The Parent App
Some of the best books I review are ones I discover as
fortuitous accidents. I was in Fogler Library looking for books Katie
needed for a paper when I was intrigued by a plain white volume. Lynn
Schofield Clark's The Parent App: Understanding Families in the
Digital Era radically changed the ways I think about kids and
electronic media. I think it will give you food for thought.
Clark had been studying family uses of electronics for fifteen
years when she had an epiphany. She was late picking her kids up from
school and wondering how to best let them know. She realized that she
felt unpreared to give her children cell phones. "I realized then
that what all parents really need, or wish we had, is some way to
discern the most caring, smart, sensitive, and effective responses to
the dilemmas that digital and mobile media have introduced into the
lives of our families. What we need is a Parent App." Fortunately
what for most of us would have been a wistful moment became for her
the impetus for the book.
One of the most intriguing discoveries Clark made was that the
issues we're exposed to the most, for instance pedophiles disguising
them as teens to lure victims or cyberbullying, are only part of the
story. Another was that different groups of parents use different
sets of guiding principles in deciding on family media use. These
uses are in accord with larger issues in their life.
In upper income families children attend good schools, live in
safe neighborhoods and have reasonable expectations of good careers as
adults. Their parents use an ethic of expressive empowerment. In
this context much media use is for educational purposes. More casual
usage, say video gaming, is frowned upon as unproductive and must come
after more structured activities like sports and lessons. Electronics
are also used to coordinate the lives of busy families.
Less advantaged families are more likely to follow an ethic of
respectful communication. Children in these families do not have the
plethora of devices or opportunities available to wealthier peers.
Engaging in media popular with them can be riskier. A child with
relatives who are undocumented aliens may be discouraged from posting
on Facebook. Security may be found in family and community
interdependence and media is used mainly to foster this.
Clark has done extensive interviewing. Her many subjects emerge
as fascinating individuals engaged in complicated environments. The
challenges they face are palpible. If you're like me you'll emerge
with more questions than answers. If you have kids, care about kids,
or want to know more about family media use than what's in the
surface, I highly recommend The Parent App. My book club will be
discussing the book in September.
On a personal note, I found the most amazing cocktail dress at a yard
sale. It's red pure silk with a woven in flower pattern. Real 60s
vintage. Like glamerous singers would wear to belt out the Motown
sound. Only $1. Fits me like it was made just for moi.
A great big shout out goes out to all families striving to find the
best ways to incorporate electronic media into our lives.
Sent from my iPod