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“When I grew up …”
 
Dr. David Gottlieb can tell you the changes he’s seen in the world of kids and teenagers the past 34 years of his practice as a child psychologist in Homewood. He will be closing his practice in December.
 
You may remember a simpler time before computers and cell phones, electronic games and television reality shows. Gottlieb has seen how all the latest devices have been influencing children — for good or ill — and he counseled them and their parents on how best to cope.
 
He’s also had to help his young patients deal with stress brought on by divorce or high expectations at school.
 
When he first opened his practice in 1985, video games were getting to be the rage. Parents were concerned about how much time their children spent playing games, 
 
“There’s a lot of visual stimulation and feedback that comes from the games,” Gottlieb said, but the games didn’t affect all players the same way. Some found them exciting for an afternoon, while others “got so absorbed that they would play for hours at a time and if the game didn’t turn out the way they wanted they’d get mad, throw the controller down.  
 
“What I saw was kids that were somewhat aggressive or impulsive got triggered more by the games,” he recalled. “(The game) machine would bring it out more, but it wouldn’t create those kids.”  
 
He encouraged parents to set limits on game time and help a child understand how to control their frustrations.
 
It’s more than 30 years later, and Gottlieb sees video games as a positive social activity for many children. 
 
“For some of these kids, games are healthy because they would play with their peers or even if they didn’t play with their peers, they could talk about it at school. It became an activity that was always there or at their house that they could share,” he said.
 
In the early 2000s, Facebook became the next big thing. Again, Gottlieb saw it as a good, as well as a questionable, activity.
 
“It was good that they could plan activities, stay in touch with each other more easily and talk to a group at the same time. And if someone couldn’t answer a phone, you could still leave a message.
 
“The downside is kids have to learn about safety,” he said, noting that “they had to learn what not to post, like your home address.” 
 
Social media, and now smart phone texting, can lead to teasing. It is difficult when the child is criticized by a group of peers online. It can be very hurtful and may bring on depression, Gottlieb said. Parents have been bringing these concerns to him. He tries to assess what factors are causing the child’s depression.
 
Parents need to be aware of how the child is using a device and, when necessary, set time limits on the use of screen time of phones, computers, iPads and television, he said. 
 
“It’s hard to know if there’d be the same amount of conflict without the phone, but certainly these became a point of discussion because kids would argue, ‘Just going to take a minute.’ or ‘Just a few more minutes.’”
 
Gottlieb said his biggest concern of late is teens’ use of the Juul vaping instrument.  While video games and social media have redeeming value, he doesn’t believe vaping has any “other than you don’t get cancer,” but the user still can develop a nicotine addiction.
 
Parents often aren’t aware the teens are vaping. There’s no cigarette residue smell, “and it’s a lot easier to get addicted to nicotine. The concentrated nicotine in one pod in Juul is like a pack of cigarettes,” he said, and can cause severe lung problems and nicotine withdrawal.
 
“Their brains are still developing and (you) can get addicted and it’s much harder to change,” he warned.
 

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