Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World

by Gary Chapman, Arlene Pellicane

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Has Technology Taken Over Your Home?

In this digital age, children spend more time interacting with screens and less time playing outside, reading a book, or interacting with family. Though technology has its benefits, it also has its harms.

In Screen Kids Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane will empower you with the tools you need to make positive changes. Through stories, science, and wisdom, you’ll discover how to take back your home from an overdependence on screens. Plus, you’ll learn to teach the five A+ skills that every child needs to master: affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention. Learn how to:

¿ Protect and nurture your child’s growing brain
¿ Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference
¿ Recognize the warning signs of gaming too much
¿ Raise a child who won’t gauge success through social media
¿ Teach your child to be safe online

This newly revised edition features the latest research and interactive assessments, so you can best confront the issues technology create in your home. Now is the time to equip your child with a healthy relationship with screens and an even healthier relationship with others.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802411235
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 09/01/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 360,559
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

GARY CHAPMAN--author, speaker, counselor--has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the #1 bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages series and director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. For more information visit his website at

ARLENE PELLICANE is a speaker and co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Dr. Gary Chapman). Arlene's other books include 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Arlene worked as the Associate Producer for Turning Point Television with Dr. David Jeremiah. Arlene earned her BA from Biola University and her Masters in Journalism from Regent University. She lives in San Diego with her husband James and their three children. To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit

Read an Excerpt

Growing Up Social

raising relational kids in a screen-driven world

By GARY CHAPMAN, Arlene Pellicane, Annette LaPlaca

Northfield Publishing

Copyright © 2014 Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1123-5


screen time: too much, too soon?

Fifteen-month-old Lily sits in the shopping cart, eyes fixed on her iPad. Her mom shops along the grocery store aisle with minimal interruptions. Lily never looks up to see the bright red apples or the shelf where her beloved Cheerios are grandly displayed.

Every weekday, third grader Jason flips on the television after school. The TV stays on for five hours until he goes to bed.

Melissa is a junior in high school. Last month, she sent 3,500 text messages (that's about 110 texts per day).

These are not unusual scenarios. They have become the norm in a child's screen-driven world. No wonder parents consider how to balance the use of technology with everyday life. Moms, dads, and grandparents are asking, "Dr. Chapman, my children are on the phone or playing video games constantly. We don't have family time anymore. When we tell them we're going to do something as a family, they argue and head back to their screens."

Remember what life was like before smartphones, flat screens, and tablets? Before the digital age, children went out in the yard and played, creating their own games or engaging in endless rounds of freeze tag or hide-and-seek. Kids learned to interact. They had to deal with winning and losing, getting kicked by a neighbor, and being empathetic to a friend who got hurt. Boys and girls learned how the real world works through playing with one another. Yet most children today are indoors for the bulk of their free time. Children aren't allowed to roam outside as they once were because of the fear of kidnapping and other societal dangers. So they stay indoors, often engaged with a screen instead of a person. Unfortunately, the more a child is involved in screen time, the less time there is for interaction with parents, siblings, and friends.

plugged in too soon? screen time for children under two

The temptation to use screens to entertain babies and toddlers is stronger than ever. With our homes, vehicles, and smartphones, we are surrounded by media. Not only are screens ever-present, a parent almost feels obligated to utilize the latest, greatest educational software.

But research and our personal experience say the less exposure your little one has to screens, the better. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents avoid television viewing and screen time for children under the age of two. The AAP believes the negative effects of media use far outweigh the positive ones for this age group. Despite the luminous claims of educational videos and software, little evidence supports educational or developmental benefits from media use by children younger than two years. You'd never know that, based on the glut of electronic educational products geared toward making smart babies and toddlers!

Young children grow by discovering the world. They need to experience a three-dimensional world of people and things they can taste, touch, see, hear, and smell. This foundational exploration can't happen if a baby or toddler spends a lot of time using electronics. Children are walking at two, which means they are going to get into trouble—that's normal and healthy. They learn which doors are okay to open and which doors stay shut. They're developing motor skills as they walk up and down stairs. During this important developmental stage, screen time hinders more than it helps.

