Today I’m speaking with Jocelyn Brewer, creator of the Digital Nutrition concept. We’re talking about screen time and a new way parents can look at this challenging topic! Jocelyn helps us stay human in a digital world.
In the episode you’ll hear:
- A new concept for managing screen time – Digital Nutrition.
- Gaming and computer games – an opportunity to show growth mindset and connect!
- Using technology (games) to build on our weaknesses.
- Communication and understanding – tips for parenting!
- How to win a spot in Jocelyn’s Engaging (Tech Obsessed) Adolescents course!
- The competition closes on Friday 26th March at midnight. The winner will be announced on Saturday 27th March 2021 via Facebook. Competition T&C’s are here.
“Actually having a person sitting next to you with the controller and having that easy cool presence while engaging is like a digital super food.” – Jocelyn
“You don’t have to be a gamer and I guess this is what I encourage parents to really look beyond. We wouldn’t say, oh, I’m not much of a booker. If you could just go over there and do your booking and like, just, don’t ask me to want to know anything about what you’re doing with your books. We wouldn’t have that same kind of attitude. And so this is what I mean about curiosity.” – Jocelyn
“What we noticed with young people, especially around relationships or thinking they know everything is that they’re walking through this big dark, I usually call it a warehouse of their life, with a match. What they can see is only as far as that match gives them insight and they think, oh wow, I can see everything. Whereas the process of brain development and the experiences of life, start throwing on bigger and better light bulbs.” – Jocelyn
- Digital Nutrition – Jocelyn Brewer’s Website
- The Quest for Digital Super Foods – Jocelyn Brewer
- Introducing Virtual Vitamins – Jocelyn Brewer
- Taming Gaming Website
- PAX Aus Gaming Conference
- Parent Shop
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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hi Jocelyn. Thanks for joining me today in the podcast. I’m super excited to be talking to you.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:00:06] Thank you. Thanks for having me. I love a good chat.
Sophia Elliott: [00:00:09] Absolutely. And I. I’m really excited because screens, is such a huge issue for parents.
And when I was thinking about this conversation last night, I was thinking, well, we’ve always had technology. And obviously technology shifts, but you know, when I was a kid and I’m watching, wanting to watch lots of TV and my parents nagging me about getting off the TV and then I’m like, is it just the same now?
But now I’m the parent, the shoes on the other foot, it feels worse and more overwhelming or has technology actually shifted as well?
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:00:49] Technology has absolutely shifted. Right? I guess part of the nature of technology is that rapid change and what we’ve seen is an incredibly rapid change over the last.
I dunno, 10 to 15 to 20 to 30 years with the internet. And the way I sum up the main ways that it’s changed is around how pervasive and persuasive technology now is. So it’s, yes, there’s lots of functional ways, but our life is easier and things that we forget about. Like, I have two different cars, one that’s 10 years old, and one that’s brand new and the different technology that sits within the safety of that.
It’s driving two very different vehicles, but then when we come to the screen based media use and young people and the developing brains, then that’s obviously a very different kind of conversation and deep learning paths. And I guess what you’re alluding to, as now we’re parents we do have, I guess, a whole new digital playground that we’re dealing with.
The playground has, a real life version, but then the online version. And it’s so different to when we grow up. When you know, I grew up in the eighties, finished school in the mid nineties. We had one TV. Then we had the second TV, which was a really big deal, but it was still only four, maybe five channels.
If your area was good enough to get SBS there wasn’t huge amounts of content, personal devices and your own digital identity and rabbit hole that you went down. So I think now the kind of big ways that technology and screen-based technology is really different to that one TV that we all crowded around.
Sophia Elliott: [00:02:20] That is so true. I remember going from two channels to four channels, it was during the Gulf war because I remember flicking between all of these amazing channels. And now if I think about our home, we’ve got Google, we’ve got lights that go on and off with voice command. My husband’s building this interactive screen with the kids, it’s you’re right.
It’s pervasive. It’s in all of our cars. It’s. It’s everywhere in our life. And, in your words, how do we stay human in a digital world? I’ve heard you say that. And I’ve gone, that is the crux of it. Isn’t it? How do we stay connected and human?
