. We could have used phones.
Dr. Don Grant (00:06:37):
We could have used emails. We could have done texting. But could you imagine? So, even though it’s been really rough, I’m actually really grateful that we’ve been able to have these devices. So, I want to put that over everything that we’re going to talk about, because I want people to know that that’s how I feel. However, it’s all about a few things. And the first thing that I’ve been telling people as a thesis, to answer your question is, no one’s thriving this year.
Dr. Don Grant (00:07:10):
Well, maybe Jeff Bezos, but he just stepped down. I mean, who knows? Maybe Amazon’s doing. And there’s people who are. But we need to manage our expectations. We need to really be open to the idea of being flexible, being adaptable, being kind to ourselves and to others, cutting ourselves a break on a lot of things, and realising the race has paused. So, this race that we’ve all been in, it’s paused, and everyone has had to sit down and wait.
Dr. Don Grant (00:07:42):
Some people have gotten up and done things, but we’re all in this together. So, the idea of being able to manage your expectations, be flexible, but then try to normalize in an abnormal situation. And I’ll tell you that a lot of the things that we’ve now become reliant on were things that people who do what I do, we knew this was coming, things like academic learning online, things like careers and employment, commerce and consumer, all of the platforms and silos.
Dr. Don Grant (00:08:16):
But we thought it was going to be an organic evolution over about 10 to 15 years. But suddenly, last winter and spring, it all collapsed. And we inorganically were all thrust into being reliant on our screens and our devices and the platforms they deliver. So, here’s the big question, ready for it? What we’re now trying to figure out and look at is what, because we’re in it now, when they say hindsight is 2020, well, actually, it literally is this year. Hindsight is 2020.
Dr. Don Grant (00:08:58):
So, the question that I’ve been asking, and I’ve been looking at this whole time, is what in the future, not now, and as researchers, the research for this year, I’ve been telling my colleagues and some really incredible people that I work with on some research teams, I’ve been saying, “I don’t know, when we clean the data, our use and reliance and how we’ve engaged on screens in 2020, from a research point of view, when you look longitudinally, will be an outlier.
Dr. Don Grant (00:09:34):
I don’t know if data from this year will be able to be looked at and we’re so interested in research, I don’t know if it’s going to be legit. So, what we’re going to be looking at in the future, and what we’re trying to predict now is what, because of what happened, will be a forced inorganic adaptation of use and utilization of devices, especially for the digital immigrants who were resistant, rejecting, overwhelmed, intimidated.
Dr. Don Grant (00:10:03):
I’ll give a pedestrian, as it gets to a basic example, people who said. “I would never go grocery shop online. I like to pick my vegetables,” now, they’ve learned how to do it. People who worked from home, who never worked from home. I mean, and now are working from home and employers were ready to say, “Oh, my God, they’re going to be sitting around eating bonbons all day, how do we monitor and have oversight?”
Dr. Don Grant (00:10:28):
And employees now having to manage the new normal of being in their home space and working from home. And a lot of them like it. I’ve had, especially women who’ve said, “I don’t even know if I could fit into my high heels anymore. I love not having to get up and get dressed and tread traffic and commuting.” People are really liking it, at least in the United States and in LA, that this can work, of working distantly and remotely.
Dr. Don Grant (00:10:54):
So, what’s going to be an inorganic forced adaptation even for people who are resistant? And then, what of these platforms and this use and utilization are going to now be adoptions of behavior? Will people continue to work from home? We will always now have the capabilities to do online schooling. The prejudice against, especially, higher education and colleges, “I would never go to an online school, college…” Gone.
Dr. Don Grant (00:11:24):
But there’ll always be these capabilities now for everything we’re doing. So, what we’re looking at is when we do return to whatever the normal is, because Ayn Rand was right, Atlas Shrugged, she was just a few decades early. So, once the world rewrites, we can’t go back and people are not going to go back to completely non-device use. So, that’s what we’re looking at now especially, and for online learning, the equity of assessments. Some kids struggle with the online learning, and that’s really hard. But it’s always going to be an option now.
Dr. Don Grant (00:11:59):
Commerce, small businesses. So, they’ve really struggled. So, that’s really the big question that we’re trying to figure out. Now, there’s no going back, and there won’t be. Now, we’re in it. So, that’s what we’re looking at now. Because one of the things that we really want is not to forget how important it is to return to the IRL, in real life. Even though this may feel more comfortable, it’s really important that we also remember that other way.
Kirkland Newman (00:12:32):
Because I think that’s the thing, there are definitely upsides to this working remotely. And I think we’ve all felt that. We’ve all really enjoyed, well, a lot of us have enjoyed, staying at home and not having that commute and not having to you know… Yeah, I mean, especially if you’re slightly introverted. And I think a lot of people have really enjoyed that. But then obviously, there are a lot of downsides as well. And so, I think what I’m interested in is what is the impact on balance to people’s mental health.
Kirkland Newman (00:13:03):
Because on balance, there are a lot of benefits to people’s mental health to being able to be at home and being in a calmer, more peaceful environment, hopefully. Although, I shudder to think some people’s domestic situations are really terrible, and incredibly stressful. But generally, on balance, I think people have had a sense of greater comfort and peace from being at home. But then, the other side is that people are on Zoom all day, kids are on Zoom all day.
Kirkland Newman (00:13:34):
We don’t have that social engagement that is so regulating for us mammals. Or do we? I mean, do we have it? We don’t have it probably as much on Zoom, but we still have some of it. And for kids, what is the impact on their mental health? And the other problem, I think, as a parent, is that how do you monitor whether your kid is doing online schooling, or whether your kid is actually playing video games? And that’s the tricky thing.
Dr. Don Grant (00:14:04):
Indeed, all of this is so great. Now, everything you said comes under a basic heading of “boundaries”. For example, because I keep it super real, let’s go to working at home. Yes, it’s much more comfortable, except what are the great benefits? You can be more comfortable. You don’t have to commute. Certainly, in terms of, let’s look at all of the different things, critical thinking. For the climate, Los Angeles is in better air quality for the last year than we probably had in decades because of the traffic.
