Dealing with screens ranks way up there with potty training and discipline as the Top Parenting Challenges we are facing, and so when I was offered an advance copy of Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane’s new book Growing Up Social (raising relational kids in a screen-driven world) – I jumped at the chance.
But then, once I got the book – I didn’t want to read it, and it languished at my bedside for several weeks.
Why? Because I was afraid of what it would say. My husband and I already battle personal fights with screens (as do many others, as evidenced by this post about smartphones in marriage being the most popular one on my blog ever), and resisting the urge to check my screen while driving remains a battle. We already have had to password protect our devices so that our children don’t steal them, the toddlers already would mimic typing on a computer or talking on a phone – so I resisted reading the book because I was waiting for a hammer of judgment to come smashing down on my already guilt-laden conscience about this issue.
Which is, of course, exactly why I needed to read it anyway.
Chapman and Pellicane’s treatment of the topic was grace filled and refreshingly un-judgy. Compassionate, resourceful, eye-opening: they trace the challenges of raising kids in a world where screens abound. While they do touch on some of the direct dangers of too-much-screen time (the commonly touted wisdom of increased exposure to violence, a sedentary lifestyle etc), the strength of this book lies in how they reveal all the good we and our children are missing if we while away hours in front of a screen. Necessary life skills such as learning how to appreciate others, to manage anger, to apologize, show affection and to pay attention (both to people and the world) are all skills forged in the field of relational-time: creative play time, the sports field and conversation – and it is exactly those times which are forfeited when we allow screens to buffer our families.
I may have spent the first two chapters on my guard, waiting to be told off for being a bad parent, but as I was reading I soon dropped my defenses and began to read in earnest – highlighting sentences here and there, circling practical tips of ways to engage my family on certain issues. And yes, I realized (once again) that I need to revisit my own attitudes towards screens – for relational behavior is ultimately caught more than it is taught.
I feel I should add that this is not a book with Luddite sensibilities. Chapman and Pelican are not anti-technology, or even anti social-media. However, they are cautious about allowing these things a proper place in our lives. As they wisely state at the opening of the book: the question is whether technology is brining your family closer together, or whether it is driving your family further apart?
Friends: it’s a good book. And more than that – it’s a NEEDED book because this is the world we live in. We all want to win at parenting. We want children who know how to navigate life, love well, and thrive relationally. If they are to do that, screens and social media need to have a healthy place in their lives, and this book is a really helpful resource in thinking the issue through.
I have one copy of Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane’s book to give away. Enter to win below. Entries close Friday 10/24/2014 at midnight PST, and the winner will be announced in this weekend’s Pick of the Clicks.