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:02:59] I think some of it is really just about pushing back to some of what comes through technology and social media, this idea of like, Super duper positivity.
and we’re all thriving and we’re glowing and all of that kind of stuff. It’s just like, no, no, I just want to keep it real and keep it simple. So for me, staying human is really just staying connected to one another. Like keeping some of the things that we know as humans are good for our wellbeing.
And I think definitely through the pandemic. We we came face to face with that a lot more, even though it was face-to-face via zoom. A lot of the time, like we really recognized how important our communities are. We we’re recognizing how important it is to stay conscious as consumers. And I think this is another really interesting area around like media literacy and what we have given up as participants in the digital economy, because everything has seemed free and last week and Facebook’s media ban, I think we started to go, Oh, look how dependent we actually are on so many aspects of this digital space. So for me, staying human is, staying kind empathetic, conscious, connected A At a ground level, and then yeah, if you want to thrive and do all those fantastic other things great.
As long as it’s not coming from that toxic positivity, good vibes only, zone, which drives me as a psychologist, really quite mad because it’s not about just being able to tolerate some of the crappy things in life.
Sophia Elliott: [00:04:21] And I’ve heard you talk about, The digital detox, not all of us can afford to detox or, and it’s not that simple.
And you’ve come up with this idea of digital nutrition. So tell us, what broccoli has to do with screen time.
Read the rest of the transcript here
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:04:36] Yeah, it’s a really good question. So digital nutrition is really a concept to help parents and really everybody think about how the activities that we do with our screen time, time being just one metric that we can look at how we can actually think about the virtual vitamins.
If we were to consider, two hours on a screen, We, and then look at what actually, each person is doing. That’s very, very different. Like our time here, having this conversation is very, very different. If I was sort of just looking at different diets on Instagram or hate stalking my ex or something like that.
So considering what is some of the cognition, some of the things we’re actually thinking, the content and the quality of the content who generated it, whether it’s full of misinformation. The context that we’re doing it in, obviously the pandemic and homeschooling, remote learning and all those things changed, change the context that our screen-based media use was happening in.
So I have talked for about seven years, the idea that there’s a really big difference between digital broccoli and digital candy, the kale or the candy, and really how that, there’s a place for a little bit of candy. There’s a place for a little bit of, mindless scrolling, but that if that’s a really big chunk of your digital diet and that’s probably not going to be healthy, So similarly to much of the good stuff is also not necessarily healthy, either like four kilos of kale, isn’t going to necessarily jive with your guts. So really this is not prescriptive or there is not one digital diet that is going to fit everybody.
It’s really about thinking. What do I need to take from this? What was my family need when my kids need? And again, thinking about kids who might have, neuro-diversity be twice exceptional will have, gifted giftedness, their own personalities. They’re always going to have slightly different interests in that online space because it is such a massive playground to one another.
So yeah. Yeah, it’s just trying to use, everything we’ve learned about food over the last 30 years and piggyback that on to the things we’re doing with screens.
Sophia Elliott: [00:06:35] Yeah. That’s a really interesting way of looking at it because like you say, Even too much of a good thing is too much. If you eat too many carrots or whatever, it’s like you say it’ll wreak havoc and it’s still not necessarily doing the right thing.
So it’s about finding that balance the same way that we need to find that balance with food that’s really going to help stick actually. And I like that you’re talking about. Basically it’s consuming consciously isn’t it. And really thinking about what we’re doing and that connection. So how can we help our kids or how can we help parents make better decisions around that?
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:07:14] I think the first thing is all about the literacy aspect and the understanding what we’re participating in. When we step into the attention economy, there’s surveillance economy, whatever you want to talk about in terms of the trade off of our time and our attention for participating in these spaces.
So, I guess that’s why I’ve used that food analogy. So it’s not another thing to burden parents with in terms of all the things you have to learn about parenting that no one ever told you, and he’s not actually in any of the books. So it’s really about those conversations and it, for me, it starts with.
