Are we asking the wrong questions when it comes to our kids’ screen usage? In a world where technology isn’t going away, the right questions may be less about time limits, access, and controlling their behaviors and more about how we can build a child’s internal regulation system and rewire the reward center in their brain and body that screens are designed to hijack. 

Joining me to offer a paradigm shift for the way we approach technology with children is somatic educator and therapist, Alé Duarte. Alé emphasizes the importance of going beyond mere behavior management and equipping children with the tools they need to override the algorithms designed to keep them glued to their screens.

Whether you’re a parent, therapist, educator, or caregiver, this episode offering you strategies for approaching technology through the lens of neuroscience and psychology is one you won’t want to miss!

Ale (00:00:00):

The way games are architected, or Facebook or TikTok and everything, is they take out these stop cues so kids don’t have a stop signals. They don’t know when to stop and when something stop is not stop in a way to relax, they stop in a way that you’re going to miss the next. And that override all the good sense kids have about themselves. Self-care, good relationship connection with their own body. They can get into situations that feel anguish but they go because they don’t want miss. And that’s the part we need to reeducate that in order to help them to get out.

Dr. Sarah (00:00:51):

Screens are everywhere, but we’re just now starting to see the real impact this can have on our children and their mental health. Joining me this week is somatic educator and therapist Ale Duarte. Ale’s work as a whole has had an immense influence on my own clinical work and my parenting. I have attended many of his trainings and have always left feeling like my understanding of the human experience is so profoundly deepened. And so when Alay shared with me that he’s created a training that addresses one of the biggest challenges that parents and anyone who works with them is facing today, I knew he had to come on the show and share some of his brilliant ideas with you. And this challenge is the relationship that our children and we as parents have with screens and technology. In this episode, Ale shares truly profound insights into the impact of screens on children’s development and the challenges that they pose for both parents and therapists in a way that is novel, not judgmental, inspiring, and actually gives sort of a new framework for thinking about it.


He draws from his expertise in trauma therapy and Ale delves into the ways in which excessive screen time can disrupt self-regulation and hinder emotional connection and offers a different approach that brings for more self-regulation and more connection without the shame or the blame. He’ll also share some information about his new program called Screen Masters where he takes a deep dive into this truly insightful take he has on somatic and developmental elements of screen use and how parents can navigate the digital landscape with much more confidence and intentionality and reclaim moments of authentic engagement with our children. This program is open for enrollment now. I already have my ticket. I cannot wait for this series. I cannot emphasize enough how if you are a parent or someone who works with parents, you should probably take a look at this. I think it’s going to be very exciting. So let’s jump into this interview with Ale Duarte.


Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.


Hi. So today we have a guest that I personally am dying to talk with because he is a huge mentor of mine. So in love with his work Ale Duarte. Thank you so much for being here.

Ale (00:03:58):

This is so exciting for me too. So I’m happy. Thanks for the invitation.

Dr. Sarah (00:04:03):

Yes, I’m so glad. I’m so glad. And before we get into kind of the meat of what we were hoping to talk to today, I was hoping you could just share with the people who are listening a little bit about the work you do and how your evolution into taking somatic experiencing work and translating it very beautifully for a very unique audience, which is children.

Ale (00:04:31):

Yes. I think I got into the therapeutic world through Rolfing. I was a rolfer before for many years and our group in Brazil, they met, they knew Peter Levine because Peter Levine started as a rolfer as well. So we as a group I think was ‘97, ‘98. We invite him to go there and I started to get in contact with his work, which was fantastic to see him doing his demonstrations and talking about trauma. So I think it was a one click and I thought, wow, this is what I want to do. And learning from Peter for my whole journey was such a gift because we could see him doing sessions and talking about children, talk about adults, and he was fantastic teacher and that’s what I got involved more with SE and post SE, I did many other trainings, but I think that’s one of the base of my work and to make a link with the children is I also was a teacher.


I taught kids for a long time also and I had this very skillful way of connection with kids, but as a therapist I was only focused in adults. That’s when the tsunami hit in Thailand and Peter knew my background and he said, Ale, could you develop something for children? Can you develop something that brings the elements of somatic experience and your skills of working with kids? Well I thought what could be, and I could see the difficulties that people have in helping children to connect with their felt sense to say in a moment for example, the kids are playing and then you say, oh, what sensation you have in your body, which is one of the base of any awareness based therapy. And I noticed that kids didn’t like it to be interrupted. Kids didn’t like it to be asked what sensation have in your body. They would come and say sensation, sensation, sensation, what do you want? I want to play. So I had to adapt to their way of being with their own experience.

Dr. Sarah (00:07:23):

And so maybe we could talk a little bit about what somatic experiencing really is, what it looks like if people aren’t familiar with that treatment modality, what the goal of it is because what the goal of it is, well you can explain that, but how you get to that goal with an adult is going to look really different like you’re saying than how you really can realistically expect a child to get there with you.