Dr. Don Grant (00:14:36):
So, the idea of being able to be more relaxed. However, that interaction with your peers, with your colleagues, the now having to email or call when you should walk up the hall and ask a question, and now it’s these threads of emails, and I’ve come up with ways to teach how to streamline those things. The camaraderie, the being in the space, all of that. And that was all my research about community. So, I don’t think that it’s actually the best way.
Dr. Don Grant (00:15:06):
Because working together with others and being there. But then, there’s the boundaries. And let’s keep it real. So, employers, and they talked about it, they’re worried now that their employees, they have no oversight, what are they doing at home all day? Employees, some of them are feeling this and getting overstressed out. So, they’re working more, they’re sending emails, and they’re admitting this to me, they’re sending emails at 9:00 at night, that they could have sent at 3:00, just to have documentation so it looks like they’re working.
Dr. Don Grant (00:15:37):
Because they’re so worried their boss is saying, they’re sitting around eating bonbons. There have been people including my… oh, I can’t say who, it’s my daughter, who’s working harder probably than she has. But we’re talking about the people that are clocking into their portals in case someone checks to see, while they’re doing other things. But people are working perhaps more, and some may not be, but it’s this where are the boundaries now? Are people taking lunch hours?
Dr. Don Grant (00:16:08):
The steps and the exercise we get we don’t even think about for kids in school just walking around, for people walking and going to work, we’ve all now become so sedentary. So across biological, psychological, sociological, academic, or career and environmental silos, you could argue, and we don’t have to go into this now, it can be another show maybe, or we can go through and discuss how there’s good and bad on each of those different areas of our life that this has impacted.
Dr. Don Grant (00:16:43):
So, it’s about looking at how does a hybrid work, but it’s about boundaries. Because do you find yourself working more? Do you find yourself answering more? Certainly, emails and communication because you can’t just walk up the hall anymore. Kids can’t ask the teacher a question, and they’re not. The Zoom fatigue.
Kirkland Newman (00:17:05):
Dr. Don Grant (00:17:06):
We can talk about whatever you want. But the academic piece is a whole thing. And now hopefully, we’ll be coming out of it soon, and kids will return to school. But just as a developmental stage of socialisation, depending on where these kids are. Or for some of the high schoolers, like my juniors and seniors are panicking, should they go off to college? Should they defer? They’re not getting the exposure for the athletes, the artists, the scientists of those prizes they can win by having competitions and having recruiters come and see them.
Dr. Don Grant (00:17:37):
So, I propose something which is probably preposterous, and I waited. But I’ve been saying to parents, “Look, you don’t have to do this. But if it turns out that next year, we decide to register, to use an athletic term, some of the kids and repeat third grade or fifth grade, or do a hybrid of third and fourth grade next year, again, no one’s thriving, no one’s doing better than anyone else.
Dr. Don Grant (00:17:59):
So, if you feel that your child needed that important third grade socialisation, or if you feel like your high school sophomore really needed those recruiters or those competitions, or those, whatever they do to get scholarships. Or we could just all become influencers, which we used to call posers, by the way people. Or, I want to do this show of influencers, 2020, where are they now? Because they’re just influencers for just a minute.
Dr. Don Grant (00:18:28):
Or oh my gosh, maybe I’ll just get a TikTok video that will go viral, and then I won’t have to worry about… But it’s all about trying to normalize in an abnormal. So, there’s all sorts of strategies and skills I give parents about trying to normalize school. You’re talking about a parent. Parents suddenly are at home. And it’s funny, I don’t mean them any disrespect, because I’m a parent. We all love each other.
Dr. Don Grant (00:18:50):
But suddenly, the kids are locked up with the people they hate; their parents. Their parents are locked up together, and some of them are really looking at each other going, “What?” No one’s working, everyone’s in fear, everyone’s scared, no one knows what’s coming next. And the parents now suddenly have had to become teachers, and monitors of the school, and they’re ill prepared for this.
Dr. Don Grant (00:19:12):
And the kids are sitting in front of these screens, and you don’t know what they’re doing. So, I have a whole set of skills and strategies that probably, hopefully, will become moot very soon that I’ve been talking about all year how to normalize the school day for the kids. And we can talk about that or we can talk about anything you want.
Kirkland Newman (00:19:29):
I would love to hear your advice for parents, because I think that would be incredibly useful. Because parents are trying to do their own jobs at home on Zoom. And meanwhile, act as teachers and babysitters and cooks and everything for the kids full time. Any advice that you can give us? Is this going to increase screen addiction? And how can we essentially help our children to navigate this? So, tips for us parents and tips for the kids.
Dr. Don Grant (00:20:01):
Again, hopefully, they’ll get back to school. But to normalize it, I say, again, trying to manage your expectations because yes, I don’t know about you, I’ll be with my colleagues and suddenly they’ll be Zoom-bombed by one of their kids saying, “Mommy, Daddy, caregiver,” and they’re trying to be in a meeting. We all know it. So, let’s all just forgive each other and know that we’re all doing the best we can. We’re doing the best we can. No one’s got this lot.
Dr. Don Grant (00:20:33):
I’m supposed to be an expert on this. I’ve been spending all your beta testing, coming up with strategies on the fly. But I found something that works. So, my suggestions are trying to normalize the day. Now, for example, this is going to sound silly, and I’ve had people say, they’ve admitted to me, they roll their eyes when I said this one, but then they did it. Say that you’ve got a kid. And I don’t know in the UK, but here kids, I’m sure it works in the UK too: you walk your kid to the bus stop.
Dr. Don Grant (00:20:55):
And they get on the bus and go to school, if that’s the transportation. I’ve been telling parents, so normalize a school day. It’s not like let’s sleep in and let’s miss… so, they need to wake up at the same time, because we have to keep them in their rituals and routines of what we’re going to return to, hopefully, right? So I say, “No, it’s no different. They just don’t have to get up, maybe they can spend 20 minutes sleeping longer, because they don’t have to transport.”
Dr. Don Grant (00:21:21):
But make them get up, make them get groomed, make them act like they’re going to school. They don’t get their device, like I always say, until they’ve finished, they’re woken up, they’re dressed, they brushed their teeth, whatever it is your hygiene is in the morning. And they have at least something for breakfast. Then, they can have their device for a few minutes. I tell the parents of the kids, “walk them to the bus stop. Even though there’s no bus, walk them out to it.”
