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The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age Hardcover – August 13, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Parents face the paradox of the faster, broader communication and access to information that technology brings leading to disconnection in the family as its members communicate less often face-to-face. Clinical psychologist and family therapist Steiner-Adair explores the changes in the dynamics of family life when there are fewer conversations around the dinner table, fewer play dates with children actually physically playing together, and fewer pretend games. Drawing on therapy sessions and interviews with parents, children, and educators, Steiner-Adair reports some children feeling neglected by parents enthralled by their cell phones or computers and parents feeling left out of their children’s lives as they engage electronically with friends, games, and other distractions. Beyond any fears of the neurological threats of technology, Steiner-Adair points to the emotional costs of being worn down by constant communication and hasty responses and from being ignored by others as they communicate via electronic devices. She offers advice on how to develop a “sustainable family” that recognizes how pervasive technology is but focuses on the need to develop emotional connections between parents and children. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“This riveting piece of journalism . . . chronicles how new technology has disrupted family life. Parents pacify infants with iPhones, toddlers play violent games and pre-teens are sexting. The book offers no easy answers but gently encourages all of us who lack the discipline to unplug.” (Wall Street Journal, Best Nonfiction of 2013)

“Ms. Steiner-Adair’s book can be eloquent about the need to ration our children’s computer time. . . . Her summary of what to say to your kids - it’s on Page 191- is so good, so State of the Unionlike, that I took a photo of it with my iPhone.” (Dwight Garner, New York Times)

“Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair says tech-and self-absorption disappoints and disregards our children.” (USA Today)

“An important guide to an occasionally overlooked aspect of modern parenting.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Do your kids a favor and read this important book.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“A riveting, hugely important book that every parent will want to read. . . . A great book, rooted in massive research, told in vivid, charming, unforgettable narrative, conveying a message of the utmost relevance today.” (Edward M. Hallowell, MD, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness)

“This is a must read for parents and educators. Parents will embrace Steiner-Adair’s step-by-step solutions, focused on building deeper and more meaningful family relationships; teachers will better understand the need to manage the double-edged sword of technology as a tool for learning.” (Nanci Z. Kauffman, Head of School, Castilleja School, Palo Alto, CA)

“Catherine Steiner Adair with great wisdom, and compassion for our confusion, helps lead us out of this technological thicket. . . . A mandatory read for our own sake as well as the sake of our children.” (Madeline Levine, PhD, author of Teach Your Children Well and The Price of Privilege)

“I absolutely love this book. Dr. Steiner-Adair offers wonderful suggestions for dealing with issues the new tech world has brought upon us--all based on the reassuring premise that the family shapes a child’s brain, mind, body and soul in unique human ways that technology can’t replace.” (Susan Ginsberg EdD, author of Family Wisdom: The 2000 Most Important Things Ever Said about Parenting, Children and Family Life)

“Finally, a book that comprehensively answers the question parents everywhere have been struggling with: How to raise happy, creative, caring kids in the age of screens? The Big Disconnect is not just a smart book, it’s a very, very wise one.” (William Powers, author of Hamlet's Blackberry)

“In a book that should be required reading for all parents, Steiner-Adair examines the extraordinarily negative impact of the digital revolution on parents and children. . . . [A] highly readable study.’” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair has her finger on the pulse of the social and emotional challenges kids face in today’s 24/7 media culture. Take her insight to heart. As parents, we can help our kids walk the thin line between the perils and possibilities of digital life.” (James P. Steyer, CEO and Founder, Common Sense Media)

The Big Disconnect offers terrific parenting advice that transcends technology, tackling issues like self-identity, navigating friendships and sex. Its message is not exclusive to kids, but aimed at every family member: stay connected to people and nature as often as possible.” (Associated Press)

“Those who haven’t spent much time ‘IRL’ with their kids lately will recognize their own households in the pages of The Big Disconnect. . . . [Catherine Steiner-Adair] wants us to reclaim the immemorial rhythms of the hearth and shield our children from the...digital age.” (Wall Street Journal)

“In her insightful and compelling new book, Catherine Steiner-Adair reveals how technology and the Internet are fragmenting American families, leaving parents confused and children lonely. Put down your smartphone and read this book!” (Michael Thompson, PhD, co-author of Raising Cain and author of Homesick and Happy)

