Jocelyn Brewer: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Digital Habits

Jocelyn Brewer is a registered psychologist who is changing the way we think about how we use digital technology. Her "digital nutrition" philosophy aims to optimise your well-being and improve your digital literacy online and advocates tips for better cyberpsychological health.

Jocelyn Brewer: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Digital Habits Introduction

Well, today, we explore the world of technology and its impact on our health — physical and mental. I’m very pleased to welcome back Jocelyn Brewer. Jocelyn has been on the podcast before, but after the last year or two of our immersion in the digital world, it seemed only appropriate to get Jocelyn back. And as like with many of our guests, I think it’s important to re-consider the issues that we raised in the podcast. And I don’t know about you, but for the impact that digital technology has on our lives and our relationships is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face.

Now, we’ve done programs on EMF radiation from Wi-Fi, which I have to remind you is in 2011, was classified by the World Health Organisation as a Class 2B carcinogen, a possible carcinogen. Sobering to know that, but we’re not talking about that aspect of it that comes under the environmental stress part of our Holistic Health Model. No, this is about how we engage and how our children engage with our technology and with technology and how families engage. So Jocelyn is a registered psychologist. She runs a boutique private practice in the inner west of Sydney. She’s worked individually with adults and adolescents, as well as with families and parents, across a wide range of mental health and life challenges. She works extensively with schools as well. She’s got training in cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance, and commitment, as well as other tools in her toolbox. We cover the whole issue of getting this balance right and some of the challenges that we’re all experiencing. Look, it’s a wonderful conversation. I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Jocelyn Brewer.

Podcast Transcript

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Unstress Health. My name is Dr Ron Ehrlich. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I’m recording this podcast, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present, and emerging.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:21] Well, today, we explore the world of technology and its impact on our health — physical and mental. I’m very pleased to welcome back Jocelyn Brewer. Jocelyn has been on the podcast before, but after the last year or two of our immersion in the digital world, it seemed only appropriate to get Jocelyn back. And as like with many of our guests, I think it’s important to re-consider the issues that we raised in the podcast. And I don’t know about you, but for the impact that digital technology has on our lives and our relationships is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:01:04] Now, we’ve done programs on EMF radiation from Wi-Fi, which I have to remind you is in 2011 was classified by the World Health Organisation as a Class 2B carcinogen, a possible carcinogen. Sobering to know that, but we’re not talking about that aspect of it that comes under the environmental stress part of our Holistic Health Model. No, this is about how we engage and how our children engage with our technology and with technology and how families engage. 

So Jocelyn is a registered psychologist. She runs a boutique private practice in the inner west of Sydney. She’s worked individually with adults and adolescents, as well as with families and parents, across a wide range of mental health and life challenges. She works extensively with schools as well. She’s got training in cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance, and commitment, as well as other tools in her toolbox. We cover the whole issue of getting this balance right and some of the challenges that we’re all experiencing. Look, it’s a wonderful conversation. I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Jocelyn Brewer.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:22] Welcome back, Jocelyn.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:02:24] Thank you so much for having me. It’s always very exciting to chat with you rather than being a listener, which I usually am. 

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:30] Oh, that’s so good to hear. But listen, Jocelyn, your whole thing, you are a psychologist… Tell us a little bit of give us some background. Look, people could go back and listen to the episode we did about 19 months, two years. So much has happened since then in the digital world. Give us Jocelyn Brewer 101. Tell us about Jocelyn.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:02:49] Quick length version. Uhm…

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:51] No, no, no, no. You can do more than that.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:02:54] Look, I was a high school teacher. I trained 20 years ago to be a high school teacher. And then, after about six years in the classroom, I became a school counselor. And at that point really got into looking at young people and the video game habit. I was like a dog with a bone, really was fascinated with than how much technology was showing up in our lives, and started studying what we now call CyberPsychology. 

So actually, last week, I finally submitted the corrections for my Masters of Applied Science in Cyber Psychology. Yeah, and that’,s and I do bits of research and commentary and really examine how a human, how humans and our behavior, how we live, how we love, how we learn being impacted by, you know, the saturation of technology and screens in our lives and the information that comes with that as well is really fascinating.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:03:45] Well, it’s such a huge part of our lives, and it’s become even more so in the last two years. But I’m fascinated about your masters, and just tell me. What are some of the pearls you picked up? Well, I was really focussed on doing something.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:04:01] Yeah. So I looked at a group of year seven kids, so it ended up being about 150 of them. Year seven is a really important transition point because you go out of a primary school, we have that one teacher into a much bigger pond, and often that’s the point that young people get their first smartphone. Mum and dad will say, “Okay, you’re going off to a big school or high school. Here’s this incredibly powerful device.” 

