Apple's new iPad is yet another marvel of technology and entrepreneurship that will surely have millions of already media-soaked kids clamoring. But will it be good for families and children in the long run? How can parents decide? The answers require new thinking based on what we know about the needs of children and families and about how our brains develop. A new book now resets parental thinking and guides parents to raise children for lifetimes of healthy habits of consuming technology.
In "Kids, Parents, and Technology: An Instruction Manual for Young Families", child psychiatrist Eitan D. Schwarz MD provides a new guidebook for parents of children ages infancy through eight years. It is the first comprehensive child- and family-centered system offering step-by-step instructions on how to turn digital media into powerful parenting tools that enrich family life and child development.
Dr. Schwarz states, "I personally love good technology and will probably get an iPad or something like it for myself. But before bringing a new gadget home, every parent must think through its impact on the kids and family life. Studies show that the more the media, the poorer the grades and the lesser imaginative play and family interactions."
"I am also concerned that a parent distracted by media might be damaging formation of youngsters' vital brain circuits -- I have seen mothers on their cell phones or texting while breast-feeding. Can these interruptions contribute to later brain-based problems, including the recent rise in autism? There can be great benefits to technology, but there are alarming trends and important unanswered questions. That’s why I wrote the book."
“The instructions we receive with digital devices don't teach the most important things -- how to use the new gadgets to fully benefit youngsters and family lives," says Dr. Schwarz.. "My work with parents and families shows me the problems technology is creating for them and helps me identify the type of information they need to make certain that these devices contribute to family life in a positive way.”
Media use by kids has grown helter-skelter in response to an explosive marketplace of new technologies that has not been primarily concerned with the health needs of families and children. Kids left to themselves consume media as they do junk food. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 1/5 of those ages eight to eighteen now get as much as nineteen hours of media daily; and in the 1/3 of homes that limit media use, consumption declines by only 1/3. According to Dr. Schwarz, "Yes, more parents must take charge, but the negative approach of restricting access is just not enough. Kids from early ages need to form better habits than today’s teens."
"Kids, Parents, and Technology: An Instruction Manual for Young Families" rapidly gets parents to start treating media consumption in the same healthy ways they already employ to manage children’s food intake. They can make children’s home consumption of media a safe and rich asset to family life through fresh thinking that would also help educators, therapists, doctors, policy makers, businesses, and anyone else working with children. The book also provides in-depth thinking about the uses of digital media as therapeutic tools, looks at its future uses, and an example of a non-violent, educational, value-oriented action game.
After over a decade of explosive expansion of media consumption by children, we finally have the sensible and readable guide based on what children and families need that parents have been asking for. Dr. Schwarz makes practical recommendations based on a lifetime of clinical experience and the latest scientific knowledge, enabling parents to:
The book asks parents "to commit to leading their youngsters towards positive uses of the Internet, videogames, smart phones, and whatever electronic media happen to us. By being fully present and applying sound child-rearing and family support principles, parents can now create balanced media plans that lead youngsters to the values and orientation they will need to succeed in an increasingly technology-rich world."
- Take charge of the family’s media, as they already do thie automobile and other appliances.
- Set proactive, positive goals.
- Reform dramatically how kids spend time.
- Create a new environment around interactive media promising mutuality, fun, and development for the entire family.
- Redefine the role of digital gadgets and adopt a brand-new, powerful framework in raising children as they interact with streams of information from newly-available media.
Eitan Schwarz MD FAACAP DLFAPA, is a doctor who knows kids, media, and families. He is board-certified in both general and child and adolescent psychiatry. During his nearly 40 years of distinguished practice and teaching in a variety of public, private, and academic settings, Dr. Schwarz has been steadily learning about the needs of children and families. Since medical school, he has also been studying the uses of technology in health care and the practice of medicine. Currently on the faculty of Northwestern University, he has recently researched the use of digital media in play therapy with children.
"Kids, Parents, and Technology: An Instruction Manual for Young Families" is published by Lulu.com in paperback and e-book.