Let Children Recharge by Putting the Phone Away: Tips from Child Psychologist

Tips from Child Psychologist, Emily Klass, on Putting the Phone Away at Night

Psst…For more helpful ways on managing screentime, check out Helpful Tools and Tips on How We Can Best Manage Kids’ Screen Time

Struggling to have your child to put down their phone and go to sleep at night? It was hard before the COVID-19 pandemic; now it just seems impossible. As a child psychologist, I hear story after story of children of all ages having extreme reactions to putting their phone away at night. 

This extreme reaction interferes with the quality of sleep, sleep that is vital to healthy growth and development. Historically, we as parents have been deeply involved in the sleep of our infants and gradually move away from this close monitoring as they grow up, trusting that a reasonable bedtime and a bit of a routine will serve to allow the child to recharge their bodies and minds. This transition to sleep has been deeply disturbed by the presence of cell phones in the room, the bed, on the pillow of our kids. It is there during tiny mid-night awakenings and the light emanating is suppressing the hormone melatonin that provides for sleep.

The importance of sleep in child development is fact. Sleep deprivation damages children’s brains –normal plasticity – the adaptation of neural structures to the stimuli the brain receives is disrupted. The brain centers responsible for processing visual signals and sensory information are affected. Children are more apt to develop mood and anxiety problems. Those children who are more vulnerable, say with a diagnosis of ADHD, are even more highly affected. Worsened academic performance, obesity, poorer concentration is all evidenced.

In 2019, teens spent 7 hours and 22 minutes on the phone each day with tweens not far behind. Preschool-age children use smartphones and tablets longer than recommended and parents often don’t realize it. And those are preschoolers! When the phone is in the bedroom, children may not be able to separate from their phones and their usage is much longer than any of us know! How many parents have woken up in the middle of the night, expecting their children to be fast asleep, only to find out that their teen was on their phone most of the night? And children (and adults) steadfastly state the importance of what might happen if they are not!

Researchers, scientists, psychologists and parents know the hazards of too much smartphone use for our children. Sleep is critical to healthy child development. Sleep deprivation can alter the brain’s ability to adapt to change. Children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to develop mood and anxiety problems. This is especially true of children with ADHD. A lack of sleep can also lead to problems with concentration, declining academic performance and obesity. The Mayo Clinic cautions that we must manage our children’s interface with smartphones.

Pre-pandemic, our children were deeply embedded in the electronic world. Since the pandemic, they have been forced to now even live their academic lives on their phones. And the phone has become an extension of their bodies. At the end of the arm and hand is the phone; ergonomically developed to fit perfectly and designed to maintain undivided attention with algorithmic coding.

Our children do best when their days follow reasonably predictable patterns and rhythms. Going off to school, changes and transitions during the school day, the return home, afternoon and evening activities and routines and bedtime. These normal markers of time help our children develop habits and routines that significantly help the development of healthy sleeping eating, mood regulation as well as the executive function skills – anticipation, planning, self-control, communication and self-confidence that are all reinforced with these structural scaffolds.

COVID has thrown all these time markers (across the whole 24 hours) in the air like a deck of cards. Not going into school at all, or going erratically, opening a laptop in bed — when the normal markers of time become ambiguous, our children have less opportunity to develop these routines and habits and skills. Establishing routines, habits — a healthy relationship with screens supports our children’s lives. The transition to sleep serves as a linchpin of this healthy relationship. Just emerging scientific research is compellingly telling us that our children are experiencing increasingly disrupted sleep schedules, sleep quality, extremely decreased opportunities for physical activity and way more sedentary behavior.

At night when we tell our kids to give us their phone, we might as well be telling them to cut off their hand – it is their friend, all they have learned during the day, pictures of their pets and their self-reflections, their fun, their social standing, their favorite book and song — their world.

We can address the transition and quality of sleep in these proven ways:

1. The phone cannot be in the hand all day. The tie becomes too great, and separating too intense.

2. Keep a bedtime ritual – from super simple to elaborate. Use a ritual that works for your child and your family. Perhaps it is a quick teeth brush and then jump into bed or perhaps all animals real to stuffed and parents must be kissed, lights checked, etc. When there is a bit of a ritual, separating from the phone can be incorporated into it.

3. Mirror your expectation of them in your own behavior: children are quick to indict parents for being glued to screens.

4. Put the phone to bed. Let it recharge while we all recharge.

In my office I have long had a little doll’s bed – children, teens, and even adults “tuck” their phones in, freeing themselves to concentrate on our sessions.

With my industrial design partner, I have invented a product called KozyFone for us all, to tuck in and recharge our phones while we and our children are recharging. It offers a new part of our bedtime rituals – marked by this tucking-in – to promote better sleep hygiene to children in a positive way. It is part of the sleep ritual (and recharges the phone) and I wrote a manual for helping our children to go off to sleep incorporating the evidence-based information we now have.

