Be the Parent, Please {Book Review}

posted in: Large Family Reviews | 2

Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat: Strategies for Solving the Real Parenting Problems by Naomi Schaefer Riley. 

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A review of the book Be the Parent Please by Naomi Schaefer Riley

I just finished reading the book Be the Parent, Please by Naomi Schaefer Riley and I can say, hands down, it is the best book on kids and social media that I have read to date (and I’ve read a lot).

Now I know that none of us needs any more Mommy Guilt in our life. I am not going to sit here and tell you that you need to breastfeed longer, put your babies on a schedule, feed you kids only organic food, or sign them up for Suzuki violin lessons. What I am going to do is urge you to put some serious thought into how your kids utilize technology and social media so you can make informed choices.

First day of school 2016.

Social Media as Social Currency

Last year I reviewed the book The Secret Lives of American Girls. It was a real eye-opener for me and enlightened me to the fact that teens are using social media differently than adults do. I use social media everyday day, my business depends on it. Teens (and preteens) use it differently. While I enjoy likes and comments and love gaining new followers, my self-worth and confidence don’t lie in who likes or doesn’t like a particular post.

Kids use likes, comments, etc as social currency. They use likes and follower to boost popularity, to be liked by other kids, to gain friends and to hurt people they are mad at. Even worse, they are used to bully and blackmail others.

Since reading American Girls I have more closely observed how my own kids are using social media and I’m not always happy about what I see.

Little Earthling Blog. Daily Life in a large family.

Be The Parent Please

Be the Parent takes a wider view, studying both boys and girls and the effect of media in general, not just social media. The book is packed full of research and facts on how kids are using media and how much they are consuming. Friends, I have been a parent for 21 years and have seen a lot of changes. Keeping media away from our first crop of kids was easy. We didn’t own a TV, have internet access or own any gaming systems. Those were thoughtful, conscious decisions on our part.

But the world has changed.

Now we have internet and wi-fi and devices all over.

Taking a fun family hike in Bellingham.

What About When My Kids Get Bored?

Kids are consuming more media than ever before and the stakes are even higher.

Be the Parent starts out talking about the general use of media for young children and moves right on up through the teens years.  I urge you to watch the (less than two-minute) clip of this TED Talk to get an idea of how media effects babies and young children.

One father quoted in the book says, “My big concern from the beginning is if I show my kids fast-moving images, they will be bored in school”.

I think this is something we should all consider. One reason I take my children on hikes is so they can learn to enjoy looking at the trees, leaves, and dirt. So they can gain an appreciation for the world literally right outside our windows.

Be the Parent isn’t just about babies and young kids though. Riley’s book covers the topics of video games, TV, and social media.

What Expectations Are We Setting?

“When I speak with other parents and educators, they are quick to warn me that a lot of kids are unwilling or unable to entertain themselves for long periods of time…But if the standard we set for ourselves is that a child must be completely satisfied and engaged by an adult from morning until night, we have made our jobs as parents impossible.”

This quote reminded me of the post I wrote called Mom, I’m Bored. How we deal with boredom is, in my opinion, an important issue in parenting. On more than one occasion I have had to kindly tell a helpful family member to not try to appease my crying child. Shaking a toy in their face or handing over candy or electronics is often not the answer.

It’s okay for our kids to be bored. In fact, I think it’s actually good for them.

Be the Parent, Please book review.

Still Learning How to Behave Properly

In our home, our teens get phones when they need one. Let me clarify: they get old-style flip phones when they need one. The age varies from child to child but generally, when they have a job that requires help with transportation or start community college, they get a phone.

One mom of a nine-year-old in Riley’s book is quoted as saying she isn’t giving her daughter a device for texting because “she’s, ‘still learning how to behave appropriately’ when she is in the same room as someone else'”

Think about that for a moment. It is our job as parents to teach our children what is appropriate and I believe most of us would agree nine-year-olds still need a lot of guidance in this area. So why in the world would we give them unfettered access to chat with friends, acquaintances, or even strangers? Often sending pictures and playing endless apps and games.

4th of july in a large family.

