Jul 07

“The Big Disconnect”: Family Screen Use

Kids can learn anything from tech, but tech won’t embody your values, or love your child, or be thoughtful about the pace at which your child explores the world. Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect, May 2014

Everyone knows about the lack of real connections being fostered these days, but how many are addressing it in a meaningful way? The aim of psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair‘s The Big Disconnect, written with the assistance of Teresa H. Barker, is to encourage parents to make significant changes so that real relationship-building within families–and outside of them—can be better developed.

Publishers Weekly: “She ties the ‘dramatic rise’ in ADD/ADHD diagnoses to the ‘negative effects of media and screen play on children’s self-regulation, attention, aggressive behaviors, sleep, and play patterns.’ In addition to discussing examples of cyberbullying, she explores tweens and teens’ lack of real-life connections as they conduct more of their social lives online.”

Indeed, all of this is very worrying to Steiner-Adair. She advises, in fact, not allowing any screens for kids under two. Beyond that, as reported by Bridget Potter, Publishers Weekly, she offers another more general guideline: saying no to screens, period (except for help in doing homework).

Parents must understand that several aspects of their child’s development are at risk. Psychologically, children are losing the ability to reflect. Neurologically, we don’t know the effect of spending hours in front of a screen, but we do know that kids get addicted to stimulation from screens. Some can’t then tolerate the slow pace of reading books. I would say to all parents: if you’re joking about being addicted to your smartphone, why are you handing the addictive thing on to your child?

From The Big Disconnect, pieces of advice on how to direct your child’s computer time:

  • This is not your computer — I know it has your name on it, but this is my computer (or your school’s computer). I’m your parent, and I reserve the right to see everything that’s going on there.
  • You need to be on the computer in an open place.
  • I have the right to know what your homework assignment is.
  • You can’t be in your room with the door closed.
  • You can’t take it to bed with you.
  • You can’t collapse a screen when I walk by.
  • We have a code of conduct and we expect you to stick with it: Don’t be mean, don’t lie, don’t embarrass other people, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, don’t go places you’re not allowed to go. Don’t post pictures that Grandma wouldn’t love. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t approve of.