The hidden dangers of Social Media and Tech addiction in children EP14 Sarah Kenny

The hidden dangers of Social Media and Tech addiction in children EP14 Sarah Kenny

On today's episode, Jamie is joined by Sarah Kenny to discuss the impact of social media on our kids and how we can help them develop better 'digital hygiene'.

Sarah Kenny is a certified coach, mentor, and positive role model for adolescent girls. She lives in Austin, TX - and has her Master’s Degree in Gender Studies.

Sarah believes empowering girls with confidence and courage will change the world for the better, and it's her personal mission to help girls thrive in adolescence and transform into powerful leaders while also supporting parents in raising RAD girls. Rad is an acronym for Resilient - Audacious & Daring.

Get in touch with Sarah:





This episode is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding & STEM Academy.

AI Transcript of the Podcast: 

Voice Over (00:00:00):

To the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast, many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behaviour, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.

Jamie (00:00:35):

Hello, parents. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Parenting in a Digital Age podcast. Joining me today is Sarah Kenny, a certified coach, mentor, and positive role model for adolescent girls. She believes empowering girls with confidence and courage will change their world for the better. And it's her personal mission to help girls thrive in adolescents and transform into powerful leaders, while also supporting parents in raising girls. Now, RAD is an acronym for Resilient, Audacious and Daring. Now, Sarah, who lives in Austin, Texas, has her master's degree in Gender studies two professional coaching certifications, and a is an accredited certified coach with the icf. Now, in today's episode will be discussing empowering girls. The impact of social media and health can help kids develop, develop better digital hygiene. So, Sarah, first of all, thank you for joining us. Please share with our listeners in your own words what you do, what you're passionate about.

Sarah (00:01:35):

Yes. Hi. It's so good to be here, and thank you for having me. You're welcome. So, yes, as you mentioned, I am a certified life coach for teen girls. It is my personal mission on this earth to make the world a better place. And I think one of the most impactful, and at least fun for me personally, ways to do that is by working with girls, giving them the tools, the knowledge, the confidence to really find their voices step into their power and transform to the leaders that I think our world desperately needs. So that is kind of my personal mission. One thing though that I am also just deeply passionate about is human connection. Um, I'm a very soul centered person, very heart centered person. All of the work that I do is super heart centered and, um, for very good reason. I have just a lot of strong thoughts and feelings about the way that digital technology devices are affecting our ability to connect with ourselves, to connect with other people in really deep and meaningful ways. And so just the, the whole world of digital hygiene, social media literacy is something I'm super passionate about because I think it's something that all of us, not even just kids or teens, but all of us are struggling with. And I think it's actually really getting in the way of us having meaningful relationships with other people.

Jamie (00:02:57):

Yeah. You've, you've touched on, on a lot of things that we are definitely gonna unpack today. I'm gonna share with you, and for those who are watching the video, we'll see my vintage cell phone. Um, this is actually, I was gonna say, this is something my parents would use, but it's actually not. My parents have proper smartphone. Even my dad question it the other day. He goes, How do you get on the internet son? And, and so I went from one of these, you know, fancy folding, you know, flip phones, uh, recognizing my own digital addiction and my own challenges. And, uh, so I, I started by putting a, a measurement tool on my screen that told me how much social media I was consuming every day and, and, and apps and other things related to social media. It wasn't just social media. Um, and, uh, it sort of got to a point where I just decided, Hey, you know what, uh, this isn't for everyone.


By the way. I'm not suggesting that everyone jumps off the cliff with me because technology's important. Uh, it has enriched our life to no end. But what we are gonna touch on today with Sarah is, is deeper. There is a, a negative, a, a, uh, harrowing side to social media and digital addiction that is impacting our kids. And, and we will talk about that, but this is really cool, it'll only text. It'll only receive a phone call. And I've cut my social media and my digital usage by 14 hours a week, 14 hours a week.

Sarah (00:04:19):

Good for you. That is incredible. And also, like the amount of parents who are now talking about getting their children, at least here in the US they're called dummy phones. But essentially it's a, it's basically, it's, it's anything but a smartphone, right? It looks like a phone, but it has no apps. It has, you can call, you can call like two numbers. You do not have access to the internet. And it's like, as soon as you can keep kids on the, give them a dummy, like a dummy phone face, like you try to kick that cam down the road as long as

Jamie (00:04:49):

You can <laugh>, uh, yeah, I don't know, like how, like, but we're already off script, so let's just keep going with it. Is, um, you know, is is that the right approach? You know, like, uh, actually maybe let me go back a step. Tell me before we get into dumb phones, whether that's the right approach, uh, because I, I think there are some challenges with that, uh, like, you know, stopping kids from accessing their social networks as they know it today. What are some of the cons? Like, let, let's talk about some of the problems. What are the challenges that we're seeing currently with too much screen time, social media, and this digital, uh, addiction that we now face?

Sarah (00:05:23):

For sure. Yeah, and I, I think it's also, you said something earlier which is really important, which is there are so many pros to our devices and technology, and I do know that teens tend to feel really frustrated when they think like, Oh, you know, parents think that it's all just bad. Like it's seen as this, like this evil, right? And it's not actually, it's not the device, it's not the technology. It's our inability to regulate it, <laugh> to self regulate it. That's the problem. The devices themselves. I mean, like, you can order food at the touch of a button, have it delivered to your door, right? Like Amazon, Netflix, it's incredible. Like there is so much good stuff. And so I do know that teens get really frustrated when parents tend to only view it as a super negative thing because it really is their universe.


I mean, to like, I know that sounds dramatic, but like brass tax, it is how kids feel connected to each other. It literally is what makes them feel like they exist <laugh> within their universe. And so when that's taken away or when they, that is limited, um, understandably, there's a lot of emotions behind that too, in terms of what we're taking away from them. So I did wanna share that, like definitely good to also focus on the pros. But, so in terms of the cons, you know, obviously you and I are talking in October in 2022, We're in this super whatever phase we are in terms of kind of exiting the Covid pandemic, although it's obviously super, super wobbly right now. Um, but I think it's safe to say that, that as a result of the Covid19 pandemic, we lost all of our boundaries with devices, right?