To support our mission of improving children’s sleep health and relationship with technology, you can learn more about our product here: KozyFone-Kickstarter-Panels.pdf

Someone To Talk To

SomeonetoTalkTo-newTherapy can be intimidating for anyone, and even more so for children. Someone To Talk To is a straightforward and interactive guide to help children through the therapy process. It is an invaluable therapy accompaniment that covers what to expect, how to prepare, and tips for wrapping up.

The pages are full of helpful activities to use before, after, and in conjunction with therapy, as well as useful everyday tools and coping strategies.

Also included are separate introductions for parents and caregivers and for children, with more information about therapy, and how and why to use this book and its activities.

Authors Paola Conte, PhD, Cheryl Sterling, PhD, and Larissa Labay, PsyD, are pediatric psychologists in private practice who specialize in providing cognitive–behavioral therapy to children, adolescents, and adults.

Click here to purchase the book.

Some Bunny To Talk To: A Story About Going to Therapy

SomeBunnyToTalkToWhether you are considering or have already decided to bring your child to a therapist, Some Bunny to Talk to presents therapy in a way that is simple, direct, and easy for young children to understand. This colorful, humorous book is designed to help answer children s questions and allay fears about the process of therapy. Children will learn what to expect from therapy from the first visit, about confidentiality and privacy, and that they won t have to go to therapy forever! Includes a Note to Parents.

Click here to purchase the book on Amazon.

I Never Took Physics and I Have a Great Career!

I Never Took Physics and I Have a Great Career!

OK, So I am 60 years old and Physics wasn’t as open to girls, BUT it cannot be that High School kids now have to experience this degree of stress.  (Read the attached link for the whole story). When people my age remember High School, we think of some fun, some hard work, some getting turned on to a book (The Great Gatsby for me), maybe Bio lab, maybe young love, hard tests, the library,  the play, the team, the after school job.  I was just told to get a good night’s sleep before the SAT’s!  A tutor if something was really hard and we thought we were so lucky to get one for a time!

I know colleges are more competitive, BUT it cannot be that the degree of stress and anxiety we are all hearing about is ok. Read the link and let’s all think.

Welcome Dr. Meredith Cherry!

Welcome Dr. Meredith Cherry!
The Psychological Health Collaborative, PLLC located in Roslyn, New York, is pleased to welcome our newest associate, Dr. Meredith Cherry. Dr. Cherry is a Certified School Psychologist who currently works at a public elementary school. She also has previous experience working in both clinical and school settings, including a private special education school for students with autism and language disorders, a college mental health clinic, and a clinic for individuals who have experienced trauma. Dr. Cherry has been trained in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and play therapy, and receives ongoing training in mindfulness and other evidence-based treatments.
Dr. Cherry’s experiences as a psychologist enable her to effectively assess children, teenagers and adults for cognitive, educational, and social-emotional needs. Furthermore, she has experience collaborating with parents, schools, and medical practitioners to treat a wide range of emotional, behavioral, and learning difficulties. Included areas of expertise are:
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • ADHD and other Executive Functioning weaknesses
  • Oppositional or defiant behaviors
  • Trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Learning issues
Dr. Cherry shares PHC’s belief in wellness through a collective effort. Using effective and proven cognitive behavior therapies, her goal is to provide overall support, compassion and well-being to children and their families.
Dr. Cherry would like to personally introduce herself to you and your staff and provide you with more information on what she can offer you, your patients, and their families. She can also provide expert training workshops for staff and families in various areas of behavioral, emotional and learning difficulties.
Please contact Dr. Meredith Cherry at (347) 669-2367. She will be available Wednesday afternoons and evenings. She is accepting new referrals and looks forward to hearing from you soon.


Position Announcement

Position Announcement
Our expanding group practice of 4 licensed clinical psychologists in Roslyn, NY (North Shore of Long Island, Nassau County) is looking for a new psychologist (Ph.D. or PsyD) who holds a permit/is eligible to apply for a permit and is working towards hours for licensure. We are looking for a therapist to work at least 2-3 days/week seeing patients in our practice under our supervision. We see mostly children, adolescents and young adults and do CBT and ACT, in individual and group formats.  Areas of specialty in our practice include Anxiety and Mood disorders, pediatric pain and related health issues, habit disorders, ADHD, selective mutism, eating disorders and many other behavioral issues. We have opportunities for psychoeducational testing under licensed supervision as well.  We are enthusiastic about providing excellent supervision and holding weekly staff meetings/trainings to share new evidence-based treatment approaches and research findings. Position available immediately.
Drs. Emily Klass, Erin Shockey, Olivia Velting & Paola Conte

Depression in Children and Adolescents

This morning in my mailbox I found a new edition of a book I had co-edited in 1993.  It’s called DEPRESSION IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS , published by Routledge Library Editions. My first thought was “How did I do this when my son was born in 1992?” I’ve either gotten lazier, older (no chance) or possibly more mindful.