Ale (00:07:47):

Yes. One of the main goals of somatic experiences basically very basically is to find the self-regulatory process. When someone is traumatized means there is some hurting, they are not functioning well and ultimately their body’s not coming back to the harmony, not coming back to the equilibrium. So somatic experiences was designed for these situations that’s more acute and trauma that helps them to connect with their sensations. And by connecting there is this magical click of the awareness with the sensation and the body start to process means that there is some loop that was interrupted in the action there that needs to finish. And I think it’s really powerful approach. Peter developed a really powerful approach.

Dr. Sarah (00:08:52):

And so this idea that if we experience some type of trauma and in my work with you I’ve kind of learned that we can look at that as very literally as an acute trauma, but we can also look at it, we can sort of zoom out and look at it as other things too that can interrupt that connection. It’s not just trauma that interrupts that kind of awareness to the physiological sensations in our body kind of connection that allows us to integrate what’s happening to us in real time. But if you’re able to help reconnect that and that’s what se works to do, then you see the body just sort of snaps back into rhythm. Is that what I’m understanding?

Ale (00:09:48):

Yes, exactly. Nowadays the kids are very busy with so many things around them with the world that’s changing parents at some time it’s not their home electronics and all those things and they start to lose the connection with what they’re feeling. They’re too busy outside or they’re too inside in this. What happens is when situation is stronger, more acute or they start to be with a lot of fear for example, they might suppress observing their own body. They choose not to very unconscious, but they choose not to because it’s too intense and that makes them stay outside doing things, doing doing. Because as soon as they stop, they will feel that buzz in the body or the pain they feel in the body and that can be scary for them. So helping modulate that makes them reconnect with their experiences. This is so basic for the human needs. And also I work a lot with kids. It makes my heart full just to see when they connect there’s this light that’s like brightening up. So this is so healing.

Dr. Sarah (00:11:18):

And it’s interesting, we live in a world where there’s, kids are so busy, families are so busy, there’s a lot of frenetic energy going around in families, but then we have this kind of foil to that which is when we’re not rushing around and doing, we’re on our screens and we’re frozen and it kind of feels like we’re turned off but we’re not really because inside there’s so much stimulation happening. But I really want to talk to you about, because you are doing this training, this workshop about screens and understanding kids in screens and I don’t even know where to begin. So many questions I have for you about this, but I’m sure you’ll cover a lot of it in your workshop. But how do we start to think about regulation and all the stuff we’re talking about in terms of how the family energetic regulation is so interconnected and then what role do screens come in to either disrupt that, amplify things, suppress things?

Ale (00:12:28):

Yes, I think this is a topic for us to discuss because it’s so complex and I am putting my finger into that for this last couple of years and seeing that for me that work with trainings and everyone asking me, Ale create a training for electronics, electronics, but I didn’t have the mind to understand and I didn’t want to do the same thing as everyone saying, okay, do this, do that, or you have to have a dialogue with your kids. And I realized to have a dialogue with kids, it’s difficult, it’s not easy. Have a dialogue with the kid that’s having tantrum. It’s not easy. Have a dialogue with a teenager that close their arms and say, I want my game. And they’re losing the connection with life. It’s not easy because it’s a territory that is territory of disconnection.

Dr. Sarah (00:13:34):


Ale (00:13:37):

 And we must create a territory that includes, there is a connection and I don’t think this is available yet and I am thinking how I can make it this very less threatening for parents because it comes a lot of shame. I feel a lot of shame when my son start to see a video and I say, am I doing the right thing here? And so when the daughter says now the only one don’t have the cell phone. And then I say, well how are we going to make that transition? Because once that happen it can be a big change in the routine of the house.

Dr. Sarah (00:14:29):


Ale (00:14:30):

Yes. And I have an image and so I had an image that could give an idea for parents and the image that I had is, that’s what I see is imagine a big river and this river has a current that’s pretty fast. When the child gets into the electronic, it’s like when to get inside this river and he just float and goes forward. So we parents from outside, if we want to take out of the electronics, the TV or the game or the smartphone and try to grab their arm out, it has that pull. It’s hard to take them out.

Dr. Sarah (00:15:16):

Because the current is pulling them.

Ale (00:15:17):

Because the current’s pretty fast and it’s a big effort and we must find a way to take them out and as soon as they get into the land is like this is too slow. I was surfing there, I was going forward there. It was exciting and now this is boring grass tree, how boring is that? So that difficult for parents, we need to find a way to say how to understand the electronic, how to understand this electronic pool in a smarter way. Problems here that I see the kids in the water with the current going forward and parents are inside the water too with the electronics and both are traveling together, both are fast and they look at each other. How is doing good? It seems like the same speed, but in fact they’re sitting in the sofa, everyone with a cell phone and in the same speed in this current and it feels normal.


