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December 10, 2012

Prof: Unplug from the smartphone during holiday family gatherings

Glenn Sparks

Glenn Sparks
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Family members of all ages would be wise to hang up their smartphones and hang out with family during the holidays, says a Purdue University communication professor.

"It used to be that teenagers and young adults were the ones retreating from family with their walkmans and then their iPods, but the popularity of smartphones transcends all ages and it's changing the landscape of our lives, including those few times a year we get together with family," says Glenn Sparks, who studies mass media effects and interpersonal relationships. "Whether it's texting, surfing the Internet or updating social media, people are losing out when they are not interacting face-to-face."

More than 85 percent of adults have cell phones and about half of them have smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center.

"Because of this proliferation of technology — which can be a great asset to keep in touch and share photos throughout the year — individuals are spending less time interacting with others directly," he says. "Holiday gatherings are an ideal time for people to have face-to-face conversations with people they may not see often, and doing so can help reinforce personal relationships beyond the virtual world."

Sparks is co-author of "Refrigerator Rights: Our Crucial Need for Close Connection," which was published in 2002. Sparks and the book's co-author, Will Miller, say that as people move farther away and are more engaged in media, there is a greater void in face-to-face relationships.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Glenn Sparks, gsparks@purdue.edu