Dr. Don Grant (00:21:50):
People thought I was nuts. And then, they called me and said, “Oh my God, that actually works.” They’ll get up, 50 steps of exercise, because the kids are too sedentary. Walk them to the stop, walk them back. Pack their lunch, put it in the lunchbox like you would, I’m talking about the younger kids, right? But normalize that day. Also, do not let them be doing their schoolwork in a room in their bedroom, or in their bed. Set up an area in your house, somewhere that’s public.
Dr. Don Grant (00:22:21):
Now, the other problem is, and this is heartbreaking, because of the digital divide, right now, we’ve got families who are in smaller spaces, they’ve got several children, they’re all trying to get online, they might be sharing computers, there’s a lot of noise. So, that’s difficult. So, creating a space, I want to be really sentient and respectful of that, because most families don’t have the resources.
Dr. Don Grant (00:22:45):
And now, the kids are all together and the parents are home as well, and everyone’s trying to work. So, if you can, just try to find a space. But in the best of all possible worlds, set up a space for them. And if you have several kids, then set up a classroom area, and I know it’s going to be like Laura Ingalls Wilder one-room schoolhouse where all the kids of all the grades were together. But try to set up little areas in a public area.
Dr. Don Grant (00:23:12):
And then, you have the kids sit there. And when a class is done, see, when we’re in brick-and-mortar schools, every class we go into has a different smell and different feel, and you have different friends. I’m talking about if you’re not in elementary school, but you move around and you socialise. Especially for the middle school and high school kids in America, they go from class to class, your mind resets.
Dr. Don Grant (00:23:37):
Besides the fact that you’re getting exercise walking around, you’re getting socialisation, since you go into your first class, and you love that class and all your friends are there, you’re going to have a different sense of dopamine and a different feel for that classroom. Then that class ends, you get up, you gather your things, there’s a closure. You get up and you socialise with friends, you go to the next class.
Dr. Don Grant (00:23:56):
Now maybe the next class, not your best subject, you’ve got a little anxiety, you didn’t do your homework, but it still changes your brain. These kids are sitting for eight hours not moving, going from class to class and they’re not focusing. So, trying to normalize. And walking around when the kid’s class is done, get them out, or with each subject, walk them around the block, walk around the house, go throw a Frisbee, I’m making this up, whatever it is that would mimic what they do when they’re in school.
Dr. Don Grant (00:24:28):
And then, sit them back down, and give them breaks. So, keep the school hours. During lunchtime, if they have friends, try to set up little Zoom sessions where you set up your things and the kids can have lunch together at a table, but they’re all together on screens. And then when lunch is over, they’re done and they go back to school. Look, it’s not perfect and ideal, but trying to replicate as much as we can and normalize it. Small study groups,
Dr. Don Grant (00:24:57):
so, if they do have friends who are in the same classes with them, maybe after school, you set up through Zoom, if it’s safe, and I’m not trying to tell people what to do, because people need to stay with their family pods. But set up study groups through remote and video platforms where they can sit and they can talk around a table, not in their room. Do not let these kids be doing their homework or doing school from their bedroom in their bed, turning off their video because I know we all don’t like looking at each other.
Dr. Don Grant (00:25:30):
And that’s just some of the things. Let’s see, oh. 100% super important, they’re in school, this is not vacation kids. So, I tell parents, “Please turn off the Notifications, whatever your device is.” And again, it’s so hard because a lot of parents don’t have multiple devices. But pause, do not disturb, sleep mode, lock all incoming messages.
Dr. Don Grant (00:25:57):
All of those things, put it on whatever your computer or your laptop or wherever screen you’re using that they’re doing school work on. Oh, absolutely, while they’re in school, you should be going in there, in my opinion, and blocking all of the incoming messages like they were in school. Because when they’re in school, I know the kids do it, but I don’t endorse it, they’re getting messages, they’re on social media. No, that should all be put on pause.
Dr. Don Grant (00:26:25):
Or put Do Not Disturb, again, I don’t know what people use, but certainly on Apple products, you can put on a sleep mode, you can put on a Do Not Disturb, you can put on all kinds of things while they’re in school, so that they cannot get incoming messages to ambush them. They won’t be writing outgoing messages. And they can’t be distracted by all of that. So, that’s one of the important things that I think you should do right away if nothing else. Just remove that temptation.
Dr. Don Grant (00:26:56):
And it’s super simple to do it, to go in and put an hour sleep mode or an hour block mode, or an hour Do Not Disturb for incoming messages, or texts or things like that.
Kirkland Newman (00:27:07):
Totally. No, that makes total sense. That’s helpful. But then, would you then allow after a full day of school them to go on their devices and do their gaming and do their usual things that often they come home from school, and then they’re like, “We just want a game,”? So, would you say that’s okay, and after being the whole day on a computer, they can still do their gaming?
Dr. Don Grant (00:27:30):
So, here’s the deal. Another thing I tell parents to do is, like you do, check their backpacks every night. Make them take their backpack and sit it down at their computer and their little desk or table area, like we do with the younger kids. Or I don’t know, whatever, maybe the older kids as well. The night before, check the back pack, make sure everything’s in there, they use that, check their homework.
Dr. Don Grant (00:27:53):
Now, if a kid finishes school, I do not endorse that they should just finish school and have their little eyes glued to these screens, which is what they want to do. They want to go right into gaming, or whatever, on their social media. I need them to at least take a break at least an hour, 45 minutes if you have to. Walk around, make them do a little tour around the house. Get them moving, get their brain changing. Get them some exposure. Get them some fresh air.
Dr. Don Grant (00:28:28):
Because most kids, when they finish school, what is the ideal thing that we would love for all our kids to do? So, say the class finishes, Kiki, what do we love, and what do we want them to do after school? Play. Extracurricular activities, soccer, drama, science club, whatever it is. And they also leave school and then they walk around and they socialise a little bit. They get some fresh air and they do some movement, even if they’re just walking to the car or walking home.
