Does the world need another digital parenting book? I thought so, and here’s why…
As a digital parent myself, I found it hard to find a book that covered the entire spectrum of digital life. After all, I didn’t want to read solely about problems, I wanted to learn about possibilities. I wanted to hear from someone who’d worked with actual kids, not just studied them. And I wanted tangible activities that would show me how to raise digital citizens who’d be wise, thoughtful, safe, and ethical—online and off. I couldn’t find a book that did all these things. So I wrote one. It’s called “Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology.”
My goal was to share my experiences, not just as an academic, but as a Cyber Civics teacher for nearly a decade, the founder of two digital literacy organizations and, most of all, a mom. I thought I could help parents help their kids capitalize on all the wonderful things the Internet has to offer, and at the same time avoid its dangers. That means parents needed to be educated on the following topics.
Screen Time: Certainly this is the topic of the day. Every parent is worried about the amount of time kids spend staring at screens. They want to know what to do.
Reputation Management: Parents also hope their kids will go to college or get a job someday. They want to know how to help their offspring build online reputations that will open doors, not close windows, to future opportunities.
Cyberbullying and Sexting: Of course they also want to know how to help their kids avoid these and other online dangers.
Social Media. Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Ask.fm, TikTok. The list of social media sites and apps that parents hope to hear about is long and changes often.
Online Gaming. Parents want to know why kids are so “addicted” to games like Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox and more.
Privacy and Personal Information. What should kids keep private online? What do companies, and schools for that matter, do with the personal information they collect? Parents want answers to these questions.
Critically Evaluating Online Information. Yes, parents want to help their kids understand fake news and how to avoid believing or spreading it.
I interviewed over 40 digital experts for this book. Each one is passionate, smart, and experienced in their field. Plus, I share my own stories--collected from teaching digital literacy to middle school students, meeting parents across the U.S., and raising two digital kids of my own.
Finally, I realize that not every school in America will find the time or acknowledge the urgency to teach digital literacy to their students. While that’s a crying shame, it’s also why I wrote this book. You’ll find it full of “Cyber Civics” moments—fun, easy “digital literacy” activities that any family can fit into their busy day.
How To Use This Book
This book compares the task of helping kids build a healthy relationship with technology to building a house. It’s divided into three parts (you can go directly to the part that pertains to you and your kids):
- Part One: A Solid Foundation. Your child’s house must be built upon a solid foundation, and part one will show you where to start. The skills you nurture while your children are young will pay off in spades as they grow older.
- Part Two: A Sturdy Structure. The next step is to help your children build a sturdy structure, comprised of four strong pillars, that will withstand any digital storms that may blow their way. It will be as durable and secure as the effort you both put into it.
- Part Three: A Vibrant Community. Here’s the fun part. With a strong foundation and sturdy structure in place, part three will show you how to help your children connect and engage— critically and confidently—with new communities and opportunities online. The goal is for them to use digital technologies to learn, inspire, be inspired, and share their unique talents with the world.
Use the Discussion Guide
Finally, it is my hope this book inspires contemplation and discussion. I encourage parent and community groups to download its comprehensive discussion guide and to organize meetings between the parents, grandparents, and teachers in your community to discuss these very important topics.
Remember, it’s our generation that has made connected devices a part of our children’s world. We thrust gadgets into their little palms with virtually no guidance, no role models, and sometimes even years before they were cognitively prepared to use them well. We owe it to them to make time to understand the complex online world, and to help them navigate it successfully.
I hope this book will help!
Diana Graber, founder of Cyber Civics and co-founder of Cyberwise, is the author of the book, “Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology” (HarperCollins Leadership/Jan. ’19).