The AAP actually reports adverse health effects of direct media use as well as parental media use (background media) in the life of a young child. Because of their early stage of cognitive development, children under two years of age process information differently from older children. Two studies have found that watching a program like Sesame Street has a negative—not positive—effect on language development for children younger than two years. While you may think a television show or phone app is teaching your baby the ABCs, media use has not been proven to promote language skills in little ones. Young children learn language best when it's presented by a live person and not on a screen.

A study from 2007 reported that 90 percent of parents allow their children younger than two years to watch some form of electronic media. Thirty-nine percent of families with infants and young children have a television on at least six hours per day—with negative effects. Studies show that while television may be background noise for the child, it often moves to the foreground for the parent. A child's ability to learn language is directly related to the amount of talk time he or she has with a parent. When the television is on, Mom or Dad is less likely to engage in conversation, resulting in a smaller vocabulary for that child.

Researchers examined twelve-, twenty-four-, and thirty-six-month-olds and found that background television not only reduced the length of time a child played, but it also reduced the child's focused attention during play. Other studies suggest that background media might interfere with cognitive processing, memory, and reading comprehension. In spite of these negative effects, almost one-third of children have a television in their bedroom by age three. It isn't wise for any child, regardless of age, to have a television in her own room (more about that in chapter 11). Many young children use the television as a sleep aid, even though television viewing before falling asleep is associated with irregular sleep schedules and poor sleep habits that affect mood, behavior, and learning.

The best alternative to watching a video with your young child is cuddling up and reading a book. As your child is exposed to books, his or her vocabulary will grow. Becoming a great reader begins with listening, so read aloud and often to your son or daughter.

What if you've allowed your young child to watch television, but now you want to pull back? Melissa, a mother of children ages two and four, wants to do the right thing for her children's development, but she wonders how to get dinner on the table without the help of the television to keep her kids occupied. On the next page are a few ideas to help replace screen time with project time.

It takes effort to switch from the convenience of screen time to an interactive or tactile activity for a child. But the benefits for your son's or daughter's development are well worth it. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your child adjusts to new screen-free routines.

plugged in too much?

Eight-year-old Trevor asked the question for the hundredth time, "Mom, all my friends have a video game player. Why won't you let me get one?"

"Just because all your friends have one doesn't mean it's a good idea for you," answered his mom.

Although Donna had been able to ward off her son's request for two years, she began to wonder if it might be the right time to say yes. After all, Trevor was a good student. She decided to surprise him with a video game console for Christmas.

It didn't take long for Trevor to adapt to having his own gaming system at his fingertips. During most of his free time, he played video games. On the car ride home from school, he gave short answers to his mom's questions about the day, all the while playing his video game. Donna began to wonder if she had made a mistake.

"I didn't realize it would take away so much of his time," Donna said. "Now when I ask him to put it away, we get in an argument. It's hard for him to stop playing for dinnertime or to practice his piano. I regret giving it to him without setting guidelines from the start."

Trevor isn't the only one glued to his electronic device. The average American child age eight to age eighteen spends more than seven hours per day looking at a video game, computer, cellphone, or television. By the age of seven, a child born today will have spent one full year of twenty-four-hour days watching screen media.

The frequent use of video games by children is particularly concerning because of the possibility of addiction. Video games are designed to bring pleasure to the brain. Players accumulate points, get constant rewards, and reach higher levels. Visually, the video game changes constantly to reengage your child. While playing, the brain rewards the child with a squirt of dopamine, providing a feeling of euphoria (more on this subject in chapter 9). The more you play, the more you want to play.

The symptoms of video game addiction are similar to those of addictions to alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Video games begin interfering with everyday life. Personal hygiene isn't practiced. Assignments, chores, and responsibilities are left undone. Family relationships suffer. Nothing is quite as stimulating or rewarding as playing video games.

For Michael, a senior in high school, video games were his life. His parents hosted a graduation party to honor him. During that celebration with family and friends, Michael lasted about ten minutes before he retreated to his room alone, shut the door, and began playing video games. No one could coax him out of his room. Within an hour, everyone had left the party.

Although extreme, Michael's story illustrates what can happen when boys are raised by video games and the Internet. In their twenties, they remain in a prolonged adolescence that prevents them from going out into the real world to find jobs, to socialize, and to become independent.

Excessive screen time isn't only a problem for boys. Girls watch television just as much as boys do. Girls in neighborhoods ranked as the lowest third by socioeconomic factors are five times more likely to watch the highest amount of screen time. High school girls average 4,300 texts a month, while boys trail behind at 2,600 texts a month.

So how much daily screen time is too much for your family? The AAP recommends that children older than two years old should get no more than two hours a day of screen time. This means if your child is on the computer for one hour at school, they should only have one additional hour at home. With more elementary schools incorporating iPads into the classroom, it's even more important (and challenging) to limit screen time at home. Children need unplugged time to unwind, read, play outside, and talk with parents and siblings.

In terms of how much screen time you allow your child, only you can decide how much is too much. Two hours a day is a good general rule. For many parents, that may not seem feasible. For others, two hours of screen time would be too much. Although each family should use personal judgment on the amount of screen time, every family must set clear boundaries. Children always do better if they have clear boundaries. Screen time requires time limits and parameters, or it will take over your child's free time.

My First Smartphone and Lucy

Believe it or not, I (Arlene) got my first smartphone right before I started writing this book. Why didlhold on to my dinosaur phone for so long? Since I already spend hours on my personal computer at home, I didn't see the need to have my emails and social networking sites handy at all times. But as I started traveling more, I realized a smartphone would be a smart move. Reluctantly, I made the switch.

At first I was enamored. I checked my phone constantly, several times per hour. Did I get a new email? Let me post a picture on Facebook. Who just messaged me? It was ridiculous. I quickly realized I needed to put it down or suffer the consequences of constant distraction. I made a decision to reach for it a few times per day to check it.

Then there was the matter of my four-year-old, Lucy. From time with her friends, she had seen what the little phone could do. She gravitated to it instantly, using her little fingers to push the colorful apps. In a flash of brilliance, I told her, "Lucy, that is Mommy's phone. It is not yours. It's a no touch.' If we are in an airplane, I will let you use it." I had not premeditated that response but realized in that moment if the phone became fair game for Lucy, she would ask for it constantly. That was one daily struggle I didn't want to sign up for.

Lucy thought for a moment then said, "I was in an airplane last month to visit Grandma." I laughed and replied, "I know. I didn't have the phone then."

Lucy never touches my phone, although believe me, she is itching to use that camera. The phone sits on my desk, powerless to weave its magic spell on my four-year-old. Making my phone off-limits to Lucy was one of my best tech decisions. Now it's reserved for emergency moments. Plus, it may not be wise to give a four-year-old a "toy" that costs several hundred dollars. Of course, Lucy is really looking forward to her next airplane ride.

plugged in to what?

When my (Gary's) children were little, we didn't have computers, but we did have television. We chose about five programs that were appropriate for our kids to watch. We told them, "You can have thirty minutes a day and watch any one of these programs." This way, our children developed the ability to make decisions within healthy parameters that we set as parents. Both lessons are important: to teach children to make decisions and to teach them to live within boundaries.

The television set of the past used to be a large piece of furniture, planted smack-dab in the middle of the living room and family life. Parents knew which shows were good for kids and which weren't. As gatekeepers, they were in full control of every program being watched in the home. Then televisions became more compact and affordable. Families began having more than one television set, making it more difficult to monitor what children were watching.

Fast-forward to today: Technology has given us instant information and entertainment on televisions, personal computers, tablets, and smart-phones. We no longer have one television to gather around as a family. The family television of the past is now multiplied in every family member's pocket, purse, or backpack. And even though television wasn't necessarily wholesome then, it's certainly more vulgar, sexual, and violent now.