Dr. Don Grant (00:29:01):
But kids don’t go right from their last period in school, they don’t stay in school and start gaming. So, I know it’s difficult, because there’s not a lot of opportunities. And I’ve tried to get really creative with showing dance videos and all kinds of things that there is to do. I’ve come up with a million ways of how you can still use a screen but move. But I would say no screens, because usually, the kids would be in some sort of extracurricular. Or they come home and they have a snack.
Dr. Don Grant (00:29:36):
So, they don’t go right from screen to screen? No, that’s not usually what happens in a school day. Usually, you go do whatever your after-school thing is, and some kids don’t do those things. And I get that too, I’m trying to be all comprehensive, but ideally, we want our kids to be doing something after school that’s a little playtime, change their brain, free up their brain, get some exercise, do something creative, whatever club or sport thing, or come home if they don’t have those.
Dr. Don Grant (00:30:00):
So no, I do not say, because they’re going to want it, go right on social media, go right on their gaming. I’m trying to normalize the day. So, get a little fresh air, do something that you’re interested in, whatever their extracurricular activity interest would be. Even if they’re not in the art club, or the Spanish club, or the football team, or the drama club, or the robotics team, make them do something in that wheelhouse.
Kirkland Newman (00:30:27):
Dr. Don Grant (00:30:29):
Do that. And then later, if their homework’s done, like you would do at school. See, the thing that people are forgetting because we’re all over it, they’re still in school. It’s a school day. So, trying to normalize that school day. I don’t think that parents would prefer, some do, the kids run right home and get on the games. Because we talked about that before COVID. We don’t endorse that. Get a little extra, do something creative, do something fun.
Dr. Don Grant (00:30:54):
Then, when your homework’s done, after dinner maybe, you can have a couple hours of gaming. I’ve also, I’ve been more flexible. I said, “Okay, give them more time.” Because the parent’s are like, “What do I do with them, especially when there was no extracurriculars, and everyone’s confined.” I get it, parents, I’m a parent. And it’s like, “Okay, just surrender.” But, and also, I want to make clear about this too, it’s not blanket overall.
Dr. Don Grant (00:31:18):
Let’s just use gaming. If a kid actually, pre-COVID, had maybe a little issue with gaming. When Mandy did, during the presentation that you hosted for the City of London, when she did that skit, it was a sterilized skit, but it was scary because it was real. When she showed and demonstrated the parents engaging and trying to get these kids off of the gaming, it was so brilliant. So, even before COVID, we had this, but what happened with COVID and confinement, is that that just escalated and the kids are gaming now.
Dr. Don Grant (00:31:56):
The kids who did have a propensity, or maybe some struggle, yes, it is accelerated and exacerbated, like all things have. So, if your kid has that issue with gaming, then no, I’m not going to say just let them have every win. And the other thing is, I want you to monitor it. Because the other thing, and this is a lot of my research now, you’re talking about kids and everyone being locked up. The cyberbullying, that we all knew has been on, for lack of a better term, steroids.
Dr. Don Grant (00:32:30):
I don’t know, but now the kids are all bored, a lot of drama, a lot of gossip, they don’t have the outlet. There’s no gossiping in the halls. And the cyberbullying is really, really terrible. So, you also want to check any changes in moods in your kids. You know your kid. If you see something doesn’t feel right. Now, I have parents saying, “Oh, my gosh, they seem so sad. They walked upstairs, and they…” yeah, okay, they’re being a teenager, they’re being moody.
Dr. Don Grant (00:33:06):
Because a parent is usually at work, they don’t know all the moods that a kid goes through, especially a teenager, on a daily basis. So, I’m not saying to have all this activation, “Oh my God, you haven’t been with your kids.” But you need to notice and, if something happens for more than a few days, or you start to see your kid is changing, you might want to talk to them. There is a whole thing I do on cyber bullying, because the kids are sitting around and they’re just bored. They’re doing stuff.
Kirkland Newman (00:33:32):
That’s the other thing for cyber bullying, do you monitor your kids’ devices? Because I find that quite tricky, because of course where is their boundary? And how much are you able, or how much would you encourage, you to monitor their devices and their conversations, which they’ll tell you are private?
Dr. Don Grant (00:33:53):
Yeah. And I’m just going to tell you, yes, then this is such a big topic. They’re going to jailbreak and find a way around it anyway if they know you’re monitoring it. So, all that you’re doing, and sometimes, it’s just right to send a message. I’m going to go back to what I said earlier, because it’s not ideal. No, I do believe the kids text now. So, when the parents say, “Oh, they’re on the device all the time,” I’m like, “Yeah, but let’s separate it out.”
Dr. Don Grant (00:34:21):
And again, I’m not endorsing, I don’t work for any company, I get nothing. There’s no reciprocity. So, when I say Apple product, I just use it because it’s a base a lot of people know. There’s that app on there, called screen time. We can look at the last couple of years since the California Teachers Association said, “Apple, if you don’t start monitoring this, we’re pulling $2 billion of investment, ” suddenly Apple says, “Oh, well, we have this thing called screen time.” Really?
Dr. Don Grant (00:34:48):
You did that over the weekend, guys? Oh, no, you’ve had it. So then, they launched it so you can see. You can see where your kids are spending time. Because we used to talk on the phone. Kids don’t talk on the phone, they text. Their communication is DM texting. And this can be a little sketchy. Like in Discord, they can create a little chat room. But kids don’t talk. So, you want to make sure kids stay communicated.
Dr. Don Grant (00:35:15):
We need to keep socialising them. So, the time that we used to spend when my parents would be like, “Oh, they finally surrendered, they got me my own phone line.” They did, I wore them down. Because I was on the phone all the time as a teenager, talking to my girlfriend. First, they tried that old call waiting. But then, I wouldn’t click over when someone called, so that failed. So finally, I wore my parents down and they got me my own phone line.
Dr. Don Grant (00:35:40):
But I was on the phone all the time talking. Kids now are texting. So, you want to make sure, let’s try to be reasonable, are they using their device to communicate? And it’s important we all stay communicated, right? But monitoring, would you want your parents to monitor your phone calls back in the day?
