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Producers' Pick | Dr. Tom Kersting on the dangers of social media for young girls

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade
The Truth Network Radio
December 17, 2022 12:00 am

Producers' Pick | Dr. Tom Kersting on the dangers of social media for young girls

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade

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December 17, 2022 12:00 am

Family therapist and author of "Disconnected." His new book, "Raising Healthy Teenagers," comes out this February

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Visit or download the app. Welcome back, everyone. It's Brian Kilmeade on the road in beautiful Miami, Florida, doing a big interview with former Governor Jeb Bush. You'll see it on One Nation. Here's some of it on our show a little bit later in the week, back in New York City a little bit later. But one thing is pretty true. No matter what state I go to, to what town I enter, whatever city I'm in, one thing is pretty clear. Social media is an issue, especially when it comes to kids. One of the few experts in this area who really drills down on it, does it for a living, is a family therapist, an author of Disconnected, Tom Kersting. He's been on the show before, always great. You've seen him on TV, too. He's got a new book coming out called Raising Healthy Teenagers.

It comes out in February, so right after the new year. Man, what an apt topic, especially coming off the 60 Minutes feature this week, as parents are getting on the offensive and saying, stop telling us we're bad parents. These kids with these devices are not on our supervision 24 hours a day. We need some responsibility from the social media apparatus. Tom Kersting, welcome back.

Hey, Brian, thank you so much for having me. Tom, this was a five-alarm fire when you were talking about this years ago. Do you think it's getting worse? Do you think we created more of a problem through the pandemic because kids were alone more than they normally would be?

Yeah, so you're right. I'm like one of the first people to start, one of the first experts. The first time I lectured on this topic was in 2009, believe it or not. I've been traveling throughout the country for years, and it just continues to escalate. To answer your question, the mental health epidemic among our kids, it didn't start with COVID. COVID accelerated it. For example, if you look at some stats, between February and March of 2021, right in the middle of the pandemic, suicide attempts among teenage girls 12 to 17 rose 51% compared to 2019 numbers. But this epidemic, the mental health stuff started, believe it or not, in 2012. That's when we really started to see a rise among young people.

That's when smartphones became mainstream. Keep that in mind. Absolutely. I'm sure you saw our 60 Minutes.

This is right up your alley. The Spence family has come forward and saying, I've had it with social media companies blaming parents. Here's a little of the story that they told on Sunday. Cut one. They're holding our children hostage and they're seeking and praying on them. Praying on them?

Yes. The Spence family is suing social media giant Metta. Kathleen and Jeff Spence say Instagram led their daughter Alexis into depression and to an eating disorder at the age of 12. We realized that we were slowly losing her. We really had no comprehension to how severe social media had affected our daughter.

She was being drawn into this hidden space and this dark world. So with the Spence family speaking, does this sound like a session that you've been in? It's every single day, Ryan, at my private practice.

Every single day. I have the same exact situation with a kid. Whether it's oppositional defiant behavior, kid flunking out of school, hostility in a household. You have to remember, when we talk about mental health and this epidemic among kids, what is mental health? Let's explain it real quick. So it's basically what is circulating in our mind. Whatever is circulating in our mind, where does that come from? It comes from what we're exposed to. It comes from living as human beings. We know that the average kid is spending somewhere between eight and nine hours a day on some other planet where their malleable brains are just absorbing crazy stuff all day long.

So they're not really here on planet Earth. So naturally, it's going to affect their mental well-being. It's going to cause loneliness, and it's going to change just the way they think and lead to eating disorders and other things. So for example, in other eras, we grow up and you'd be in a rough neighborhood. There's a lot of gangs, maybe a lot of hostility. Maybe you have parents in the household. A divorce is afraid. There's an abuse of an addiction situation.

But the social media things, okay, those things might still exist, and let's add this into the mix. And people want to quickly say, you know, the environment or the parents. This is what the parents said.

The Spence family said, you know, when people say, okay, drill down, put some controls on there, cut to. Middle school teachers from Long Island, New York, gave 11-year-old Alexis a cell phone to keep in touch with them after school. We had very strict rules from the moment she had the phone. The phone was never allowed in the room at night. We would keep the phone in the hall. We checked the phone. We put restrictions on the phone. I would wait for my parents to feel asleep, and then I would sit in the hallway or I would sneak my phone in my room. I wasn't allowed to use a lot of apps, and they had a lot of the parental controls on. And so how quickly did you figure out a way around the restrictions?

