Pope Francis urges families to put smart phones down and start talking to each other

Pontiff says too much focus is on 'generating and consuming information'

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The Independent Online

Pope Francis is urging families to put aside their smart phones and social media feeds and learn how to talk to one another again.

The Pontiff used his annual message for the Catholic church's World Day of Communications to advise that while new media can help families communicate, it can also hinder communication too.

"The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information," Francis’ Vatican-released statement said.

The Pope warned media can be used as a way of avoiding listening to others and of evading physical contact, or as a means of filling up moments of silence or time when we should be resting. Quoting his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, he added: “Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.”

Discussing the way issues presented within modern media, he said things are all too often simplified, viewpoints are “pitted against each other” and people are invited to choose a side instead of looking at the bigger picture.

The theme of this year's message coincides with the Pope’s two-year focus on families, which will culminate in October with a big meeting of bishops to determine better ways to minister families living with divorce, de-facto unions, gay children and other issues.

Francis said our first experience of communication is as a baby in the womb of our mothers, a place he described as the first “school” of communication. Children then learn to communicate in the family, figuring out how to get along with people of different ages and experience "who did not choose one another yet are so important to one another."

As a result, he said, families are the model for all communications since it is in the family where children first learn to forgive.

"A child who has learned in the family to listen to others, to speak respectfully and to express his or her view without negating that of others, will be a force for dialogue and reconciliation in society.

"A perfect family does not exist.  We should not be fearful of imperfections, weaknesses or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively."

Families at their best actively communicate, he added.

Additional reporting by AP