Kirkland Newman (00:35:58):
Dr. Don Grant (00:36:00):
No. And it’s not right, it’s not fair. And I also tell parents, if you do it stealth and you don’t tell them, I would be aware, because you might hear something. And it might be real, it might not be, or they might know that you’re doing it. And so, I’ve had kids do this where the parents are trying to monitor in stealth and the kids know it. So, they’ll purposely say or text things just to aggravate their parents that are not true. It’s really awful. But how do you go to your kids say, “Well, I saw your texts.”
Dr. Don Grant (00:36:29):
I think communication should be private. That doesn’t mean that I think you should let your kid, there’s certain websites that are not age appropriate, I’m going to go back to this. I’m going to challenge parents; you know your kid. And if something doesn’t seem right, something’s not right. And I told this story of how I did not try to get into this 14 years ago, because I was trying to do this. I had no idea what this was. So, in 2008, there was this thing called a Blackberry that seems so long ago. Do you remember what we called the BlackBerry?
Kirkland Newman (00:37:09):
Dr. Don Grant (00:37:10):
We thought that was funny. We were addicted to it, right? We had no idea. We were so naive. That was addictive! We can only text. But the inflection point when people will ask me is when internet became mobile, that happened with the iPhone in 2008. So, my little princess who can have anything she wants, both of them can, they got me wrapped. Shh, don’t tell them.
Dr. Don Grant (00:37:32):
So, she wanted this thing called this iPhone. I didn’t know, I thought it was Viber. What do I know? I was a digital immigrant, I don’t know. And so of course, I gave it to her. And do you remember how Newton apparently allegedly discovered gravity?
Kirkland Newman (00:37:47):
Dr. Don Grant (00:37:48):
Kirkland Newman (00:37:49):
An apple falling on the ground.
Dr. Don Grant (00:37:52):
An apple fell out of a tree and apparently, reportedly hit him in the head, hashtag fake news. But that’s what happened. And he tweeted that, whatever tweeting was back then. And suddenly, Newton, bless him, he was amazing, I’m not trying to diss Newton. Newton got credit for discovering gravity. Because as the story goes, and I say “fake news”, an apple fell out of a tree and hit him on the head and he went: (gestures). Metaphorically, the same thing happened, an apple fell out of the tree and hit this guy on the head, it was called an Apple iPhone.
Dr. Don Grant (00:38:17):
Because I got my daughter this little thing that I didn’t understand. And something happened. I’m not going to go into the story. But there was a form of what we now know was cyberbullying. It wasn’t bullying, all that happened, bless her, was that her little crew left her out of a picture. They’d all gone to the beach without her. And they all lied to her about where they were that day. And she saw a picture back when the kids were on Facebook before we came on it and destroyed it and they all created their own things.
Dr. Don Grant (00:38:45):
She saw that picture. I walked back into the room and I could tell by the back of my daughter’s head that something was wrong. And I’m not saying I’m dad of the year. And it took me a while to try to get her to tell me and it may have taken a bribe of a shopping spree in a store called Brandy Melville, which was super dope back then. And then, I found out what happened. And I realised I handed my kid a weapon that I didn’t understand.
Dr. Don Grant (00:39:11):
And the whole way I got into this 14 years ago was trying to be a good dad. I needed to understand this thing I’d just given my kid because I couldn’t take it back. But the cyberbullying has become really, really subtle. And the kids are sitting in the dark. And we wonder why depression and anxiety and self-harm, and I can’t even say it really, suicide, which one is too many, which was stabilised for decades. Suddenly, in 2012, we started seeing this incredible crazy spike.
Dr. Don Grant (00:39:43):
And with legit research in 2017, they replicated that study and I was praying and hoping that the numbers would come down. And I’m such a geek and such a nerd that the alerts that are on my phone. Also block all the alerts, you don’t need them. All the pushes, block those, that’s basic. But I have the alert on my phone waiting because it takes a couple of years to clean data and analyze it. So, I knew they did the study again in 2017.
Dr. Don Grant (00:40:08):
2019 in October, the results came out and the numbers were higher. And it is not okay, these kids are struggling. So, we can’t identify the variables of why the depression, anxiety, and all those bad things for the kids, suddenly come out of nowhere. But you’re never going to convince this guy. 2012, we saw it: Snapchat, Instagram launched in when? Oh, 2011. Oh, I’m sure that’s a coincidence (sarcasm). So, watch your kids.
Dr. Don Grant (00:40:39):
Now, I’m not saying they have a bad day, or they’re moody or they slam a door, they’re being a teenager. As a parent, any parent of teenagers who’ve been through it, we hear a door slammed even accidentally, we still have PTSD, because we grew up with teenagers. And I’m sure we did it. Call them out there. But it’s not because they have a bad day or a bad afternoon, or they don’t want to talk to you, but if you start to see, and I mean this for parents, especially with COVID, where the kids have nothing to do.
Dr. Don Grant (00:41:05):
So, they’re all comparing and despairing. They’re all doom scrolling. They’re all looking at what’s gone on in the world, and they have nothing else to do. The cyberbullying and the gossip and… Talk to your kid. Talk to your kid or get your kid talk to somebody, whether it’s an older sibling, or a teacher. But if you feel there’s something off, and it seems like it’s outside the bell curve of we’re all in depression and anxiety about this confinement, I wouldn’t say monitor their stuff without them knowing.
Dr. Don Grant (00:41:40):
Because if you do, and then you have to go to them and you tell them you’ve been monitoring them, then you breached the trust, and then they’ll never talk to you.
Kirkland Newman (00:41:48):
It totally makes sense. But it’s such a difficult issue because of the boundaries. I mean, it was a problem before COVID, the confinement. And now it’s become a problem on steroids. And it’s so difficult because we’re all living in this environment and trying to figure out what are they being exposed to, what are they doing with their days? Plus, we’re also busy. We’re trying to pull full time jobs. So, it’s really not easy. And you talk about devices and telephones, or iPhones or whatever androids.
Kirkland Newman (00:42:27):
But for instance, my older son, he does everything on his PC. So, he does his schoolwork on his PC. He communicates on his PC. He’s in chat forums on Discord on his PC. He games on his PC. I’m sure he’s on his phone, too. But he gets off his PC, comes down and goes on his phone. And it’s just this continuum of a screen. And then, the only way I find to actually spend quality time with him, which I hate to admit, and it’s slightly pathetic, but we watch Netflix at night.