It's like overnight school moved into our bedrooms, right? Everybody's offices became like their dining rooms and their living rooms, or maybe your closets, like wherever you could find some quiet space. And what I've noticed, not only with myself, also with like my family, but um, with the girls that I serve is that was a really slippery slope. And we have not re-instituted the limitations that would actually give us some space in terms of the amount of screen time and time that we're spending online. And so I think we need to have a pretty hard reset with how much we're using our devices when we're using them. Um, setting those screen time limits, which it sounds like has worked really well for you, which is awesome. Um, but so to go to your, to your question, cons. Okay. Right. So I think there's, there's quite a few buckets here, but one I would just say is emotional development.


So there are a lot of studies showing, um, you know, studies coming out showing that high use of digital technology from a young age actually limits, um, kids developing social skills and their ability to have healthy face two face relationships. On the flip side of that, there is a very high correlation between the less that kids use technology, they tend to have higher levels of social and emotional development. So there is actually just something about their ability to read other people's emotions, to understand what their own emotions are, and to be able to actually communicate with people face to face. So that's just like in and of itself, something that I find quite alarming. Um, you know, I think you can go anywhere. I, it doesn't matter where you are, what country, what environment, whether it's a restaurant you're driving by and you see all the kids, you know, waiting for the school bus, not a single one of them is having a conversation.


They're staring at a phone, right? Or you go to a restaurant and everybody at the table is not talking, they're all on their phones while, you know, like a family is out to dinner. And it's really alarming just to even kinda look at that and think, what in the heck is going on here? Yeah. So I don't know about, I kind of have a, like, what in the heck moment whenever I just see that in public. Um, so there's the emotional development piece. There is also just physical health. So we also know that teens who limit their use of technology tend to have better physical health. They rank higher in terms of quality of life, and they also tend to have more positive family relationships. And on the flip side of that, excess screen time, um, has been linked to depression, obesity, feelings of loneliness, isolation, unhealthy diet, body image issues, which I'll talk about for sure with the social media stuff.


Um, and just decreased physical health. So, you know, obviously I think there was a correlation between the more time that we spend on screens, the less time we spend, you know, out in nature and taking care of our bodies and, and our souls, as I would say. Um, sleep is huge. And Jamie, I don't know about your teenage girl, but um, I can tell you that when kids have their cell phones in their beds at night, they do not sleep <laugh>, they don't, right? They are checking their text messages, They are getting really worked up because they received a Snapchat from their boyfriend, and suddenly it's 2:00 AM They're like, How do I respond to this? And, or they see a post before they fall asleep, and that gets them really worked up and really upset. Um, and so there's just like the, like the, the being connected to their devices in their bed.


And again, when we're talking about kind of covid seeping into everything, I mean, kids basically started doing their schoolwork in their beds. Yeah, right? Like, there's no divide between, like, this is where I do my schoolwork and this is where I go to sleep. Um, that in and of itself affects our ability for your brain to make the association that is your bed is meant for sleeping. It's not for, for school. Um, and then I'm sure you've heard this, but, um, just the exposure to blue white, right? So all the stuff that's coming out of our devices, whether that's your tv, your phone, your computer, a tablet, blue light actually reduces our, our natural ability. So the humans like natural ability to, to, um, to produce melatonin. That's the hormone that helps us fall asleep. So simply by using our devices and using them later at night, we're actually, we're, we're causing ourselves to have a dysregulated hormonal sleep cycle.


So that's a piece of it. Um, productivity is huge. Um, it's actually called medium multitasking. So there's some really interesting studies that show. So medium multitasking is when kids are trying to learn and, uh, they're trying to stay engaged and learn while also using media, um, really impacts their ability to work efficiently and the quality of their work. So the more kids tend to medium multitask the, they have, they tend to have worse focus. They tend to not be able to transfer the information they're learning to other contexts, like they're missing that gap. Um, and they also tend to have lower GPAs. So to honestly, like when you look at productivity, um, and I am so fascinated when I am talking to girls and they're feeling super stressed about their schoolwork, and I'm asking, Okay, how much time are you spending on homework? And we'll say they're in their room doing their schoolwork for seven hours.


You break that down and it's like, how much of that is actually concentrated work? Maybe an hour <laugh>, right? And so it's, it's actually just horribly inefficient. Um, and then last but certainly not least, this is maybe my favorite one is also just connection, right? Like, we are missing out on what is happening in front of our faces because we are constantly staring at a screen. There are people and beautiful things happening all around us, and we are just missing that by the amount that we're just zoned out while looking at a phone. And so, though, to me at least, I kind of, those are like the biggest cons. I know there are, I'm sure plenty more. Um, but especially when it comes to kids social and emotional development and how it's affecting them at school. I mean, I think these are, yeah, these are, these are things that need to be regulated

Jamie (00:13:55):

Yeah. With without a doubt. There's so much to unpack there, Sarah, are phones allowed in school? So in Texas or in the us are students allowed to take their cell phones into classroom still?

Sarah (00:14:10):

Oh, yeah.

Jamie (00:14:11):

Oh, okay. So, and it's the same here in Australia. And I don't know why principles or educators have not taken a tougher stance. Uh, we, we run a series of learning centers for those that don't know, uh, focused on coding and stem. Uh, we teach kids how to have a healthier relationship with technology. That's one of our core beliefs in our, our values. Um, uh, but we teach 'em how to do it in a healthy way, um, so that they are on the, the innovation side or the creative side as opposed to this passive consumption of, of technology. And, uh, our classrooms, our phone free zones, you know, we take a stand, we take it very, very seriously. Um, and we understand the negative impact that technology can have on kids. And I just wish to heck that principals would stand up and just ban phones in schools.


It's gotta be done. How can a teacher, how can an educator compete when you've got a student in their classroom with access to their whole world? I'm holding up the vintage one now. Um, you know, the, the, the para, the, the, the educators and teachers in our classrooms can't compete with that. And this is, this is the problem. So, um, ah, yeah, I I don't even know where to take this. This, there's so much here. You know, the other thing you talked about there was, you know, kids, um, this is their social world. So kids are, you know, using these social channels, This is how they interact in their world, Yet the actual outcome of that is they're feeling depressed. They're feeling more disconnected because it's a manufactured social world. It's not a real social world. You know, what they're seeing their friends do, or what they're seeing their friends get up to isn't real. It's, it's design and it's manufactured. So there's actually a, a deep sense of, uh, this, uh, depression or not belonging. Uh, so they're actually feeling disconnected when, you know, social media giants are saying, you know, we create this so people can feel more connected. There's a disconnect there, right?