FOMO is Real

Fear of Missing Out is a very real thing for kids these days. You might argue that kids are missing out by not having devices but even more so they will be missing out when they get daily reminds of all the cool stuff their friends are doing.

When Mordecai and Jubilee were in 8th grade I went on a school field trip with them. I do believe they were the only two kids on that bus without an electronic device in their hands. Shortly afterward I bought them both iPod Nanos. These devices gave them the ability to listen to music on the bus but not to text or access the internet. Would they prefer iPod Touches or smartphones? Of course, but those are non-negotiables for us.

Neither asked for the iPod, but I was happy to provide a device for enjoying music on long rides and an iPod Nano seemed like a good compromise.

“When it comes to kids and technology don’t ask yourself if you trust your kids. Ask yourself if you trust their peers.”

Recovering from a a staph infection picked up after surgery on his g-tube site.

Technology in the Classroom

When my kids came home wanting to use the website Cool Math Games (a site they used at school), I said yes! Who doesn’t want their kid excited about playing educational math games? Except guess what…the games on the site are not math games. I mean, maybe there are a few educational games buried in there, but the vast majority are just games. Regular, old, mindless computer games.

If you think technology in the classroom is helping your children learn, you will probably be surprised by the results of the research focused on just that. Larry Cuban, Stanford University education professor says, “I can say pretty categorically that there is no evidence that using devices and software will approve academic achievement of students”.

PNW Homeschool Adventures. Filling kids' days with the wonder of nature.

The Real World

The author states, “Kids can no longer build tree houses because they’re too dangerous and might damage a tree. They can’t go fishing or hunting because they might kill something. They can’t wander aimlessly around outside because it won’t build their college resume”.

Studies show that spending time outdoors and in natures reduces anxiety. It makes kids (and adults) healthier and even happier.

Newsflash: Your kids do not need to learn to navigate technologies as babies, toddlers, or even preteens to function in the real world. “One Google executive explained that he believes using technology is ‘super easy. It’s like learning to use toothpaste…There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older'”. 

Conclusion:

I am not trying to convince you to do anything other than research and make conscious decisions for media use in your home. What my family does isn’t what your family needs to do. We are all different and have different family values and levels of tolerance.

Just do what’s best. For your family.

Recommended Reading:

Be the Parent, Please

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

Protecting the Gift

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2 Responses

  1. I agree with this post, and have raised my kids similar, but the only problem I have is pornography. Some how, I have to address this issue, and help my boys navigate it, before they go out on their own, and have smart phones. I’m not going to kid myself or lie, telling myself my boys some how will have more will power than adult men, to abstain.

    I think porn is like drugs, easy to abstain if you are not around it all the time, but what happens when your kid starts hanging out with an addict? Unless you are in deep denial, you know odds of him using are high. Same with the internet.

    It’s very hard to think about, especially in the christian community, where it’s a sin to talk about it. We introduced porn to our kids, not as watching it, but as this is what it is, and why you don’t watch it. yourbrainonporn.com was amazing. My teens and I talk about it, and I know they look, and we talk about more ways to help them not to look. One day my teen was telling me about a conversation with his friends, where he shared parts of his phone are locked and will remain locked because I have the pass word, and his friends told him how to get around that. He told them It was HIS choice and he didn’t WANT to. They were shocked, and I assumed they were his non church friends. But it was the church kids, and he said, “no one talks to church kids about this stuff, except to shame them.”

    I read about keeping screens from kids, and I feel I can do a pretty good job. Sure, don’t give them smart phones, or internet access until they can handle it, but when your kid turns 18, they can get what they want, and at 18, or age 53, I don’t think anyone can handle porn, so what to do? Because, it’s 50% of the internet usage.

  2. This is a great post–thanks! I hadn’t heard of the book, but plan to read it soon. I love the TedTalk, though, and it’s worth watching the whole thing (not just the two-minutes version). Our kids just watched their first movies a week ago…and in the week since have proceeded to watch about ten more (we were on vacation with relatives). It was amazing to me how addicted they became to movies and how quickly they learned character names (and we’re talking animated Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, etc.), but it was also interesting to see that while other kids were zoned in on movies while in a pool (yes…), my kids were watching at times, but were also spending most of their time playing with each other instead.

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