It’s called “Depression in Children and Adolescents” and it is co-edited with Harold Koplewicz who, by the way, has NOT gotten older or lazier!  (see his C.V.).  The contributors to the volume, which was written with pediatric colleagues in mind, are among the most esteemed in the field and some are even good friends and some have left a wonderful legacy in the next generation of child-centered mental health professionals.

It was fortuitous because my first patient of the morning is a boy with diagnosed depression.  I am aware that I want him to be happier and I turned first to the treatment chapter which I co-  (I think I see a pattern here) wrote with the extremely busy Richard Gallagher, (see HIS C.V.).

The chapter outlines how children with depression often look, theories about why it comes to be and treatment suggestions. It’s based on the research of the time and I only saw one typo. (in MY chapter!).

I wish that treatment studies had made for tremendous strides in this field and that it was crystal clear how to set about treatment, through both the body and mind.

There are new, well-researched forms of psychotherapeutic interventions:

ACT – an acronym for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is the “third-wave” of cognitive-behavioral therapy along with DBT – Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

A basic assumption of ACT is that sadness and pain are a normal and unavoidable part of human experience. Some of our attempts at handling these feelings are more workable than others. Avoidance or short-term means of coping might actually end up causing even more suffering in the long term.

There are differences with techniques in ACT and our group of psychologists at The Psychological Health Collaborative  is studying hard and it seems like a natural fit to us.  Check in with us for readings and to discuss.

Looking forward to the next 20 years of developing the understanding of children’s health.

Emily Klass


Coping with Social Anxiety

Teachers, peer pressure, mountains of homework, confusing schedules, bullying  – whether you’re in your first year of middle school or your last, the list of challenges goes on and on! For many pre-teens, middle school can come with accompanying social anxiety, which is most likely to emerge in late childhood or early adolescence (Beesdo, Dipl-Psych, & Pine, 2009).

The primary feature of social anxiety disorder is the fear of doing something embarrassing in front of others, or something that will result in negative judgment from others (Albano & DiBartolo, 2007). Other notable symptoms of the disorder include avoiding social situations, and anxiety interfering in everyday life. Put simply, social anxiety occurs when kids learn to feel anxious in and avoid social situations often, and it gets in the way of doing things that are important to them.

According to the National Comorbidity Survey performed by the National Institute of Health (2011), 12% of adolescents in the United States meet criteria for social anxiety. Many more children and adolescents are considered subthreshold, which means they experience some but not all of the symptoms required for the diagnosis.

The good news is that social anxiety can be un-learned through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)! Research has shown that children and teenagers who engage in these strategies through individual or group CBT significantly improve (Spence et al., 2000; Herbert et al., 2009; Garcia-Lopez et al., 2012).

Because of PHC’s commitment to both collaborative care and evidence-based treatment, one study in particular has inspired our social anxiety treatment program – that of Australian researchers Spence, Donovan, and Brechman-Toussaint (2000). These researchers built upon existing social anxiety treatment studies by adding a “parent involvement” condition. In this treatment condition, parents were taught to reinforce coping skills, encourage social participation, and model socially proactive behavior. Meanwhile, their children met with another group leader and engaged in social skills training, relaxation techniques, social problem-solving, positive self-talk, and gradual exposure to social situations. At the end of treatment, this group of children were less likely than children in the non-parent CBT group or waitlist group to meet criteria for a social anxiety diagnosis. Furthermore, treatment gains were maintained one year after the group ended.

At PHC, we are incorporating parent involvement into our social anxiety and social skills groups. Facing social anxiety takes practice and support, and we feel the parent-therapist collaboration is key for success. If you think your child could benefit from therapy for social anxiety, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Mindful Nutrition

We were so happy to recently host the first of a series of Mindful Nutrition workshops led by Dr. Jill Silverman. This week Dr. Jill led an important discussion covering topics of serving sizes, smart grocery shopping and the importance of whole foods. She shared some of her favorite brands with us and even brought in samples for us to try. Dr. Jill gave us pointers on how to be a more knowledgeable consumer when shopping and reading nutrition facts on food labels.

“In this fast paced world of smart phones, deadlines and countless responsibilities, many of us are eating on the run – or eating mindlessly” remarked Dr. Jill on the auto-pilot eating methods to which many of us have become accustomed. Dr. Jill explained that eating is a sensory process that requires our full engagement and attention. We can cultivate better awareness of this process by eating mindfully and really noticing how our food looks, feels, smells, and – of course – how it tastes. Dr. Jill introduced some small steps we can take to become more present with this process and have more mindful eating experiences.

Contact us to find out more about upcoming events with Dr. Jill or to meet with one of our clinicians who provide mindfulness training.

The Psychological Health Collaborative PLLC
200 S. Service Road, Suite 212
Roslyn Heights, New York 11577
Phone: 516-466-2537
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