But once one leave the current it’s hard to see the other one taking off. So I think that working with electronics and everything that goes around that we got to look at with big images in a way that parents can first orient themselves to see where children are, how is the speed of the current they are because they also want to have a bath to bait there in the river. Is it okay? Maybe we’ll have find a way that the water is calmer and they can stay in the electronic is in the calm water. But also there is in the middle in the center a water that is the current is scary.

Dr. Sarah (00:17:24):

Like rapids.

Ale (00:17:25):

We want our kids to get into that central current.

Dr. Sarah (00:17:30):

I see. So I like this metaphor a lot and it is not lost on me that we get in the river too. The parents are in the river and sometimes the kids are not in the river and they’re watching us in a totally different speed. My kids are quite young so they don’t have access to devices whenever they want. I still have enough control at this point in my parenthood and I know that that is a finite and rapidly fleeting control, but they don’t have a tablet that they have tablets that we bring out when they travel, they don’t have phones. There’s a television that they know how to turn on and they definitely have more control over that. But I have a phone in my hand all the time and I’m so aware of the fact that right now I’m actually probably the biggest problem in terms of their screen use because I’m in a current, to use your metaphor, flying down the river, they’re on the bank being like, mom, where are you? I don’t see you anymore. You left me. I’m bored. I’m going to go put the TV on. I want to get in the river too. And so I’m very conscious and it’s still working a work in progress to figure out how to regulate my own screen use in front of my kids so that I’m not setting this tone that then when they do are at an age where they’re ready for this or I feel like we’re going to introduce this stuff, they only know my current and that’s not what I want for them.

Ale (00:19:12):

Yes, exactly. Exactly, exactly. Yes. That’s why I want to bring that image because we can relate with that in many situations. And just to know that I am in the river these days, I was there at home and then I had the same thing, my cell phone or computer doing something and my son Levi came and said, Hey, let’s play, let’s play. And I said, oh, just a minute, just a minute. And that snapped in me like ale, stop it. Get out of the river. When I close it I said, oh great, I want to get out of the river and started because I think what I’m going to say is pretty simple but is profound when you are with the children is they must start their day or they initiate their things out of the river. For example, when they say let’s play something outside, they’re initiating something and we must follow this lead.


And what I see one of the biggest mistake is family thinks, okay, let them play a little bit in the smartphone and then we’re going to have time out. But that’s interfering a lot because when they are in the river and then you try to bring them back, the whole excitement is still there, present and everything you try to play, you have a big transition to make for him to get out of the river and be again in the land play. Of course half an hour later he might pick up and start to do it. But I think it’s really important we start outside of the river.

Dr. Sarah (00:21:24):

So thinking about it in terms of, because I’ve said this before too, I think it was on the podcast or I don’t remember, but one, we look at our kids and they’re on a screen and they look relaxed and parents often think this is their downtime, they’re relaxing. And so when they’re done relaxing, they can do all the things that I need them to do or we’re going to stop relaxation time and go do homework time or go run some errands or I need you to now go behave in a certain way. We’re going to go to school or something. But what I think parents don’t always recognize as though your child looks relaxed in their body on the inside, their brain is not resting. It’s very much very stimulated and it’s an active process. They’re using a lot of their energetic resources to cognitive energy.


So I’ll sort of say there’s physical energy, emotional energy and cognitive energy. And so they’re not using their physical energy so that tanks totally full at the end of screen time, but they are using their cognitive energy and sometimes some emotional energy. And so we think that because we’re turning off the screens now rest time’s over, and I can have these expectations that you’re going to engage in a way that requires cooperation, regulating impulses, following directions, being nice to your sister, whatever, listening to me and then they can’t. And we’re like, why? And we get frustrated because we think that they just rested but they didn’t. And I kind of feel like this is similar to what you’re talking about is just really understanding what’s happening for them when they’re using the screens and just being realistic and sort of budgeting for that, okay, this is actually a stimulating activity. It’s not good or bad, it’s just stimulating. And so just factor that in when you’re planning things out a little bit.

Ale (00:23:26):

And we can think that not only because it’s tiring because it’s they’re active is basically is your exchange is something that the screen you exchange activity that has a very organized, an implemented reward system that is very fast for one, which is let’s play something outside. Whereas the reward system is slow, means they need to move their legs to get into something or climbing a tree and that demands muscle in the game is better because I could climb it like fast. I had superpowers. So the reward system that you get in one is organized, it creates a lot of reinforcement, you create a lot of reinforcement over and over again. And then when you want to play something, even if it’s calmer, but internally they say this doesn’t work.

Dr. Sarah (00:24:41):

I’m not getting that feeling that I was getting before that I’m sort of craving now .

Ale (00:24:46):

This book, these little words, it doesn’t have any image. How boring is that?