Kirkland Newman (00:43:01):
Because we watch The Queen’s Gambit or something nice that we can do together. But it’s still a bloody screen. And so, is that terrible? Should we just surrender to the fact that this is our reality? And just say, “Okay, this is temporary, and it’s okay, and let’s not beat ourselves up about it.”? Or should we do something differently?
Dr. Don Grant (00:43:24):
Nobody’s going to do it perfectly. And that’s what I said in the beginning, be flexible, be adaptable. However, watching Netflix, as long as the same protocols that you heard me talk about are still in play. Certainly, during meals. When you said model the behavior as a parent, absolutely. Because the kids have a good point. I do a lot of work with a lot of families. So, I work with the kids. But I also have a private practice.
Dr. Don Grant (00:43:48):
And I work with adults and do family groups as well. I say to the parents, “You want to model the behavior.” Because the kids have a point when they say, “Well I’m bad, you should see mom. She’s on it all the time.” So, there’s certain things that are still the same play, no one during mealtimes, and there’s no reason now since we’re all home, that everyone can sit down for at least one meal a day, dinner. There’s no traffic, it was late, I’ve got to work late.
Dr. Don Grant (00:44:16):
Yes, no one cares. Everyone’s giving each other a lot of leeway. And they should right now with timing. So things we used to be like, “that deadline, that deadline..”, now everyone’s like, “COVID. COVID brain.” So, take advantage, for your family. This is actually an amazing time to spend time with your family. And I know people say “Ugh. When are they going back to school?” And it’s like that never-ending summer vacation. But take the time at least.
Dr. Don Grant (00:44:40):
There’s no reason why a family shouldn’t all be able to sit down for dinner every night now and stop everything, because there’s no time and space and everything is collapsed. No screens, lock up the phones, put the phones away, turn them off so there’s no distraction. So, you don’t hear that bing: “Whose is that?” Everyone’s like Pavlov’s… “Whose phone?” Turn them off. But if you want to sit down and you want to watch Netflix together, yes, as long as no one has their phone.
Dr. Don Grant (00:45:05):
Phones are away. Family time. If you want to come up with family activities, there’s so many things. And everyone rolls their eyes until they do it. Playing a board game: “Ah, I can’t do it, Dad,” until they get into it. And they start getting competitive. Going through and helping them. Even, I tell parents, helping the kids, this is a time… As a parent, a lot of us say, “God, there’s so much I would love to teach my kids. But I never have the time.”
Dr. Don Grant (00:45:31):
So, the coaches, the teachers, caregivers, nannies, siblings; teach your kids. They’re going to roll their eyes. You don’t have to do it all the time. But this is a great time to teach your kids about your history, things you want them to learn. My mother, may she rest in peace, tricked me into learning how to fold a fitted sheet, which is a bit of a trick. Because she told me she needed help. She didn’t need help. She said, “Ah, can you help me?”
Dr. Don Grant (00:45:58):
She pretended she was struggling. She taught me how to fold a fitted sheet. She taught me how to do laundry, cooking family recipes. This is a time when you can do a thing where you say, “Hey, let’s do something nice for your friend. What does our family make…” and I’m making this up, but a casserole, a cake, a dessert… Every family has that one thing, a soup that they make that’s passed down for generations. There’s a lot of math in cooking.
Dr. Don Grant (00:46:29):
And as a parent, pretending we’re helpless, they’ll roll their eyes: “Mom, Dad, you’re so helpless.” Ask for help, teach them how to make the family recipe and say, “You know what, let’s take this to your friend, your teacher,” and have them help you. Say, “Oh my God…” So one of my families, they wanted to go through the photo albums. I said, “Okay, go pull out the photo albums and then, when your kid’s upstairs, drop them all.
Dr. Don Grant (00:46:55):
And don’t swear but say, ‘Oh my God.’ The kid will run downstairs, and just have it that the photos all fell out on the floor, and say, ‘Ah’ (gestures). And say to your kid… have your kid help you, get them to help you.” And she and the kid went through all of the family photos. She just pretended she was picking them up and they fell and they spilled. Now, I’m not saying that’s perfect. Because we also, as parents, when they go off to college or they go off to their life, we say, “Did I teach them enough? Did I tell them enough? Did I show them enough?”
Dr. Don Grant (00:47:24):
There’s no excuse now. It’s not like every day, they will roll their eyes. But to be able to spend this time with our kids and family, even if you just take an hour and you say, “Look, you don’t have to take out the garbage or do the dishes, but I need you to sit here for an hour with me. And I want to show you something,” and they’ll hate it until they don’t. But we no longer have the excuse that we all panic when they’re 17 or 18 and say, “Did I prepare them? Did I teach them?”
Dr. Don Grant (00:47:56):
And it’s also a great time for families, even if you’re just doing a puzzle and talking, to be able to share your experience, strength and hope with your kids that we all have said, “I just don’t have time. I wish I could tell my kids how to do it. I wish I could show them. I wish I could teach them. I wish I could teach them how to bake Grandma’s cake. I wish I could have them help me in the garden. I wish we could take the dog on a walk. But I never get home enough, early enough, and it’s dark.”
Dr. Don Grant (00:48:27):
And I’ve heard all of these things. Okay, well now, it’s light, so why don’t you and your kid, you wanted to take a walk around the block, but you always get home too late.
Kirkland Newman (00:48:36):
It’s a wonderful opportunity in so many ways. And I think that’s a really wonderful reminder, Don. We do have this precious time to spend more time with our children, and-
Dr. Don Grant (00:48:46):
They’re going to hate it. They’re not going to want to do it. I don’t care if you have to bribe them. Because you have this time. And it doesn’t have to be every day but certainly meals. Also bedtime. Same rules apply, Kiki, that phone, that device should not be in their room. They don’t need it. They don’t even need it nowadays to say, “Oh, it’s my alarm.” I would say to the kids, “I’ll buy you any alarm clock you want.” Now that parents are home, they don’t need it.
