Catherine Steiner-Adair, clinical psychologist and author of The
Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in
the Digital Age, recommends the following:
With the advances in technology over the last decade, everyday
family life has undergone a massive transformation. From iPads to
computers to smartphones, the focus of many families has shifted
from personal interactions to the enticing glow of screens.
Yet according to Catherine Steiner-Adair, clinical psychologist
and author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family
Relationships in the Digital Age, the digital world is here to
stay, and parents need to take control of the technology usage
within their family.
"The worst new vision of families is them all sitting around
laughing, talking or playing, but not with anybody in the actual
room," says Steiner-Adair. "Technology has the ability to lure us
into the immediate gratification and fast pace, yet can stop you
from connecting with the people who are right in front of you."
"Instead families need to help sustain healthy relationships
through the actual art of conversation, play as a family together,
and make it clear how technology can be responsibly used," adds
As technology impacts the way we communicate and relate to each
other on a daily basis, it's important for parents to understand
the crucial role they play for their children.
According to Scott Steinberg, technology expert and author of
the best-selling Modern Parent's Guide series, the average
household owns 11 technology devices.
"Families are obviously surrounded by high-tech devices," says
Steinberg. "But technology is just a tool, so it's neither directly
positive or negative in itself. Rather it's the habits that
surround technology use and how we choose to enforce that use that
makes technology become positive or negative."
Steinberg suggests that parents should be involved with their
kids from the earliest ages and with every single purchase, from
new devices to apps to games.
"Parents should strive to understand the devices, both the ways
in which their kids use them and who they use them with," says
"In the same way you wouldn't let your kids play in public
places unmonitored, the Internet is one of the most public places
on the planet and therefore requires the same monitoring and
attention when it comes to children," Steinberg stresses.
Susan O'Mahoney, a mom of three from La Grange, is constantly
working to navigate the roles of technology within her own
"My husband and I try to be strict with technology privileges
and monitor usage, but it can be hard to differentiate usage with
the different ages and needs of our kids," says O'Mahoney.
Steiner-Adair recommends that every family have a responsible
use agreement or contract.
"The technology contract should be well thought out within a
family, yet open to changes and adjustments," says Steiner-Adair.
"You want to make clear rules to defuse any arguments that can
wreck family time, so it's important to have certain times of the
day when the entire family is unplugged on a daily basis."
Steinberg agrees that families need to have a checks and balance
system when it comes to technology.
"Kids needs to understand how much screen time is allowed daily
and what types of content they are allowed to consume," says
Steinberg. "It's important to have rules about spending habits and
teaching kids what they can and can't do."
Even consider collecting phones and devices at night, Steinberg
O'Mahoney admits that monitoring tech time also applies to
"As a parent, I even have to remind myself to put my phone away
and just be present," says O'Mahoney.
Steiner-Adair says it's often the parents who don't follow their
own family technology rules and undermine the importance of them
for their children.
"When parents are too connected to their devices, kids are left
to their own devices and literally plug into their own electronic
devices," adds Steiner-Adair. "It's risky when technology becomes a
de facto parent."
Steinberg agrees that parents need to be technology role
"Kids learn from what they see, so be the change you wish to see
in them," says Steinberg. "Start by putting down your smartphone,
limiting your own screen time and having real conversations with
Getting up to speed
For some parents, just keeping up with the latest technologies
can feel daunting, let alone being able to monitor or safeguard
every new game or app.
"Google is a great place to start," Steinberg says. "With a
little research, you can become conversational very quickly and get
up to speed with your children's technology preferences."
Another great place to start are the dozens of organizations and
parental groups that exist to help parents get up to speed, such as
Common Sense Media.
"It's easy now to keep kids safe on the Internet," says
Steiner-Adair. "Don't give children access to unfiltered Internet
and really think about what games you let your kids play and
See more of Megan's stories here.
What to do with your weekend, delivered every Thursday.
Great deals and chances to win prizes, delivered every Monday.
Exclusive offers from our partners,usually delivered twice a week.
Resources for parents of children with special needs,delivered the second Tuesday each month.