Short Review of The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair

In Catherine Steiner-Adair’s new book The Big Disconnect, she notes that “tech is… the do-it-all tool, the Swiss Army knife for modern adolescence.” I would take her metaphor one step further and argue that Dr. Steiner-Adair’s entire book is a do-it-all tool for parents, teachers, administrators, mental health professionals, and all caring adults who are concerned about the disappearance of face-to-face interactions and emotional intimacy in our burgeoning tech culture. Based on research over a several-year period, including interviews with hundreds of children, teens, and adults, Dr. Steiner-Adair reports on the far-reaching effects of technology in all of our lives: on communication, identity, trust, family relationships, sexuality, and friendship. Amidst her concerns, she is careful to acknowledge that she is not anti-tech, nor does she advocate for the absence of technology in our lives. Rather, she paints a realistic picture of how families have lost their sense of connectivity, and why that loss should trigger alarms. Throughout the book, the author draws on concrete, often poignant examples that illustrate the impact of fractured interpersonal relationships. Dr. Steiner-Adair concludes her book with some suggestions for re-building connections of “presence and emotional attunement”, and offers a seven-step guide to nurturing “sustainable families”: develop a family philosophy around technology; nurture play—both solo and as a family; share stories; value each family member’s uniqueness; set limits using connection, rather than correction; be “open, adaptive, inclusive, tolerant, and flexible”; provide the opportunity of off-line experience that offers inner peace. The Big Disconnect is insightful, nurturing, honest, and attuned—all the characteristics we value in relationships!

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