When your child has easy access to a television or the Internet, a whole world of inappropriate content is waiting to be consumed. I (Arlene) remember going to see the Superman movie Man of Steel with my husband. The movie was rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language." I was shocked to see how many children were in the theater seated right next to their parents. Many boys looked like they were seven or eight. There were a few five-year-olds and even some toddlers in strollers. The movie started at 8:15 p.m., and it was too late, too loud, and too intense for young children. PG and PG-13 movies come with a warning to parents for a reason. Superhero franchises appeal to young children, but make no mistake: Most of the movies are not kid-friendly. Marvel's The Avengers, the highest-grossing movie in 2012, had a kill count of 964 and received a PG-13 rating, "Parents strongly cautioned."

There are general guidelines for deciding what content is appropriate for your child to watch. Here are four questions to help you decide whether or not it is wise for your child to view a particular program or video game:

What factual data is my child learning from this program? If there is factual data, is it correct? You want your child's mind to be filled with truth. If the program communicates a distorted vision of reality instead of how life works in the real world, you don't want your child watching. You want your child to be exposed to things that are real and not a distortion of reality.

What kind of character traits is this program seeking to build in my child? Is the main character someone I want my child to copy? If the humor comes from cutting others down, being rude, or showing disrespect to authority, that's a red light. Positive programs will teach your child to care for others, work hard, resolve conflict, or overcome obstacles.

How does this program treat family members? Television sitcoms often degrade men and fathers by making them lazy, fat, or stupid. What messages will your child hear about men, women, marriage, and parents? How is the family represented?

Is this program consistent with our family values? A child is running into all sorts of values during his or her early years. You can't control what your child sees outside at school or other places, but you can control what he or she is exposed to at home. What is viewed on screens should be in keeping with your family values, or it should be off-limits.

It is your job as a parent to teach your children the difference between appropriate and inappropriate content. Do not leave this task to a teacher, pastor, or counselor. In the same way you would not allow your child to eat candy bars for dinner each night, you cannot allow your child to consume screen-time junk food. You are the gatekeeper of your child's mental diet.


Excerpted from Growing Up Social by GARY CHAPMAN, Arlene Pellicane, Annette LaPlaca. Copyright © 2014 Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane. Excerpted by permission of Northfield Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Taking Back Your Home, 7,
1. Screen Time: Too Much, Too Soon?, 13,
2. The A+ Method for Relational Kids, 27,
3. The A+ Skill of Affection, 39,
4. The A+ Skill of Appreciation, 53,
5. The A+ Skill of Anger Management, 67,
6. The A+ Skill of Apology, 81,
7. The A+ Skill of Attention, 95,
8. Screen Time and Shyness, 111,
9. Screen Time and the Brain, 123,
10. Screen Time and the Love Languages, 137,
11. Screen Time and Security, 151,
12. Screen Time and Parental Authority, 167,
13. Screen Time and the Single Parent, 181,
14. Screen Time and You, 193,
Conclusion: A Tale of Two Homes, 207,
Notes, 211,
Social Development by Ages and Stages, 219,
Quiz: Does Your Child Have Too Much Screen Time?, 221,
Resources at, 222,
Discussion Group Questions, 223,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Whether you are a parent, grandparent, neighbor, or friend, Growing Up Social is a must-read! The electronic age has brought us the amazing miracles of television and computer technology, but it has also brought risks to the social and intellectual development of our children. This book will inform you, and perhaps even alarm you, but then it will show you how children can enjoy screens without becoming addicted to them."
—MEL CHEATHAM, MD, clinical professor of neurosurgery

"As a mom of six children, I see now more than ever how important real connections with real people are. For those of us who grew up with corded phones and letter writing pen-pals, it’s easy to worry about how the screen-driven world impacts our children. Thankfully Arlene Pellicane and Dr. Gary Chapman have provided sound advice for parents in how to train children in important relational skills, while setting realistic boundaries for electronic entertainment. Need help in teaching your children communication, care, and empathy for others? This is the book you’ve been looking for! Great research, sound advice, and steps to success—what could be better than that?"
—TRICIA GOYER, USA Today bestselling author of 40 books, including Lead Your Family Like Jesus

