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Guilford Publications, Inc.
Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child's Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices

Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child's Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices

by Jodi Gold MD, Tory Burch
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462515530
Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
Publication date: 10/21/2014
Pages: 314
Sales rank: 403,658
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jodi Gold, MD, is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist in private practice and Clinical Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. A nationally recognized expert, Dr. Gold speaks, writes, and makes media appearances on her developmental approach to parenting in the age of digital technology. She lives with her husband and three children in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Screen-smart parenting

How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child's Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices

By Jodi Gold

The Guilford Press

Copyright © 2015 The Guilford Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4625-1879-1


Understanding Your Family's Digital Habitat

Cultivating Online Resilience and Digital Citizenship Lori was the first of my "mom friends" to respond to my request for help. I had e-mailed several moms whom I respect to get their thoughts, worries, and ideas about raising kids in the digital era. Lori is an Ivy League–educated woman who had left her high-powered law firm to be a full-time stay-at-home mother after the birth of her second child, Madeline. She takes her job thoughtfully and seriously.

Lori sent me a three-page (no joke) e-mail on the evils of technology. She explained that her children preferred beautifully illustrated hardcover storybooks and played old-fashioned board games. Madeline is 5, and Jake is 7. She tries to limit their technology as much as possible. While writing this long e-mail, she received a delivery for her 2013 Christmas cards. She opened the box and, much to her dismay, realized that her daughter was holding an iPad in their perfectly posed family portrait.

She was completely aghast. She had defined her family culture by its lack of devices and technology, yet the iPad was front and center and in front of the Christmas tree. Lori is a very funny and self-aware mother, and the irony was not lost on her. She told me to dismiss the three-page e-mail on the evils of technology. It was time, she said, to face the reality that digital technology was fully integrated into her family's life.

She sent back the cards to the company and had the iPad "Photoshopped" out of the picture, but she also began to reassess her dogmatic approach to digital technology. Lori lamented to me that her strict rules had blinded her to the fact that her husband and children were fascinated and intrigued by the innovations of digital technology. Lori took her blinders off and realized that it wasn't only her children who were preoccupied with technology. The evening after the Christmas card fiasco, she was looking for her husband to discuss the new holiday cards. She opened the bathroom door to find her husband, a powerful Wall Street investment banker, curled up in a corner, engrossed in the über-popular game Clash of Clans. She asked him what he was doing, and he explained that he was hiding from the kids (and her) so they wouldn't see him playing the game. Both Lori and I agreed that you can run, but you can't hide, from technology.

Lori, like most parents, is seeking to strike a balance between the "human" and the "virtual." In the 21st century, understanding your family's digital habitat is a critical component to successful parenting.

We all want our children to be happy, successful, and safe. How do we reach this goal? We cannot shield our children from risk (either offline or online) or naively believe that education and knowledge acquisition are the one sure path. It's not rules and restrictions that lead to success and happiness. Adversity is inevitable, and children need to be able to manage it. The cornerstones of adult happiness and success are, it seems, childhood resilience and character. Upon these cornerstones, good citizenship is built, digital and otherwise. As a psychiatrist, researcher, and mother, I believe that resilience is integral to developing character and citizenship and finding success and happiness both online and offline.

In his 2009 article "The Science of Success," David Dobbs described what he called dandelion and orchid children. Dandelion children are healthy, or "normal," children with "resilient" genes. They will thrive anywhere, whether it is the metaphorical sidewalk crack or the well-tended garden. In contrast, orchid children will wilt if ignored or maltreated but bloom spectacularly with greenhouse care.

I agree that "resilient genes" play a role in children's ability to manage adversity, but both research and human experience have found that parenting and love can change the course laid out by your genes. Our first digital parenting goal, therefore, is to cultivate online resilience and digital citizenship.

Resilient children turn negative emotions and experiences into positive ones. They successfully navigate adverse situations online not by avoiding them but by being exposed to risk. Overly restrictive parents are less likely to allow for the online mistakes and missteps that are critical to the development of resilience. Online resilience is the foundation for your children's ongoing relationship with technology in every arena, from how to properly use various media platforms to adhering to the tenets of digital citizenship. Children with high levels of self-esteem and confidence are more likely to develop online resilience, while children with more psychological challenges will have more difficulty. (Chapter 11 offers some help to parents whose children have challenges pertinent to digital technology use.)

When I was trying to outline the components of online resilience, I came across Paul Tough's How Children Succeed. He eschews the idea that intelligence and high SAT scores lead to success in life. He argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. Economists call these "noncognitive skills"; psychologists call it "character," and I will refer to these traits in relation to the digital world as online resilience and digital citizenship. I believe that since your kids will spend more time in the digital world than eating, sleeping, hanging out, or going to school, they need more than real-life resilience. They need online resilience to care for themselves and digital citizenship to care for the world around them.

