Moving to Learn

Disconnect to Reconnect – The #1 key to happiness and longevity of life

Free Webinar June 7th, 4pm PST

Come join Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist for a free one-hour webinar on June 7 at 4 pm PST where she will be talking about how to balance screen-based technologies with healthy activity. Cris will profile the 4 critical factors for optimizing child development, behavior and learning and provide a quick review of the impact of screens on 5 child developmental domains: physical, social, emotional, mental and cognitive.

Click Here for Zoom Link
Meeting ID: 872 8022 0241
Passcode: 710132

Every time we connect with a screen, we disconnect from the humans who surround us. The screen becomes an interface prohibiting human connection, and consequently should be considered an ‘anti-social’ device as when a person picks up a screen, people in the vicinity either do the same, or leave. There is significant research showing the detrimental effects of screen time, and in particular social media, on the quality of human relationships. A 2021 study1 showed that excessive social media use leads to relationship conflicts, negative outcomes and screen addiction. Another 2021 study2 found that 59% of participants reported prolonged use of social media had impacted their social interactions, negatively affecting family relationships and friendships while also making face-to-face communication more difficult. Screens used for long durations in isolation, perpetuate feelings of separateness and subsequent loneliness3. Screens grossly limit face-to-face conversations, making it extremely difficult to sustain or enhance human relationships. Screen use can result in social disorders such as social anxiety, social phobia, or agoraphobia, as the user doesn’t receive adequate amounts of social communication to develop social skill competence and confidence. As every partner, parent, teacher and co-worker knows, human relationships take considerable work and time to grow and blossom. Time spent in front of screens displace time spent in relationship building and erodes the very foundation required for achieving quality human connections. This article profiles research from the Harvard Adult Development Study4 showing that human connection is the #1 determinant for happiness and longevity of life. ‘Social fitness’ is defined and filling out below “Sources of Support in My Life” chart guides readers toward identifying the quality of social support in their lives. The purpose of this exercise is to encourage readers to put down the phone and take a close and long look at the people who surround them, not only in the hopes that they can begin to value and prioritize human connection over screens, but also so they can begin to experience true happiness, health and longevity of life.

In 1938, Harvard researchers1 embarked on a decades-long study4 to find out what makes humans happy in life. The researchers gathered health records from 724 participants from all over the world and asked detailed questions about their lives at two-year intervals. This research is now in its second phase as researchers interview original participants children. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not money, achievement, sex, exercise, healthy diet…it’s not smoking, using drugs or alcohol that makes us happy or unhappy. The most consistent finding discovered through 85 years of study is that healthy relationships keep us happier, and healthier, and help us live longer. Contrast this life-affirming information with what we already covered about the detrimental impact of screen time on relationships, for a good grasp on what is really going on today with human disconnection. In addition to relationship issues, studies also show that escalating use of screens by children and youth has resulted in physical impairments including developmental delay, obesity/diabetes, myopia and sleep deprivation; emotional problems comprised of aggression, poor self-regulation; social disorders such as social phobias, speech delays and isolation; mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, autism, suicide and addiction; and cognitive deterioration inclusive of attention deficit, learning difficulties, poor grades, truancy and early drop-out. It’s a time of reckoning in home, school, clinic and workplace setting and the writing is clearly on the wall. We need to grossly curtail our use of screens if we are to survive and thrive in this world.

The following chart was developed by Dr. Robert Waldinger with the Harvard Study of Adult Developmental to help his participants identify the quality of social support in their lives. Take a few minutes to fill this in, and then give a copy to your co-workers, teenagers and help your children fill it out. Category definition is found below the Sources of Support in My Life chart.

Figure 1. Sources of Support in My Life chart. Retrieved with permission from Dr. Robert Waldinger from the Harvard Study of Adult Development at, 2023

  1. Safety and security: Who would you call if you woke up scared in the middle of the night? Who would you turn to in a moment of crisis?
  2. Learning and growth: Who encourages you to try new things, to take chances, to pursue your life’s goals?
  3. Emotional closeness and confiding: Who knows everything (or most things) about you? Who can you call on when you’re feeling low and be honest with about how you’re feeling?
  4. Identity affirmation and shared experience: Is there someone in your life who has shared many experiences with you and who helps you strengthen your sense of who you are?
  5. Romantic intimacy: Do you feel satisfied with the amount of romantic intimacy in your life?
  6. Help (both informational and practical): Who do you turn to if you need some expertise or help solving a practical problem (e.g., planting a tree, fixing your WiFi connection).
  7. Fun and relaxation: Who makes you laugh? Who do you call to see a movie or go on a road trip with who makes you feel connected and at ease?

Hopefully this exercise will help you to see who in your life helps you to be ‘socially fit’ and who provides the most social support for attaining happiness and longevity of life. You might want to spend more time with that person…when you finally put down your screen! For additional information and strategies to help you Disconnect to Reconnect, check out Reconnect Webinars – Technology Management series for parents, teens, teachers and clinicians.

Cris Rowen

Cris Rowan, BScOT, BScBi, SIPT

Cris Rowan is a biologist, pediatric occupational therapist and sensory specialist with expertise in the impact of technology on child development, behaviour and learning. Having worked in school settings for over 3 decades, Cris is committed to improving student health while also easing the job of learning for children. Cris is a well-known international speaker and author to teachers, parents and therapists globally on topics of sensory integration, learning, attention, fine motor skills and the impact of media content including video games, social media and pornography on children’s brain and body development. Cris has a BSc’s both in Occupational Therapy and in Biology, is a SIPT certified sensory specialist, and has Approved Provider Status for CEU provision with the American Occupational Therapy Association. Over the past 3 decades, Cris has provided over 350 keynotes and workshops, writes monthly articles for her blog Moving to Learn, publishes the monthly Child Development Series Newsletter, and is designer and creator of Reconnect Webinars which offer research evidenced information for teens, parents, teachers and clinicians to manage balanced between screens and healthy activities. Cris is member of the Screens in Schools committee with Fairplay for Kids, member of the Institute for Digital Media and Child Development and sits on the Board of Directors for the Global Alliance for Brain and Heart Health. Cris has two adult children, Matt and Katie who grew up without screens.

Cris can be reached at Reconnect Webinars offers a free, 5.5-hour CCAP accredited Screenbuster Program training webinar for teens which qualifies them to perform Tech Talks for their peers. The Screenbuster Program requires one counsellor, teacher or principal to complete the 3-day Balanced Technology Management certification CEU provided course in order to adequately supervise the teens.

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