And what I was interested in was whether or not the young people who had self-reported higher levels of self-control had less chance of developing problems if using their smartphones. Now, hypothesis was, yes, more self-control, better use. And that’s what we found that actually, you know, I guess the learning here is if we teach young people really clearly how to have self-control, then they’re more likely to then overcome some of the difficulties that they have with using such a high powered tempting device where their entire peer group is really at the end of it. Right. It’s not like the old Verdery phone, where there was really only one person on the end of it. The high world is potentially there. 

And self-control, I think, is really interesting because we don’t sometimes stop and nut it out. Self-control actually means you have to apply yourself. It’s not your mom applying it or your dad applying it, and it means that you give up doing something now to something in the future that’s more valuable to you. So if, as a young person, you don’t have a sense of yourself in the future, you don’t have goals, and you can’t see yourself being what you want to be when you grow up. It’s really hard then to assert self-control because why would you give up this game of Fortnite in order to become something else when you don’t know what that is? So there’s a lot in it just from a pure psychology perspective of getting young people to have that positive psychology sort of model of meaning and purpose and engagement in their lives.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:05:53] I mean, just looking at any group of people, let alone young people, we are all, or a lot of people, are totally glued to their devices. And kids would just be, I mean, it’s so addictive, isn’t it? I mean, I think we spoke to you and Nir Eyal, who you introduced us to, and we talked about dopamine as a, you know, addictive thing. We don’t let young people have cigarettes. We don’t let them have alcohol too young. But this is so addictive.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:06:24] It is because what we’re addicted to really is to one another. Right. It’s when you think about what do most of us do with technology. There’s usually a human on the other side. We’re playing games with one another. We’re scrolling social media because we’re having, I guess, sometimes parasocial relationships with celebrities or people like you, Ron, you know, like I follow you, and I have a sense of your life and what you’re doing because I actually have this kind of parasocial relationship because I, you know, review your podcasts and things like that.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:06:57] So connection and I guess where digital nutrition comes in is to really start appraising the value and the virtual vitamins within those activities because these last two years would have been much more difficult without having the technology that we did. When you think of the first SARS epidemic that happened, you know, I really in a much more endemic area of China where you’ve got often one child, and then that burst off in 2003, sure it never was. That burst of technology around games, we actually did see the start at some of the kind of gaming addiction kind of hotspots and pockets. And thankfully now our computers are much more connected. And so we were able to use them in ways to get that connection with one another in lieu of, you know, the face-to-face.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:07:45] Hmm. But I love that. I love the fact that we’re addicted to one another because I think we’ve learned some important lessons about connection during this pandemic. But you mentioned Digital Nutrition. And just remind us about Digital Nutrition. So I think we all need to be reminded of this.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:08:02] Yeah. It’s basically a positive tech use philosophy that uses the analogy with food rather than drugs to consider our relationship with technology. So I don’t believe that we can live lives where we are technology-free or digital device free these days. I think that it is too much of an ask and to go cold turkey is often, you know, too difficult. So what we do is think about virtual vitamins. 

We think about the contents of what we’re consuming and whether or not we can trust the source of that. We think about the context of what’s happening. So it’s the middle of a rainy lockdown in 2021 is very, very different then. So, you know, 2022-23 school holiday summer where hopefully La Nina holds off just for a little bit longer so that we can get out and really kind of reach him in that face-to-face and be present to one another. The context is really interesting here. Yeah.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:58] Hmm. You mentioned trust as well. And that’s a huge issue navigating that in today’s world, isn’t it?

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:09:06] Yeah. Increasingly, my work in the last maybe six months or so has really pivoted into this kind of infobesity situation that we have where we have so much information to kind of wade through. And often what happens is there’s a lot of emotion that sits with some of this kind of information that’s out there. 

A really interesting kind of example here is the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses in women, especially in adult women, and how that has really kind of piqued people’s interest through TikTok. And TikTok, as you were sharing all of this information about ADHD, it’s really sparked an incredible kind of bit of social trends. I wouldn’t say that it’s, you know, just trendy because we know that something like ADHD has probably been well-masked in women. And now, kind of stereotype of what a kid with ADHD looks like is very, very narrow groups.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:10:06] But when we examine things like, and somebody’s already done research on these, the top 100 reviewed videos on TikTok that are hashtags, ADHD of those are massive proportion actually have misinformation in them. 

