Welcome to the practice website for Dr. Michael Cheng, a child and family psychiatrist at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa.

In between patients, Dr. Cheng works with eMentalHealth.ca, an initiative of Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

My approach involves the following:
  • Radical empathy, acceptance and validation to connect to children/youth and families
  • Helping children/youth and families to (re)connect to the people, things and activities that are truly meaningful in their lives
  • Helping children/youth and families to disconnect from those people, things and activities that are not helpful in their lives
  • Helping children/youth and families overcome any particular challenges along the way, e.g. sensory processing issues, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, visual stress, etc.

Large 42-country study connects teen mental wellbeing to both screen time and physical activity

A study published today by a CHEO colleague Dr. Tremblay, in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, involving data for more than 577,000 adolescents (ages 13 to 15) from 42 North American and European countries, finds that: 1) increased physical activity is clearly associated with better mental wellbeing and 2) more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time, is bad for mental wellbeing. It is the first study to show such clear relationships in a large multi-country sample.

New Nature of Things episode "Kids vs. Screens"

Check out this documentary "Kids vs. Screens" from the CBC's Nature of Things, which I was honored to be involved in. “In Kids vs. Screens, a documentary from The Nature of Things, guest host Dan Riskin, a biologist, science journalist and author, explores the latest research to discover how “digital babysitters” can affect children’s development, learning abilities and mental health. A father of three, Riskin is on a quest to understand the science of screen time, traveling everywhere from a brain imaging lab using Robert Munsch stories as a research tool to a kindergarten classroom where he gets a hands-on lesson in how kids learn.
As a scientist, Riskin is seeking facts. As a dad, he’s seeking advice. He’s concerned about his children’s growing desire to spend more time on screen — and how to manage the family fights that can arise as a result.”

Watch on CBC https://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/kids-vs-screens 

Infographic: How Devices Affect Daily Life

Interesting infographic from Common Sense Media showing how parents and teens feel their phones/tablets are affecting daily life. Read more…

Preschooler screen time linked to behavioural problems

A new study links excessive screen time among preschoolers to behavioural problems they experienced at age five. The research looked at more than 2,400 families and compared children who got at least two hours of daily screen time to those who had less than 30 minutes per day.

Kids who spent more of their day in front of screens were five times more likely to exhibit clinically significant "externalizing" behavioural problems such as inattention. They were also more than seven times more likely to meet the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but without aggression. University of Alberta pediatrics professor Piush Mandhane, who led the study, says screen time was associated with problems more than any other risk factor considered, including sleep, parenting stress, and socioeconomic factors.

He suggests that current Canadian guidelines should be far less than the suggested one hour a day limit for preschoolers and the two hours a day limit for five-year-olds. [Read more…]

Prince Harry calls for ban on Fortnite

Prince Harry calls for ban on Fortnite.

Age by age guide to kids and smartphones

An age-by-age guide to kids and smartphones. How should kids use cellphones? And at what age are they emotionally ready to have their own? Here’s what the experts have to say.

Can playing Tetris Block Traumatic Memories?

New research suggests that the engaging, visual-spatial nature of the game may disrupt the formation “intrusive memories”

Traumatic events can cause people to experience "intrusive memories"—distressing recollections that occur without warning, summoning the sights, sounds and feelings connected to the painful incident. Such symptoms are often treated with psychotherapy. But, as Sarah Knapton reports for The Telegraph, a new study suggests that intrusive memories can be mitigated by a less conventional method: playing Tetris.

Researchers from Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden studied a group of 71 patients who had been admitted to the emergency room of an Oxford hospital after experiencing a car accident. Half of the subjects were used as a control group. The rest were asked to recall the traumatic crash, and then play a 20-minute game of Tetris. The study, published recently in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that patients who played Tetris within six hours of the crash experienced 62 percent fewer intrusive memories during the week following the incident compared to patients in the control group. Researchers wrote that the game acts as a “therapeutic vaccine” of sorts, appearing to prevent the formation of traumatic memories.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/playing-tetris-can-block-traumatic-memories-study-says-180962704/#KVIWvqCMKOtOcGqz.99

The problem with our society: Too much "easy dopamine/adrenaline" and not enough oxytocin

There is no question that modern society has many advantages. Life is no longer nasty, brutish and short, and thanks to our modern lifestyle, we have comforts and luxuries unheard of only a generation or two ago.

Despite this however, people are struggling in modern societies with an apparent epidemic of stress, depression, anxiety and suicide…

One theory is that despite all the comforts of modern society, humans live under drastically different situations than that under which we originally lived under for millennia.

For millennia, human beings lived lives being connected to things which gave purpose, belonging, hope and meaning, such as living physically active lives, closely connected to people and nature. Whether by cause or effect, human brains are thus wired such that:
  • When we do physical exertion (e.g. hunting, gathering, farming), it gives our brain dopamine and adrenaline
  • When we have close connections with others such as through face-to-face and physical contact, it gives our brain oxytocin

In modern society, things have radically changed. Unlike the past, modern humans have many sources of “easy dopamine” such as:
  • The ever constant sensory stimulation from our technology (e.g. the internet, television, video games, recreational screens)
  • Modern processed foods that are laced with sugar, which are present apparently in 80% of foods found in a grocery store!

As a result, we are seeing a generation whose brains have gotten used to requiring easy dopamine/dopamine, and who struggle when they do not have that easy dopamine/adrenaline. As a result, our kids don't want to go outside, unlike a generation ago.

Worse, hours spent in front of a screen doesn't give our brains what we really need… We are a social species, and we are wired to require oxytocin, which comes from face-to-face contact and feeling deeply connected to others. Social media and screen time doesn't give that.

So ultimately, this helps us understand why so many kids struggle… Their brains are seduced by activities (e.g. screens) which give easy dopamine, but which doesn't give their brains what they really need, which is oxytocin.

How social media is destroying the lives of teen girls

Slut pages. Sink shots. Yik Yak. Finstas. Kik. Snapchat. Revenge porn. Tinder food stamps. If that reads like a different language, chances are you’re not an American teenager on social media. It’s this world — a chaotic mix of nude photos, cyber-bullying and dysfunctional relationships — that author Nancy Jo Sales ventured into when researching her new book, “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers” (Knopf). View original article…
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