Dr. Sarah (00:24:53):

Yeah, I want the fast current. So then my thought is like, oh man, there’s so many things I’m thinking right now. On the one hand we live in a world where they’re going to have interactions with these sort of high reward, high reinforcing super. It’s like the Starburst strawberry versus the real strawberry. They’re just going to eat that super, super sugar food, just supercharged version of this thing. I want to play this game, I want to play soccer with my friends. I want to play soccer on my Nintendo. It’s just so much faster, so much more exciting. Everything’s amplified, but that does exist.


It’s like I don’t know that the answer is to say, well I’m not going to let my kid play video games ever. Because then, which when I had a baby, I was like, I’m never going to let my kid play video games ever. And now I’m like, oh, I have a 6-year-old who’s navigating kindergarten where all these kids are talking about things he wants to be able to talk about and know about and how do I titrate that in a way that allows him to interact and it’s only going to get way more intense, the social element because right now kids play a lot of games that are, that’s truly their social world, not just to talk about it at school, that we can share this experience outside of playing the game when I was growing up, you talk about it at school, the things they’re literally playing together, they will go and this is the way that they hang out now. And if you’re not able to have access to that, you don’t get to play in that world. So it’s like how do we let them have that but be able to have, like you said, create a small pool to start or be able to help them build skills so that they know how to avoid the current. Because the current I feel like are the rapids. The whitewater. Rapids is not where we ever really want kids to go, but there’s other places in the river.

Ale (00:27:20):

Yes, there are many places I had even for this workshop, I create an image with different type of coins that you go and you understand a little bit more. But basically if we look into how the information to be with electronic, it goes to parents. It’s like, okay, the parameter is like a stay one hour per day or a couple of hours per day that age it requires three hours per day and you are okay to do something. The hour per day is a parameter that is a way to just create a constraint for the body, not get too addicted to stay exposed to this reward system for too long. But it doesn’t show the quality or what we want, how our keyboards experience the experience with electronic in some ways, I think what is we need to look into it is how much kids maintain their boundaries of wanting or maintain their boundaries inside the electronics.


And if they’re able to create this system of boundaries inside the electronic, which is pretty difficult and they can bring that vice versa to the world and understand a little bit more, okay, this is a game, this is a digital game, okay, we need to teach them because one of the way the games are architected or Facebook or TikTok and everything is they take out the stop cues so kids don’t have a stop signals, they don’t know when to stop and when something stop is not stop in a way to relax, they stop in a way that you’re going to miss the next.

Dr. Sarah (00:29:30):

Just stokes that FOMO and wanting to continue.

Ale (00:29:35):

Yes. And that override any of all the good sense kids have about themselves, self-care, good relationship connection with their own body. They can get into situations that feel anguish but they go because they don’t want to miss. And that’s the part we need to reeducate that in order to help them to get out. What about for parents, how parents can see that in some ways is what happened with their behavioral outside? What is the boundaries? They are meeting deadlines or interest or someone invite them to go and they say yes, but later they say no quickly. So it’s like how can we say, okay, this is affecting the outside so I need to have a conversation. I need to show a little bit more how it works. It is a reeducation process because the river is really exciting in the point of view. It’s really exciting. Exhilarating.

Dr. Sarah (00:30:58):

Is it about doing it with them at the beginning to teach them these skills in real time? Do we build those skills outside of the river and then help them bring it in? What would you suggest would be a good way to think about this?

Ale (00:31:14):

I suggest that first change the parameters of hours going to be more for constraint and we need to implement some hours for sure. But when you look into this reward system, we are going to see that the story they’re seeing inside is cut. They got only the punchline of the stories, just the video. They want just that part of the story that they want to see. So the cuts in the story, it makes the system not find integration. So they stay longer time without finding integration because the stimulation is in the punchlines is in just the nugget that they want to see. And we want as a parents help them to reconstruct the story, the whole thing. For example, they want to see TikTok and you say, oh no, no, no. TikTok come back, let’s watch a movie on Netflix, a short movie in Netflix. And you see that the construction of the story that’s happening makes the nervous system engage back and they feel tired in the middle. They say, no, no, let’s get some popcorn you bring, ramp it up, continue the story. If we are able to help them to reconstruct the stories they have, this is a big win for parents.


Get the full story because they might say this is boring and then you had chance to talk about boring and then we have a patience to co-regulate in the boring moment to say boring, but let’s stay a little longer. And then suddenly the movie picks up and say, oh, I’m glad I stay to this part. This is so exciting. And then they start to understand that the system, it can go low up and down and pause forward. And for that we definitely need to get into the dance of co-regulation. Co-regulation is going to be the most important thing to stay with kids.