Digital citizenship is the most important cyber term that you need to know. Digital citizenship reflects the norms and ethics of responsible and appropriate technology use. For me the term reflects qualities such as kindness, responsibility, conscientiousness, self-control, mindfulness, and altruism. I imagine schoolchildren reciting a pledge like the following after the Pledge of Allegiance:

Our children need online resilience to take care of themselves and digital citizenship to take care of the world around them.

Digital citizenship has become a tool that schools use to prepare kids for the world of technology. In the United States, there is a national mandate to provide "advanced telecommunication services and information services" to public schools. Digital citizenship is loosely part of the Common Core curriculum. There is no required lesson plan. However, if a school or school district applies for additional funding for technology (called an E-rate grant), it must show proof that it is teaching digital citizenship in its classrooms.

Digital citizenship seems like an obvious positive. There shouldn't be too much to debate. Yet there is a whole literacy genre that includes op-eds, blogs, and books such as Distracted and The Dumbest Generation that fear technology will usher in a dark age for thought, creativity, and relationships. Many of the most popular movies (e.g., The Matrix, The Terminator ) foretell a dystopian doomsday of brain-dead people controlled by computers. Are we headed into a Brave New World where 1984 comes true in 2015? Obviously I can't answer that question, but the increasing power of technology companies needs to be monitored. So what can we do about it?

We can raise kids who understand digital citizenship ...

* We can raise children who can ethically manage Facebook or YouTube or whatever comes next.

* We can raise children who are responsible and savvy users.

* We can raise politicians who understand the need for separation of powers and separation of technology and state.

Some examples of how you can promote online resilience and digital citizenship can be found in the next box.

The journey starts at home. It starts with understanding your family culture and your family's digital habitat.


To create a parenting blueprint that cultivates online resilience and digital citizenship, we must start with an examination of your family culture. Family culture is important because it will drive your family's decisions about technology. It will help you understand and explain your approach to yourselves and to your children. Your family culture consists of who you are as a family inside and outside your broader community. Your ethnicity, religion, education, political views, and values shape your family culture. Each family is different and can't be easily categorized as conservative, liberal, religious, or secular. It is the funny, subtle things that help to define your culture. For instance, what do you call your grandmother? Grandma, Grams, Mamey, Nana, Nonni, Ona, Bubbie, Mum, Mema? Here are some broader questions to get you thinking about your particular family culture.

* How do you celebrate?

* What are your family traditions?

* How do you relax?

* How does your ethnicity and family background affect your family life?

* How does your religion affect your family life?

* How is your family the same as or different from your childhood family?

* What are your goals and priorities for your children?

Your family culture will determine the values that you apply to digital technology. Some families are primed to embrace technology and use it as a tool. Some will be more fearful and distrustful and will treat it as the "enemy." Others will have mixed attitudes. Lori distrusted technology and tried to restrict it, but her husband and children coveted and embraced it. Your family culture should not be driven by technology, but should integrate it in a way that is fun, healthy, and enriching.

In this chapter we explore three elements of family culture that are critical to understanding your family's digital habitat and composing your family technology plan:

* You and your partner's relationship with technology

* Your parenting identity and style

* Your family media consumption category

Your Relationship with Technology

Your relationship with technology is a critical part of your family culture. So where do you fit on the technology spectrum? Are you a tech-savvy grown-up? Are you the first to get the upgrade? Do you spend hours figuring out your new gadget, or would you prefer that someone else do it for you? There are no right and wrong answers, but you do need to understand your relationship with technology before you can guide your children. The baby boomers and Generation Xers have been labeled digital immigrants. Cyberspace and digital technology are a second language. Children and young adults born since the technology revolution are called digital natives. They speak digital without an accent. Here are some family culture questions for digital immigrant parents to better understand your relationship with technology.

* What was your first memory of video games? E-mail? Social media?

* Do you embrace or avoid the newest gadget?

* How many TVs do you have in your home?

* Would you consider yourself a heavy, moderate, or light user?

* Do you read the New York Times or play Bejeweled when bored?

* On a "date" with your spouse, do you go to the movies or the gym?

* Do you take your phone to the bathroom?

* Do you prefer reading on an e-reader or paper?

* Are you afraid of or excited about your children's digital journey?

* Do you use the Internet regularly or occasionally?

* Are you on Facebook?

* Did you meet your spouse online? Did you ever date online?

* Do you prefer to text or talk?

* Does your job require you to be constantly plugged in?

* Would you consider yourself a healthy digital role model for your children?

Depending on your family culture, you may choose to write, e-mail, text, or keep in your head a list of qualities that define your family. Your list will help you determine whether you embrace, avoid, restrict, or permit.

Coming Clean: Who Are You as a Parent?

