In a world where a child’s playground is no longer just a playground, how do parents bridge the gaps between the digital and the real world for their children? That is the questions Catherine Steiner-Adair attempts to answer in her book. Each chapter is devoted to a specific age group, going up chronologically from birth to adulthood with examples and advice how to look for and deal with the pitfalls of technology and youth culture. Although most of her examples were the worst-case-scenario/horror story types, I felt that they did shed a lot of light on what the world of teens is like. When I was a teen, AOL discs still showed up regularly in the post, and people still used pagers. Now the Internet is accessible through phones, and as a result, this entirely new playground is unmonitored and devoid of rules of conduct. Each chapter follows the same formula. 1) lots and lots of examples of misuse of the Internet and how interpersonal relationships suffer. 2) solutions via case by case examples of families Steiner-Adair has worked with. For all of her examples of kids using the Internet as well as parental use of the Internet (screen free for the first 2 years of a baby’s life is the main theme of chapter 1), I felt that there was a major, major hole in the book. The one thing Steiner-Adair did not address that I think is highly relevant is parental use of the Internet to talk about their kids. I use Facebook and post pictures of my little on for family and friends, but what about the parental blogs that post all the mundane details with photos of their children? Everyone has the right to free speech, but I feel there should be some discussion of parents using their children for intended or sometimes unintended 15 minutes of fame. How will these children feel knowing their lives have written for the world to see? Would they want certain stories shared? Will they follow the cycle and share too much information about their lives and their kids? In a Facebook & Twitter friendly world where updates are sporadic, too detailed or sometimes made up just to get more “likes” and comments, what will children learn from parents who use those social media outlets in that manner? Does privacy even matter? Maybe that’s a topic for an entirely different book, but it is a topic I wish Steiner-Adair had touched upon.
I did learn a lot from this book and have taken many of Steiner-Adair’s advice to heart. With a little one at home, we live mostly screen free. We’ve canceled our cable connection so now we live in a Netflix only world, and even that is after the little guy is asleep. When we are with him, we are really with him, on the carpet lying on our stomachs playing with him, not checking our phones. The only times the phones come out are when we are taking pictures of him, and he has learned to pose for the camera. I also have a bevy of discussion topics for the future, particularly as the Internet keeps evolving over time. Who knows what type of technology will be around by the time my guy is able to interact with screens and digital devices. He reaches for our phones and cameras now, but we don’t let him play with them. Its toys, board books and his playmat. I want him to have a childhood like mine. A simple childhood full of imagination, books and creativity.
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