Kids benefit when parents unplug from Facebook

  • By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune
  • Sunday, August 5, 2012 4:15pm
  • Life

Question: Your partner seems more interested in updating Facebook about the kids than interacting with them. How do you know when it’s a problem?

Answer: It’s a problem. And here’s why, says James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media and author of “Talking Back to Facebook.”

You’re modeling: “Parents need to realize they’re the most important role models for their kids on this topic,” Steyer says. “It’s extremely important that they unplug themselves and model healthy, balanced behavior for their own kids.”

You’re missing out: “For your kids’ sake, you have to take time away from your devices and create media-free zones and screen-free family time to connect in a deep, genuine way.”

In Steyer’s book, he cites research looking at the emotional toll of our growing reliance on devices. “When important emotional matters are crammed into technology spaces that are ill-suited for nuanced, complex feelings and honest engagement, human relationships can be profoundly affected,” he writes.

“We may be potentially fostering a culture that is less attentive, compassionate and caring, with less emotional intelligence.”

Your kids are fed up: Twenty-one percent of teens say they wish their parents would “unplug” more often, according to the new study, “Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives,” from Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media.

You’re over-sharing: “Let’s be real here,” Steyer said. “There are real, serious consequences for sharing too much information about your kids. This is part of a permanent digital footprint that goes way beyond a photo album sitting in the living room.”

You’re setting a tone: A tone, that is, that life is a performance. “The idea that you have to broadcast everything you do to the rest of the world is really worth reflecting on,” Steyer said. “This is an extremely important conversation for every parent to have. This is an enormous moment. We’re seeing a transformative change in our digital media landscape and parents need to be mindful of what it’s doing to their families.”

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