Dr. Sarah (00:33:49):

So what I’m hearing too is it’s not that the technology is bad, the way that it’s being used often, especially with kid stuff is it’s like staccato. It’s fast, it’s all good, it’s no beginning, middle and end. But in order to help a child to stay the whole course and move into can we sit and watch a whole story that has a beginning and middle and end, I have to be there with you to do that. I have to watch this with you. I have to co-regulate if you get bored and want to run off and do something else. It’s counterintuitive because a parent might be like, oh great, they’re going to go play. We could turn off the tv. But it’s like actually there’s almost this intentionality. It’s like an exercise in learning how to stay with something all the way through the beginning, the middle, the end, the ups and downs that come with it. And then when it’s done to sort of rest.

Ale (00:35:00):


Dr. Sarah (00:35:02):

In your words I’ll let you explain, but one of the biggest things that Ali teaches is this idea of this arc of intention and integrating at the end of it. So it’s like before you begin there’s this readiness, this energetic like I’m preparing to do but I have not yet started. And then there’s doing the being in the flow and then there’s the finishing whatever it is, and it could be making a sandwich or it could be watching a movie with my mom or whatever it is, but that when we’re done, there’s this rest, there’s this, I finished that and that’s what I think is missing so much in the tech. The that’s done and that felt good and I’m done and I rest.

Ale (00:35:50):

Exactly that. The tech was in order to capture people’s attention, what they want is let’s take out the integration, cut this part. So most of the apps and everything, even movies, they cut the integration piece.


So what happened is it create the conditioning. The conditioning of being this high performance state. If I’m not the one who perform me, I’m just in a passive watching, but I project that performance outside as if I was the one who did. So that became this consume of entertainment over and over again. So I have lots of input but I don’t have any output. This becomes another big imbalance because we say, could you read this book? We ask them to have this input in a different form, but he knows that he needs to do the output of understanding or make sense or telling. And that’s why it all chopped, like you said, staccato because the system is still in staccato of the TikTok. It going to be staccato for reading, be staccato for learning, be staccato to talk to you.

Dr. Sarah (00:37:15):

Yeah, get to the punchline. Switch to the next thing, to the punchline. I want to fast forward what you’re saying, mom, I want to get to the part where you give me dessert. I want to get to the part where I get to do the thing I want. I know I feel this, I get it. I feel like all parents cannot relate. And that’s why I think, again, I don’t think this idea of screen time, I like your point. We can look at putting parameters, but it’s not really about time. It’s about quality. It’s about teaching our kids how to be in and out of this technology, how to prepare for it to think about what do I want to watch, what do I want to do, what do I want to feel and then I do it and then how do I know when I’m done? And that’s like you said, the tech is designed specifically to avoid that process. So we kind of have to supplement that.

Ale (00:38:12):

Yes, because imagine our body was wired to have that rest. Everyone sleeps. We are wired to have the time to sleep pauses and everything. But let’s suppose I condition it on my body to not have that time for rest. And what happened is I as a, let’s suppose a toddler start to watch things since little one and they never experienced the rest in his body. He doesn’t know what does it mean? He doesn’t really, he is not used to have a moment of rest because suddenly I’m searching for something and I get the smartphone and then I got into the river.

Dr. Sarah (00:39:04):

And I mean I think even this idea of these, we know that these devices are rewiring our brains. Grownups have been using them for a while now and our brains are changing. I think even just my own ability to rest is so different now than it was 10 years ago. Every time I have a moment of downtime, I reach for my phone to fill in that gap because my nervous system isn’t super comfortable in that state of quiet rest. I’m working on that, working on meditating more and turning my phone off. But it’s like I have to retrain something inside of me for our kids. And I had probably 20 plus years of building up my entire brain and nervous system before those were invited into my system. Our kids are really little. They’re not getting that construction time free of the interference of these smart high tech devices. So I don’t want to be fear-mongering, but it’s like it’s rewiring their brains very early. We as adults, most people who are in the thirties, forties, older, we had time to build our brains and our nervous systems without this being part of it. And this generation does not get that luxury.

Ale (00:40:37):

Yes. And that’s why the embodiment piece comes perfectly without that embodiment part, without the notice in the sensation, it’s hard to rewire. It’s hard to go because we start to think in strategies or hope for something and wish that biologically something changes, but we need this neuro learning means that they need to learn how to rest. I see when I do sessions and I see some kids, as soon as they start to go to this integration and I say, no, no, I want something. I said, wait, wait, wait. Just take a moment. It sinks in. And the characteristic of integration is like, yeah, I like that. I’m here moving, doing this very active situation. And then when the task is finished, whatever it is now I start to search for something. But that’s the moment that needs to integrate like you said. And it goes a little bit, as soon as the nervous infuse that rest.

Dr. Sarah (00:41:59):

That downward, it’s like a rebound. It’s like a reaction to the sensation of moving towards rest. It’s like, oh, don’t do that. Go back up. Go back up.