Sarah (00:16:03):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And I think, um, you know, and, and obviously executive functioning doesn't fully develop for, for humans until they're 25, right? So, so kids, teens, like, they are missing, they're a lot of their executive functioning skills. A lot of that includes nuance, the ability to connect the dots, and the ability to see, to understand long term consequences. And so what's fascinating to me is, is girls will know, and I don't wanna say they even know when I press them on how much time they spend on their phone, they'll say like, a lot. And I'm like, Oh, no, Gimme an app. Like, give me a ti like them, I'm like, Okay, do you know how to check your screen time? Then we pull their screen time, I show them where to find it, usually they're like, Oh my God, you know, they're surprised, but then they're like, Well, that's actually right.


Like, that's, that's pretty accurate. Um, but what they're not connecting the dots with is that amount of time with how they feel. And it's like, they feel drained, they feel anxious, they feel lonely, They have fomo. And it's like, Well, of course you have fomo. Your friends are having a party, you know, you weren't invited. And instead of stepping away from that, you're actually just spending time alone in your room looking at pictures that people are posting in real time at that party, right? And so, it, yeah, there, there is so much to unpack there, but I think, um, really, especially as a parent, as you're, you know, as you're trying to teach your kid about, you know, social media literacy, it's like really helping them connect the dots between how does this thing make me feel?

Jamie (00:17:51):

Yeah. Yeah. That, that's a great question to ask. Last night, uh, in Australia, this will date our podcast now for someone listening in five years from now. Uh, but last night in Australia, a new, a new documentary aired for the very first time. It's called Mirror Mirror. It's by Todd Samson, and it digs a little bit deeper than the Social Dilemma, which I know you are familiar with the Social Dilemma documentary. Yeah. Yeah. And, and this is certainly more revealing and it's more confronting than the Social Dilemma. Um, and, and I'll put a link to this in show notes, so that one, you can check this out because you will, um, love the content and the way this is put together. Um, but for parents with adolescent children, you know, in my opinion, this is a must watch, not just for you as a parent, but with your adolescent child. You must sit down with your child because it will encourage and it will spark some open and honest conversations. And, and a scary statistic that came from that, uh, because, uh, it's largely developed in Australia, this documentary, but, um, the average Australian spends 17 years of their life staring at their phone. Now, just think about that. That's the average Sarah

Sarah (00:19:01):


Jamie (00:19:02):

That is the average

Sarah (00:19:03):

Wake. Your, doesn't that wake your,

Jamie (00:19:07):

Well, it, it's kind of validates our, our passion and our frustration in this space, and how we've gotta get cut through. We've gotta, you know, help parents understand what's going on here and give them tools to deal with, which we're gonna talk about, of course. But it, it, it is, it's heartbreaking. And, and part of the reason I've, I'm trying to lead by example for my own kids, you know, And, and it's not, not always easy, but that leads me to the question. Now let's talk a bit about the, how, how can parents help their kids develop better digital hygiene?

Sarah (00:19:40):

Yes. Yes. Okay. So first of all, that is a stat. I still have chills. I'm like, every, every human needs to hear that. But that's a perfect example of like, okay, it doesn't seem like it's a big deal when it's five minutes here and it's five minutes there, and it's two minutes when you're at the bus stop, and it's four minutes in between classes, and it's like three hours when you get, and that is iCal. That's the sequence need to be talking about. And I think, yeah, so, so to your point, I also recommend this all the time. Have a family movie night, watch the social dilemma, have a conversation around it. I cannot wait to see this movie. So, very much looking forward to seeing that link. But, um, so yes, and I know we're gonna break this kind of into two. So I wanna talk about digital hygiene, which is just like how we're using our devices, how often we're using our devices, and then there's the piece around how do we actually use social media in a way that's, um, healthier than the way that we're doing it right now.


So, um, you've already hit on a few of these, and I think, um, Jamie, what you're already doing is probably the first thing that I would recommend to any parent, which is role model, right? Like, if you are not role modeling these habits for your kids, and you're not instituting for them for yourself in your home, they're gonna come off as totally arbitrary. And your kid's like, Well, if you don't have to do it <laugh>, then why should I do it? Right? Like, I think with anything with parenting, it's role modeling, right? Communication, emotional regulation. I think digital hygiene just like 100% falls under that bucket. So screen time limits I think are fantastic. So even just, you know, once you have a sense of how much time you're using your phone, and again, depending on if it's an Android or an Apple, you, you go to your settings, there's a screen time, you know, you can actually look up and see, and you can break it down by how much time is sent on social media, reading the news, check in email, that, you know, it's pretty compartmentalized.


Um, and you can actually set limits, whether that's like, I can't check my phone before 9:00 AM and after 7:00 PM like, it actually will, like, a little timer will come up and say, This is outside of your screen time limit, which even is like a little bit of a governor, right? Like, it's like the impulse control is something like, Oh, wait, oh yeah, this is after my, like, this is bedtime, not, you know, not screen time. Um, I love either using the focus setting or simply turning off and putting away your phone. So this goes for like adults, right? If you have a big presentation, a big project, maybe you're a student, you have a paper, um, or for kids, if you have homework, um, turn off your phone, put it in another room. I'm at the point where if my phone is not off and in a drawer on a different floor yeah.


In my house, I'll be like, Oops, I meant to check the weather and get up. It's like, it is just, it's so addicting, right? And so it's like physically remove it from your environment. Um, this is a really cool one, especially for kids who are studying. So I like to do an one thing I will say, which, um, I think is getting a little bit better, at least here as we're coming out of the pandemic, but when we're really looking at, you know, the environment that kids are doing their schoolwork in, like, I cannot recommend enough, they are not doing homework in their bed, right? Right. And if they're doing their schoolwork, maybe they're doing it at the kitchen table, maybe they're doing it in their, your office with you, like maybe you're working in their working, But it is no surprise that a kid who is doing their homework in their room with their phone, with their tablet, with their PlayStation, and it takes them seven hours to do their homework, it's like, well, yeah, you know, we need to have, we need to have some boundaries around this.