Rather than us as parents, othering young people and their online activities being curious with, ah like what is it that’s so amazing about that game that you would literally play for eight hours and not stop unless you needed to go to the toilet. Why is this much more fascinating to you than doing maths or science or talking to your grandmother?
So bringing that curiosity, but also knowing and doing our own due diligence as parents to have a sense of what You know what that, what is in that digital playground, because if we just looked at games and I guess your audience and the children of your audience are potentially going to be really, really heavily involved in gaming and very focused and passionate and engaged in that space.
And we really want to understand, like what’s the content of the game and what’s the game design that is going to tap into sometimes those vulnerabilities of their cognitive development and their brain architecture to create really deeply entrenched patterns that can be sometimes really hard to break.
Sophia Elliott: [00:08:41] That’s really interesting because I am not a gamer. I am, my brother was growing up and I just, and even now I just can’t get into it as much as I have a few friends that are like, come on and try world of Warcraft or this or that. And I’m like, okay, I’ll have a look at Minecraft, but thankfully my husband is, and.
When it’s come to our, in particular, our eldest, but all of our kids wanting to engage in that space. What we’ve noticed is like our eldest loves certain games, uh, and some of them, I think, fill that sort of cognitive need they’re very realistic technical games where he can build spaceships and all sorts of things, manage resources, you know?
And thankfully my husband’s into that too, but my son actually really loves playing with him and if he could do anything, yeah. He’d play a game, but he’d play with dad. And so we try and work that into our weekends. So that would be a good way of providing the connection, getting to know what they’re doing.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:09:47] Yeah,
absolutely. So gaming side by side is probably the best way to do gaming, according to a lot of the research. So we know that lots of kids obviously game with their friends in their online kind of mods and little groups, whether that’s on discord or all those different places, but actually having a person sitting next to you with the controller and having that easy cool presence while engaging is like a digital super food. Let’s just say so, you don’t have to be a gamer and I guess this is what I encourage parents to really look beyond. We wouldn’t say, Oh, I’m not much of a booker. If you could just go over there and do your booking and like, just, don’t ask me to want to know anything about what you’re doing with your books.
We wouldn’t have that same kind of attitude. And so this is what I mean about curiosity. Being willing to be absolutely shit house at the game. A lot of the games that I play, I don’t play to win. I play just to have fun. So because again, couldn’t red, dead redemption, which is basically setting the wild West in the U S and I just get on a horse and ride around and the graphics are so amazing.
I can’t go horse riding in the middle of Sydney. I just ride horses and I trade my horse for a better horse or I’ll rescue a horse. And all of that, I get zero points. I usually get shot by a cowboy, but I’m riding a horse, which is something that I love to do. So kids will loved that we take some kind of interest again, don’t be creepy and don’t be like, Oh, I’m really want to game.
And like, they’re like, Oh God, leave me alone. And how embarrassing. But find a way that you can dip your toe into that digital kind of playground and be willing to be awful at something which I think. Again we usually try to get kids to try different things and try it, even though they’re not good at it.
And all those sorts of things that may be gifted, kids are always like, no, no. I only do the things that I’m going to be amazing at show them your willingness to screw up and have fun learning that experience. They will actually then teach you a lot. And that is another like really great relationship glue to help build connection with your kids.
Sophia Elliott: [00:11:51] That’s yeah. Great tips there and yeah, it’s all about modeling that growth mindset. Isn’t it? It’s like, yeah. I don’t know what I’m doing. You can teach me, let, just give you an opportunity to be in that space as well. That’s right.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:12:03] That’s right. And if you’re looking for new games, I have to give a shout out to this incredible website A guy called Andy Robertson in the UK, he’s known as the geek gamer dad, or gaming geek dad or something like that. He’s created a gaming website called taming gaming.com. And it is this incredible database where you can search by a whole range of different factors. So if you have accessibility issues around hearing or vision, if there is neuro-diversity, if you need some kind of quiet or reflective games, games to tap into emotions strategic games. He’s created this database where you just search it. So if you’re on a kind of digital diet of Minecraft, Roblox , Fortnite, some of those big kind of well-known games, and you’re really looking to supplement that digital diet with some diversity, that is absolutely an incredible resource that it’s free.