Ale (00:42:09):

Exactly. You are missing something and oh, you need to fix what you did. Oh, now you need to prepare for the next round and then we need to stay with them in this app and then goes down again up and goes down again. But that requires attention. We need to be there. We need to reteach that. Otherwise the system doesn’t experience that.

Dr. Sarah (00:42:35):

So I’m thinking in terms of practicality for parents, because I often say when I talk to parents about screen time, I usually will say rethink. Why think about the function of the screen time. It’s totally okay to give our kids screens and there are certain times when it’s better and certain times when it’s not as good, I tend to encourage parents to think of it less like give your kid a screen when you need a break because you being able to take a break, you being able to rest or complete a task actually helps you be more regulated so that you can be with your kid in a much more helpful way the rest of the time. But I often say when your kid’s having a meltdown, they’re really angry or they’re fighting with their sibling or it’s high stress. That’s the time where I would be least inclined to give a kid a screen.


Because what we’re teaching is when you feel these feelings, let’s turn it off with a light switch, let’s just put the screen in your face and it turns off those feelings. But very practically, we do use screens, we use it even as a parenting tool. We use it as a babysitter, we use it as a, there’s sometimes that we use it that might be kind of more problematic than others. Yes, our kids use it to rest too for downtime. But I always encourage parents to remember it’s physical downtime but not brain downtime and factor that in. But I certainly use screens as a bit of a babysitter sometimes when I want to cook dinner or get something done or have a minute to myself or sleep in the morning. I’m not with them when they’re doing that. So I’m not able to co-regulate with them when they’re engaging in screens in that way. And I’m wondering what are your thoughts on that? Something that we can allow in small bits and counterbalance it with other times where we’re doing it with them and then counterbalance all of that by times when we’re just all together not doing screens and having fun, good, stimulating, rewarding fun. But that’s like not in the river on the grass.

Ale (00:44:54):

Yes. I think it happens with all of us. Me too. The moments I’m so tired and he comes to me and says, can I watch something? I was like, thanks God. I just drop in a sofa. I have a formula in my mind. Or how far is going, okay, this is a dysregulation, so go back. You need to don’t rest right now. Do something else. This is going to be better. So there are moments that I notice I need to make an effort, I need to go against my will. And I think also with the kids, we need to understand which type of game they’re using, your videos they’re doing. If you see that they start to get this type of fast forward, changing, changing, changing. This is signal that we need to be together.


Because like I said, the cutting, cutting, cutting the staccato, like you say is what’s problematic. This is what conditioning the child to be hooked into readiness. So we need to understand if they know how to go through a whole arch when the V is watching something, I keep saying he finished and he can watch it again. Sure, let’s go again. Watch it again. And then I stayed there and I see how things go. But let’s suppose when he finish, I need to dedicate it sometimes for them to act out what they experience there because they silent experience, the villain comes closer and they internally holding. And then when you finish, all these movements are still to be expressed. So I have a moment that I say, okay, let’s run in a house or show me what happened, show me the villain, what did the villain did? And then go to the floor, put in the floor, roll him in the floor, play the villain, say I am the villain now. And then what happened is they start to have the same experience they had in the screen. But now in the real life.

Dr. Sarah (00:47:28):

Yeah, in play too, which is connection.

Ale (00:47:32):


Dr. Sarah (00:47:34):

Yeah, no, that’s such a good idea. I like that idea so much of especially with really little kids, you’re not going to get your teenager to do this with you maybe can. There are ways create a graphic novel or do something funny. But this idea that you can…

Ale (00:47:49):

Or charade, you can’t play charades. Is that right?

Dr. Sarah (00:47:51):

Yeah. Yeah.

Ale (00:47:53):

One word.

Dr. Sarah (00:47:55):

You guys can’t see this? Because Ali is literally acting out in charades, but it’s a podcast so they can’t see that

Ale (00:48:03):

It’s true.

Dr. Sarah (00:48:05):

It’s funny. It’s just for us. But no, but this idea of especially with little kids that after they watch something to kind of help them process it. And like you were saying at the very beginning of this episode, when you go directly to the sort of what did you feel in your body or was that scary when you watch this, they’re just going to be like, I don’t want to talk about this go away. But if we can play with them, if we can say, let’s say we watched, I don’t know, I can’t think of a movie right now, but the Little Mermaid, my daughter’s very scared of the Ursula scene in the Little Mermaid. And so maybe even to play out that not like now we’re going to play this game to process the movie, but just finding moments where it comes up. And then I could be like, maybe I let her be Ursula or we talk about, I don’t know, I could just, maybe you can explain this idea better than me, but I’m thinking of a way to play the stuff out.

Ale (00:49:06):

Yes, yes. I think if we see just fragmented of this thing, we pick in the screen and then you see, we can even say, I saw one part that was this that happened. Tell me more about it. What happened after or what happened before? Just that engagement, it’s already grounding means that we don’t need to be clown all the time. Sometimes I’m a bit clowny, but if you don’t have it, it’s good to have a conversation or a question. If they don’t want to answer it right away later they will answer.

