A practical guide for helping your children navigate the influential and omnipresent world of technology.
Today’s children are being raised as ‘digital natives’ in a world dominated by popular culture and technology. TV shows, computers, video games, social networking sites, advertisements, and cell phones too often have an unnecessarily strong—and negative– influence on children. But pulling the plug just isn’t an option in a world where being connected is essential for success.
In Raising Generation Tech, the noted parenting and new-media expert Dr. Jim Taylor explores how popular culture and technology shape children’s lives. The essential message from Raising Generation Tech is that excessive or unguided exposure to popular culture and technology is not good for children. Rather than offering the usual ‘end of days’ scenario, Dr. Taylor provides a balanced and optimistic perspective that offers parents insights and practical information they need to ensure that popular culture and technology are tools that benefit their children rather than weapons that hurt them.
Part I: This Crazy New World
Chapter 1: Popular Culture Today
Chapter 2: Technology Today
Chapter 3: Setting “Defaults” in Your Children
Chapter 4: An Unmediated Life Worth Living
Part II: Protect and Prepare Your Children
Chapter 5: Self-identity: Who are They?
Chapter 6: Values: What Do Your Children Believe?
Chapter 7: Thinking: What’s on Their Mind?
Chapter 8: Relationships: How Connected are They?
Chapter 9: Health: Use it or Lose it?
Chapter 10: Life: What’s it All Mean?
Part III: The Hard Work and the Payoff
Chapter 11: Do the Job You Signed on For
Chapter 12: Meet Your Kids 3.0
Sept. 2, 2012 – Raising Generation Tech. MomTalk Radio, RadioAmerica.org.
October 23, 2012 –Multitasking is A Bunch of Malarky. Modernbaby.com.
“Raising Generation Tech argues convincingly that children should be raised by their parents, not by popular culture or technology. Dr. Taylor tackles this difficult task with state-of-the-art psychological theory, the latest research, engaging anecdotes, and a healthy dose of sensitivity and humor. Raising Generation Tech is a must read for parents who want their children to thrive in this media-fueled world (which means all parents!). Larry Rosen, Ph.D., author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us
“Raising Generation Tech will be an eye opener for parents! Rather than offering the usual ‘end of the world’ scenario, Dr. Jim Taylor offers a balanced perspective that gives parents the insights and practical information they need to ensure that popular culture and technology are tools that benefit their children rather than weapons that harm them.” Michele Borba, Ed.D., TODAY show contributor and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries
“The essential message of Raising Generation Tech is that excessive or unguided exposure to popular culture and technology is not good for children. In today’s world, parents can’t just sit back and play defense. Dr. Jim Taylor empowers parents to prepare their children for life in this digital age.” Michelle LaRowe, Author of A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists,Working Mom’s 411 and the Nanny to the Rescue! parenting series
Our children are growing up in a world that is vastly different from the one in which we were raised. Economically, politically, socially, culturally, and technologically, the world that we live in hardly resembles the world of just a few decades ago. Consider this: Facebook and text messaging, two of the most popular and powerful forces in the lives of young people today, didn’t even exist ten years ago. The Internet itself has only been in widespread use for around fifteen years.
The vast changes that we have observed over the past few decades are certainly unsettling for us “digital immigrants.” We may worry about what the world will look like in the coming years and long for a simpler and slower time (although the “good old days” were probably not as good as we remember them). At the same time, for our children—the “digital natives”—this crazy new world is neither crazy nor new; it’s just their world, and it’s filled with excitement and possibilities. Regardless of where you are standing, one thing is certain: there is no going back. Technology is an inexorable force that can’t be stopped, nor should we want it to be.
People, however, haven’t changed much. Despite the immense changes that have transpired throughout time, we humans are little different from our ancestors of thousands of years ago. That seemingly obvious fact may no longer be fact from here on in. New technology is altering us as individuals, changing our brain development and functioning, and as a society, reweaving the social and cultural webs (no pun intended) that encircle our lives.
The challenge for us as parents is to ensure that these dramatic changes help foster a better world for our children and that our children are well equipped to master the increasingly complex world that they will inhabit. This challenge is no small matter. As the visionary educator and philosopher Marshall McLuhan said almost half a century ago, “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.” That sentiment predated computers, mobile phones, and the Internet. As if looking into a crystal ball, McLuhan saw the future. For us and especially for our children, that future is now.
The Power of Technology
A central belief that I want to convey in Raising Generation Tech is that technology may be the most powerful force in society today, and as the noted technology historian Melvin Kranzberg observes in his six laws of technology, “Technology is neither good nor bad—nor is it neutral.” Technology isn’t neutral, because it does, clearly, have an impact on our lives. The nature of that impact is what determines whether technology is good or bad.
When I speak about technology, I am casting a wide net that encompasses gadgetry both quite old and very new. Technology includes oh-so-twentieth-century media such as movies, radio, and television. It also includes more recent developments in computers (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets) and communications (e.g., mobile phones, GPS). Technology, in its latest iteration, comprises the Internet, and the entire universe of information, connectivity, and devices at our children’s fingertips.