Dr. Don Grant (00:49:13):
But the same usual things: no devices. An hour at least before they go to sleep, those devices should be out of their rooms, stored, no laptops. They need to go to sleep. We need to keep them in the routine. Otherwise, when we do get to the other side of this, and we will, it’s going to be a jarring readjustment of having to get up every day. Get in the routine of getting up, getting dressed, getting to school, coming home.
Dr. Don Grant (00:49:38):
We have to keep that muscle memory and that stuff working while throughout the day we’re helping their brain change like they’re moving around in a school. But if they roll their eyes and say they won’t do it, whatever it is you want to engage them with, well, at a certain point, they will.
Kirkland Newman (00:49:55):
When this all does end, how do you think it would have changed, our children, our society, the way we operate, our kids’ brains, our own brains? Do you think there’s going to be permanent changes? And if so, what does that look like?
Dr. Don Grant (00:50:13):
That’s a hefty one. Well, again, in neuropsychology and brain chemistry, it depends on where their brains are. Brains don’t form until 25 or 26. So really the plasticity of the brain, it’s setting like jell-o until they’re 25 or 26. And then it sets. But as far as the neurochemistry of the brain, certainly, we could posit, we can propose that if they’re gaming, yes, it’s absolutely lighting up the wrong centers and darkening the other ones, any MRI can show that.
Dr. Don Grant (00:50:49):
But if they’re in an age where they’re much younger, yes, of course, the neural pathways, because your brain is always pruning, you’re teaching your brain what parts of the brain to use. Now, there’s a lot of games actually, just to be fair, that can help buttress this online learning. And Common Sense Media is a great website. And I love these guys. Your work, you know these, you know the resources.
Dr. Don Grant (00:51:17):
So, there’s a lot of games that have to do with problem solving and math and learning. And I’ve been talking about that a lot and sharing those resources. But certainly, like the dystopian universes, the first shooter games, the war games, all of those… Yeah, those should be super limited. I say to parents, “How much sugar do you like your kids having? Do you look at your kid’s sugar intake?” I saw a woman at the grocery store, and I rarely go, because I’m trying to be careful…
Dr. Don Grant (00:51:44):
But she was teaching her daughter to look at peanut butter and the ingredients. The daughter was probably six or seven, and the mom was taking the opportunity… And I just saw her, she was showing her daughter in peanut butter, which one to buy and how much sugar is in some of the brands, and that it was important if you’re really going to have those nutrients. And then I watched, and I wasn’t trying to be a stalker, but I was watching.
Dr. Don Grant (00:52:05):
Because I really thought this was great. She was taking this opportunity to teach her daughter about shopping, how to read ingredients and what ingredients mean. And then obviously, the first one is the most and then they go in descending order. So, if you buy peanut butter, and you look at the ingredients, and the last ingredient is peanuts? Yeah. But she was taking that opportunity to teach her daughter about shopping.
Dr. Don Grant (00:52:30):
But I say to parents, “Perfect ground rule. Say that video games were sugar. Say devices were sugar. How much sugar do you want your kid to have every day?” Now, they can have some. And they can earn some dessert. But I look at it as if it was sugar, because it’s a diet for your brain. So, in terms of how much and all of that, it’s up to every parent. But I also understand parents are fatigued too.
Dr. Don Grant (00:52:54):
And I’ve said to parents… they’ve said, “Don, I couldn’t… I’m so sorry, true confession. I just gave my kid the PlayStation.” I said, “I get it. We’re all struggling.” Hashtag the struggle is real for all of us.
Kirkland Newman (00:53:08):
Well, I think, yeah, that’s the question, long term, is this going to make things harder? It probably is in some ways.
Dr. Don Grant (00:53:16):
I want you to unpack that, harder in what way? What do you mean?
Kirkland Newman (00:53:18):
I guess rewiring their brains for getting used to being constantly on these screens. And therefore, I mean, I know my eldest, for instance, is so much more on his screens than he ever was before. And so, coming out the other end, for him, it’s so normalized now to be on a screen. He’ll come home and he’ll be like, “Okay, I’m getting on my screen again. And I’ll be on my screen for hours.” So, I just wonder if it’s having any permanent changes where it’s normalizing this sort of behaviour.
Dr. Don Grant (00:53:50):
We’ll see. But that’s why I say when we can, it’s not perfect, people, I know, that’s what I’m saying throughout the school day even, like they do in class, make them get up between classes, or if they’re in one classroom in their elementary school, when they would take recess or breaks, take recess and breaks and nutrition. After school, try even if extracurriculars aren’t available because you’re confined, if they’re into sports, make them go around and throw a frisbee for the dog or do jumping jacks.
Dr. Don Grant (00:54:20):
If they’re into art, make them do an art project. It’s the best we can do to normalize it so they’re not glued. But I am hoping, especially, I mean, you’ve heard me say, this is the only time in the history of the human race, and we are social animals. Aronson wrote the book in 1901 about the social animal, we are social animals, we need socialisation. This is the only time in history that the digital natives and the digital immigrants will cohabit ever in history.
Dr. Don Grant (00:54:53):
After we’ve abdicated and the digital immigrants, the last of us are gone, then it’s the digital natives and you don’t miss what you don’t know. When I teach about writing an actual love letter, people roll their eyes. When I talk about calling someone on their birthday and singing happy birthday, everyone thinks I’m a geek, but people appreciate it. I’ve done one of those today already. I won’t tell you which one. I’ve done both of them in the last few weeks.
Dr. Don Grant (00:55:20):
But keeping the sense of what keeps us human and connected. As we become more and more digitalized, we don’t know now, virtual reality, automated reality, they’re saying this might not be the thing. But artificial intelligence, absolutely. Robotics, absolutely. So, remaining human, remaining connected, doing the things that we do. And I said to someone this morning when they had sent me a really nice gift, and I called and I said, “I know I could have emailed you or I could have texted you.
Dr. Don Grant (00:55:50):
But I was going to pick up the phone. I was going to go old school and thank you. That was so thoughtful. What a nice surprise last night when I came home and saw you’d sent me that gift.” She said, “I appreciate that.” Hearing my voice and me actually going, what my mother, rest in peace, taught me. Write a thank you note or call. Kids hate it. But they don’t know the experience of the dopamine and how it builds covalent bonds between people.