Dr. Sarah (00:49:57):

Yeah. I think too that you bring up a very good point. So we’re talking like yes, time constraints to some degree, but really it’s more about the kind of quality of that time spent with the device. Are you with them? Are you helping them move all the way through and kind of find that ending point, but also what is the type of tech they’re engaging with? Is it a Bluey episode or is it YouTube? And I think thinking in terms of like you said, especially depending on the age of your child, creating these little sort of pools by the side of the river that they can kind of learn these skills and softly with these easier things like shows that are slower, shows that have a really clear beginning, middle and end shows that aren’t super flavor superpower, super, super, super transition, fast intense. But what about the kids who have already kind of gone there and we’re trying to bring them back? I feel like that’s where parents have, especially since Covid, we spent a couple years kind of being like we’re just going to survive and whatever works works and now we have more bandwidth to have a little bit more structure and intentionality. But the Kool-Aid has been drank and so it’s very hard to pull it back now, like you were saying, they’re already in the current, how do we get them back out into this pool? It doesn’t feel as good.

Ale (00:51:37):

Yes. I think that’s a part that is getting more difficult. One thing I know is it’s hard to help someone that is in a deep current very fast. If we haven’t experienced being in the water in this side of the water, that’s calmer. So let’s suppose you want of a family wants to take their child that is in this loop of electronics and try to take them out, bring them back to the earth right away. It can be difficult, a big step for the child. And as soon as they go in again, for example in the school they have, oh, we have this new app to learn a language. Then they go with the language. Language is gamified from the gamified is back to the current again. So there are so many ways to get into the river that’s going to take them back to where they don’t want to go.


So that’s why it’s important to know how can we stay with the child in these calm waters in this electronic that we see mistakes happening. We see some sort of tantrum happen, but it’s not often but they can relate it with the ground. But let’s be more specific here how I see that in my office or when I’m teaching in the streets, I see a kid, we know that that kid, when you take this cell phone, they’re going to react strongly and you’re going to see their movement is very staccato movement as well. Orientation is very short. The reaching is also short. There is some anxiety happening. So if that disorganization happen and that’s influenced that, I know it’s not too stressful, but it’s dysfunctional. So I see that, okay, still we can bring them to the calm waters, but when it get into the stress now it’s normal.


More dysfunction is dysfunction plus the arousal. Wow. Things get louder. This takes a lot of effort from parents to have a conversation because that situation is difficult and that’s where a lot of parents stops because they cannot continue the conversation. And one note here is when the child is getting hooked into this electronic for too long, you see some patterns of addiction because there is more compulsive behavior. They want to stay there. They say, I want to be out. And they’re in the living room having dinner and sometimes the child provokes a conflict to get loud and everyone says, go to your room. And then she or he will go to the room and say, ah, I got what I want back to the electronics. So a lot of conflicts that happen outside, sometimes the child, not intentionally, but sometimes intentionally, they provoke situations that will push them back, that will give them way back because parents will see, oh, now his calmer was louder. So we need to understand these patterns that happened before help because that’s where everyone stops for a lot of reasons.

Dr. Sarah (00:55:34):

So what I’m hearing is as we get deeper into this trench, right, kids can start to engage in these really maladaptive strategies to get back to what their body’s craving, which is that calm relief and that back into the river that they get to a place where the speed of that current is the most comfortable place for them to be. And so they’ll do all kinds of strategies to get back there. And some of them are really destructive to the family system and to themselves ultimately. But it’s that’s long term. They’re interested in the short term relief of getting back into the flow of the current that feels like that is where their body wants to be.

Ale (00:56:20):


Dr. Sarah (00:56:21):

It’s really, I mean I see this a lot in teens in my practice.

Ale (00:56:26):

Yeah, I see Also, for example, when there is some dysfunction in the behavior, the dialogue is still possible for the moment. Anytime it’s going to be possible, it’s not lose game, it can be possible, but they are more reflexive. Yeah, I spent three hours in TikTok and this is not doing well for me. And then they can have a conversation and they can understand a little bit more. But when they are stressed, so the dialogue, it’s harder because now you see that I am missing something and you are the one to be blamed because you are the one who take my pleasure or my fun, whatever.


And this is we need to stay really strong holding space. And then the time of hours is important how many hours? Because we need to reduce that level of exposure. And little by little they’re going to wake up. They are in trance. So it’s matter of time, it’s matter of constraint, it’s matter of dialogue, it’s matter of helping them to build a self-esteem outside of the game because their self-esteem is built on the game. I am champion here. You see that? That one has a signal for me that one gave me. So the self-esteem is muted around that to go to the ground, leaving the river go to the ground where the self-esteem is not, there’s no cues that says that I belong here or I have a value. It’s pretty hard.