Pretty quickly. So the kids are much more than the parents. No doubt about it. And that's the thing. Like, you know, when parents ask me about lecturing and so forth, you know, how do I teach my kid how to be responsible with this?

The answer is you can't. The kids cannot. The prefrontal cortex of their brain isn't developed yet.

That's a part of the brain that's responsible for risk-taking behavior, impulsivity, and so forth. So we have to be the ones to do that for them. Now, the best thing to do is not get your kid a smartphone until late adolescence.

And right now, the average age that parents are getting their kids smartphones is 10 and a half years old. And we all know that that's just stupid, but we do it anyway. It's called social conformity. And, you know, I'm out there trying to change that, trying to create a new conformity.

And when do you know something's unhealthy? Well, and anything that you're obsessed over, right? So I tell people, I'll say, all right, listen, you know, it's not that technology and social media in and of itself is really bad, right? It's not just by nature a bad thing. It's kind of like this. If somebody has a glass of wine with dinner at night, right? And in Italy, that's what you do every night, pretty much, right? It's not a bad thing.

If you have eight or nine glasses of wine every night with dinner, then we have a problem. And that's the space we're in right now, because that's literally the amount of time that kids are spending more than any other life activity. And sure, it's going to suck their brains into this vortex and affect their mental health. And we have a whole litany of tertiary problems now, an obesity epidemic, social skills epidemic, you name it. And it's because we're not as social, emotional beings anymore.

We're hypnotized inside this deep, dark place. Especially if you're a non-athlete, you don't feel comfortable in sports. If you're in sports, well, maybe you're over committed.

That might be an issue. But you're out there, you're running around, you're interacting with other kids, dealing with coaches, teams, refs. So that to me is a more normal upbringing that seems to foster development. I just want you to hear what they're saying, too, about what the kids are saying about how sometimes seeing these other kids on Instagram or TikTok or anything, having a better time than them, that makes them feel.

This is Alexis Spence on 60 Minutes Cup 4. I was struggling with my mental health. I was struggling with my depression and my body image. And social media did not help with my confidence.

And if anything, it made me like hate myself. It all came to a head her sophomore year when Alexis posted on Instagram that she didn't deserve to exist. A friend alerted a school counselor. That was the scariest day of our lives. I got a call to come to the school and I went there and they were just showing me all of these Instagram posts of how Alexis wanted to kill herself and hurt herself. And if Instagram is really has all the software to protect them, why was that not flagged?

Why was that not identified? Those are good questions. And number two is thank goodness somebody took action, right?

Yeah, 100 percent. Now, here's the issue here, too, Brian. You know, at pre-adolescence and adolescence, just that in and of itself is a very, I call it the purgatory moment where you're kind of transitioning between childhood into adulthood and you're in this middle area where you're changing mormonally and so forth. So it's a very challenging developmental stage for kids. And now you throw into the mix this social media stuff. And what gradually what happens from just constantly viewing everybody else's highlight reel, the mindset in that vulnerable mind that sets in is along the lines of everybody else's life is so wonderful. My life really stinks. So it's another layer on this already difficult stage called adolescence.

And it's a big layer. Yeah. So when you when you start realizing that, hey, listen, people have drama. There's 12-year-olds who didn't get invited to Halloween parties, right?

There's, you know, Christmas is not going to be, you know, you're not going to have your friends over. You don't get many calls, not many text messages. You feel like everybody else is more popular than you, taller than you, better looking, more athletic.

That's normal that you go through it. But you're saying this puts it to the 10th power. And the biggest question is, does Instagram, Facebook and all these other social media devices and programs, do they know what they're doing? And that's where they might be legally viable because they're looking to hook people in to get more views, to get more advertising dollars, perhaps. That's what they're assuming.

I want you to hear this last one. Cut five. This previously unpublished internal document reveals Facebook knew Instagram was pushing girls to dangerous content. It says that in 2021, an Instagram employee ran an internal investigation on eating disorders by opening up a false account as a 13-year-old girl looking for diet tips.

She was led to this content and recommendations to follow SkinnyBinge and Apple Core Anorexic. Other memos show Facebook employees raising concerns about company research that revealed Instagram made one in three teen girls feel worse about their bodies. And the teens who used the app felt higher rates of anxiety and depression. So, I mean, that's pretty evil, isn't it?

It is. And I remember that, you know, about a year ago when it came out, when I think it was Instagram had done their own internal study on this stuff. And then it revealed that, you know, it was making girls more depressed and anxious and so forth.