So, so that's just like, in terms of creating the actual learning environment, which I think is really important. And especially if your kid struggles with something like D or adhd, um, just making sure that you are creating an environment that actually facilitates their learning without a lot of distraction is, is really important. Um, this one is interesting. So it's called the 25 5 rule. So one excuse that, that teens and kids always make is, Well, I need my phone to do my homework. If I have a question, I need to be able to text, you know, I need to be able to text Sally if, if something comes up, This is where the 25 5 rule comes in, You do 25 minutes of really concentrated work, no distractions, and then you get five minutes to send a text, check your phone, refresh your email. I mean, I wouldn't recommend pulling up Twitter, but maybe you, you know, you're Twitter person, you look at Twitter, um, but, and then you go, so it's 25 and five.


So it's like this little reward system where you do 25 minutes of really concentrated work. And let's say that you have a question about, like, number two, move ahead to number three when you get your break, text your friend about question number two, right? Like, don't get stuck on that because you think you need to be on your phone. Um, and then, so I, you know, for me, sleep hygiene is part, like a huge part of the digital hygiene world. But, um, I know I've said this multiple times, no phone's in bed, just like, do not bring your phone to bed. Um, I really believe in having wind down time. So if you, you know, no matter what time, you know, what age your kids are, um, this is just personally for yourself, making sure all of your devices are off at least 30 minutes before bedtime, right?


We talked about the melatonin production, we talked about blue light. Um, so even if I'm watching a show, I will make sure that I'm, I, I stop watching TV by about 9:30 PM I go upstairs, I watch my face, and then I read for about an hour, but I'm not watching something as I'm trying to fall asleep. Um, and I know so many girls who are just like, binge watching Vampire Diaries until midnight, and then I'm like, Well, yeah, of course you feel crumby in the morning. You know, like, don't be watching Netflix in your bed until midnight. Um, I love this idea for, um, especially if your kid is new to having a phone, and you're really trying to set limitations from the beginning. So I will say this, if right now you don't have any rules or boundaries around technology, those are a lot harder to take away than it is to be super strict upfront, and then grant kids permission because it's a privilege. Yep. Right? Like, having that device, having that tool is a privilege, and they get access to that based on them demonstrating that they can actually be trusted with it. And so, um, one thing I know that, that parents will say, I, I, I forget where I heard this, but, um, I actually wanna say it was on another podcast, but the mom said she actually used to sleep with her daughter's laptop under her pillow because

Speaker 4 (00:27:09):

The girl was trying to steal it at night.

Speaker 5 (00:27:12):


Sarah (00:27:13):

Right? And so I, you're laughing, but it's like, that's pretty intense. Um, but this idea of having a, um, like a communal, so for your whole family, a communal, overnight charging station that is not in anybody's bedroom. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So maybe this is an office, This is where everything gets plugged in, everyone turns it in at the same time. Again, it's not like Bobby turns it in at, you know, seven, Julia turns it in at 10. It's like, No, no, no, this is a family. We put our devices in dad's office after 8:00 PM and maybe you have a key

Speaker 4 (00:27:49):

<laugh>, you know, depending on trust levels with your

Sarah (00:27:52):

Kids. Um, but that way it's like devices are away. They're being charged. No one has them in their, you know, in their, in their beds at night. Um, if that's for whatever reason, difficult or not an option, I think just having a mobile free zone in your house. So maybe that's like a reading room, and that's the room where people read, where people can, you know, do puzzles where, you know, you meditate. Um, but there's no devices, there's no tv, there's no video games. It's like, this is our mobile free zone for people who wanna be disconnected. Um, having, I love the idea of having no phones, either or both, uh, at dinner and when you're in the car, it's like dinner when we're sitting at the dinner table and when we're in the car, that is for conversations like, that is not our phone time. Um, and it's actually incredible. You'd be surprised at how much kids open up when you're driving them around, um, because there's something about like, them not having to make eye contact with you. They know that there's a very, like, finite, they're like, Okay, I can get outta the car in 10 minutes. Right?

Speaker 4 (00:28:58):

Like, there's finite that

Speaker 5 (00:29:00):

They're like, I can run,

Speaker 4 (00:29:02):

There's an out,

Sarah (00:29:05):

But like, that's a phone free zone. And then last but not least, um, having a family free tech window. So maybe this is where you say, you know what, and I I keep on saying family, right? This doesn't just apply to one person. When that happens, it feels like it's a punishment. And this is like, No, this is just how our family operates. This is some of our values. We really wanna feel more connected with each other. This is how our family is gonna operate together. Um, so a family free-tech zone or a tech windows. So that means like maybe on Sundays from two to six, we don't have any devices. Like nothing. No, no one is looking at emails with their cell phones. It doesn't mean you have to be spending time together. It just means that that's where we are. Like all, we are all offline during that window.

Jamie (00:29:53):


Podcast is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding & STEM Academy. 

Sarah (00:29:54):

I know I drew a lot at you, but those are some of my, like, these are, these are the how. And and again, it's for the whole family. It is not for just one kid, two kids. It's, it's for everybody.

Jamie (00:30:03):

And, and you might have noticed I was madly writing notes because a couple of this, I like some great tools in there that, and some of which I hadn't heard of before. But I love the communal charging area. Um, and, uh, I love the 25 5 rule. And, and I've gotta say, uh, and I'm sure you'll, um, uh, resonate with this as well, but this is gonna be easier for parents of younger kids to instill some of these behaviours and habits earlier. And, um, I wish I had my time again, but I don't, I've got teenage kids. My son's 18, my daughter's 15, and, uh, you know, we, uh, you know, I'll, I'll be honest, we, we kind of went into this, uh, fairly blindly and, uh, we let tech sort of take control. And I think there are a lot of parents in, in my position who are, are struggling with, how do I reign this in without it being a punishment?


You know, how do we get some of these techniques in? Like, you know, I'll say, you know, pop pop your phone downstairs and then go up to bed. And then every now and then I'll catch her in bed with a phone. And I've got a wonderful tool here. We, we actually live in a, in a black spot, so you can't get any cell phone reception here. And I, I literally, before I go up to bed, I unplug the internet and then I go to bed. So I know that if they've snuck their phones in <laugh>, you know, so that's for effect. We, we all have our tools. Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, look, I struggle, I haven't found all the answers, but in there with some beautiful tools that I know I, I can use, uh, and many other listeners and parents can use.