And when they look at who makes them, whether it’s a healthcare professional or non-healthcare professional, otherwise known just as an influencer with no qualifications, we see those people who don’t have the qualifications are actually sharing more misinformation than obviously those of us who do have qualifications and grounded in a bit more science and rigor. 

So when we’re talking about young people, that’s the kind of are, I guess, TikTok for many, many people, billions of people worldwide. We really need to put on that kind of media literacy hat to say, does this sound too good to be true? Because it probably is. And what’s the source of this information? Is this actually kind of verified information that I can trust?

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:11:04] Hmm. It’s so interesting to hear you say that because, you know, we’re about to launch. I can intend to do a commercial, but we’re launching in the third and fourth quarter of this year, 2022 Unstress Health, which is I’ve been inspired by a lot of my patients who are running wellness platforms with some limited health background. And I don’t judge, and I just am inspired by them. But so we’ve decided to build our own. But the by-line really is built on clinical experience and backed by science, and I think that does still count for quite a bit. 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:11:45] Absolutely. And that’s not to discount that lots of people are really smart and can navigate their way through that.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:11:50] That’s what I mean. I don’t judge.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:11:52] Yeah, I guess when you have something like opera, the health regulator in Australia where you do have to kind of make certain professional development goals and all of those things, it is quite different say to, you know, the coaching movement where again there’s still lots of accreditation and pathways within that, and I myself run a program for influencers called the Intentional Influencer. So that intentional, so that, you know, influencers can actually have that opportunity to check in with the information that they’re sharing so that they’re sharing from really great principles.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:12:30] Hmm. Well, we’re definitely going to have to talk after this interview, but you back to these sevens, because that is a very vulnerable age. I mean, high school is a very vulnerable age. And the whole last two years have added to that vulnerability. What have you seen in schools? And, you know, what’s your impression of what impact these last two years have had on mental health? 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:12:55] Yeah, it’s a huge question, right? Because the nature of individual differences is that some of my clients, they’ve loved not having to travel an hour each way to school. They were able to kind of get more sleep, roll out of bed, and do their learning. You know, I really take back that 10 hours a week for some of them and for others who are, I guess, a little bit more social. And the ones who are bit, you know, more sporty were really missing some of that face-to-face, you know, get together, kick the ball physically around.

 And I think really what we need to look at is not young people in isolation from their parents, but the impact that everything had on their parents and how that then trickled down. So what I deal with, too, is a lot of adults who are still really trying to bounce forward from the last couple of years and from having really sometimes three full-time jobs, remote learning, they have their own role as well as being parenting and running a household and keeping family connected and things like that. 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:13:56] So, you know that then I think what we’re seeing is the impact on parenting and that parents can actually hold space to put some boundaries in place for young people around technology that I’m running more and more courses for parents to help them put those boundaries back into place and reset the boundaries around, okay, you know, lockdowns are over. We now need to really get the sandpit around the digital devices because they pop up in every crevice possible unless we’re very clear about, you know, the content and the context of what we’re using when we’re using it, why we’re using it.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:14:33] And that is an issue cross-generational. I mean, it’s not unique to young kids and teenagers. It’s, I see it. I mean, I’m guilty of it myself. So if you were advising me to somehow get control back of my life from the technology that I have literally at my side, what are some of the things you would tell me?

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:14:58] Well, we’ll go back to the three ends of Digital Nutrition. I think here, Ron, because to be mindful and to be really present. So what is it that you’re looking for? So, you know, even to go back to dopamine, what is it that we’re seeking? We’re seeking that little kind of boost, that little bit of information, that little bit of connection, that little feel-good hit. 

So I really thinking, where else can I get this? What am I seeking? You know? We’re still hunters and gatherers ultimately, but we’re hunting and gathering information so it can be then work out whether or not there’s meaning associated with it. So is this aligned with my goals? Is this a meaningful thing for me? Do I need so? You know, I read an article about some celebrity influence and who they are having an affair with this way or domestic violence charges certain people are up on and all of that kind of celebrity gossip.

Or do I really want to get more tips and hints on how to focus, how to concentrate, how to I don’t know what have you you’re into, whatever the pain point is for you? And then the third one is, so we’ve got mindful, meaningful, and then moderate. So how can we moderate our use? Because we still only have 24 hours in a day. If you’re using technology for a big chunk of that, what are you displacing? What are you missing out on?

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:16:17] Hmm. I guess so. We hear that expression, fear of missing out. FOMO.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:16:22] Yes.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:16:23] And it’s all, and so much of what we interact with is about clickability. How clickable. And it’s almost. Well, it’s so exquisitely designed, isn’t it?

