Saul Rosenthal, PhD

HEALTH PSYCHOLOGIST

Last week I shared five tips about helping out when you give your child a smartphone or tablet.

But what about you? All those Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and end-of-year prices are tempting. Maybe it’s time for you to get a new device. If you’re taking the opportunity to treat yourself, why not also take the opportunity to review and strengthen your usage habits? 

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December 14th, 2018

Posted In: Digital Citizenship, Internet Addiction, Psychology of Technology

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With the end-of-year holidays at hand, you might be thinking about gifting your child a phone or tablet. I’ve previously written about helping your child develop appropriate online skills, and now I want to share some tips about setting your child up for success with their new device.

Many parents (myself included!) feel ambivalent about giving their child a smart phone or tablet. On the one hand, it’s convenient, you can keep tabs on your child, it’s the way of the world, and, of course, “everybody else has one!.” On the other hand, devices and subscription plans are expensive, many apps are a waste of time, social media is a jungle, and, of course, “I didn’t have one when I was your age and I grew up just fine!

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December 7th, 2018

Posted In: Digital Citizenship

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The idea that we can help the brain reshape it’s own activity to improve our health has always appealed to me. Neurofeedback is a non-invasive technique that encourages the brain to change itself. I particularly like neurofeedback because it allows me to integrate an evidence-based approach with a personalized approach to treatment. An individual’s own brain activity helps me determine the best neurofeedback approach to use.

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October 18th, 2018

Posted In: Treatment Thoughts

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Gaming Disorder is a new diagnosis for the upcoming 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD is the diagnostic “bible” published by the World Health Organization and used by health care providers around the world. While the exact criteria do not seem available, the WHO defines Gaming Disorder as:

a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

For diagnosis, the behavior must significantly interfere with functioning and exist for at least 12 months.

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September 16th, 2018

Posted In: Internet Addiction

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In a recent piece written for the New York Times, Perri Klass, MD lays out ideas for 5 device-free spaces for families. The article does not directly focus on getting our children off of the devices. Rather, parental media use is the focal point.

He starts with Common Sense Media’s 2016 survey indicating that parents spend over 9 hours per day consuming media. About an hour-and-a-half of that time is work-related. The vast majority of time parents spend consuming media is personal.

What sort of model does that provide to our children?

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January 25th, 2018

Posted In: Digital Citizenship, Parenting, Psychology of Technology

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In the article What your therapist doesn’t know, author and psychologist Tony Rousmaniere argues that therapists should incorporate metrics — data collected from questionnaires and similar measurement instruments — into our practice. In general, I very much agree with him, although it’s a complex topic with no easy answers. Rousmaniere, while advocating for utilizing metric-based feedback in treatment decisions, does a good job laying out both pros and cons. On the one hand, more and more fields are utilizing metrics as feedback to alter and improve performance, including health care. On the other hand, psychotherapy is an extraordinarily complex and individualized piece of work that might not lend itself to influence by statistical analysis. Before fully embracing data-based treatment, I think it’s important to consider a number of factors.

Speaking as a dataphile, the idea of utilizing objective information to improve my clinical work is fantastic. However, I’m not quite diving into the world of metric-based treatment right away. There are a couple of problems I have with it, particularly in the context of psychotherapy.

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March 21st, 2017

Posted In: Treatment Thoughts

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While I tend to keep my political views out of my professional work, I find myself tentatively venturing into the muck of some current politics with my clinician’s hat firmly on. A recent series of articles has examined a connection between Betsy DeVos, the (at this moment) nominee for education secretary and a company that provides neurofeedback and biofeedback services. Articles like What the heck is neurofeedback? from a site called Motherboard (update: the article seems to have disappeared) or DeVos-Backed Company Makes Questionable Claims on Autism, ADHD from the Education Week site don’t really bother me too much. And in fact these have been well rebutted by the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research.

However, once the New York Times got into the game I felt obliged to respond. The language of the article (actually all the articles I’ve read) is clearly designed to suggest there is something wrong with DeVos’ relationship with the company Neurocore. I am not here to comment on politics, DeVos’ qualifications, whether her relationship with Neurocore is problematic or whether Neurocore does good work.

Rather, I am here to discuss Neurofeedback. Because the New York Times article seems to be attempting to criticize DeVos’ relationship by delegitimizing neurofeedback as an effective treatment for numerous conditions. I would like to consider several points in the article. (more…)

February 1st, 2017

Posted In: Treatment Thoughts

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One of the issues that almost always comes up when parents find out I specialize in Internet addiction is whether parental controls and monitoring apps work. I’ve come to realize that what many parents are really saying to me is, “I don’t know how to make sure my child only accesses safe Internet material and I’m pretty sure my kid will get around any control I set up anyway but I don’t know what else to do. Help!”

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April 25th, 2016

Posted In: Digital Citizenship, Parenting

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It’s an old adage that kids think they are smarter than their parents but that either over time or in any one of countless sit-com scenarios, they realize they are wrong, wrong wrong.

Except when it comes to technology.

Kids often really do know much more about technology than their parents. As a developmental and clinical psychologist, I find this a fascinating phenomena that has significant implications for growth, health and society.

As a parent, it freaks me out.

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March 9th, 2016

Posted In: Parenting

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Impulsivity and Internet Addiction

A child sees a lollipop in a candy store and grabs it. A driver sees an opening in the next lane and cuts off another driver. A mom sees the latest must-have handbag at the park and within seconds she’s hitting BUY NOW on her phone. Impulsivity always follows the same sequence: I See It. I Want It. I Grab for It. We’ve all been impulsive at one time or another, usually without too many bad consequences. Unfortunately, if a person can’t control their impulsivity, they are likely to get into trouble.

As a specialist in the field of Internet Addiction, I see over and over that it’s this lack of impulse control that is the often-overlooked root cause behind all forms of Problematic Technology Overuse from online porn addiction to compulsive shopping.

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December 18th, 2015

Posted In: Internet Addiction

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