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Douglas Berger – Tokyo Psychiatrist

Topics on counseling, psychology and mental health

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Doug Berger – Tokyo Psychiatrist on What’s a Healthy Use of Electronics for Children

Dr. Doug Berger, a psychiatrist in Tokyo, Japan, has written in the past on the topic of what’s healthy when it comes to children using electronics and how can parents know when their children are spending too much time in front of the computer, TV, video game console, etc.

Here we ask him to elaborate on a few questions:

1. How do rates of electronic use among children compare over the last two decades? Do you see a trend of electronic use among children only increasing in the future?

Clearly the development, marketing, and use of these devices has exploded in the last decades, and the there seems to be no end in sight of this trend continuing. Quantum computing, mem computing, holography and other technology will take over the next generation, and the fun and excitement that children have with gadgets, creation, and competition, will continue as these technologies unfold.

2. What are the some of the consequences for children spending too much time with electronics, both as far as mental health and physical health?

There are some positives and clearly also some negatives. The positives are for these children to grow up as part of their environment that will increasingly use smart devices that are integrated into every aspect of life and career opportunity. Logical thinking and problem solving can be cultivated using and programming these devices.

The negatives are spending too much time with devices at the expense of other in-person activities, sports, socializing, etc. Spending inordinate amounts of time doing thousands of operations on a device every month or zoning into videos or internet sites that in the end start to have limited life value and are at the expense of other studies is another large problem. Parents and children may get into conflict about overuse of devices, children (and adults) may bully each other on-line, and negative outcomes may emerge.

3. What are some parental techniques that parents can employ to limit their children’s electronic use?

Setting times where using devices is permitted, giving rewards for having a balanced lifestyle, penalties for device over-use, and education about what the child is losing by spending too much time on a device, are some good ways to mold a child’s device use. Scaring children that overuse of a device will lead them to have poor grades and few job prospects later in life may be effective.

4. When can parents tell when a psychiatrist is needed when it comes to their children and electronic use?

Overuse that is running out of control, zoning-into devices for long periods, tantrums when told they are over time limits, bullying or fighting on-line, and poor grades in school. Parents also need to have some balance and should be careful of “military law” at home in controlling their children. A fair but effective reward and penalty system mixed with a warning about how life may not go well is always better than “military rule” at home which can ruin the cohesion of parents with their children.

Read more on Dr. Doug Berger’s comments as it relates to children and electronics here: http://www.megurocounseling.com/TF/2014/Dec_2014.pdf.

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Doug Berger – Tokyo Psychiatrist on Single-Parent Homes

Dr. Doug Berger, a psychiatrist in Tokyo, has written before on marriage and divorce in Japan. Here we ask him to elaborate on a few questions.

1. How are children affected by living in a single parent home?
This will necessarily depend on a number of factors, the age of the child, the time and quality of the ability of the parent to provide love, affection, and a protective environment, the socioeconomic environment of the family, and the ability of the parent and child to be flexible and reasonable with this situation.

Naturally, the more time and quality of the parent’s ability to provide love and security, and the more inherent mental stability both the child and parent have, the better off they will be. The age of the child when the single-parent home was created, and the circumstances around this creation will be of importance, more on that below.

2. Are abandonment issues more prevalent in children from single parent homes?

I don’t think it is a valid use of statistics to make a blanket statement and say yes or no. For each home, there is either more or less time alone on the part of the child. One could argue that the chances of having a difficult parent are 50% less than a 2-parent home, and while being alone seems better than being with a difficult parent, we would not advocate single parent homes over 2-parent homes of course.

If there is a child that is alone or feels abandoned then we need to engage some kind of social intervention and help this child integrate with some social activities. If the community the family lives in has good infrastructure and a close-knit community with families that participate in many activities where many same-age friendships can be grown then this may be enough in of itself to make a child from a single-parent household feel social and happy. If it is not a community like this, then social services need to have a bigger role to provide some alternative.

3. Are children raised in single parent homes from birth less affected than children whose parents divorced in their teens?

It is common to meet children raised in single parent homes from birth who state they did not know any other kind of family structure so that the single parent situation seemed entirely normal to them and they had no problem with it.

Divorce of one’s parents in adolescence is usually not a great thing, but might be worse for a child who is between 5 and 12 years-old because they usually more connected to their parents then teenagers. However, this all depends on how bitter the divorce, how many friends the teen has, the inherent mental stability of the child and parents, and the ability of the parents to be reasonable in ensuring that divorce will lead to a smooth transition for the child to continue the same lifestyle and with frequent visits and access to each parent, and this is more important for young teens than older teens.

4. What are some tips for children that may blame themselves for their parents’ separation or divorce?

This is not easy to clear up and sometimes takes years to run its course because a course of events has already unfolded once the child has started to think like this. Coaching and psychotherapy may help these children, but probably the best way is to avoid this happening to begin with.

Reasonable parents who can continue to work together as parents and a family will help decrease the risk of this outcome. Sometimes, we recommend that the parents move to a partial separation where one of the spouses has a separate living space, but where the family is together often, or at least one parent is visiting the child’s living space regularly.

The partial separation may be enough to give the parents space but allow them to continue the family in some way. Then the parents can actually be divorced on paper without telling the children-depending on their age or the parents can go to full divorce in stages as the children get older. It may be easier to acclimate to stressful events unfolding in slow stages.

5. How can parents ease the transition into a single parent household for children?

Continuing the ideas presented in question 4, I would say that if for example the father is moving out, he can present the idea to his children that he is getting an “office” to stay in so that he can do work in a quiet place, but he will still spend time at the home and that the children can also visit him. The wife may take the opportunity to have her own social life on days the husband, or ex-husband if they have signed divorce papers, is at the home watching the children.

For many couples in conflict, one partner having a separate living space can be enough to decrease the stress in the relationship enough to the point where they can be reasonable with each other. As the children get older, they will not need both parents around so often and the parents can begin to build their lives independently from the ex-spouse both socially and occupationally.

Read more on Dr. Doug Berger‘s comments as it relates to single-parent households here: http://www.tokyofamilies.net/2011/06/single-parent-households/.

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