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:16:35] Absolutely. And that’s another beautiful media literacy example there. Because clickbait is literally designed to pique your interest. We have to say something sensational to get someone to want to read the article. So if it’s just kind of a good news story where like nothing much happens, that’s not actually driving the clicks, which is then driving the advertising revenue. 

So I think we need to understand that most technology and platforms that we engage in, whether it’s social media, whether it’s, you know, the Bing search engines, even whether it’s, you know, the information of media outlets, they’re all driven by advertising revenue, the ability to get ads into your eyeballs and influence you to hit click and buy. 

So, you know, really stepping back from that and looking at some of those ways that those things are literally engineered so that we can ask better questions around what deserves my time and what just serves me to pay attention to it. So I talk to young people all the time like you’re paying with your attention. You’re not paying necessarily with dollars. You’re paying with that very, very important resource that you have called your “attention.” 

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:17:42] Hmm. But it’s cheap, isn’t it? I mean, in the sense that you don’t have to do much if you’re a very, you can be very passive. I mean, yes, you have to work your thumbs. But in terms of getting up and moving and doing things, it’s so easy. 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:18:00] It is so easy. And even we think built into platforms like Instagram or TikTok, where it will say, “Hey, do you want to have a break?” So my Instagram is set up. If I’ve been scrolling for 10 minutes, it will ask me whether or not I want to have a bright, super easy for me to say “No thank you. I’m really enjoying just coming back and running with my phones.” So until we get stronger, again, that self-control, that’s me saying, “Well, what do I need to do instead?” versus, you know, fulfilling this need and gratifying this desire right now. 

And that’s why having that vision and being connected so well, I really want to get this master done, or I really want to get this other big, more important piece of work done. It’s a really hard thing to do here. I am in almost middle age, and I’m still like, “Yes, I will keep scrolling.” Let alone young people where, you know, brain architecture that isn’t fully wired, where they’ve bring up, you know, plugged into this sort of technology.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:18:54] So it’s interesting that you should say you get an alert up after 10 minutes of looking at Instagram.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:19:00] Yeah. 

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:19:00] I think that’s an indication of how little time I do spend on Instagram because I’ve never had that alert. But I mean, what are some of the things that you do, Jocelyn Brew, and knowing everything you know to limit your, you know, digital, how do you build that into your life? 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:19:18] Yes, I have only Instagram on my phone. That said, I do now have BeReal. The BeReal app, where three random times a day it, will prompt you to take a photo with your front and back camera to sort of be real. You just like take a snap of what you’re doing at that moment. I’ve been on that just to experiment with that, but only my like two or three closest friends are there. 

So we kind of get this really nice little snapshot into each other’s lives. But generally, I don’t have social media on my phone. Occasionally at a conference, I’ll check Twitter there, and then I’ll get rid of it. But even with social media on my desktop, I log out. I log out each day, and then I’ll have a couple of days off, depending on what’s in the media, depending on how I’m needing to connect with other people. You might find that I have a flurry on Twitter, and then I go away from that, and then I don’t look at Facebook very often, so I really kind of tune in and stay like, where does my time need to be, and what am I looking for?

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:20:14] So I apply those 3Ms quite a bit. I’m constantly kind of, I guess, curating who I follow, and I follow and unfollow people quite often because sometimes their content just goes off, or I’m not as interested. And then I am a real fan of sleep, so that really helps. I’m not one of those people who is, like you know, FOMO from staying up. I’m like, put me to bed. Now I’m not fantastic with like not looking at my phone for an hour before bed, but because there’s not a lot on my phone, the most is just like checking in with some messages. 

I had to be quite careful about checking my email before bed because I get clients and all sorts of people emailing me at all times, and that can really activate me. So if somebody says I want to cancel my appointment or I’m having this, I’m having that, I go into work mode. So I’m pretty good at not looking at my messages like my email first thing and the last thing cause I’ve just been burnt so many times of that feeling of like, oh, and now I’m awake.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:21:11] So often the stuff around sleep has to do with the sensory kind of stickiness of what we’re consuming as opposed to a lot of people would say it’s the blue light, it can be the blue light that then works against that melatonin window in that the kind of like all of those sorts of things happening in your brain, the lullaby effect that we’re really looking for. So but, you know, like if you’re playing a really violent game or you’re looking at something that can just be like, you know, somebody shed some awful news or whatever that really activates your brain, and then you’re awake and alert rather than getting into that lullaby drift off state. 

