Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Non-fiction: Review of Raising a Screen-Smart Kid by Julianna Miner

I am a Generation X parent of a five- and three-year old. As a small child, I entertained myself with realia—blocks, figures, riding my bike, and various other tangible toys. As a twelve-year old, Nintendo entered my life, and from that day on, my fun time was split between the realia I had known and the virtual realia of video games. It’s not a surprise to me that after universe I essentially gave up on video games (only picking them back up again a couple years ago) given I was feeding my need for brain food with books, nature, and music, and I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was in my thirties. But what about my kids? They are essentially guinea pigs. First generation to have mobile devices, let alone console video games, in their lives from day one. What effect does that have? In Raising a Screen-Smart Kid: Embrace the Good and Avoid the Bad in the Digital Age (2019), Julianna Miner tackles what we know to date in this ongoing experiment, and what is healthy for our kids.

First and foremost, Raising a Screen-Smart Kid is targeted at parents with kids ten and older. ‘Targeted’ not meaning what you think it might mean, in this case it means that kids less than ten shouldn’t have their own mobile devices given what is known, or have proven themselves exceptionally responsible. So, right off the bat, it’s not for myself and my children. Nevertheless, it proved fascinating preparation for the day (coming all too soon) that they will be starting to go going through puberty, establish their own identities through friends, and become independent users of technology.

An academic, mommy blogger, and mother of three, Miner walks confidently on the fence of relating to concerned parents while providing them with the relevant research data that either confirms, denies, or informs their own concerns about children’s technology use. She freely admits her own motherly instincts and fears, which makes the book approachable for the average parent, all the while providing readable, wholesome research into a variety of areas, including kids and social media, kids and porn, kids and social groups, kids and video games, kids and FOMO, kids and emotional changes, kids and

But perhaps the best aspect of Raising Screen-Smart Kids is its highly practical aspect. At the end of every chapter, Miner includes a number of very easy, applicable things that parents can do to build trust between each other with devices. It’s a given we cannot keep them from having mobile phones, but at the same time there are healthy limits, for which Miner suggests a number of things that even kids are likely to find reasonable.

In the end, Raising Screen-Smart Kids is the perfect book for parents with questions about their children’s usage of devices, and what to do work together with our kids to ensure we get the best use of the technology, how to help our children make responsible decisions, and avoid the ugly down-side that occasionally pops into the news about some child or young teen who made a poor choice with their mobile device. For parents who are a little disconnected from their pre-pubescents, the book offers a wonderfully view into the types of social situations that have arisen due to mobile technology, and how the current generation relates to one another—for better or worse. Great book for 2019.

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