You don’t, it just opens up so many different opportunities for families. It’s I’m so glad it exists.
Sophia Elliott: [00:13:00] That sounds awesome. I’ll definitely put that in the show notes and check that out myself, because I feel like I need to break into this gaming world for my kids and something I’ve learnt about as well.
In the last couple of years we’ve gotten quite into board games. And I’m saying, board games, like online games, there’s all sorts of different categories and styles of gaming. And so there are options out there to find something that suits you and your family and your family values and that kind of thing.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:13:28] Yeah. Tabletop gaming is like massive. There’s lots of little courses that you can do to even design your own tabletop games. So, gaming doesn’t have to be through a screen that can be a handy way of doing things, but absolutely, there’s a huge Renaissance of tabletop in board games as well.
Yeah. PAX , which is the kind of big gaming festival that’s on in Melbourne used to be on in Melbourne when we had massive gatherings of thousands and thousands of that’d be huge sections of, retro gaming, tabletop, gaming, alternative video games. And then that. The big kind of Hollywood blockbuster style games.
It’s it’s massive, beautiful community too. Yeah.
Sophia Elliott: [00:14:06] Yeah. It is a whole new world. I’m certainly learning that. So with our gifted kids, you alluded there before, they’re going to have particular interests and certainly the gaming world, the technology world has a certain appeal for a lot of gifted and 2E kids.
Have you got any particular. Tips for parents of gifted kids. Like, is it really any different, the whole managing screen time to your neuro-typical kids? Yeah. Thoughts on that?
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:14:36] Yeah, look, it is quite complicated because it’s really about we, how that shows up, like what traits, if we think about, let’s say if we take autism, that’s not a spectrum from just high to low.
We know that there’s actually so many different sliders within that. And so if some of your sliders are. To not necessarily be great at social communication or social connectedness, then gaming actually is a place that you can go into and avoid developing some of those skills sometimes. So there’s certain types of games that are much more appropriate for kids who maybe need to develop those social skills.
So I’d really look at it, but the difference between what needs you need to feed and what things you need to foster. So for many kids, like the knowledge-based stuff, the strategy, we’re thinking that kind of the strategic thinking. Great. You’re already amazing at that. We want to foster and get some balance back into the sliders.
Maybe across that neurodiversity spectrum when you’re not performing as well was something that you can improve some of your executive functioning. So what. Again, it shows up so differently for different kids and then there’s the age appropriateness as well. That’s again, why Taming Gaming is something that just is such a relief for me, because I finally have a place that I can say to families.
Okay. You go and plug in how old your kid is, and that’s going to give you a very different list of games if your child is 11 versus 14. And th the kind of. Almost the vibe or the mood within games. So some games, some researchers would say high dopamine or high sensory. So there’s a lot of that stuff coming at you rather than there’s lots of other games that are much more narrative and story-based.
The kind of like walking through a meditation. And there are some of the games that some kids would benefit from fostering more skills rather than just feeding what their strengths and the things that we know that they’re already good at. So again, no one prescription. When I work with families, we really go into looking at what the characteristics and the traits of the kid are what their strengths, and then what their weaknesses and what we want to foster are..
Sophia Elliott: [00:16:42] I just feel like there’s a whole, , there’s a, we could spend a week talking about just that. And so it’s, so tell us about some of the work that you do. You obviously work with families and offer different services.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:16:56] Yeah. So I do a little bit of everything. I was somebody who wanted to be a vet and then worked out the mark was really high.
And went , Oh, I’m not smart enough. And so I gave up on that and floundered around for most of her twenties. I was, it was a teacher. I ended up teaching at Sydney boys high school, not because I was a really great teacher, but because. That would desperate for teacher. And I got a job in two days and I stayed there for about five years.