So I don’t do a huge amount. I guess I do use my laptop quite a bit during telehealth, writing newsletters and prepping presentations, but most of it is, yeah, work aligns, and that’s how I guess most people, you know, we’re all on screens as adults, mostly because of work, not because we’re playing Candy Crush or, you know.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:22:15] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m pleased to hear your sleep is such a priority. And I, you know, kind of dubbed what you’re saying there is often what we’ve said, and that is it’s not a time to connect with the world. It’s time to connect with your pillow.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:22:29] Yes.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:22:29] And once you get your neo, the frontal cortex, once you get your brain activated at that time of day, your bedtime is doomed.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:22:39] Yes. Yes. And you know, the 1:00 going to sleep thing is just not sustainable. And what I do say with young people is that their sleep is absolutely out of whack because they find it really hard to get off devices and have pacts with one another where they say, okay, “It’s 930. We all agree we’re going to get out of the group chat. We all agree that you can’t ostracise somebody for not being in the group chat until when 1 am.” 

So having those compacts within groups of young people and even within groups of parents for parents to be able to say to another kid’s parent, “Hey, can we agree on this?” is really, really helpful. It kind of help reform the village and reset the village, so you don’t feel like you’re the only parent actually doing some of that work.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:23:27] And we just forget how important sleep is as a foundation for practically everything else. I always say that influences mood, metabolism, and memory. You know, really broadly speaking. You’re grumpy, and a kid who’s grumpy and a kid who’s depressed is sometimes, you know, a very similar presentation. So mood, metabolism, and memory. 

So here’s whose quite sleep-deprived and tired sometimes can present very similarly. So I guess it’s sleep. What I say is that it impacts mood, metabolism, and memory. Mood, how grumpy you are, sometimes it looks a lot like a depressed, you know, depression and tiredness then can present similarly. Metabolism is how your body uses energy, so it can impact mood, metabolism, and memory. 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:24:14] So mood is how you shop is a bit grumpy. Metabolism is the way your body processes energy. So things like insulin resistance and some of the hormonal changes saying young people are already going off and memory how you code your learning and remember stuff. Just got a huge cognitive load, so so much information coming into our brains and then trying to process that. If we’re not sleeping for long enough, we’re actually not doing the mental tidy-up that our brain needs to do, and that cleans through those different phases of sleep that we need to be able to function. And remember that the stuff that matters, which is really the curriculum.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:24:51] I think looking at my own daughters who have three children and two children, I often reflect that the biggest challenge for parents today is how to navigate technology on so many different levels because it’s a whole family issue, isn’t it? 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:25:11] Absolutely. And the modeling of parents really impacts little ones. So we see that potentially impacting language acquisition and that that call and response that we do when we’re, you know, making all of those faces and noises even with, you know, nine-month-olds sticking a phone in between that and saying do that thing again, can really interrupt that dyad of language acquisition and anything called sharing thing where, you know, that nine-month-old or even 18-month or two year old can’t give you permission to say, “Yes, I’m okay with that photo being on the Internet for everyone to see.” 

And then it’s kind of like this whole idea of, like, what do we do with kids? Well, if we give them a phone in a supermarket, rather than pointing things out and looking for clothes or doing all of those interactive things, are really, you know, setting up that wiring that says as soon as you kind of a bit bored, you get this highly sensory input in the palm of your hands, the control.

So again, I run course screens in early childhood that help parents and educators understand how important those kinds of analog foundations are, what to do and how to introduce technology in a really appropriate way. So obviously, a smartphone in the palm of your two-year-old is very different to a big screen on the wall and doing interactive things while you’re watching good old playschool. 

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:26:34] So you do… I was going to ask you about your courses because you’ve got a few going. Tell us about the programs. Different program because you mentioned one there. The one was on early learning.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:26:47] Yes. Screens in Early Childhood. So yeah. Because it starts that early, and also parents who, you know, we didn’t grow up with this technology. So we want to be really careful about how we introduce that, kind of like the way we introduce solids, right? You wouldn’t go from a kid who was only on breast milk to saying, you know, here’s the steak. We really want to kind of introduce that slowly and get kids accustomed to developmentally appropriate material and really quality material. 

So, you know, we go back through things like Playschool and Sesame Street on a television screen as opposed to lots of kind of dings and dongs and light and sensory stuff right here. So there’s obviously some issues, I guess, again, with the displacement of eyeballs looking at horizons and being in natural lights and having that high lux sort of input, especially early in the morning to help set our circadian rhythms. 