Sarah (00:31:28):

Yeah. And Jamie, you bring up something really interesting, which is you are part of a very specific subset of, in terms of the age range of your kids, right? Like when, you know, Facebook didn't even exist when I was in college. I know I just dated myself, right? But it's like social media, it's like that wasn't even, it wasn't even a thing. And now at least, so you like, at least now parents are like, Okay, we've had about like 10, 15 years to be like, what? And we still don't even know what the heck, right? Like, there's still a lot of like, what in the heck is even happening? It develops such a rapid pace. But when all of this first came out, it was the wild, wild west, right? I mean, there were, there not only were there no regulations within the industry, and there still, frankly, aren't almost any, but nobody knew what to do with it, right?


So it makes sense that if you have an 18 year old right now, it's like, well, yeah. Like, you know, and I, I joke now with parents, it's like, would you hand a 12 year old a weed whacker and be like, Good luck, <laugh>, have fun out there. Like, I don't think it looks good. But no, you would give them very specific instructions. You would monitor them while they were using it. You would give them feedback on what they did, right? And what they did wrong. Like, no one has been doing that until really recently. And even still, I would say most parents don't have nearly enough boundaries as they should. But that's because we are just saying, like, starting to have conversations around us. Um, so yeah, no, it is, you are not alone and feeling like this was like way worse before the park in terms of like, kids having access to this without even knowing how we, how we teach them how to use it.

Jamie (00:33:27):

Yeah. Yeah, Yeah. Damn right. Some, uh, important points there. Um, how can kids develop better social media? And actually, let me ask it differently. How can we all develop better social media habits?

Sarah (00:33:41):

Yes. So you already mentioned this earlier, and I'm, I'm gonna steal this. Um, I think it's a phenomenal reference. So I don't know if you're familiar with, um, Lisa de Moore. So she's, uh, a really famous parenting psychologist. She wrote the book Untangled, which you have a, if you have a, a girl, I highly recommend reading. She's got a wonderful podcast too. Um, but the, the analogy she makes from stealing this from her, but the analogy she makes is, especially for younger kids, like if your family's ever been to an Ikea, that's the showroom, right? Like, you have an IKEA showroom, and when you go through Ikea, everything looks perfect, everything is staged, nothing is out of place. Everything's perfectly clean, right? There's no mess. There's no dog fur on the couch, There's no shoes by the door, right? That's the showroom. And she says, Okay, when we're helping people, and honestly, all people understand social media, you have to think about it like it is a showroom.


Everybody's lives are messy, <laugh> are not staged, are not curated. And rarely is that what we're actually viewing and consuming online. And so, just even having the frame of reference, you know, she even says, when you're looking at something, a conversation, you know, if you're, if you're on looking at something with your child, or honestly even your teen and you know, they're commenting like, Oh, wow, well that, you know, the house looks so nice, or their shoes are so cool, or whatever, really say like, Well, do you think this is the real empiric or is this the showcase room? Like, get, like what I, we need to teach like ourselves and people to be critical media consumers, really critical of what we're consuming in not critical in like a judgemental way, but a, has this been photoshopped? How long did it take this person to edit this photo?


Right? Right. And like, think about it, you know, I was, I, I attended a three day virtual conference last week, and it was really interesting. So there were 80 people, we were all on Zoom, and the, the presenter actually called out some of the people on, um, who were using the, the fake virtual zoom backgrounds, you know, of like the, the waves and the palm trees, and like, it looks like they're in The Bahamas, but they're really like in their, you know, in their desk. And he was like, I wanna see your real room. I don't, I don't care that you're pretending to be in Bahamas. Like, just like, this is actually really distracting for me. Like, but I thought about it and I'm like, Yeah, like, we're not even willing to show like this space that's behind us. It's like, Yeah, this is my office.


But like, yeah. So I just thought that was a really interesting take on like, we're even faking our backgrounds of our work environments right now. So being critical media consumers, really, really, um, and, and again, especially if you have, uh, you know, a team girl, just the data that has come up around, you know, body image eating disorders, dieting, body surveillance, that is linked to social media usage, um, TikTok in particular, and it's really alarming. And we need to be constantly vigilant about what we are consuming is pushing really, really unrealistic unattainable beauty standards for 99% of the population. And even the things that we're looking at have been photoshopped. Um, I tell a lot of my clients, you know, when they're talking about body image stuff, I'm like, Look, the people, these influences you're following, they get paid to look the way they do.


So not only do they, they have personal trainers, they have personal chefs, they might have had plastic surgery, right? They, they have curated diets, and then after the image is taken, they're made to look tanner. Their teeth are made to look whiter. They remove all of the blemishes, they remove all of the cellulite. Like, we have to understand that what we're looking at is not real, and it's in everything, right? Whether it's an ad or a magazine or like any sort of imagery that we're consuming at this point. And this is for boys too, right? It's like the protein powder ads that they're getting where it's like super tan, six pack abs with, you know, it's like, good lord, like <laugh>. Nobody looks like that unless it's your job. Yeah. Um, so I would say first and foremost, get, and be really vocal about it.


Like when you are watching a movie with your kids, say, Hey, what do you notice about the way everyone here looks? All the kids have really white teeth. None of them have braces. None of them are bigger than a size six. Right? Like, point it out what you see. And for yourself too, I mean, for, I, I have to remind myself like, yes, this is not real. Like this is not, this is not what reality looks like. Um, so that's just kind of like real, like being really critical and also not only having those conversations with your kids, but pointing it out when you see it. And then these are just some, some kind of really tactical ideas. So, um, there's also really interesting data around that, and I, the data on girls, but I imagine it's probably for everybody that the more, um, the more proactive you are on social media in terms of, um, being, being like a proactive poster versus a passive consumer.


So kind of that, like you're on the outside looking in, but you never actually interact that passive consumers actually tend to have more levels of depression, anxiety. Like, there's something about us constantly consuming, but not actually engaging with it in a constructive way. But here's the caveat. What I think is really important for all of us to know is that every time we use, and I'm just gonna say social media, whether that's you using tip, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter doesn't, you know, you name it. That when you are relying on that, when you are seeking external validation to feel good about yourself, you are giving all of your power away to other people to determine your self worth. And when girls post something and then the number of likes or hearts or comments, then directly impacts whether they think they're popular, whether they think they're pretty, whether they think they're liked, that is a dangerous game to play.


