The strength of our relationships with others is based on our relationship with ourselves. And we need to spend time listening to our inner thoughts and developing our values and opinions to better understand and accept who we are. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, a specialist in adolescent development, wrote that children need stillness in order to develop their identities1.

Once we know who we are, we can share ourselves with others, and learn from others, further developing our capacity for relationships2. When it comes time to develop relationships with others, research reveals that the mere presence of a smartphone negatively affects closeness, connection and conversation quality3.

The current generation is growing up connected to mobile devices, but emotionally disconnected, which is impacting empathy2. Conversation, which requires practice, is also useful throughout life in developing relationships and securing our place in society. We are highly social beings, and our happiness and health depend on feeling socially connected4. Something that can only be done through “artless, risky, and face-to-face”2 conversations.


  • Schools and parents can provide safe offline socialization opportunities for children and teens. This can include implementing policies that require smartphones to be stowed during the school day and at school-related events. Schools, parents and students can organize community walks, hikes and casual sports events.
  • Schools and students can develop peer leadership and buddy programs across grades and schools within a district. Socializing opportunities can take place over Facetime or Zoom, or in person. These types of interactions require participants to practice communication and empathy skills.
  • Create a student-led and guidance counselor-supported “Turning Life On Digital Wellness Club” that provides opportunities for students to discuss the many pros and cons of living in the digital age in a safe and supportive environment.
  • For pediatric offices, post “Device-free Zone” posters, engage in “Reach Out and Read” programs as a way to encourage literacy AND keep children off devices during office visits, and/or provide coloring sheets and crayons.


  1. Erikson, E., 1980 (1952) Identity and the Life Cycle, W. W. Norton, and 1950, Childhood and Society, Norton, New York, New York.
  2. Turkle, S., 2015, Reclaiming Conversation, The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Penguin Books, New York, New York
  3. Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2013). Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(3), 237–246.
  4. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7, Article e1000316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316.