Technology influences your children (and you) both indirectly and directly. First, it acts as a conduit through which our popular culture inserts itself into your children’s lives. Popular culture has certainly changed over the past two decades, but the means by which it can reach children has changed even more. Thanks to the proliferation of communication technology, which has grown exponentially in the past twenty years—for example, the birth of the Internet, the proliferation of smartphones, the emergence of viral marketing, and the explosion of social media—popular culture is now an almost inescapable presence in your children’s lives; it influences them more often, more directly, and more powerfully than ever before.
Second, as Marshall McLuhan suggested so presciently in 1964, “the medium is the message,” which means that, beyond the content that is conveyed, the medium itself has an impact by its very nature and unique characteristics. For example, the use of social media means that we have less need to interact with others directly. This distancing of communication has real implications for children’s development. If learning to communicate with others is a skill that develops with practice, children’s constant use of social media reduces the experiences they have to learn social skills. McLuhan asserts that we are so focused on the content of the technology that we neglect to notice the influence of the technology itself on people. This observation is certainly true today: we focus on what the technology provides (e.g., video, text messages, social media), but we fail to consider how the very act of using these advances shapes us.
All the developments in technology of the past two decades affect our children in so many ways, including cognitively, socially, culturally, politically, and physically. Researchers in such diverse fields as computer science, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and the neurosciences are only beginning to explore these medium-not-content issues and to study how McLuhan’s thesis applies to the most recent technological developments. Frighteningly, early investigations on the impact of technology on children have indicated that many parents whose children are, as digital natives, immersed in technology, don’t even consider the ramifications of either the content or the medium on their children’s development.
This Is Urgent!
It’s hard enough these days for parents to keep up with the latest popular cultural influences and technological developments. It’s downright exhausting to stay attuned to what popular culture and technology are on our children’s radars and what effect both are having on them. It’s nigh impossible to be able to separate the healthy from the unhealthy influences.
Yet we must look long and hard at the relationships that our children are developing with popular culture and the torrent of technology available to them. This juncture in our society’s history is critical because, given the unrelenting omnipresence of popular culture and the rapid pace of technological change, we simply can’t know how these wide-ranging influences and changes will affect our children or our society.
The Chicken Littles of this crazy new world fear the recent and impending technological advancements and believe that the sky will fall if these developments continue. This fatalistic attitude, if you buy into it, will only serve to paralyze you and prevent you from confronting the rapidly changing landscape head-on. At the same time, despite their strident warnings, these alarmists don’t actually have any practical suggestions on how to prevent this supposed Armageddon. As I noted earlier, you can’t stop or control popular culture or technology, and you can’t readily decouple your children (or yourselves) from the “matrix”—nor would you want to. All you can do is make informed decisions and take appropriate action in the best interests of your children.
To bury our heads in the sand would be irresponsible at best and catastrophic at worst. We must recognize that there are heightened dangers and heightened opportunities in all that this crazy new world offers. If we get this wrong, we could very well live in a world of zombies who used to be our children!
But seriously, without closely scrutinizing the impact of popular culture and technology on our children, we could be exposing them to a variety of threats, including cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, privacy concerns, sexual predators, and manipulative advertisements. Here’s a striking example: research shows that 90 percent of children between the ages of eight and sixteen have, often unintentionally, viewed pornography on the Internet, and one-third of sixteen-and seventeen-year-old boys watch online pornography regularly. How, for example, will young men’s attitudes toward women and sexuality change now that pornography is so readily available?
At the same time, this crazy new world of popular culture and technology is teeming with incredible opportunities. Social media, for example, offers children prospects for increased individual and collaborative creativity, social connections, community involvement, exposure to diverse people, new learning experiences, and the development of essential technological skills. Just imagine who the superhumans of the future will be.
If we can understand and shape popular culture and harness the amazing technology that lies at our children’s fingertips—while ensuring that they’re used as plowshares and not swords—we give our children the chance to become those superhumans who will flourish as we move deeper into the twenty-first century.
This leaves several difficult questions that we as parents must ask: Can we tease out the benefits that popular culture and technology have to offer while protecting our children from their harmful influences? Can we really understand and consciously manage the technology our children will be immersed in while balancing other academic, physical, artistic, physical, and spiritual activities? If your answer is, “Yes, I can, and yes, I will!” then your efforts will result in raising Kids 3.0. That, I dare say, is a gift that keeps on giving. If, however, your answer is “No, I can’t” or “I’m not sure,” then you are potentially opening your children up to a world for which they will be overwhelmed and unprepared.
Generation Tech: The Good, Bad, and Scary: What parents should understand about technology
There is a growing debate in the world of technology. It has nothing to do with the development of fancy new e-gadgets, computer games, or apps.
This debate cuts to the core of who we are as individuals, families, and communities. It asks the question, “How does technology affect the healthy development of children and teens?”
Of course, no one really knows the answer.