And so, I, so where I think we can get really tactical, tactical about this is using social media. So instead of using social media to try to prove something about yourself or asking a question about what others think about you, so, right, like a lot of like, I mean, I can't even tell you the amount of hours that girls spend curating selfies, but then they'll post the selfie and be like, you know, which top do you like better? Or, you know, or, or, you know, like all these different poses. And it's, it's almost like you're, you're, you're looking for vote.

Speaker 5 (00:41:33):


Sarah (00:41:35):

But that vote is actually just judgment. And if you're opening up yourself to judgment, when your self esteem is already really low, the end results is not very pretty. Right? And so instead of using social media as a way to ask other people what they think about you or to try to prove something about your life, like, look at me, I'm so happy, I'm so, you know, like I'm on this amazing vacation. And yeah. It's like, okay, great. We get your vacation <laugh>. Use it to make a statement about what you think, what causes are you passionate about, about what opinions do you have about the world? What do you care about when you're using social media as a platform to share your opinions about like the world and things you're passionate about That is very different than using it to, to kind of in a very, not even backdoor wave, like a very open way to just get other people's opinions about you.

Speaker 5 (00:42:37):


Sarah (00:42:38):

Right? So use it to say something rather than to like ask something about yourself. Um, I always recommend a 24 hour break from time to time, just seriously, like, delete the apps from your phone. Maybe if your family's going on like a camping trip and there's no, you know, if there's no wifi or no internet. Um, but even if it's over a weekend, and I always say, So here's an example If, you know, let's say your, your kid finds out that they weren't invited to a party and they know they were excluded, which again, is just like part of the deal now. It's like kids posts to wherever they are, to all of the people. So everyone knows whether they're invited or not and who's there and who's not. Um, it's like FOMO on steroids, right? So if you know that that's coming up, or even for adults, right? So let's say perfect example. Let's say someone is still madly in love with their ex and they saw on Facebook that like, she is getting remarried to this like very handsome bow and they're gonna have a destina destination wedding in Mexico. You know what the worst thing you can do is

Speaker 5 (00:43:46):

Tell me,

Sarah (00:43:48):

Sit online on your phone and look at videos and, and photos being posted from their wedding <laugh>

Speaker 5 (00:43:53):

Just don't like them. Just don't like them.

Sarah (00:43:55):

<laugh> don't like them cuz Emma know you're creeping. But the same thing goes with kids. It's like, if we know Friday night's gonna be a tough night, right? We already know, you know, Stella's having this party, you know, your daughter wasn't invited. Let's put the phones away. Let's have a family movie, movie night. Like, do not let them like wallow in. What I like to think of is like a very masochistic thing of actively consuming all of the stuff that you know is actually making you really upset. And this is for adults too. Like, you know, let's say you, you, one of your coworkers is going on a vacation and you're super envious that they're gonna be in Bali for the week. You don't want me looking at the photos of, I'm doing yoga on the beach and Bali you while you're like, Stop your desk <laugh>, Right? It's like, hide them for the week. That's fine.

Jamie (00:44:49):

But it comes back to that, that, that it comes back to that ability to self regulate. It's very difficult for the human being and the human brain that is hardwired to seek significance or it is hardwired to seek inclusion. You know, this societal inclusion. Yes, it's very hard for us to self regulate and even harder for kids. Like, I'm consciously aware of it and, and I find it difficult, but, you know, imagine our teen daughters or our teen sons or even uh, younger, um, who aren't consciously aware of how the human brain is hardwired. Uh, it's very hard for 'em to self regulate that. So how, how do we then, uh, impose those sorts of, um, uh, you know, screen time limits as such?

Sarah (00:45:33):

Yes. Okay. So you bring up two really important things. I will answer your question, kid. It is really important for kids. So it is really frustrating for them to have rules just like in general, but especially when they don't know why. Like if rules, and especially the teenagers, if rules seem arbitrary, they're like immediately resistant and defiant cuz they're just like, well, this doesn't make any sense. Why should I have to do this? Teens are actually really interested when you explain to them how the brain works. When I explain to girls this is what, this is what happens with cortisol, this is what happens with dopamine. This is how we are wired. These devices are actually designed to be addicted. Like addicted, right? We have to connect those dots for them. So even educating them about these are how these devices are designed, this is how we are wired as humans.


It is the perfect storm for causing us enormous amounts of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. It's like you look at our levels of burnout, whether, you know, it's like levels of anxiety and depression or just simply workplace burnout. And it's like, will you look at the amount and the type of content will consuming and it's a perfect storm to just drain every ounce of energy from your brain. And so yeah, how, like, explain to your kids how, how our brains actually works. Like these rules aren't arbitrary. This is actually how this device is affecting your hormones, your stress levels, and your brain chemicals.

Jamie (00:47:16):


Sarah (00:47:16):

And then they're like, Oh, whoa. And I think the social dilemma does a really good job of that. Um, I'm really obviously curious to see, um, to see, I think you said it was mirror. Mirror, is that right? Yep. Yeah. Okay. Um, I'm so sorry. I just went on a tangent. Remind me of what your question was,

Jamie (00:47:34):

<laugh>. Oh, no, no, no. That's okay. Look, we, we are going on some amazing tangents. It's, it's about, um, you know, how do we enforce its screen time? Is it parents get an app and we turn things on and off? Like how do we, how do we help kids when they can't self regulate? I, I guess is where I was getting to.

Sarah (00:47:51):

Yes. So, uh, I really think coming at this from the angle of having access to these devices and to technology is a privilege. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it is it a privilege? It is a privilege that needs to be earned. And I know a lot of parents will say, Well, I'm paying for it. Right? Which is of course they are. Right? They're like, I'm paying for it, so I make the rules. Kids don't really like that argument. <laugh>. Yeah. They tend to be like, Yeah, you pay for everything else too. Like, but there is something about, so he, so here's a perfect example. I was working with a girl, the other, and she showed up at our call and she, she was, she was really upset and she said two of her friends had asked her, they said they needed a break from her. And I said, Well, what happened?


