If you’re a parent living in the 21st century, chances are you have occasionally used digital technology for back-up when your patience is wearing thin, either to escape into your own work or social network, or to distract the kids with virtual entertainment. (If you haven’t, well, the rest of us bow down to you in awe and admiration.) But what is the impact when parents and their kids turn to texting or video games or other electronic distractions, rather than turning to each other? According to Catherine Steiner-Adair, these habits pose a serious threat to families, friendships, and even childhood as we know it. Steiner-Adair is a clinical psychologist and school consultant, and she draws on conversations with more than 1,000 children, parents, and educators to support her argument in The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, which was named one of the top 10 nonfiction titles of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal.
As a new year gets under way, and with it the impulse to take stock of our lives, we ask Steiner-Adair to share some insights with Vox Tablet about what parents miss out on when they are constantly checking their phones; why letting kids fend for themselves in the digital world is a recipe for failure; and what guidance Judaism can offer as the digital universe grows vaster still.