Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst
Dr Bex Lewis
Bex offers a mix of practical advice and introductions to new services, plus resources, questions and strategies for helping us raise this generation. It’s a starting point to find a solution that works for you and your family, not a one-size-fits-all instant cure. I think it would be helpful for all kinds of families to read & work through – whether you have concerns or not. It’s like having a guidebook for a foreign land, helping you navigate paths through unfamiliar territory and spot the landmarks, ideas, resources you will need. I’m not a parent, so I don’t have to deal with children’s digital problems on a daily basis (though heaven knows I have enough of my own making!) so on a very superficial level, Bex’s book has helped me to see what some of the pressures look like that today’s teenagers are facing.
I tend to want to read past headlines, which we are encouraged to do: for every toddler ‘addicted’ to an ipad, there are probably a hundred using such a tool sensibly and beneficially. There is so much negativity around kids’ use of digital that this book is like a breath of fresh air, recommending sensible strategies for both parents and children. And as you might expect from an academic researching digital media, Bex provides the actual evidence to counter the scaremongering and headline-grabbing half-truths.
Sometimes I am frustrated by others’ fear of the internet & all things digital. I’m guilty myself of near 24/7 attachment to my iphone (I don’t have it by my bed, but it’s the last thing I look at and the first thing I do in the morning is tweet). Understanding a bit more about how the world is for those who are either not completely immersed in it, or are unquestionably so, was illuminating.
There probably isn’t room in the book for everything, but I might have wanted to see the arguments about sex and porn online to be framed in a wider context – Bex acknowledges the society we live in has ‘relaxed’ standards in these areas – but for children on- and off-line, are there wider conversations to be having? I suspect there are, and that the digital manifestations are but one part of a media that puts sex, and body image, first.
Some of the advice is obvious: talk to your children. Perhaps that’s only obvious to me as a non-parent, not dealing with a recalcitrant teenager who resents my interference. Bex offers some good advice on how to start those necessary conversations at any age, not just about the absolute rules about who can use what websites, but about truth, suitability, and provenance of online content. There are ideas and examples from parents dotted throughout the book to help understand how people have been tackling problems already. Bex suggests talking to one’s children not as a quick fix, but as a long-term investment in time, trust and openness. And if you want to know how to behave online well as a parent, Bex also suggests how to interact with your children on Facebook (don’t embarrass them! I guess this is the digital equivalent of the lick-wash your mum gave you outside the school gates…)
The book finishes with a helpful jargon-buster and further resources. In fact there are lots of resources throughout the book – following up on half of them would probably take as much time again as reading the book in the first place. But – that’s necessary, in my opinion. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well – and what job is more worth doing that steering children through to adulthood?
In the interests of full disclosure I should probably say that Bex is a friend of mine, and I was sent a review copy of the book.