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The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  854 ratings  ·  171 reviews
Clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair takes an in-depth look at how the Internet and the digital revolution are profoundly changing childhood and family dynamics, and offers solutions parents can use to successfully shepherd their children through the technological wilderness.

Families today are embracing technology at the expense of face-to-face engagement.

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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 13th 2013 by Harper
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Sep 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: luddites
I picked up this book on a whim at the library yesterday because it's actually something I've been thinking about a lot lately--whether I spend too much time online overall, whether that has an impact on my daughters' behavior, whether I should cave and let my kids spend more time online. One thing that struck me in the introduction was a quote from a 7 year old:

"My parents are always on their computers and on their cell phones. It's very, very frustrating and I get lonely inside. When my dad i
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
First, go get your pearls! Now, don your pearls. Once enpearled, you are prepared to read this book. On average, Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ph.D., and her ilk, intend for you to clutch them approximately three times per page. Clutch them! Gasp! The snowflakes! The special, special snowflakes are being defiled from earliest, most precious babyhood by the horrible spectre of technology!

Now, having primed you for a bit of a deeper dive, I'll say there are a number of ways to criticize this book. I do
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
I'm so glad I read this book. Definitely prompted me to make a serious evaluation of our relationship with tech and the internet as a family and as individuals, and contains a trove of really, really important information for parents about how all of the tech in our children's lives affects them in their developmental years.

In a nutshell - a few things I don't want to forget from this book:

-Family is how a child becomes humanized. This requires engagement from parents; it's too easy to disconne
Aug 12, 2013 rated it liked it
I've kept my twins away from "screens" for much of their lives. They watched no movies until they were four years old, they still watch no TV (we don't even have cable) and our house is a video-game-free zone. But my husband and I are both Internet fiends, and now that the kids are six and can read a little for themselves, the genie is out of the bottle on computers and mobile devices.

We knew this time would come. And really we don't want to prohibit the Internet entirely. But the question is: w
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I have become increasingly irritated while reading this book, and it took reading some of the comments of other readers on Goodreads to make me understand WHY I am so annoyed.

Point 1: The author is nostalgic for "the good old days" where there was no TV and no technology for kids. In other words, the time SHE parented in. News flash--many of today's current parents grew up on media that was much more violent and full of gender stereotyped than even the pink-princess-saturated stuff we deal with
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As I was reading this, I kept saying, "Nik - listen to this!! Can you believe it?!?!" This is just another book in a long line of books we've been reading which has convinced us that:
1. Our kids will not be having their own cell phones (smart or not) until they're really old.
2. We definitely are not bringing a TV into our house.
3. We will be talking to our kids bluntly about media use, media messages, dangers of sexting, pornography, etc.
4. We want to home school to keep our kids away from all t
This is a book about families first and technology second. It's a book I highly recommend to all parents, but especially parents of very young children. The heart of the book are chapters that discuss childhood development and how technology has/could fit into that age group:

1. The Brilliant Baby Brain: No Apps or Upgrades Needed
2. Mary Had a Little iPad: Ages 3-5
3. Fast-Forward Childhood, When to Push Pause, Delete and Play: Ages 6-10
4. Going, Going, Gone, the Age of Tweens: Ages 11-13
5. Teens,
Karel Baloun
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love the consistent, persistent focus on how parents can change our own behavior, turn improve our children's lives and family situation. In so many ways she tells real stories showing how we can set a better example, scripts for communication, and techniques for staying emotionally grounded.