I developed thier really big debating program there and the nineties training program and became a school counselor. So I spent 10 years as a school counselor. So psychologist and teacher working across all different settings. At the moment I am here in my office where I do see any human who wants to engage in therapy, but I do have a kind of specialty working with adults and working with families around, traditional family therapy, but usually what parents are coming to me for.
And the big conflict piece at the moment is around screens and managing screens. The tech jeanie is out of the bottle. Trying to pop that back in with a young person. Who’s probably quite desperate to hold on to some of those not quite great technology habits. Then I obviously do a bunch of presenting and speaking consulting.
And basically, w we’ll talk to anyone who wants to listen about this stuff to really try and break down some of the big myths, and some of their fee mongering kind of moral panic tactics that go around, but from people who don’t really understand some of the big opportunities that games and digital technologies present, there’s also a big divide between ed tech, like where if you’re doing technology for learning, that’s all good in some kind of beautiful utopia and then learning.
Oh, using technology at home, which is some sort of addictive, horrible cyber bullying space. So we really need to blend those two things to try and understand that even in those ed tech spaces, there’s some of the dark stuff going on, but also at home, the social learning that happens in the leisure spaces can also be really important as well.
Sophia Elliott: [00:18:51] And so on that note, you’re also about to start another course about engaging teenagers and this particularly around tech obsessed teenagers. Yeah, so that’s an online course where actually taking parents through that nitty gritty and I’ve been engaged in the previous one, which is really good.
And I found it interesting that of course. How do we talk to our kids about technology? And so there’s a lot of content in there about first of all, connecting and how to communicate.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:19:19] Yeah, absolutely. Because if you want them to put the device down then you’re going to need to be able to bridge to have communication to them, so that they’re going to listen to you and not just hear the nagging mum voice.
And we get into habits of communication and some kind of toxic ways of communicating because our desperation for them to see what we see is really strong. And we have to remember that their brain architecture is simply not there. We’re asking, a kid to ride a bike. When we haven’t put them on the, even the tricycle to begin with, there’s just skills.
They might get what it looks like, but they physically can’t operationalize it. So engaging adolescence itself is a three-week course. It was written by a psychologist called Michael Cortner, who runs parents shop. Many people would know. Michael’s work. He’s trained thousands and thousands of people in engaging adolescents over the years.
So I’m trained in at engaging adolescents. And then he’s given me permission to add on the digital nutrition piece or the tech obsessed kid piece so that we can actually apply it to the challenges that modern parents are having. Yeah, webinars because then people can access it wherever they are trying to get.
Even trying to run an event and get people into one space is always really, really tricky. Let alone with COVID changing our lives every two seconds. So yeah, online it’s I try and make it as interactive as possible. I know that lots of parents are kind of shy about sharing and they’re reticent to put themselves out there and say, this is a massive problem.
Help me help me. That generally is better for a a kind of private. Therapy space, but it’s a good way to start developing some of these skills. And it’s all about like make a plan to communicate. When you communicate off the cuff out of stress, when the proverbial is hitting the fan, it’s going to go wrong.
And that’s okay. You just need to do the cleanup later.
Sophia Elliott: [00:21:02] Absolutely. And two of the biggest takeaways I’ve got from it so far, and I don’t think will ever leave me, first of all is remembering that I have a fully functioning brain, my kids don’t. So like, I’m the adult with the fully functioning brain.
My kids are still developing. So I’m going to take that responsibility for not behaving like a twat when things get stressful and, and calming it down. So that in itself, I think is parenting gold. But also the anecdote about the kids with the match. Yeah. Can you tell us about that one?
Because I think that is brilliant.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:21:37] Yeah. So when, and this is to illustrate exactly that same point and a lot of parents get, have the same aha moment when, I just jokingly say, yeah. So what you’ve realized is your 17 year old son is not, he’s not a 43 year old woman. Cool. I’m glad we I’m glad we leveled that out.
And what we noticed with young people, especially around relationships or thinking they know everything is that they’re walking through this big dark I usually call it a warehouse of their life with a match. So what they can see is only as far as that match gives them insight and they think, Oh wow, I can see everything.
