Limiting screen time probably ranks near the top of most “Dreaded Parental Duties” lists. Finding the right balance between “I just need a few minutes of peace” and the endless playback loop of Netflix is never easy. In my house, our rule is no screens after school, since the Bubble Guppies join us for breakfast on many mornings. To tell the truth, I thought I was doing pretty well in the screen-limitation-parenting department, until the afternoon that my three year old tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Mommy, leave the phone down. Play with me.” Clearly, limiting my son’s screen time wasn’t enough. I also needed to check my own digital devices at the door. It was a hard thing to hear.
The Big Disconnect, Shorecrest Parent Book Club April 4th, 2018
Shortly thereafter, I picked up The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. Internationally recognized clinical psychologist and educator Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair addresses the rapidly shifting tech space and the ways in which it is altering family relationships. Steiner-Adair clearly lays out a case for the ways in which tech threatens our children: loss of childhood innocence, the erosion of privacy, underdeveloped “empathy muscles,” less practice with face-to-face conversations, and less time for creative, unstructured play. Her book is a call to parents and educators to actively work to counter these trends and provide supportive, tech-limited environments for healthy child development.
Perhaps most frightening is the fact that much of the technology we are dealing with is so new that we don’t have any longitudinal data on its impact on human development. The best we can do is take the short-term studies that have been done and extrapolate them. Again and again, Steiner-Adair argues that the problem is not so much the technology itself. Indeed, there are wonderful advantages to using technology in a mindful way.
Rather, the problem is which activities tend to be replaced by tech time. Human connection, time outdoors, unstructured creative play - these are the things typically lost, when screens are introduced. We must consciously create family rituals and routines to help our children learn to self-regulate and practice making good choices - and we can’t do that from behind a screen.
Make a Choice to Build Connection
While this book is unnerving, it is also provocative and empowering, giving a clear sense of what we can do as parents and educators. Steiner-Adair writes, “Closeness counts. There is no substitute for genuinely felt connection. We can control the culture we choose inside our families and communities. Our children need us to step into that role, reclaim our parental authority to ‘know what’s best,’ dig deep for resolve, and tap the resources available to help us do it. Especially in today’s tech-oriented environment, it is in the humanizing qualities of family and empathy, of a protected childhood rich in play, with sheltered time for reflection and conversation that closeness grows.”
Many Shorecrest families have read "The Big Disconnect" as part of our Breakfast Book Club. If you’re short on time, you can choose to read only the chapters that apply to your family. The book is divided into chapters by age range--infants and toddlers (0-2), preschoolers (3-5), elementary age (6-10), tweens (11-13), and teens (14+). We invite the full community to join us in these important discussions.
Dominique Craft is the Lower School Dean of Curriculum and Instruction at Shorecrest. To learn more about how Shorecrest supports its families in the preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school programs, please join us for a personal tour of the Shorecrest campus.