7 Digital Parenting Books to Help You Raise Screen-Smart Kids
There are so many great digital parenting books out there, but so little time! Since we can’t read ALL the books, some members of our staff each picked a different digital parenting book to read and summarize. We all liked the books we read and would recommend them to others. We hope these reviews will help you find the book that’s right for you!
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7 Digital Parenting Books We Love
(Note: We've ordered these based on their Amazon ratings from lowest to highest--but you'll see that all of them have great Amazon reviews!)
(Rated 4.4 stars on Amazon with 319 ratings at the time of this article.)
Adam Alter explains the addictive behavior associated with technology and shows how social media plays into our neurological vulnerabilities. We know the brain loves novelty and dopamine drives seeking behavior, and these traits are exploited and fueled by electronics. For example, Instagram and Facebook feeds are endless, there’s always something new to watch on Netflix, and Tinder encourages users to keep swiping to find that perfect match. Alter quotes design ethicist Tristan Harris who says the problem is not that people lack willpower, “it’s that ‘there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.” And these companies run thousands of tests with millions of users to make tweaks that maximize engagement and take something that was once fun and make it addicting. Every parent whose kids engage with digital devices should understand the addictive nature of technology in order to set up protective boundaries and encourage healthy tech habits.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
(Rated 4.6 stars on Amazon with 530 ratings at the time of this article.)
The latest book by the author of Deep Work offers a distressing view of the attention economy. Learning of the many resources tech companies are putting into selling our time for a profit is harrowing. Digital Minimalism questions the default mindset that we should be on every platform and gives you tools to think through which technologies to use. The author offers no straight “do this, not that” answers, but instead gives a process for determining if a technology serves something you value. He also advocates for the importance of taking time without your phone and reintroducing hobbies to replace the endless scrolling. If you find yourself not having time for things you once valued, consider picking up this book and employing some minimalism in your life. While this isn't directly a parenting book, it is a perfect discussion starter for parents and teens.
Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology by Diana Graber
(Rated 4.7 stars on Amazon with 33 ratings at the time of this article.)
Raising Humans in a Digital World is written by someone who is in the trenches--a middle school digital literacy educator. Graber points out that societies have been dealing with new technologies since the beginning of time. She states that “...every technology introduced throughout history both connects and disconnects humans from one another.” The key, then, is to figure out how to use new technology for greater connection and to enhance our lives.
Raising Humans in a Digital World suggests that we introduce our kids to technology gradually and at age-appropriate times--what Graber calls ‘digital on-ramps.’ At each stage, we model and guide our kids on appropriate use of the technology we are introducing. For example, when it’s time for social media we don’t just let our kids create an account and leave them to figure it out on their own. Instead we teach them how to use it for good, remind them people are on the other side of the screen, and that they are building their online reputation (which future college admissions officers and employers will see). We then monitor use and look for teaching opportunities. Graber gives practical activities and advice for introducing your kids to technology whether they are infants or about to graduate.
(Rated 4.7 stars on Amazon with 194 ratings at the time of this article.)
In The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch offers a vision of the good life—living in a world in which individuals, families, and communities flourish without being enslaved by technology. The book combines psychology with Christian theology and practical, real-life application. Technology is not going away and Crouch does not suggest that we eliminate our devices from our lives. However, we can put technology in its proper place to protect and prioritize our humanity and families.
One of Crouch's greatest suggestions is that we put technology in its proper place—literally. Crouch describes the way his family organizes the heart of his home. Phones and computers are pushed to the periphery, musical instruments are accessible and original works of art are on the wall. The home is organized in such a way that encourages conversation and creativity. Overall The Tech-Wise Family teaches about developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way we use digital media, rather than accepting technology’s promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world’s knowledge at our fingertips.
Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids - And How to Break the Trance by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.
(Rated 4.7 stars on Amazon with 238 ratings at the time of this article.)
Sometimes a wake-up call is motivating. That’s what Glow Kids is. It’s sometimes hard to hear how damaging all the forms of screen time can be, but it’s important for us to know so we take action for our kids. The author shares dramatic stories of real children who have come into his office for help. He gives plenty of research on how digital life is affecting kid’s brains and bodies. For example, over the last 20 years people have lost the ability to detect different shades of colors. We used to be able to detect 350 shades of a color, now the number is 130!
Throughout the book Dr. Kardaras makes a compelling case to be careful and intentional with kids and screen time. In the final chapter, he suggests screen addiction: gradually cut down screen time one hour per day until they are screen-free for 4-6 weeks. Then take time to build new healthy habits such as bedtimes, consistent healthy meals, doing chores, providing good outlets such as nature and real-life experiences (fun new things to do and time with friends). That’s what we want for our kids!
(Rated 4.8 stars on Amazon with 28 ratings at the time of this article.)
“Enjoy screens, not too much, mostly with others.” This is just one of many golden ideas found in Anya Kamenetz’ book, The Art of Screen Time. This book will leave you feeling inspired instead of guilty! Kamenetz shows parents how to find balance between limiting screens and embracing them. Her summary of all the research was clear and easy to read. You’ll want to take notes as you read, especially during the chapter where Kamenetz shares strategies REAL families use to navigate screens. For example, before TV time starts, plan an activity to do afterward (to phase out complaining after the TV turns off). Brilliant! Parents with kids of all ages will find helpful research and suggestions in The Art of Screen Time.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids by Kristen A. Jenson
(Rated 4.9 stars on Amazon with 809 ratings at the time of this article.)
In Good Pictures Bad Pictures Kristen A. Jenson tackles a tough topic to address with your kids: pornography. The best part about this book is that it’s a book you read with your kids and makes a difficult discussion so much easier! With how easy it is to access pornography these days, Good Pictures Bad Pictures is essential reading. The book gives an age-appropriate definition of pornography and a clear, easy plan for what your child should do when encountering inappropriate material. But it goes beyond that. The simple explanation of how the brain works and how it becomes addicted to something is critical material for kids to understand because it empowers them to avoid all forms of addictions.
We just had to add one more from our friend Mandy Majors at nextTalk!
(Rated 5.0 stars on Amazon with 50 ratings)
TALK is the “How to” manual you've been looking for in your quest to navigate the choppy waters of cyberparenting. Mandy boldly wades into deep and dicey topics. She does not offer canned answers, but instead thoughtful and research-based guidance. While she's careful to share from her own experience and faith, she's quick to affirm others with the ongoing thread of "your family, your choice" woven throughout the book. But the truth is, you'll likely want to take copious notes on the tried and true practices she's put into place, including a cell phone contract. There is so much practical and inspiring information in this book, but my favorite theme is the way she encourages all of us to lead in love rather than fear or defeat. She aims to empower kids and parents to live a life of love and respect for themselves and others. You'll finish this book feeling informed, prepared, encouraged, and honored to parent well, even in spite of our inevitable missteps along the way. (Amazon Review)
Looking for more books that tackle tough topics? Check out this article: Let’s Talk About Sex: 8 Books to Read Together
Have you read a great digital parenting book that’s not on this list?
We’d love to hear from you! Send us a message with the book title and what you loved about it!
Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition
"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent