Advice On Mending “The Big Disconnect” With Kids And Technology

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big disconnectI recently had the honor of attending a seminar led by renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Catherien Steiner-Adair on her recent book The Big Disconnect. Although I hadn’t read the book yet, I was intrigued by the subject matter of how ipads, tablets, and cell phones have hijacked family dinners and the way we socialize and communicate in our homes and as a society today.  

I figured I would go in, learn some great statistics, and perhaps hear some insightful examples of how her focus groups of children – preschool age through college – have a real dependency on these electronics and that was going to be that.  

My children didn’t have that dependency so how bad can any other child be? Boy, was I wrong!

The disturbing examples she gave of how children staring at screens for hours on end is causing anxiety, depression, and outbursts of anger were all so startling to hear.

She further discussed how there is a “big disconnect” happening within America’s households today.

This big disconnect is the lack of connection that is happening within families because of too much screen time.

Really? I thought. Is it really that bad?

I began to pay more attention when I was going out in public and realized that I was oblivious to what was happening around me.

I saw toddlers in shopping carts holding the phones.

Doctor’s offices with children holding iPads.

Cars next to me with children staring at screens.

Restaurants filled with families where children’s faces would be glowing from screens.

 

And it wasn’t always just children. Adults were glued to screens, as well.  

Dr. Adair commented that we are really convincing ourselves that it is our children that need to learn how to wait so that we respond to our phones. But, it’s really the other way around.  

We really need to think about the message we are sending our children when we ask THEM to wait and be patient while we reply to our phones.  

Granted, sometimes it just needs to be done. But, does it always have to be done during meals? Does that text really need to be replied to during alone time with your child? At bedtime?  

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was guilty of choosing to have my children wait when that “ding” came in on my phone versus just enjoying the eye to eye contact I was having with them and responding to that ding later.  

Dr. Adair spoke of the behavioral issues we are seeing with our children today as a result of this “big disconnect.”

Anger, lack of motivation, depression, inability to entertain themselves…. The list goes on and on when we consider just how much time children are spending staring at screens.

What’s the answer, then?

How do we save our families from the disconnect and mend the broken pieces of communication within our homes?  

Well, first, we start at those family dinners. 

We turn those phones off and leave them in another room so the temptation isn’t there. No more screen time at the table. 

We emphasize socio-emotional intelligence and work hard to give them the skills to resolve conflict and work out things with others.  

We model social interaction and empathy by caring for others and asking how they are, so that our children can see how to be compassionate.

We realize that 2-4 year olds become jealous when they see us choosing our screens over them and then acting out those feelings of frustration later; whether through play or through getting back at us.  

It’s time to reconnect.  

Be mindful of the examples we are showing our children of how to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic people to one another by putting the screens down, especially when it’s family time and paying full attention.

Your presence is their present.  

One day, they will grow up and won’t want to be around you so much.  As Dr. Adair states, let’s

…put down the iPad and start showing up to the dinner table.

 

If you’d like to read Dr. Adair’s book, here’s our Amazon Affiliate link to order The Big Disconnect online. (We may earn a small commission if you click this link at no additional cost to you.)

 

Do you see a big disconnect with your kids at home? We’d love to hear your success stories of how you’ve cut back on screen time both for yourself and your children!

 

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Originally from Los Angeles, I moved out to the OC with my husband and 4 yo twins, Gracie and Jonah, 6 years ago. I am devoted to my faith and have taught catechism at my church in Anaheim Hills for 2 years. I have a bachelor’s degree from CSUN along with my post-graduate work at UCLA in early childhood development. Additionally, I am certified as an Outdoor Classroom Specialist, a graduate of Magda Gerber’s Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) Theory and Observation Class and am a certified children’s yoga instructor. My passion for early education led me to open my own in-home Reggio Inspired, nature-based preschool (TTwinfinity Preschool) serving the YL and AH communities. But more important, I am a dedicated mother volunteering as team mom and at my children’s school. As an advocate for pediatric epilepsy, I seek to raise awareness for Glut 1 Deficiency Syndrome and the ketogenic diet as a treatment for this rare disease in hopes of finding a cure for my daughter’s seizures! As an escape, I find joy in reading, practicing self-care through reiki as a Reiki/Karuna Master/Teacher and laughing a lot with friends and family.