When Families Go 'Powerless' in the Digital Age - NBC 10 Philadelphia

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When Families Go 'Powerless' in the Digital Age



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    In this January 2014 photo provided by Brandi Koskie, her daughter, Paisley, 3, uses Facetime at her home in Wichita, Kansas to chat with her cousin, who lives in Oklahoma. An increasing number of parents of toddlers are finding their tech-savvy 2- and 3-year-old kids are obsessed with selfies (AP Photo/Brandi Koskie)

    With more than 600,000 people in southeastern Pennsylvania and another 30,000 plus in South Jersey without power Wednesday, many families are doing something they haven't had to do in a long while -- put down their mobile devices and actually spend time with each other.

    In North Coventry Township, 41-year-old Mai Vance anticipated grumblings from her children about the inability to use their smartphones.

    "They will start to complain that they can't charge anything," she said.

    Like others families stuck in the dark, the mother of two plans to go "old-school" by passing time with games and conversation.

    And experts say Vance and others can use the power outage as an opportunity -- although forced -- to teach kids to disconnect.

    "You don't even have to tell your kid to put their phone down [with the power out]," said Dr. Nicole Lipkin, a psychologist and owner of Equilibria Psychological & Consultation Services. "Do things we all used to do when growing up because it helps us learn how to be present with each other."

    Lipkin acknowledges the difficulty in breaking the habit of incessantly checking mobile devices, which are always within reach and notes it could be especially tough for youth, who are "digital natives."

    "It is actually triggering the same part of your brain that is triggered when you eat chocolate," she said. "Even if you hate your technology, it is basically sending a message to the reward center of our brain."

    She suggests parents start by being a role model and putting their own phones away while their kids are present.

    "We are social creatures. We learn from watching each other," said Lipkin, who suggests having a family game day and catching up on each other's lives through conversation.

    And the long-term benefit to kids are even greater than the immediate gain of quality family time.

    "We know that being able to have a real conversation, to be mindful, to be present, is very much part of our own development," she said. "It helps teach us emotional intelligence."

    Dr. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and a former president of the American Psychological Association, adds that the bad weather and powered-down devices give families a chance to teach kids about generosity - a key ingredient in empathy - through example.

    "Bundle them up and see if they can help snow clearing at an elderly neighbor's house," Farley said. "Kids will learn that there is a life beyond their mobile device."


    Contact Alison Burdo at 610.668.5635, alison.burdo@nbcuni.com or follow @NewsBurd on Twitter.