At the latest event in our new Speaker Series, internationally recognized clinical psychologist and school consultant Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair presented to a group of our clients and industry colleagues. She led a discussion drawing from topics in her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.
Her words were initially cautionary: “We are now raising the first generation which prefers texting over verbal communication,” she assessed, encouraging more personal interaction.
“Five times a day is the magic number for how many times you should talk to your family; that they should hear your voice. Children have to hear their parents tone of voice, which doesn’t translate over text.”
In interviews with children of all ages, from 2 to 12 to 22, she learned that kids use the same phrases when describing their parents’ split attention: “sad, angry, mad, frustrated”. She explained that almost across the board children feel invisible around their parents, when they are using technology.
Additionally, she observed that texting while driving education in school is the modern-day equivalent to the older drunk driving education programs of a generation ago–except that parents often text and drive in front of their children and then make excuses for it.
She then launched into some very practical advice for parents about how to help fix the situation, for the sake of their children’s development as well as for the health of their relationship. A few highlights include:
Make human interaction the first thing you do in the morning. Don’t let the phone be the first interaction that you have everyday. Physical and emotional connection in the morning makes a huge difference. When you roll over and choose your cell phone first, you’re making that device a priority and sending a message about what in your life is more important. So if you must check email first thing every day, then wake up an extra 30 minutes before your family/children so that you can check email, etc, and be fully present when they get up. Maintain contextual awareness. We often say things when we are on the phone, that our children should not be exposed to. Children shouldn’t use iPads or cell phones as a way to pass time in the car on the way school. Time with children is rare today, and the time in the car to or from school is one of the few opportunities for your children to prepare for or download their day and for you to listen. Every person’s mind, but childrens’ especially, needs a chance to calm down and reset. If they’re playing Candy Crush, their brains are still being stimulated and they are not able to prepare for or come down from their day. So even on long car rides where distractions are appropriate they should be had in reasonable doses. When you pick your child up from school or elsewhere, avoid showing up while on the phone. There is an implicit mixed signal you are sending when you do this on a regular basis – your child is bubbling with news from the day but your phone call is more important than reconnecting. During play time, kids should move around, get outdoors, and play with the real world.Interacting with the real world (not within computer games) allows them to use/exercise their imagination to a greater extent. iPad and Wii games mimicking the real world do not have the same effect. Invite children to be curious with you, and share your mistakes and failures with them.Sharing with them that you have challenges just like them, not only brings closeness, it encourages empathy, and helps them to develop problem-solving skills of their own. They won’t assume that “life will be easy when I graduate from school”.
With these concepts in mind, Steiner-Adair explained that we have more control over the situation than we think we do. “We do not have to fast forward our children through childhood,” she advised.
If you’re interested in attending a OneVision Speaker Series event or would like to be considered as a speaker, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.