Dr. Sarah (00:58:23):

So that’s also because all that time spent in the game is displacing building a sense of self outside on the ground that feels good. So to start maybe there too of like, yes, we slowly need to reduce the amount of time spent and we as parents need to be able to tolerate the techno tantrums that come with that without backing down and giving up. But also when we’re not engaged, when they’re not in the river, I think that’s when the real important work happens is helping our child to feel very seen, very valued, build that sense of connection and sense of purpose and sense of place and belonging so that it feels good to be back on land. And that I think that’s the real parenting part.

Ale (00:59:18):

Yes. Now imagine a scene, you are able to take the iPad from this kid that’s in all distress and then he goes to the land, he’s offline and offline he start to hear you see you don’t do well, you see, you don’t know how to read anymore. Your grades are bad. So the sense of self there we are just confirming that to the child that yes, you see I belong to the game.

Dr. Sarah (00:59:55):

Right. And I think that’s, man, there’s so many things we could talk about. So I’m curious too because tell people a little bit about this training that you’re doing because I feel like we’re just skimming the surface. There’s so much here and there’s just no way we’ll really be able to get to the depths of all of this in this podcast episode. But you are doing a training soon and can you tell us a little bit about what it will look like, what you’ll be covering, and then maybe how people can sign up for it?

Ale (01:00:32):

I will, yes. I think this is a long, the more I talk, the more I see like wow, I taught there in Switzerland a few days ago and I said, okay, we’re going to be hour and a half and I stayed six hours. And no one wants to stop. It’s not because I was no, because there was more and more and more and more. But again, it’s not to be scary, it’s not to scare people, but we need to see some of details. So the train, I will talk about the river. I will give details of this river because the image is important for parents to be in the house and say like, oh, my son just got into that current time to reduce, time to reduce. We have cues that you’re going to understand. So I’ll talk more about these cues. I want to give some exercise because the embodiment is important few exercise to understand, especially for parents. It’s important that we adult, we understand that, oh, to rewire and need to reconnect. Sure. From there you can see other cues and I will talk about the electronics, what happened from being this analog world in the transition to digital world and how we are wired, how can we organize not so much into the neuroscientific language, but it’s really a language that can be, let’s meet halfway. It’s not all simple, it’s not all complicated. It’s going to be somewhere in the middle. And I think also the exchange with parents to hear each other. So it’s going to be five encounters of two hours. I will include some hours in between, maybe half an hour here, half an hour there. It depends on the situation, but it’s going to be open for parents and therapists that want to in some ways orient their parents because it’s time to think about that right now.

Dr. Sarah (01:02:58):

It time, I’m so glad you’re doing this because honestly lots of people have takes on this and I think your particular ability to understand, just the human condition of being a child and then being a parent in relationship to that child is so impressive. I don’t know. I’ve taken a number of your trainings and it’s completely transformed the way that I work with kids in my practice and how I parent. So I really do, I’m glad that you are taking a take on this that integrates the way that you approach regulation and not just like, let me give you another time sheet for your screen time because that’s really missing the point. And so I will be there. I’m really excited that you’re doing this and I really think if you’re a parent who is trying to navigate screens with your kids, you’ll probably get a lot out of this. But also as a therapist, I know we have a lot of clinicians that listen to this podcast. If you work with families, you should definitely be going to this training because the amount of ways that screens show up in the therapy, whether they’re physically in the therapy or we’re talking about it in the therapy or a child doesn’t really want to do the therapy, not as fun as the screen.


This I think is really important to know about. So I’m really glad you’re doing it. How can people sign up?

Ale (01:04:36):

Well, go to my website, aleduate.com and I want to make this somewhat affordable for the amount because the need is high and I think this can be empowering, I think can be empowering, at least very orienting for sure. And of course it’s not. It depends on how severe is the situation. We don’t have solutions for everything, but it’s really important to understand the progression, how to get one place, how to go back to the other one and the value that each has. I think that’s important for parents to understand.

Dr. Sarah (01:05:26):

Yeah, I’m so glad. Thank you for coming on and sharing all this with us. I hope you’ll come back. I have so many more questions for you.

Ale (01:05:35):

I’m here anytime. It would be a pleasure

Dr. Sarah (01:05:44):If you enjoyed listening to this conversation. I want to hear from you, share your thoughts and your feedback with me by scrolling down to the ratings and review section on your Apple Podcasts app or whatever app you’re listening on. And let me know what you think of this episode or the show in general. Your support means the absolute world to me, and just a simple tap of five stars can make a real impact in how the show gets reached by parents everywhere. So thank you so much for listening and don’t be a stranger.

202. Regulation, reward systems, and rest: Rewiring the way our kids interact with screens with Alé Duarte