Dr. Steiner-Adair Speaks on Protecting Childhood from the Digital Age Print

Feb. 26, 2014:  Parents need to disconnect and pay attention to their children. Children should not be the "call waiting" of their parents' lives. Kids need to disconnect so that they become more socially and emotionally intelligent. This was the message that Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair gave at a lecture on Thursday, February 13, at The Bronxville School.

Dr. Steiner-Adair's critically acclaimed book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age is filled with examples of the damages caused by too much time spent in the virtual world. Steiner-Adair cautioned parents to manage their children's online lives and said that no child under five years old benefits from playing computer games.

There is no substitute for reading aloud to your children and having rich conversation. She said that kids learn from interacting with other people, and long-term brain development can be seriously damaged by exposure to the digital world at a young age.

Dr. Steiner-Adair, who is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, consults with schools around the country and maintains a private psychology practice. During her research, she has found that with older children, the tendency to communicate via text is eroding empathy because the quick rate of reply lacks social and vocal cues. Dr. Steiner-Adair is concerned by how kids navigate this world and suggests that schools need to have in place curricula of social and emotional training.

"The typical teen spends 11 hours a day online. How is your school supporting the way they process this constant state of being connected? Do you have a program for digital citizenship?" she asked. She encouraged parents to get up earlier to finish their online tasks so they can focus on positive parenting when their children wake up.

She said that parents should never allow media on car rides to and from school, which is a sacred time for families to connect. And she encouraged parents to read their children's texts so that kids understand that no text is private.

Dr. Steiner-Adair also encouraged parents to have access to their children's online profile. Nothing sent into the digital world is ever protected or private. It can be forwarded, viewed by anyone, and used in a court of law.

Dr. Steiner-Adair will return to the school in the next month to give a rescheduled morning lecture and to visit with middle school students.

The lecture was sponsored by Bwell, the PTA committee on health and wellness.

Pictured here:  Façade of The Bronxville School.

Photo by N. Bower