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Local News

March 21, 2014

Ipswich group offers 'Parenting in the Digital Age'

IPSWICH — Parents, beware.

There’s a force in the land that keeps kids indoors staring motionless at a screen, transfixed, ignoring anything you say, while listening recklessly to people they shouldn’t be listening to, and showing the world things about themselves that they shouldn’t be showing.

That force — modern technology — can lure young people into a virtual world that sometimes exacts a price in the real one.

Karen Donovan and the Ipswich Special Education Parents Advisory Council are hoping to do something about it. They are running a monthlong program beginning April 15 called “Parenting in the Digital Age,” featuring expert speakers on topics ranging from challenges to family life to how to set boundaries. The talks are free and open to anyone on the North Shore concerned about the impact of digital technology on their children.

The series opens Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. with psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair speaking at Ipswich High School Performing Arts Center. Sponsors are New England BioLabs and Notre Dame Children’s Class.

Steiner-Adair has written a book, “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age,” and has spoken on National Public Radio and on PBS. She cites concerns with the “ways in which technology and media are putting our children at risk at every stage of development, while challenging what it means to be a family.”

Steiner-Adair worries that the Internet and social media have left kids vulnerable to “the unsavory aspects of adult life,” even as parents often remain unaware of what’s happening. Her presentation includes stories from her practice and the results of interviews with kids from preschool to high school.

While her Advisory Council is concerned with special education, Donovan said, “We realize this is a much bigger issue than parents of special needs.” On the other hand, she conceded that she hasn’t heard of anyone in Ipswich facing the kinds of problems seen elsewhere: A social media threat recently led to multiple evacuations of Marblehead High, and suggestive videos raised alarms in Beverly.

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