Smartphone (illustration)
Smartphone (illustration) Thinkstock

Someone must come up with an alternative to the “smartphone culture,” child psychologist Dr. Michael Abulafia asserted Wednesday.

Speaking at a conference, Abulafia summarized the damage he believes smartphones and personal devices do to children. “It cuts him off from others, so we need to develop a model that will protect the child's personal identity in order to be strong and withstand the tests of life.”

Among the things the smartphone era has compromised has been, he argued, personality.

Personal devices limit the interaction of children with others, denying them the opportunity to learn and develop important skills they will need later on. The lack of skills will manifest in many ways, from difficulty adjusting to workplaces to issues in maintaining a long-term relationship with anyone.

Something has to be done, said Abulafia. As it's unlikely that smart devices are going anywhere, society must develop ways to ensure that children get the life skills they need, despite the difficulty of doing so in a culture that is driven by the use of personal devices.

“Kids today get a good academic education and are told how to be good people, but we do little to help them develop their personality,” he said. “We need to include in the curriculum that we teach children some of the building blocks of communication and getting along with others. Thus, we will not only speak about loving our fellow Jews, but actually doing something to encourage it.” 

Jewish homes should not be centered on the screen, big or little. “There is no reason in the world for Jewish homes to be connected to the Internet simply in order to entertain the children,” said Abulafia.

“That this has happened, and that the screen is at the center of our lives, is a big problem. We must develop an alternative to this culture.”

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