Monday, January 8, 2018

Be the Parent, Please

By Naomi Schaefer Riley

Templeton Press     2018
264 pages     Nonfiction
The Shortlist

Out today is a book that has been on my to-be-read list. This is a timely book, and very much a necessary read for every parent who has kids on devices.  How do we handle this smart phone generation—or generations, I presume. How do parents gain control. In some ways, I am as guilty as my 5-year-old grandson. I gave him the Leap Pad he spends so much time on!

Here is the PR piece on the book.

Toddlers on tablets. Pre-teens on Tumblr. Thanks to a variety of factors—from tech companies hungry for new audiences, to school administrations bent on making education digital, to a culture that promotes everyone as the star of their own reality shows—technology is irrevocably a part of childhood, and parents are struggling to keep up. 

A noted columnist and mother of three, Riley fully understands the seductive nature of screens. She draws us into her story and then walks us through the research on technology’s encroachment into each stage of childhood. Throughout, Riley offers “tough mommy tips”: realistic, practical, applicable advice for parents who recognize that unlimited technology access is a problem, but who don’t know where to start in taking back control. 

Any parent knows the effects of screens on their distracted, cranky, sedentary, and incessantly anxious-about-what-might-be-going-on-without-them kids. Riley brings her experience, research, and no-nonsense candor to help parents retake control over technology’s influence over their kids. 

In an editorial in the LA Times, Riley equates screen time to snack time. Parents seldom go anywhere with their small children without snacks, and lately they seldom go anywhere without screens. A couple of personal examples. Last week, a 10-year-old grandson spent the night. He has not been in our family long, so he was understandably anxious. I let him watch a video on his tablet until he fell asleep. The next morning, two other grandchildren came to spend the day. We did a craft project and then went sledding on a nearby hill. Everyone was delighted with the morning. I was tired out. So after lunch, I put on a video for the kids to watch, but the 5-year-old wanted to watch You Tube videos of children playing with dinosaur toys. (These, by the way, are just insidious commercials.) So, I let him do that. Bad grandma, or just tired-out grandma. Proves the author’s point.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a prolific author and journalist. She believes that it is important to expose children to a wide environment of exploration and challenges. “It‘s a matter of exposing them to all the other things in the world besides technology that they might enjoy and that might make them more thoughtful and even happier people.”

It is interesting to note that as I was reading Be the Parent, Please last evening, a public service announcement came on the television. Will Farrell as the father in a family that has a cell phone basket for the dinner table (a bright idea). Produced by Common, Will can’t let go of his phone. Very pointed but delightfully funny at the same time.

Watch the video; read the book. Let’s use some common sense to help our children and grandchildren find value in a life away from the screen. But if you are a really tired-out babysitting grandma, we’ll give you some latitude.

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