As a Harvard trained actively practicing clinical psychologist, the author has tremendous real world practical experience. Unfortunately this means she has seen so much go wrong, especially when she gets c
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book really made me think. As a parent of a young daughter, I have been thinking a lot about the intersection between childhood and technology, and what it means to raise kids in the age of Iphones and Ipads and ever pervasive screens. I would recommend it to anyone interested in how tech can affect relationships, even if you don't have a child yourself. Especially interesting are the case studies the author draws from as a clinical therapist where she interviews kids and asks them how they ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: we-own
Only about halfway into this, but feel compelled to write - what I was afraid was going to be stale warnings and reprimands about parents letting their kids live so much of their lives online is instead a fresh, thought-provoking, and realistic perspective. I'm riveted, and despite the fact that I'm writing this on my iPhone, I have already changed some of my behaviors and seen an immediate difference in my relationships.
Oct 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Really fascinating and inspiring. I started making changes almost immediately. Warning that there is quite a lot of graphic language in the chapters about teens and sex and bullying online.
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lots of good info: Empathy is critical step in early childhood and lifetime. It takes time and practice to sink in. Maryanne Wolf writes extensively about the tech effect on cognitive processes in the young brain in her book "Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain." She explains that the speed and superficiality of the tech experience have thinned the neural experiences that create empathy. In contrast, activities such as reading books or other substantive content creat ...more
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
'The Big Disconnect' has much to recommend it. I whole heartedly encourage any parent or soon-to-be parent to read this book. In a very readable and thoughtful way, Ms. Steiner Adair outlines the impact that technology has on family life. The bulk of the book is chronological walk through, from birth to adolescences, discussing the impact, both negative and positive, that screens, the Internet and other technology can have child development. And parents and young adults are not exempt from scrut ...more
Aug 23, 2015 rated it liked it
I picked up this book after reading a reference to it in "The Wisdom of Amish Parenting." This is a great book that has really made me think long and hard about my own screen time as well as that of my kids. I've long been in the "less is more" camp, but this book made me think even more closely about not just the amount of time my kids spend on a screen, but the quality of that time. Also made me think a lot about what my kids might think when they see me using my phone: do they see me ignoring ...more
Nov 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
This book had a lot of solid information in it, and I appreciated the frequent referencing of studies and reports. It is fairly dry and straight-forward, but the author manages to keep it interesting.

It certainly made me evaluate the role of technology in our lives. We are strict with the kids about using technology (we haven't owned a tv in four years), and I don't have Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest on my phone. My phone has the ability to "hide" apps so I can post pictures to Facebook and In
Carolyn Fitzpatrick
Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
You might think that this book is about how children are being harmed by their obsession with their media devices. You'd be wrong. The children are being harmed by their PARENT'S obsession with THEIR media devices, which then enables children to get away with irresponsibly media use of their own.

The Big Disconnect is written by a clinical psychologist, who illustrates her premise with stories from working with schools as well as patients in her private practice. Her premise is that too much tec
I particularly liked the last chapter of this book, which focused on resilient families learning to navigate the digital age well. Most of the book is focused on the problems, which is important, and how families try to handle them.

From my perspective, families - just like individuals - are in the midst of sorting out how to live well with these tools that can be alluring substitutes for relationships rather than one of the many ways we can nurture deeper relationships. As Catherine Steiner-Ada
Trudy Brasure
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book encourages parents to think carefully about the role of devices and screen time in the family. Smart parents already recognize how much time families interact with screens instead of each other, and this book helps round out the broader picture of how the influx of digital connectivity has changed the social sphere for all of us and what it is doing to children of all ages.
Real-life stories of how things can go wrong are eye-opening and serve as a reminder or warning to parents to cons
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A must read for parents and educators. I can attest to the horror stories mentioned in the book. It is amazing how much time school administrators must now spend on cyber bulling and other tech issues. Technology is great in many ways, but as the author states, there is a time and a place for it. As much as some of the reviewers believe it is common sense, they would be surprised at how many parents lack it. Even the younger teachers coming in lack it. As we get older, we all are nostalgic for o ...more
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting, nonfiction
This is a profoundly important book for anyone who works with kids. Big takeaways:

--Tech affects the brain development of young children. We are literally shaping our children's minds during those formative years.
--Parents are modeling tech habits for our kids. If we are glued to our devices, don't expect our kids to act any differently.
--Children are exposed to adult images and ideas at younger and younger ages.
--Parents must be proactive in the way they use tech and the guidelines they set fo
Feb 24, 2016 rated it liked it
If you have questions about what technology does to kids and families, and what problems can arise when it gets out of control, this book is a good, hard look at it. Technology is new, so this digital life we lead is new, so we need some new perspective and new tools as parents. But if you already know that, and already make conscious choices about how tech will play a role in your family, there won't be much new information for you found here. I confess I skimmed much of the book; I read the ma ...more
Oct 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I think Toki's review sums this up best with the line "Holy hyperbole, Batman!" The main drumbeat I hear in this book is "be afraid! Be very afraid!" as she rattles off more harrowing tales of parents threatened by their children exploring the world and (gasp!) growing up! without specific parental guidance. This really is a critique of culture (too much sex, too much violence, too much objectification of girls, too much celebration of aggression in boys, etc.) disguised as a critique of the ubi ...more
Sheri S.
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very informative book about the impact of technology on children and teens. It discusses various age categories and how technology can be helpful and harmful to the developing brain. The book also addresses how technology, in many ways, is replacing the ability for children and teens to develop real, face-to-face relationships. Additionally, it provides the reader with the reminder that anything posted online is not private and the repercussions of anything posted can be long lasting ( ...more
Jul 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a well researched, well thought out book with many citations and studies, which I really appreciated. I liked how the author broke the book into sections based on age, although I have a toddler, so I can only imagine what the tech landscape is going to look like in the next few years. I disagree with the reviews that said she in pining for the good old days, I think that she has highlighted some ways that the development of children has CHANGED over the years, and that ultimately we hav ...more
Lori Anderson
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
My son's headmaster made this book required reading for his teachers, and then held a book club meeting for parents who wished to read it. This is one of the many things I love about this school.

If you are constantly attached to your phone, you're going to hate this. If your kids play video games or watch TV all day, you'll probably not like it, either. But that's precisely the point. No parent wants to realize too late what it meant to your child to sit across the table from their parent and th
Andrea Anderson
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this. I suppose that if you begin reading this book with your opinions already fixed about technology and kids, you mind not change your mind. But, if you take into account that the author is a therapist who sees the ultimate worst-case scenarios with kids and tech, I think it's an interesting read. Even if some of the examples are unrelatable, it would seem that technoference is damaging to kids. Is technology evil? Is it ruining childhood? No, but I think we can admit it's ch ...more
An important read for any parent or educator on how behavior is greatly influenced by not only a child's use of electronics, but yours as well.
Jul 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting, but by the end I wasn't sure why I was reading this book, since I already agreed with everything she said. It got a bit repetitive, but an important topic nonetheless.
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author, a child psychologist, carefully documents how overuse of tech interferes with the place of family in childhood social and emotional development, natural brain development, and the activities that foster imagination and attention. She is not anti-tech but sees the very real consequences in her clinical practices of family disruption, bullying (and thoughtless acts by children that have real consequences), low self esteem, and more.

The book lays out the good and bad of technology by a
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author tends to lean toward moral panic a bit too often, and she bloviates a bit at the end, but overall, a book most parents should probably consider reading for a bit of perspective.
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“Just because your baby can tap a touch screen to change a picture does not mean that he should, that it is a developmentally useful or appropriate activity for him. In fact, research suggests that the process of tapping a screen or keypad and engaging with the screen activity may itself be rerouting brain development in ways that eliminate development of essential other neural connections your child needs to develop reading, writing, and higher-level thinking later.” 1 likes
“When texting begins to take the place of substantive in-person conversations for any of us, we are training the language and speech centers of our brain for a new, unnatural, and superficial model of connection. When that training starts early, as it does now for young texters, they get so used to it at such a young age that, unlike the newborn baby who innately knows something is missing and complains about it, our older tech-trained children don’t even know what they have lost.” 1 likes
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