A dad of two teenagers, Dwight Garner, wrote a column for The New York Times about his quest to reign in and understand his teens’ electronics use. He and his wife have struggled with realistic, enforceable limits for teens of the app generation. So here are the books he checked out and his conclusions.
“This year it occurred to me we needed help. So I sat down with three new books that offer assistance, understanding and quasi-epic subtitles. They are: “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age,” by Catherine Steiner-Adair with Teresa H. Barker; “The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul,” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang; and “The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World,” by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis. (I read an advance copy of this last one; it won’t be published until October.)”
Garner says that ‘The Big Disconnect,” the author wants parents to look at their own behavior first. Are they on their phones all the time looking for the next email, text or tweet? The book argues that it seems to our kids everyone else matters before them.
The author of the column did like this speech in “The Big Disconnect,” but he’s not sure how much it will help. (I do think it’s a good speech.)
“This is not your computer — I know it has your name on it, but this is my computer (or your school’s computer). I’m your parent, and I reserve the right to see everything that’s going on there. You need to be on the computer in an open place. I have the right to know what your homework assignment is. You can’t be in your room with the door closed. You can’t take it to bed with you. You can’t collapse a screen when I walk by. We have a code of conduct and we expect you to stick with it: Don’t be mean, don’t lie, don’t embarrass other people, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, don’t go places you’re not allowed to go. Don’t post pictures that Grandma wouldn’t love. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t approve of.”
For the second book “The Distraction Addiction,” Garner says the author doesn’t want kids to unplug entirely. He just wants for them to find a balance. (I think I would agree with this guy: moderation in all that you do.)
“His first seven chapters are titled: Breathe, Simplify, Meditate, Deprogram, Experiment, Refocus and Rest. In one of my favorite locutions of 2013, he suggests that it is possible to go about “tweeting mindfully.”
Garner doesn’t give much insight into the third book. I guess the summary would be that the authors see upsides and downsides to the “app-driven life.”
“The App Generation,” by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis, is a slab of groaning sociology that nonetheless possesses an interesting insight. “Young people growing up in our time are not only immersed in apps,” the authors write, “they’ve come to think of the world as an ensemble of apps, to see their lives as a string of ordered apps, or perhaps, in many cases, a single, extended, cradle-to-grave app.”
My favorite part of the article is when Garner describes threatening his kids with “the Full Amish” — meaning no electronics at all. (No disrespect to the Amish – I just think it’s a very vivid image.)
I think the comments to the article were almost more interesting than the article itself. It’s real parents discussing the role electronics play and how you can integrate them without being controlled by them.
So what is your theory of how your kids should live with electronics? What are your rules? Do they change for school year VS summer? Would you read any of these books for guidance?