Growing up Social (Review)

We live in a world dominated by screens.  It seems that everywhere you go, everyone is attached to their own personal screens.  Whether it’s by tablet, smartphone, television, computer or even the radio, information is flooding in everywhere without end.  How do we as parents raise children with social skills and values that are not necessarily taught by a screen?  That’s the question posed in Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane’s new book Growing Up Social:  Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World.

growing up social

In this book, Chapman and Pellicane help you to examine how much screen time is too much, how shy kids who are attached to screens may not learn needed social skills, the effect of screens on the brain, how excessive screen time affects expression of love languages, computer and screen security and use of your parental authority in managing screen times.  There’s also a chapter written especially for single parents in managing screen time and a convicting chapter called screen time and you.

However, the main portion of the book involves the five “A+” skills that you need to teach your child as parents and the way that screens can be a help or a hindrance in teaching those skills.  These skills are affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention.  For example, as parents in the digital age, we must teach our children that some apologies cannot just be given in the form of a text.  Instead, those apologies need to come in person so that reconciliation can be made.

I have to confess that as I was reading this, I often felt like the authors were mainly showing the negative effects that screens could make and how we should pull back from them, and it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.  I was hoping to find more positive examples of screens used well.  There were the occasional examples, but they were few and far between.  However, that being said, this book is a stern warning to parents to control their family’s use of screen time.  There’s even a quiz in the back to help you assess whether or not your family is addicted to screens.

One of my favorite chapters in this book was on screen time and the brain.  In this section, the authors examine how different skills can wire the brain in different ways, and they also explore how screen time effects the reward center in the brain.  My very favorite part, however, was the part on screen addition because I would have never thought that I suffered from it until my screen fast during one month earlier this year.  I didn’t use my phone, the television, my Kindle or even the computer for anything except a predetermined amount of blogging time and for stuff the children needed for school for an entire month.  In fact, the family did this together and it was hard.  I could really relate with this quote from the book about students who were asked to stop using technology and social media for just one day:

At the end of that twenty-four hour period, many students repeatedly used the word addiction. One student said, “I was itching, like a crackhead, because I could not use my phone.”  Others could not complete the one-day technology fast.  Most said they missed their phone because it was their source of connection and comfort.

This was me back in March.  Now that I’m back to using screens the only thing that has changed is that I have a greater awareness of the push-and-pull between the desire to use screens and the desire to be present in my real life and not to let it pass me by.

This is why I think the chapter that they write on screen time and you is so important.  The screen time that you model will be the screen time that your children pick up upon and the value you place screens in your life, and in many of our cases, that value occasionally comes before our own children.  The authors put it better than I do when they say:

No child wants to compete with screens for their parents’ attention, nor should a child have to.

What we do in moderation, our children will do in excess, and when we’re struggling in a certain area, the best thing we can do is to be honest and acknowledge the struggle in front of our children so that they can see that it’s okay to struggle.  They can also be our best reminders of why we continue to struggle and fight the fight against the invasion of the screens.

My bottom line on this book is that, even though it wasn’t the message I was originally looking for, it was a message that I needed to hear again.  If you’ve got a family that’s always watching television, playing video games or working and playing on the internet, it might be a good message for you to hear too.  If you’re looking for more help and information, the book has a website with some great bonus downloads to help you learn more.  Also, there’s a book trailer you can watch for a great preview for what the book is about.

I feel like I should also mention that there are discussion guides in the back of the book to go with every chapter, so this would make a great small group study.  After all, we’re all navigating this new digital age together!

I also have a copy to give away!  If you’re interested in entering, just leave me a comment.  Just a “Hi!” will do, but I’d love to hear if you have screen time rules at your house.  I’ll go first.  We don’t have stated screen time rules, but we’ve tried to make real life much more interesting than screen time, and most of the time the children (and I) are happy to stay off of the screens. Giveaway will end November 21, 2014!

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.


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