And she said, I posted a story on Snapchat that in retrospect was actually quite mean, but at the time when they were hanging out, she thought it was, she thought it was fun, right? Here's another thing about the teenage brain, and I think this is true for all of us, right? Tone through technology does not always translate. Right? Whether that's a text, whether that's an email, sometimes just writing it out is not the same as us delivering it with our own, like with the warmth that would come with how we would maybe share something that an email reads as really harsh, right? So anyway, she, she posted this thing on Snapchat, her friends were really offended and then they said like, Hey, look like that was super mean. We, we need a break from you. And which anyway, led to a really interesting conversation around like, okay, well how, how do we wanna deal with this?


How do we wanna move forward? Like, okay, if you're gonna apologize, what do we want that apology to look like? But what's really interesting for parents to remember here is that they don't have kids don't have a governor, right? Like there's no impulse control. She posted this thing, she's like, Ha, haha, this is so funny. And then like 20 minutes later was like, Ooh, God, that was actually like, that was, that was kind of me. Um, here's the best way to add those speed bumps in as a parent. So, okay, kids need to demonstrate that they can be trusted to use the device, Right? Right. And that if, especially if they're really young, that literally means you, um, you, you, you set their screen time limits. It means you have all of their logins, you follow them, you have access to their accounts, you are checking their phone.


I will say this, they need to know that's happening. Yep. If you are going to be monitoring to that degree, which I think people should, again, you're not gonna give your 12 year old a we whacker, like you're not gonna just hand them an iPhone, but there is a very clear contract with this device. This is a privilege you have earned, but you get to use it for X amount of hours each day. After that time's up like three hours on your phone. I'm like, that's it. Or whatever you decide is an appropriate amount for them. And I think that depends on age too. So there's that. There is, and then there, part of that agreement is I have access to all of your accounts. I can check this whenever I want and I can take it away whenever I want. If you demonstrate to me that you can't be trusted with this, I have the privilege to take it away. And at the end of the day, right, every parent's job is to keep their kids safe.


And being on the internet, the wild, wild west that it is, does come with dangers. And not even just dangers in terms of like, I don't even wanna go into like the, you know, access to pornography, you know, all of that, which is again, startling when you, when you see the data on that. But kids don't have the impulse control to not say stuff that they don't mean to get involved in like nasty text threads that come back to bite them in the butt later. Honestly. I mean, there are horror stories of kids whose college applications get revoked because po you know, the pictures get posted online of them. Like there are real horror stories about like, the information that is like living on the internet really does affect their future. And they do not get that now. Like the way their brains are developing.


They do not understand that now. But it is your job as a parent to say, I know you might not get this. You're gonna be really thankful for this in a couple of years. Yeah. And then the older they get their privileges expand. And then I would say like, as they get older, maybe you're not logging into their accounts, maybe you're not reading their texts. Right. Like that should be something that they know is happening. But maybe I would always say, just say to them and may go through this from time to time. Yeah, yeah. They're not gonna know when. Right. So just, just having that seed planted that, like, my mom might see this. Right. Or another thing to tell them is like, would you ever post something that you, you don't want your grandma or your favorite teacher to see?

Jamie (00:53:28):


Sarah (00:53:29):

If you don't want your teacher to see it, if you don't want your grandma to see it, do not put it on the internet. <laugh>,

Jamie (00:53:36):


Sarah (00:53:36):

A good role. Like bottom line <laugh>,

Jamie (00:53:40):

It's a great role. It's, uh, and then there's some, uh, amazing tools there. And, and one of the things you'll see on this documentary, uh, which surprised me, you know, and I think I'm kind of tech savvy. I mean, we own a chain of coding schools, right? But, uh, uh, this really took me by surprise when in the opening sort of, you know, few minutes, uh, they were talking about a website. I'm not gonna name that website cuz I don't want anyone to go to it and I don't wanna give them any air time, but there's a website that's effectively, the best way I can describe is like Russian ette video chat. So right now we are chatting, I just click next and then another random person pops up on video, right? You, you, you probably know this site that I'm talking about. And it was horrific.


It was the first time I had seen it was apparent and I said, Oh, there's no way my daughter knows about this. And my daughter was out. I rang my daughter, said, Hey, what are you doing? And you know, we had this bit of a chat and I said, Oh, are you on this site? She goes, No. And like, so they know about it. Our kids are more savvy than we are. And so even with those rules and guidelines, we have to understand as parents, you know, you've gotta be super, super vigilant because there are, they will find new social, uh, this is just a website that they can access. I don't even think it's an app that they use. And so it can be deleted from history browser, browser history, and kids are smart. And uh, uh, it, it was quite horrific seeing that they had a a 19 year old paid actor who was posing as a 14 year old on this, on this show. And literally within three minutes of going online, she was being groomed. Yeah. But that, that, that's frightening stuff. Frightening

Sarah (00:55:18):

Stuff. Yes. Yeah. And I think, I mean, you also just raise a really important point there, which is even with all the oversight and the privileges and the rules, kids are always gonna be 10 steps ahead of us on this. And believe me, so have you heard of Finsta accounts? No. So it's a fake Instagram kids have,


So they have the, they have the Instagram thought, but they friends, So mom and dad, that's, Yeah, that's the mom and dad account. And then they have the Finsta account, which their friends, you, your kids need to know that, you know, that exists to say, Look, I know kids are creating fake, or I don't even know what they're called for, you know, on Snapchat it's like, I don't even know what those are called. But it, you know, at least just say, I know kids are doing this. I really hope you're not. Like, I trust you to use your best judgment. The reason we have these rules is because we just need to be the speed bumps a little bit. But I really want you to think about using this like be careful, right? Be really careful with this. And I think we just use these tools like, it's like, it's nothing, like, it's not a big deal and Yeah. I mean the data shows otherwise.

Jamie (00:56:30):

Yeah. Yeah. And there's, I was just, you might have noticed I wasn't distracted earlier, but I was reminded of something, a study that I had seen, and I'm trying to find it, uh, quickly. And if I, if I do find that, I'll put it in the show notes. But there is a direct correlation between a, uh, the adoption of social media and smartphones and teen suicide. There is a direct correlation. Yeah. Yeah. And so, um, over the last 10 years, uh, suicide rates have increased exponentially among teenage kids, teenagers, and, uh, uh, and you look at the, uh, introduction and adoption of smartphones and technology and there was a direct correlation there. So if that is not, um, reason enough for us to take a greater, um, uh, you know, view or oversight or interest into our kids' social media habits, I don't know what is.


