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9:21 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Dear Annie: Kids and screen time

Dear Annie: Last night, my husband and I had our date night at a local Italian restaurant. Sitting next to us were four high school girls eating dinner. All four of them were on their phones. It appeared to me that two were texting each other while the other two were looking at social media and commenting on other people. They didn’t seem to be making eye contact or having any type of meaningful conversation.

As a mother of two middle school-aged daughters, this scene bothered me a great deal. I said to my husband, “How do we make sure this is not our daughters in five years?” He reminded me that we should talk openly with them about the importance of keeping your phone away during mealtime. We, as parents, need to be very mindful of our usage of phones and tablets. We agreed that if we don’t want our girls constantly on screens, then we need to reduce our time at the screens. We both thought about how much screen time we have. We have a lot of screen time after the kids go to bed, when we both take out our iPads to read our books. But sometimes our kids will come downstairs and say, “Mom, Dad, why are you on the iPad?” We explain that we are reading books, but all they see is the screen glow reflected from our faces.

I thought long and hard about it and told my husband that I want to go back to reading paper books so that the kids see us reading instead of staring at a screen. He said he loves his iPad for reading and doesn’t want to go back to paper books.

Do you think that we should go back to paper books to set a better example for our kids, or do you think we should embrace the technology and not try to stop it? — To E-book or Not to E-book

Dear To E-book or Not to E-book: There is no reversing the digital revolution, so it’s better to show your children how to use technology responsibly than to pretend it doesn’t exist. There is a big difference between using a tablet to read an e-book and using a tablet to play video games, watch movies, scroll through social media and do all those other things that occupy so many adolescents. I would suggest occasionally reading to your children from e-books so they will understand that when they see you and your husband reading from your iPads, you are actually reading books.

But I would also recommend reading from print books at least some of the time, not just for your children’s sake but for your and your husband’s. Research has suggested that we might engage more deeply with material when reading from paper. If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend reading a Scientific American article titled “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens,” as well as the work of Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.