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THE BIG DISCONNECT by Catherine Steiner-Adair


Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age

by Catherine Steiner-Adair with Teresa H. Barker

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-208242-8
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Parents and children may be enjoying “swift and constant access to everything and everyone on the Internet,” but they are losing “a meaningful personal connection with each other in their own homes.”

So warns Steiner-Adair (Psychiatry/Harvard Medical School; Full of Ourselves: A Wellness Program to Advance Girl Power, Health, and Leadership, 2005, etc.), who argues that family life has been dangerously eroded as parents have become increasingly addicted to digital devices. Their obsession with online connectivity provides an inappropriate role model for their children and takes a special toll on young children, who need undivided attention. Instead, parents use digital devices to occupy their children; these days, the author notes, some preschoolers are more adept at manipulating digital devices than tying their own shoes. Parental inattention is responsible for increased injuries to children, according to the Centers for Disease Control; 22 percent of adults who send text messages are “so distracted by their devices that they have physically bumped into an object or person.” Steiner-Adair's primary concern, however, is not the physical but the psychological damage inflicted on children by multitasking parents; in her clinical practice, she finds children “tired of being the 'call waiting' in their parents' lives.” The author also addresses psychological issues that can arise when children are overexposed to the media and to inappropriate content such as the violence and sexual stereotyping in computer games. She is concerned that the current tendency to substitute texting for direct communication may be eroding empathy by creating a rapid-response environment in which sexual flaunting, rumor and gossip flourish. She emphasizes that indirect communication is inherently impoverished, eliminating body language and vocal cues. This makes it even more important for parents to create an emotionally satisfying, sheltering family environment that fosters character development.

An important guide to an occasionally overlooked aspect of modern parenting.