But as parents, look, I know today we've done, hopefully we've done a good job of at least helping some parents understand the landscape, uh, know what's going. Hopefully we've done a great job of helping them at least open a dialogue with their kids. For those who already have teenage kids who think, you know, maybe the pendulum has swung too far, at least opening dialogue for those parents. And then for those parents who are, uh, parents of younger kids that, uh, you know, you can hopefully get something out of this and, uh, put together the right habits and the right processes in place to protect your children, as we all hope to do as parents. Um, now we've gone way over time, but this has been too fascinating to, to have cut short and year earlier than this. And so I thank you for your generosity and I know parents got a lot out of today, but I wanna finish off on maybe a lighter note. Uh, and that's the favorite question that I'd like to ask all of our guests, and that is, if you could travel back in the imaginary time machine, what's, uh, a piece of advice that you would share with your younger self?

Sarah (00:58:21):

Mm, I, I love this question. So like, don't you wanna just go back and give them a hug? You're just like, Oh, 10 year old me. Um, so I love that you asked this, and I think this does tie in a lot to the social media piece, the FOMO piece, But if I could go back, I mean, I think the thing that I would say is the most important relationship that you will ever have in your life is with yourself. That is the one relationship that never goes away. Let you Right. Friends, come and go. Partners come and go. Bosses come and go. Um, the sooner we can learn how to be our own best friend, not only we, not only are we happier, but we can actually be in healthier relationships with other people. And when I see girls using social media as a filler for real connection, when they can't even be with themselves, like timeout, we gotta start with the first relationship is with you, because then all that other noise just doesn't really matter that much. So yeah, learn how to be your own best friend.

Jamie (00:59:39):

That, that's one of the, I've gotta say, uh, Sarah, that's one of the best ones I've heard. I've heard a lot of answers in our, uh, uh, early episodes, but that is, that is, uh, profound. And I thank you for your, uh, generosity. I thank you for your time. I honestly, and genuinely hope we cross paths again because, uh, I don't think this conversation is done. Think, think we've got a lot more work to do together. I

Sarah (00:59:58):

Will come back for more

Jamie (00:59:59):

<laugh>. Good. That is fantastic. Uh, uh, before we finish up, tell our listeners, like there are some people who may wanna reach out to you, understand more about your programs. Uh, actually we, we've got some time we'll make, well, let's make some time. Tell us a little bit about your programs and, and how you work with, uh, cuz you know, we, we didn't talk about that at the beginning. Um, so yeah, please share.

Sarah (01:00:20):

Yeah. Yeah. So I am a life coach for Team Girls. So I do individual one-on-one coaching and life coaching, essentially. The way, um, I like to explain it, especially for people who are like, well, what's the difference between therapy and coaching? Coaching is really about how do we, how do we learn how to play the game of life better, right? How do we go from where we are now to who we wanna be? What are the goals while we wanna be setting for ourselves? And so much with Teen Girls is around who am I, what is the identity that I'm trying to create? What am I interested in? What do I want my future to be like? And when there is so much noise telling girls what they should look like and what they should act like and how they should behave and who they should be, it is really hard for them to figure that out on their own.


So a lot of the work that I do with girls is just around identity. It's a lot around emotional regulation. So understanding, you know, what is it that I'm feeling? How do I cope with this in a healthy way? How do I learn how to manage my stress better? School stress? Um, yeah, so there's a lot, I mean, there's a lot under that umbrella, but I would say anything from having better friendships, planning for their future, managing school stress. Um, there's a lot of body image stuff right now that that is pretty prevalent. So all that to say is I do individual coaching with girls. Um, I also run a lot of workshops. So, so I will say, just in terms of where to find me, if you go to sarah kenny, so that's Sarah with an H, and then Kenny is k e n n y, Sarah kenny


If you are interested in coaching for your daughter, I offer free parent inquiry calls. So that is simply where we could just chat for 20 minutes to see if coaching means even the right fit for your girl, Help me understand a little more about what's going on with her, um, obviously see if we're a good fit. Um, so you can book that directly on my website. And I would also recommend, um, signing up for my newsletter. So I do a biweekly newsletter with tips for raising girls, tips for raising Empowered girls, I should say say. And that's also where I announce any of my program and, um, workshop updates. So I also do a lot of, uh, workshops for family. So I literally did one on digital hygiene and social media a couple months ago. Um, I've done a lot of classes on body image and then stay tuned because hopefully in 2023 I will also be rolling out some digital courses for girls. So girls for courses, for girls to actually be watching. I know I hate to say it from their devices, but <laugh>, given the world we live in, um, it is just so cool that we can be sharing this information with people in Australia. So,

Jamie (01:02:56):

And some of, and the, um, workshops that you currently run, are they virtual or in person? Can uh, Australian parents access this as well?

Sarah (01:03:04):

Uh, for sure. Yes. Yeah. Good. So I do everything right now as virtual. And it's funny, I've actually looked at doing some in-person stuff here in Austin now that things are basically, um, yeah, mostly back to normal. And I would say, especially in Texas, they're kind of always back to normal <laugh>. But, uh, but yet everything is social at this point. Um, so no matter where you are, you can join. And yes, I highly recommend getting on the newsletter because I announce, um, I will put any workshop offerings through that. Um, and I also post on social media, so it's sarahkennycoaching is my handle on Instagram and on Facebook.

Jamie (01:03:35):

Wonderful. I will put all those links in our show notes, uh, for those parents who wanna find you on mind as well. Again, thank you so much. This has been an outstanding conversation. I've learned a lot. Uh, and, and, uh, this is, this has been a tremendous amount of time and generosity on your part. So thank you so much, and, uh, again, I hope we crossed paths again soon.

Sarah (01:03:54):

Thank you, Jamie. This was so fun to be here.

Jamie (01:03:56):

Likewise. Bye now.

Sarah (01:03:58):


Voice Over (01:04:05):

If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding and STEM Academy For KidsSkill Samurai offers after school coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future, visit

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