And they tried to conceal it. And then, you know, then it got leaked out to society. And one last thing, right, like we talk about, you know, what I try to tell kids all the time when I'm talking to parents is when you hear the word self-esteem, okay, what's the important word there? Self. So that's how I feel about me. It's how anybody feels about themselves. And that's never going to be attained by likes or streaks or anything that's external.

Self-esteem is internal. And that's what we need to teach our kids. We have to teach them how to go within and get out of this world without what I call it.

And how do you do that? Can you do that in a session from you, Tom Kirsten, being a professional? Or can you, how do you put that into a kid? Yeah, what I implore these parents to teach their kids or kids is I implore them to sit in silence every day for 15 minutes.

And it sounds crazy. You know, how am I going to sit in silence for 15 minutes? But it is by far the most important 15 minutes per day that that kid will spend because they'll actually get to know themselves. They'll actually get to feel themselves breathing. They'll get, I call it the rest of the iceberg, you know, within ourselves. And the tip of the iceberg is, you know, everything that these kids believe is reality.

You know, the amount of likes they have, streaks, followers, and all that stuff. So self, you want to get to know self, it requires repose. It requires sitting in silence. That's so interesting. And do you get pushback on that?

All the time. And it goes to show you, you know, it goes to show you like, is that that hard to do? Well, if somebody's never done it, it is because it's terrifying when you're just sitting there, you alone with your thoughts and you've never done that.

But with practice, you can master that and you master self and you unveil the deeper person that exists within. Tom Kirsten, he's got a book coming out called Raising Healthy Teenagers. I can't imagine people driving to work right now, driving to school, dropping things off and not benefiting from this conversation, whether you're a grandparent, parent, or you're actually a kid listening around the country.

And lastly, we thought we'd bring this in. Johan Hari wrote a book called Stolen Focus and just about how kids just don't play anymore. You know, and there's such a fear out there about kidnappings and what if my kid goes to the playground and doesn't come back or walk to the store and somebody does something so they don't do it.

So listen to what he was saying our situation is now. The idea that kids can't play outside without this being dangerous. This has never been the case in human history.

Kids have always played together much of the time without direct adult supervision. That's been the way for all of humanity to suddenly say, no, it's too dangerous. It's like saying kids should sleep upside down. It's an inversion of what every previous human society has thought.

So why do we do this, Johan? Because if you're that parent and that kid goes to the playground at eight years old and doesn't come back, you're the worst parent in the world. Yeah, well, in recent years, Brian, I'm glad you brought this up. In recent years, outdoor play is down 71%.

The kids are spending seven, eight hours indoors playing and only about seven minutes per day outdoors. And this idea, and I talk about this, it's funny, I'm so glad you brought this up. This kidnapping where people don't realize that kidnapping is at an historic all-time low. The problem is there's a camera on every street corner.

There's a camera in everybody's pocket. So every bad thing that is happening in society is picked up and it's funneled immediately to the armpit with what I call social media. And if we're seeing these things over and over again in our mind, they're leaving an imprint and it's causing an erroneous fear and something that's not real because we see it all the time. Like for example, a kidnapping. Somebody gets kidnapped in the middle of rural Mississippi, you now know about it five minutes later. Whereas 20 years ago, you would have never heard about it. And actually in a new book, I have a chapter explaining this. The chapter is called Fear-Filled Nation and how kids and everybody are living in fear because that's what is being driven to our malleable brains through our phones all day long.

Right. And I talked to the Robertsons, Duck Dynasty, and they were out, six, eight years old with guns that they've been trained with. So they'd be out there duck hunting with their older brothers, you know, not by themselves.

They go through the training and are driving tractors at 11. And that's just a totally different rural upbringing. So there are people listening to us right now, especially in New Jersey, rural New Jersey. And, you know, we're in Iowa and we're in upstate New York. They might be, they might be kids that are outdoors, but for the city kids, that's where the seven minutes comes in and for a lot of suburban kids. Yeah. My parents grew up in the Bronx. Right.

And they said my dad was telling me he was taking a subway all over, all over New York City when he was like eight years old by himself. And he's okay. Tom Kirstein.

Yeah. I can't imagine a book more appropriate. I look forward to talking about that.

And of course your expertise along the way, Raising Healthy Teens and your other book is called Disconnected. Tom, thank you. From the Fox News Podcasts Network, subscribe and listen to the Trey Gowdy Podcast. Former federal prosecutor and four-term U.S. Congressman from South Carolina brings you a one-of-a-kind podcast. Subscribe and listen now by going to
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-17 12:15:23 / 2022-12-17 12:22:39 / 7

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