“This is an unsettling but necessary book, confirming what parents probably already know but do their best not to think about. . . . Steiner-Adair provides helpful suggestions for parents seeking to limit tech time and re-engage with their children.” (New York Times Book Review)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062082426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062082428
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, is an internationally recognized clinical psychologist, school consultant, and author. She maintains a private practice in Massachusetts, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an associate psychologist at McLean Hospital, and speaks to numerous audiences, including educators, health professionals, PTAs, religious groups, and nonprofit organizations.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Maggie on August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book! It is insightful, compassionate, and at times even funny with a wealth of information to help us navigate keeping our kids safe and healthy in our ever-changing technological world. Chapter by chapter the author addresses different stages of child development and the technological challenges that they are often confronted with. Her extensive research and wide range of case studies make for an interesting and intelligent read. Texting, sexting, online bullying, addiction, the world of social media, and the easy access to porn or other inappropriate materials on the web are all addressed with constructive strategies to help adults guide the young people in their lives through this overwhelming and often scary social (and asocial!) world of technology.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Edward L Hutcheson on August 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Steiner-Adair has put her finger on this crisis of why kids and parents are so isolated from one another in our info age. Better yet she names the problem and gives helpful advice to parents and teachers in how to solve the problem. The stakes are high. If I were still heading a school, I'd make this timely book required reading for parents, trustees, a d faculty.
Dorothy A. Hutcheson
Head of School Emerita
The Nightingale-Bamford School
New York, NY
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By jem on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book offers a wealth of practical advice for every parent, teacher, grandparent, and other adult concerned with the development of children in today's swiftly changing digital environment. No adult alive experienced the daily technical bombardment of tempting diversions of today's children -- often before they are developmentally ready to handle it. Both as a psychologist and a mother Adair offers examples from her experiences counseling family members and consulting with school principals and teachers. She is firm about the serious developmental damage that can be done by pacifying infants with a cellphone or tablet screen rather than human contact with a story, toy, or game.

She manages to be realistic about the ways technology is drawing individuals into private and separate worlds where texting is preferred to face-to-face conversation. But she suggests helpful alternative strategies. She is direct in describing ways in which parents are often clueless about the potentially dangerous online worlds their children are visiting, and the temptations they face to engage in rude, violent, or sexual behaviors they would never consider in the real world. Her message is both scary and hopeful. Facing issues and challenges parents have never encountered before, she offers strategies for enforcing family values rather than surrendering the real life connections with family members and friends that are essential to happiness. Put this on your gift list for every parent in your family circle.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ernest drown on September 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An important, well written book on a topic of growing concern. This one should give parents some much needed guidance. Excellent book for PTA s and book discussion groups. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sherry R. Gordon on September 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a psychologist or educator. What drew me to this book is my interest and work experience in technology and being a parent. While I may be a technology aficionado, I had no idea how technology is impacting children of all ages. I learned from Catherine Steiner-Adair that there is good reason to be very concerned about technology's impact not only on child development but on the behavior and psyches of children of all ages, some but not all of it good. Parents may think it's cute that Baby loves to play on an iPad and may even hope that it will give their children an edge in a technology-driven world. But letting babies play on screens is putting their development at risk, according to the author.

In fact, parents' own love affair with their iPads, phones, computers, etc. sends mixed signals to children such as: do as I say, not as I do (i.e., get off your devices, but I'm still on mine) and I'm busy right now (I'm on my device and you're not that important). Technology can become an uncontrollable force to reckon with when kids spend their waking hours on electronic pursuits that can enrich and educate but can also traumatize and harm them when they are exposed to adult content on the Internet and hurtful and inappropriate content in text messages from friends.

I was not fully aware of some of the negative impacts of technology on children. The book describes dozens of real-life situations from the author's work. Best of all, the author gives practical approaches to and advice for dealing with the issues and incidents that may arise, even proposing separate scripts for talking with boys and girls to address difficult issues. Catherine Steiner-Adair gives great parenting advice that goes beyond technology.

I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. It's well-written, interesting to read, practical and timely.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Condon on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would be the first to say that I enjoy the benefits technology brings. I, too, would be among the first to say there is a BIG downside to our dependence on/addiction to it! This book explores the downside particularly as it relates to young users of tech. There is a great analysis of the harm that tech is creating on many levels. A great read and, hopefully, a warning to parents on how tech has the potential to do damage to our kids' development. Thanks to the author for daring to write such an exposé.
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