"The advent of the digital world is a technology that has created an enormous challenge for parents. It is causing our children to spend more time in front of a computer screen or smartphone than in healthy social contact, and the consequences on children’s emotional health is frightening. Research here is very clear: we are rewiring the human brain in ways that will have longterm detrimental effects. Growing Up Social is absolutely correct in its identification of the risks facing our children. It offers practical guidance and scientifically validated techniques for protecting them from the damaging consequences of prolonged digital engagement. It has my full recommendation."
— ARCHIBALD D. HART, author of The Digital Invasion: How Technology is Shaping You and Your Relationships

"How do you raise children thoughtfully in a screen-centric world? It’s one of the most urgent questions of our time, and Growing Up Social is a full of smart, practical answers. Any parent seeking to nurture their family’s spiritual life in this connected age, no matter their faith or philosophy, will benefit from reading it."
—WILLIAM POWERS, author, Hamlet’s BlackBerry

"It’s not too late! You can rescue your children from their technology and help them learn why and how to be social. Without social skills, they’ll be miserable, lonely, confused, angry, misled, depressed, unfulfilled. You know it’s a huge issue today and I’m glad you’re concerned. In Growing Up Social, Chapman and Pellicane share ideas that will equip you to have instructive conversations with your kids and make realistic and significant changes so they willingly decrease their screen time and confidently increase their friend time."
— KATHY KOCH, founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., and author of Finding Authentic Hopeand Wholeness and How Am I Smart? and coauthor of No More Perfect Kids

"If you think your child is immune to an overdependence on screens, think again.Written by my trusted friends Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane this book is a reality pill that many modern day parents need to swallow."
—DR. KEVIN LEMAN, New York Times bestselling author of Have a Happy Family by Friday

"Finally a book that educates on the very real effects screen time has on our children and daily home life. Growing Up Social is packed with practical wisdom and brilliant suggestions to effectively and intentionally pull families trapped in isolation away from their screens to reestablish God intended family time! Gary and Arlene, count me a raving fan of this much needed guide book for parents!"
— TRACEY EYSTER, founder of FamilyLife’s, author of Be the Mom and Beautiful Mess

"A timely and practical book that tackles one of parenting’s biggest dilemma: how do we navigate this new world of technology? This book will equip parents to confidently set boundaries and create an atmosphere that uses technology in a healthy way."
—TED CUNNINGHAM, pastor and author of several books including Trophy Child

"This book will help parents navigate the slippery slope of electronics in a way that emphasizes family bonding, social relating, and maintaining a healthy balance of electronic and non-electronic activities. A most welcome addition to the library of any intentional parent."
—TODD CARTMELL, child psychologist and author of Project Dad and Raising Flexible Kids

"In this unprecedented age of technology and its accessibility, I cannot think of a more needed or more important resource for parents than Growing Up Social. While this book recognizes the positive contributions of technology, it serves as an important handbook for educating parents on the effects of too much screen time in our lives. It offers creative alternatives and encouragement to take back our home from the digital invasion and I highly recommend it!"
—KRISTEN WELCH, author of Rhinestone Jesus and blogger at We Are THAT Family

"As a mom, I have often felt outnumbered in my own home: Laptop, iPod, smartphone, Xbox, tablet: 5 vs. Mom and Dad: 2. Besides living in a wireless bunker, what’s a parent to do? Growing Up Social will help you reclaim your home and your family. More than a media manifesto, this book gives a commonsense, real world approach to building relationships and helping our kids who are screen savvy become socially savvy."
— KATHI LIPP, author of I Need Some Help Here: Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan and 21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids

"Growing Up Social is a must-read for wisdom to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives of life and love in the ever-changing digital world."
— PAM AND BILL FARREL, co-directors of Love-Wise; authors of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make

"Imagine this: A two-year-old picks up his mother’s phone and swipes his finger across the screen. Not hard to imagine, is it? What’s wrong with that picture? What’s right? Arlene Pellicane and Dr. Gary Chapman will help you answer both of those questions. Growing Up Social is a must-read for today’s parents and grandparents too!"
— KENDRA SMILEY, author of Journey of a Strong-Willed Child and Be the Parent (and mother of three, grandmother of nine and counting)


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