Whereas and the process, of brain development and, the experiences of life, start throwing on bigger and better light bulbs. And it ends up being like, I think of it, those cars where they’ve got like massive flood lights, Like when I think of it like that, like we started the flood lights on and we can see their entire life playing out in front of us because we have that insight of experience.
So we really want to reframe, yes, I can see what’s going on, but I don’t want to stop your learning because you feel that your match is really helping you. I can give you some different perspectives. And it’s the way you give that perspective. I think that’s really important and the way that you model what you’re talking about.
So if you’re saying, I know everything and I can see what’s going to happen a lot of the time kids are just going to be reactive to that. So psychological reactance is another really interesting thing. If you say this is banned, they will want it more than if you said, okay, let’s negotiate because it doesn’t take things off the table.
It doesn’t take things away. It doesn’t take their efficacy and their control away. So lots of little tips like that, just to reframe why we’re so frustrated with kids, especially gifted kids, because they get the concepts, but then they don’t operationalize things. You can’t see them. It’s a, should I know I shouldn’t do it, but I don’t actually make that happen.
And again, the storage system, the cognitive, like knowing isn’t in the same part as the doing, especially under stress.
Sophia Elliott: [00:23:43] Yes. Yes, yes. To all of that. And I’m thinking of my kids and it’s a wonderful reminder that we do offer all of our life of experience to our children, because quite often, especially with gifted kids, they, they think that they know everything.
And on some topics they are, far more knowledgeable than us. And even, one of my children in particular is so emotionally mature , but. But, at the end of the day, I’m the parent I’m putting in those. Boundaries and guide rails and yeah, I’ve got to take that responsibility on board.
Even though, they’re feeling very mature and knowledgeable, so, yeah.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:24:21] And as a teacher, like I was about 26 when I started teaching at Sydney boys high, which is in the top 10 schools in new South Wales. And again, I wasn’t there because I was an excellent teacher who did well in her HSC I remember being at the first assembly where the principal said, if your aATAR is under 80, then you’re not performing very well.
And my ATAR back in the day was 75 and I thought, Oh, okay. I wouldn’t actually get to go to this school. And while a lot of other people might be quite intimidated then by the boys and need to pull a lot of power tricks to teach them. I was always really open about how intelligent they were, but how would I had, which was the emotional intelligence, maturity, and insight was something that they could really
stop and learn. So I think that’s the same, as parents go, you’re probably going to do a lot better academically than I ever did, but this is what I’ve got that you can learn from. And we’re going to exchange based on that kind of mutual respect.
Sophia Elliott: [00:25:16] Yeah. That’s great language. Isn’t it exchanging and respect.
I love that. So the course is starting up again in April. People have the opportunity to join you online and hear more about. All of this and it’s just been an absolute gold today. Thank you so much.. And so where can people find you? You’ve got a website?
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:25:36] I do have a website amazingly and it’s a brand spanking new one that I spent a lot of time in the pandemic re-doing.
So it’s jocelynbrewer.com. That’s where you’ll find digital nutrition being homed there, as well as information about my psychology services, which I do do via telehealth. So some of the parent digital coaching. And the programs and packages that I do up for families. We can do via tele health if that’s of interest.
I also in my little space here, I work with another psychologist, Kate Plum , who was a school counselor with me as well. And she does a whole bunch of assessment for giftedness IQ assessment, but really has a passion for the giftedness space as well. So she’s does the assessment, so we’ve got a whole little, practice here in collective, as psychologist, which is lovely.
Sophia Elliott: [00:26:23] Then that’s wonderful to know because it can be really tricky to find psychologists who know giftedness. So they’re very prized among parents. It’s always in the parent chat who knows a good psych and it’s like, Oh, this one, but they’re booked out. So I’ll put all of those details on the show notes.
And I have to say, I do love the logo and the new website. So if that’s new, then Bravo. Thank you so much for today. I feel like we could just talk for weeks. There’s so much in there and I encourage everyone to check out your course.
I’ve found it incredibly helpful already. And. And there’s just so much parenting help in there. So thanks again for today.
Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:27:05] Pleasure. Love to chat.