Once you have described your family, it is time to reflect on who you are as a parent. When we think about our identity as "Mom" or "Dad," we often describe ourselves in reference to our own parents. Your own memories, regrets, and experiences as children heavily shape who you would like to be as a parent. It doesn't mean that you will turn into your mother or father, but you can't escape them. Whether you realized it or not, the birth of your first child likely triggered your own childhood memories. For the first time in years, you might have found yourself asking how your mother would have handled a situation. Perhaps you didn't give your parents enough credit for their efforts. On the other hand, you may choose to do things quite differently than your parents. For example, you may be strict and limit technology because you perceive that your parents were not "strict enough." For better or worse, your childhood memories and relationship with your parents will heavily determine your parenting identity and choices.

Here is a list of questions to help fine-tune your parental identity:

1. What were your parents' biggest strengths and weaknesses?

2. What influenced your parents' ability to parent? (e.g., divorce, illness, mental health, substance abuse)

3. How did your parents treat your siblings differently?

4. Did your parents have lots of rules and expectations?

5. How did your parents punish you when you did something wrong?

6. Do you have role models for parenting other than your own parents?

7. How would you like to parent similarly and differently than your parents?

These questions are designed to help you formulate a picture of who you are as a parent and where it came from. Questions 1–3 should help you understand your own parents from your current adult vantage point. When trying to decide how to handle digital technology or any other major ingredient in your child's life, it's helpful to know where you might struggle. Those parents who face the most parenting challenges often had an ambivalent or disappointing relationship with their own parents. If this is true for you, then it is important to understand where and how you feel that your parents failed you. You can use their failures to your advantage as you parent your own children in the real and virtual world.

Questions 4 and 5 should paint a picture of your parents' parenting style. If your parents encouraged independence while setting clear expectations, you may feel comfortable giving your children developmentally appropriate freedom to explore and embrace technology. If your parents were critical and demanding, then you may find yourself being generally fearful and restrictive in your parenting. With each real and digital milestone that your child achieves, you may "remember" different things about your childhood and your parents. You may remember your own fear about leaving for summer camp or your own humiliation about disappointing your parents in some way. You should take stock of these memories and moments. If you recall humiliations or disappointments from your own childhood, pay attention. It is these memories and unresolved experiences that may hamper or impact your present-day parental decisions. If you feel like you have mishandled decisions as a parent, think back to your childhood and your own parents for an answer or solution. Be conscious of your sticky memories as a child so you can be mindful in supporting and guiding your own children in a different direction.

The last two questions allow you the opportunity to think forward about how you will use your childhood experiences to positively shape your parenting style. We may not have control over our own childhood experiences, but we can use them to make better parenting decisions for ourselves and our families.

Curfews or Candy?: Defining Your Parenting Style

There is emerging research showing that parenting styles affect your children's media use and their online resilience. Generally, researchers divide parenting styles into four categories: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved or laissez-faire. More recently, researchers have applied these four categories to digital technology and refer to them as Internet parenting styles. Your general parenting style will undoubtedly be reflected in how you approach and manage technology. Parental warmth and parental control are the two components that mediate digital parenting styles.

Parental warmth or responsiveness refers to intentionally fostering individuality and self-regulation. It describes the level to which a parent accommodates and cultivates a child's individual needs.


Excerpted from Screen-smart parenting by Jodi Gold. Copyright © 2015 The Guilford Press. Excerpted by permission of The Guilford Press.
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

Foreword by Tory Burch
Introduction: Throw Away the Rule Book
I. The Brave New World
1. Understanding Your Family’s Digital Habitat: Cultivating Online Resilience and Digital Citizenship
2. Digital Milestones: The Facts Behind How Technology Affects Your Child’s Development
3. The Digital Landscape: What You Need to Know about the Tech Terrain
4. From the iPotty to Facebook Fame: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Digital Debates
II. Growing Up Digital
5. Downloading in Diapers: Managing Your Child's Digital World before Preschool - Ages 0-2
6. Digitods and Technotots: Everything You Need to Know about the Digital World You Learned in Kindergarten - Ages 3-5
7. Digital Magic Years: The Calm before the Digital Storm of Middle School - Ages 6-8
8. Welcome to the Frequent Flyer Club: Equipped with a Digital Boarding Pass and Ready to Take Off - Ages 8-10
9. Tweens and the Texting Revolution: Digital Media Use at Its Peak - Ages 11-14
10. Just Digital: Rewriting the Rules on Independence, Dating, Friends, and School - Ages 15-18
III. One Size Does Not Fit All
11. The Digitally Challenging Child: Modifying the Rules for Kids with ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression
12. Don't Take Away the Phone! The Nuts and Bolts of Your Family Digital Technology Agreement


Parents grappling with tough questions about how kids use technology, from infancy to young adulthood. Also of interest to mental health and educational professionals.

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Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child's Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author really breaks it down by age group and really speaks to the cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical detriment to too much screen time (TV, tablet, phone, gaming console, computer). She suggests different approaches to different age groups and really spells it out well.