Dr. Don Grant (00:56:15):
They don’t know what you’re doing right now, nodding, reading affects in real life, cues. However, I wasn’t trying to do this. If I’d known what this all was, I told you, gosh, I was just trying to help my kid. I had no idea 14 years later, this thing that I thought was an ice flow was an iceberg upon an iceberg. And there’s so many different things and it changes. But as one of the last digital immigrant generations, and as a media psychologist and knowing what I know, I have to fight this.
Dr. Don Grant (00:56:48):
And I have to try to share with the digital natives some of the things I think are important about human connection. And again, you’ve heard me talk about this, everyone has to sit through this when I present. But the one silver lining in this dark cloud, some of my work, Kiki, one of the things I talk about is do not ever forget the value of being face to face in real life.
Dr. Don Grant (00:57:13):
You can text LOL all you want, it’s never going to have the same impact, the same psychological dopamine imprinting effect of laughing out loud with your friends in the same space. So, the idea that I can talk about, don’t forget about how important it is for us to be together, do things face to face, not just rely on texting, this confinement may have done it. I’m hearing my little digital native clients say, “God, I really miss being with people.”
Dr. Don Grant (00:57:46):
That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for years, that’s my whole basis, do not forget. So, the one thing of us not being able to be together even adults, as we lean into only communicating through text and social media, I’m hopeful that this might have been a good lesson learned for these kids of the value of being with your friends in real life. So that when we come out of this, hopefully they can hold it and remember what it’s like to only be reliant.
Dr. Don Grant (00:58:23):
They got what they wanted. I say that winking. We don’t have to see anyone, can do everything on a device. How do you like it? And I’m telling you, increasingly more of the kids, they don’t like it. They miss that. So, I’ve been laughing, saying my work may be done. This virus may have done, this confinement may have done. The only reason I did this was so that these kids who don’t know any better and never knew any better, and this was thrust upon them, may now understand the value of what it’s like to actually be together with others having experiences.
Kirkland Newman (00:58:58):
Absolutely. Well, that’s really wonderful. I love that, Don. And that’s very beautiful. And I’d like to end on that note of hope and optimism. But I have to say you’ve been amazing. You’ve given us some fantastic tips and some fantastic insights and thoughts, and I’m really grateful. Is there anything that we’ve left out?
Dr. Don Grant (00:59:18):
If they listen to nothing else, and again, this is just my opinion. I’m going to give the five Ws and H for parents of device use and utilization. Here’s the questions, right? Review and think about these things. And also, sorry, you can also think about this for yourself as well. So, the questions are, the five Ws and the H. So, why are you, or they, engaging? What’s the motivation or goal, right? What are you or they doing on your devices and screens? Could it be accomplished another way?
Dr. Don Grant (00:59:57):
Where are you or they using the device in the environment or home? In other words, locked up in their rooms in the dark or in a public space together. When are you or they engaging? All night long, during the morning, when? Anytime you can? Who are you or they engaging with? And are they safe? And is it going to be healthy for you once you’ve engaged? How are they engaging or not? That’s about online impression management and causes and conditions of safety.
Dr. Don Grant (01:00:30):
So why are you or they engaging? What are you or they doing on the screen? Where are you or they using the screen? When are you or they using it? Who are you or they using or engaging with? How are they engaging or not? And remember, technology’s great, devices are great, but they are not replacements for the things that really keep us human, make us human. And everything online is forever archived somewhere.
Dr. Don Grant (01:01:00):
So, it’s like this jump rope that never ends. And so, if they experience FOMO, where they say, “Oh, I’ve got to get on, or I’ve got to do this,” well, the good thing is, and this is maybe what I’d like to leave with, even if you take a break or a digital detox, or break from gaming or social media, it’s a never-ending jump rope. It’s forever ever. Everything is somewhere, even if it’s been deleted, it’s always somewhere on a server, on a platform somewhere.
Dr. Don Grant (01:01:28):
You won’t miss anything, you’re missing nothing. And you can always go back. It’s being beamed out into space. I have every confidence that if there are, and I don’t know, I’m not making a point about alien life, but if they are receiving any of this, the Kardashians alone are going to convince them to say, “Oh, that planet? No, no, no, let’s avoid it.” Because everything’s being beamed out into space. But it’s always there.
Dr. Don Grant (01:01:54):
But I’m going to challenge parents and kids, especially when we were talking about this being the only time, even though you’re so over it, this is the only time we’re going to have this precious time with our families and kids. This was a gift, even though it feels like a liability. And it’s really wearing and we’ve been doing it too long. But this was it. The things that are online, everything is discoverable. But there are moments, every moment in real life, only comes once.
Dr. Don Grant (01:02:24):
If you miss it, I don’t care if it’s a sunset that was spectacular, I don’t care if it’s the smell of the fall or the summer, or the person who could be your very best friend, or someone you love is going to walk by you. And if you’re looking down, and they’re looking down, you’re going to miss it. But life is, moments only happen one time. So, take an opportunity to look up. Look around because those screens, anything on them, you’re not missing it.
Dr. Don Grant (01:02:59):
It’s a jump rope, because you can always jump in and jump out. It’s always going to be there. But the moments now and these moments with our families, even when they’re wearing, this is it. Life’s moments only happen. (snaps fingers)
Kirkland Newman (01:03:16):
You’re right. Don, you’re such a philosopher, you’re so right. And I love that. But thank you so much for your time, Don. That’s been amazing. I think you’ve left us with some fantastic takeaways in terms of how to do safe and healthier device management and also spend more time with our families. And it’s just been very beautiful and helpful. So, thank you so much for your time.
Kirkland Newman (01:03:41):
Thank you so much for listening to the MindHealth360 Show. I hope that we’ve helped you realise that your mental health symptoms have root causes that can and need to be addressed in order to sustainably heal, and have given you some ideas about steps you may take to start your healing journey. Please share this interview with anyone you think may find it helpful. If you want further information, please go to www.mindhealth360.com, or check us out on social media. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or to replace medical advice. Please always consult your healthcare practitioner before discontinuing any medication or implementing any changes in your diet, lifestyle or supplement program. Thank you.