So, you know, really looking at things in this short distance. So really helping parents just be more confident with knowing what to do and understanding some of the risks when we’re talking about that early childhood before getting to school, then I do…

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:28:00] Hang on. I want to stop you right there. Because to me, what is that? Is that a one-day or ongoing one, or a few days? Tell us a bit about how long that goes on for.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:28:09] That course is for 45-minute sessions, and it’s really practical. So I’ll introduce some stuff really about language acquisition in kids. Yeah. So that we can make sure that we’re not displacing that. And then we’ll talk about like how all the different screens and some of the different content and then how to look for games and check in with whether or not a game is really developmentally appropriate, whether it’s really educational because anyone can make a game and plug it in the App Store and call it educational. 

No one’s going to check, like, are you really a teacher? Do you really have any qualifications for this? It’s just illegal, right? So thinking about if apps and games came with nutritional labels, the same way that we look on the back and we have those star ratings on how hot ticks, something, you know, what are we looking for so that we can have a little bit more on top of all of that as we’re introducing tech.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:29:01] Because it strikes me…

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:29:02] The worry.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:29:03] Yeah, it strikes me that that should just be basic training for parents. I mean that, yeah, that should be rolled out to every, you know, pediatrician about to give, you know, like advice to parents.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:29:15] It’s coming. Yeah. Jason Clare, this week as the Education Minister, has just announced the Centre for Excellence for the Digital Child. So that’s an incredible group of academics, and I’m going to get all the unis wrong, but check it out. Like there is now absolutely clear funding for looking at these issues as well as today. It’s been announced that there will be a walk-in through social media platforms and the effect on mental health that will be a kind of like a select committee that Senator Andrew Bragg is going to be the chair of. 

So there’s lots of stuff happening in this space, and obviously our incredible ESafety Office and that the commission of duly immigrants their work just kind of blossoming and growing and having international acclaim all around the world, want to replicate some of the incredible things that are happening around preventing cyber abuse of not just children, but adults. You know, stopping child exploitation, material safety by design. So we’re designing for the future of the Internet. So we’re not making the mistakes that we have, kind of, you know, let through the keeper with where we where we’ve gotten to at the moment.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:30:24] So Screens in Early Childhood. Go on.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:30:26] Look. Yeah. Then I do some work with school, so schools get me into talks to parents at all different levels. Often I’m doing side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder work. So getting young people to have the conversation together. So I really believe in not doing work with young people without them or for them without them. They have to be a part of that conversation so that they are digital experts in their own lives. Right. They know what’s going on much more than I do. 

So doing work with schools, I have a course called Design Your Family’s Tech-Use Agreement, where you actually learn how to set up a tech-use agreement using that digital nutrition kind of philosophy. And because every family’s different, we have different values, we have different interests. It’s a very tailored approach. So if you come to any of my courses and you’re looking for a prescription, you’re looking for how many minutes and what kind you will not get that for me. It’s much more nuanced. So you have to go and do the hard yards, right? There’s no silver bullet here.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:31:27] And what is that one? That sounds so appealing. What is that? For 45 minutes sessions as well?

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:31:33] No, that’s three 45 minutes, and it’s going to be available on demand soon. I’m going to get really into gear this Christmas. Listen, I’m going to fill all of these slightly chilly. You can go to my website and buy them. They’re self-paced courses. It comes with a whole bunch of resources, so you can kind of do the skeletal work, or you can get really savvy, and you can start at different kind of points. So you might revisit the course several times as your kids sort of get older, and you need a new agreement because it’s not set and forget, you know.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:32:04] So much on this then links into just habits of conversation, right? So how do you build trust with young people? How do you kind of know your kid in as they grow up when naturally they’re going to push against you? Naturally, adolescence is a time when they say, okay, bye, I can’t be around my parents as a pubescent human, right? 

So it’s really kind of helping parents understand some of that evolutionary biology and some of the hard wiring even that we’re now wiring in with all of this technology where, you know, issues around consent. You might have had some of the issues happening in group chats, some kids in private schools around some really icky, icky, disgusting kind of comments, really helping parents to kind of talk to kids about tricky topics. 

