“Screen Time: Back to Face-to-Face Time” – Courtney Bushnell LCSW

09/11/2017
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We live in an age where we are subjected to the newest technological advances and gadgets, where information is only a swipe or search away- Just Google It! It is certainly a time that has led to the digital globalization of our planet, helped bridge divides and created exciting, innovative discoveries in the medical and communication fields. That being said, some wonder if the digital age has caused more harm in certain aspects than good? Think about the last time you went to your favorite restaurant for a bite to eat. Take a look around. How many people, many of whom are sitting right next to each other, are on some sort of electronic device?

The art of socializing and verbally communicating with one another seems to have been lost in the era of the white-picket fences and radio flyers. Forget how to be nostalgic? Fear not, your mobile device has all of your memories captured in one application or another. All kidding aside, we may be doing our children a disservice by inundating them with the newest version of the iPhone or the next best video game. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children between the ages of 8-18 spend 7.5 hours a day in front of an electronic device; that is 114 full days a year of watching a screen.[1] It is not surprising, then, that so many families have communication breakdowns. If we take the time to actually speak to one another, then perhaps we may cultivate healthier relationships and, ultimately, the ability to make better, more informed decisions regarding health, peer pressure, etc.

​One possible tool in creating these open lines of communication may be as simple as bringing back the traditional family dinner. Besides leading to better social adjustment and even higher GPAs, Brad Sachs, a psychologist and author believes that, “Eating is a fundamental way of creating closeness in a family…it is nourishing and restorative, both physically and emotionally.”[2] If families can turn back the clock, turn off the devices, and sit down to eat and converse with one another, then maybe some of the dangers of too much screen time can be averted. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, author of Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report, urges that such times at the dinner table may be critical in talking to kids about the risk of “cyber-bullying, engaging in sexting, and being accessible to advertisements and online predators.”[3] Although these dangers may seem foreign or not pressing for some of us, the reality is that these dangers do exist.

[1] Screen Time vs. Lean Time Infographic.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aug. 12, 2016. May 31, 2017. On-line. http://www.cdc.gov.  
[2] Family Dinners: Tips for Better Communication.  Griffin, R. Morgan. WebMD. 2012. May 31, 2017. On-line. http://www.webmd.com.
[3] New Screen Time Rules for Kids. Middlebrook, Hailey.  CNN. Oct. 21, 2016. May 31, 2017. On-line. http://www.cnn.com

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