And again, it’s not a one-off conversation. It’s a talk often and talk early and get comfortable with things like consent or gender questions or pull in or all of those things, which I mean, ultimately, again, it’s a values thing. You know, the way I talk to my five-year-old about some of these issues is probably a lot more progressive than other people are going to be comfortable with. And so you really kind of have to meet where they’re at and tune into those values again to then see where things make.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:33:21] I mean, you mentioned porn is one example. Talk about talking to kids before you really think you need to be talking to them. But the reality is they’re exposed to things way before they should be.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:33:36] Yeah. And we need to talk in really unambiguous terms as well. I think in the past we’ve sort of done this really vague, kind of healthy Harold stuff where it hasn’t been cleared, you know, calling body parts, what body parts are and talking about if this happens, then you do these, and all of these sorts of things. Even with something like YouTube, parents say to me, “Oh, my kid’s just watching YouTube.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but what on YouTube? YouTube is a big chunk of porn sometimes, and it’s really awful.” 

People out there that want to splice porn into Peppa Pig and then label it, you know, write it for kids, and then you have your kid doing something really I don’t know, likes googling Barbie doing the splits, and you don’t necessarily find Barbie doing the split. So we have to be careful that even with naive little young minds, sometimes they come across really inappropriate material. They literally cannot unsay.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:34:37] You know, it just strikes me that with technology, we are all for all ages, like kids in a sweetshop given free rein. And we had just started to learn that maybe eating all of those sweets isn’t a good thing. And that actually took a while to get that message through in health. And it just needs to happen. And you are just doing such, I mean, those courses, I feel like I could have signed my whole family up to this point.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:35:03] Before we came on and started recording, you mentioned your current interest in the metaverse, and just for those that aren’t aware, I mean, that had been living under a rock, perhaps. Tell us all about the Metaverse and some of the things. What are some of the challenges and opportunities?

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:35:22] So the Metaverse really is kind of like the next iteration of the Internet. And it’s been talked about for like 20 years, basically, but it’s become a bit more of a hot topic about five years ago, and then in the last 18 months, when Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook now Meta has actually rebranded his entire company to kind of really put his stamp on the idea that he’s going to be the person who creates this Metaverse. We don’t know who’s going to create the Metaverse. It’s probably going to be a multiverse before it’s just one single kind of platform. 

And anyone who thinks that they know what it looks like is probably just being very imaginative right now. We’re not exactly sure what it will be. It’s kind of linked to this idea of Web 3.0. So wherein when two, which is very collaborative and all about participation and you know, everybody has a voice, and this will be that next iteration where I guess it’s decentralized, interoperable, there’s all sorts of kind of autonomous networks, fans, cryptocurrencies and blockchain and all of these things that usually at this point, when I’m talking about people’s brains, do they exploding…

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:36:36] Almost happening. Almost happening. 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:36:38] Yeah. Because, you know, it’s so neat to us. Like, if we think that social media is new to us, this is a whole another level. And I guess in my work. I have to challenge myself and my middle-aged brain, my perimenopausal brain, to really keep up with all of this information. So really, what I would encourage people to think about it is an immersive space, which is actually much more about time than a place. It’s a time when you’re immersed in an augmented or extended reality where you can kind of go into it. And usually, it’s got to do with having VR goggles on where you go, and then you have that three-day experience.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:37:16] So what we’re expecting, what happened is rather than that digital disinhibition effect, that effects of when you’re kind of angrily typing to somebody on Twitter, forgetting that they’re a human, you actually potentially have more empathy with people because you’re actually in the space in that immersive environment, talking to them not just behinds a screen, being a keyboard warrior. 

There are a lot of ethical and design issues that are there, obviously. And again, you know, the effect of the office and Safety by design are already ahead of the curve. We’re talking about how do we design for a responsible metaverse. I’m interested in it from the perspective of, well, in the metaverse and that extension of digital wellbeing for the next 5 to 10, so 50 years.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:38:03] So I was introduced to somebody, and this is the joy of the pandemic, and I’m really an exemplar of digital nutrition. I was introduced to a person called Kelly over in New York, really interested in some of the same things as me. She’s a brand strategist. It’s just a really clever person. And we started chatting, and I said, “Let’s talk some more, and let’s talk some more.” And two years later launched our digital web called Metaversal Wellbeing, which is going to be a flexible toolkit for this next iteration of the Internet.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:38:35] Metaversal wellbeing. Well, if it’s anything like the other programs you’re running, you’re well ahead of the curve because we need it is interesting you mention empathy because it is so easy to hide behind the keyboard and anonymity and say all sorts of things, isn’t it?

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:38:52] Absolutely. And I see it even in people who aren’t even hiding behind anonymity. I see people do all sorts of things just saying Twitter at the moment, you know, like it’s I have this saying, you know, eye contact kick starts kindness. When we actually present to another human, whether it’s like we are now just online or physically standing in front of one another, we have very different responses to when we’re not actually present that that person. 

And you know, I’ve got journalist friends who get some really awful stuff said to them about, you know, them just doing their job and I and by other adults, you know, I just think, wow, if we haven’t worked this out as people who are supposed to have fully developed prefrontal cortex, it’s no wonder the kids are in group chats saying really silly things because they don’t have those, I call them digital orphans or they’re not digital natives, they’re digital orphans. They don’t have that generation above them who are really guiding them and showing how to be the helmsperson of the digital space, how to kind of help them navigate. Because we’ve sort of not known really what is we were swimming in.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:40:03] And you know, there’s a big move in New South Wales at the moment. Everyone’s getting ahead up about banning smartphones in schools, and I don’t have an issue with putting some restrictions around that, but that’s like having a pool fence and building a higher pool fence without teaching swimming lessons to me is kind of out of balance, especially when we’re talking about fencing a pool, which is, you know, just a smartphone rather than how are we going to fence the ocean, which is the Internet. 

And, you know, I’m borrowing that from Dr. Justin Coulson from Happy Families. He talks about that. But I absolutely love it because an app like Snapchat, which is quite popular with young people, it’s actually had a bit of a resurgence and has just launched a desktop mode. Oh, wow. 

So if we’re saying you can’t use smartphones in schools, but kids are smart enough to know how to get Snapchat on their desktop or on their school Chromebook or, you know, at the firewall to get that, what are we teaching them? Where are the skills that they need to make better choices and exercise self-control? If all we’ve done is, you know, put up these really high pool fences, forgotten that there’s an ocean, and not taught any swimming lessons.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:41:17] Yeah. And to take that analogy a bit further, if parents are meant to be lifesavers. Unfortunately, a lot of parents can’t swim in this sea, in this sea of the Internet, you know, I mean, they’re just so absorbed in it themselves. They’re not probably, I mean, and I include myself in this as well. I’m not trying to say I’m healthier than that.

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:41:38] But we all probably remember doing the bronze medallion, right? Like if you’ve grown up in Australia, we’ve had all of this, like swimming safety, drummed into us. And the first lesson in that is don’t get yourself into deeper waters than you can actually manage. You’ve got to go and get help rather than put yourself at risk. 

So we all made these lessons, and we kind of made them two weeks ago. There’s a lot of… Unfortunately, in my work, what happens is things have to really hit the fence, the parents, to say, Well, I’d better do something about that. It’s really hard to get parents on board with proactively spending a bit of money to prevent some of these issues. 

You know, spend lots of money on professional development or courses for our work or to make more money, but we really don’t have a headspace around needing support with parenting and such new what is we’re trying to navigate through and rough waters often.

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:33] Well, I think that’s a really important message for us to leave our listeners with. And we’ll, of course, have links to your website and all the wonderful work that you do. I love reconnecting with you. I love to, this is my dose of digital nutrition and my therapy, but those courses are definitely ones that I’ll be visiting. 

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:51] Jocelyn, thank you so much for joining us today. 

Jocelyn Brewer: [00:42:54] Total pleasure. Always great to chat. 

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:56] Now it’s exciting for me to reflect on the fact that Jocelyn joins our Advisory Panel on the Platform, which I do really encourage you to go and have a look at. It’s a wellness program, a health program online, accessible in the palm of everybody’s hand, built on clinical experience, and backed by science. But don’t you love Jocelyn? I mean, she’s got these program Screens in Early Childhood and Design Your Family’s Tech-Use Agreement. 

Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:43:27] Now, my daughters have young families, and I see the way children engage with digital devices. I mean, I have these patients that bring young children in. Babies may be as young as 12 months or 18 months in a pram and will place an iPad in front of them and will keep them entertained or occupied, at least indefinitely. I mean, a bomb could go off, and the child would not even blink because it is so absorbed in what they are seeing. 

And this is about dopamine. This is about addiction. We wouldn’t feed a child heroin, or we wouldn’t feed a child nicotine because we know that is addictive. And yet digital technology is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. And how are we modeling that behavior for children? And I’m not immune to this. I’m not. It’s just like I wrote a book called A Life Less Stressed. Well, I have to remind people when I tell them that it is not autobiographical. It’s aspirational for me as much as you, as much as anybody. 

And similarly, our use of tech and is why I like to get Jocelyn back on for a kind of annual check-up and assess how we’re all doing for our tech use. And I’m really pleased that she’s joined our advisory panel, along with some other amazing practitioners. We’ll have links to Jocelyn’s site where those programs and so much more are available. So until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.

This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.