But the question is an important one. And depending on which studies and authors you read, there is evidence to support the positives, negatives, and downright scary aspects of how technology may impact healthy development.
A new book by Jim Taylor, Ph.D., Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World provides some fascinating insights on the debate. Taylor, a psychologist and adjunct professor, lays out the complex relationship between technology, popular culture, and children’s development, giving parents excellent data and advice on which to make informed decisions.
Who Am I?
Young people normally answer the question, “Who am I?” during adolescence.
As a developmental psychologist, I was particularly intrigued with Taylor’s chapter on self-identity. Teens solidify their identities during adolescence, as they begin to more fully understand their personalities, values, needs, and emotions. This journey happens as they interact in their social worlds.
Accelerated by technology, today’s social world has expanded dramatically for teenagers. Taylor argues that this acceleration “may be interfering with healthy development of self-identity in children.” He also suggests that technology has caused a shift from children being internally to externally driven. For example, he cites Facebook and other types of social media as facades where children must always ask two questions, “How will others look at me?” and “How can I ensure that others view me positively?”
When children are consumed with questions that propel them to be driven by external factors, Taylor believes that “healthy self-awareness and self-expression give way to an unhealthy preoccupation with what others think, impression management, and self-promotion.”
In fact, recent data supports Taylor’s view, suggesting that extended use of sites like Facebook can decrease a teen’s empathy for others and increase narcissism.
But despite this generation’s love of technology, we cannot yet answer the looming question about their long-term development merely by surveys that ask teens questions about their digital habits.
It will take many years of research to more clearly define the good, bad, and scary aspects of technology. In the meantime, it may be safe to say that some kids will be affected positively and some negatively.
Who will influence whether technology is good or bad for kids?
And that is a point on which Taylor and most experts agree.
“Shocking” New Data
In his recent article at Huffington Post, Taylor confessed, “Shock is the best word I can think of to describe my reaction when I read the results of the latest Kaiser Foundation survey of technology use by young people ages 8 to 18.” Even the researchers were surprised to find that children in this age group spent more than seven-and-a-half hours a day engaged in non-school-related technology. This represented a 2-hour increase in the past two years.
Indeed, this amount of technology consumption is scary. Why?
For healthy development to occur, children must experience real-life peer friendships and positive relationships with adults. They must overcome challenges and obstacles in the real world, learn from mistakes, and reflect on the adult they hope to become.
If they are spending seven-and-a-half hours a day engaged in non-school related technology, is there enough time left over to make the human connections necessary for positive development to occur?
While Taylor’s book, Raising Generation Tech, presents many red flags about the role of technology in children’s lives, it also offers a balanced and broad perspective from which parents will greatly benefit.
Raising children in a technology-infused world is more than understanding the ins and outs of Facebook, Twitter, and computer games – or about the digital habits of teens. It’s about understanding the relationship of technology, popular culture, and child development. Taylor brings these deeper insights to readers in an easy-to-read, well-written format that is sure to benefit children.
The key for every parent is to facilitate a healthy, balanced relationship with technology – being aware of its pitfalls and helping children integrate media into their lives in positive ways. This is the message of Taylor’s book – and is well worth the read!
In his newest, child psychologist and parenting expert Taylor (Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child) imparts old-fashioned value-based parenting advice on raising “Kids 3.0” in an age when technology increasingly complicates as much as it abets daily life. Research shows that young Americans are gradually becoming more materialistic and narcissistic, a trend correlated with large amounts of time spent engaged in “virtual relationships;” on average, children interact with technology for 7.5 hours every day (not including technology use at school), a number that Taylor believes prevents children from developing strong identities and deep relationships. Furthermore, many parents do not know what their children are doing online and have few or no rules concerning technology use. Besides showing readers the grave implications of his research and providing practical solutions, Taylor also aims to dispel myths that have accompanied technological developments (e.g., that multitasking is efficient or, cognitively-speaking, possible), as well as offer a warning: evidence suggests technology use can increase high-risk behavior and have adverse effects on mental health. Taylor maintains that parents need to be more actively involved in their children’s lives and more willing to set hard limits on technology use–it’s not exactly a revolutionary message, but his argument is convincing enough to make it a sobering and pressing one.
I swear it seems like kids come out of the womb nowadays already knowing HOW to use technology! Kiddo wasn’t even 2 and she could figure out how to get around the password protection on her cousin’s cell phone and call 9-1-1. Definitely one of those ‘oh oh- there’s our future’ moments! She has a greater intuitive nature about using cell phones and tablets than I do, mainly because they are all she’s seen. Not being able to be on the phone while using the internet, or not having cell phones is totally foreign to her And yes, when you look at the Black Friday sale ads for kids ‘toys’ this year, you are going to find the most prized items are the electronic computerized ones! What happened to Barbie’s Camper, Cabbage Patch Doll, a Basket Ball Goal/Ball, Hockey Set, or even a Hot Wheels Raceway set, as being ‘the’ toy of the season? Right-no technology there.
Just last night we were watching TV and marveling at all the revised items for babies and toddlers- how more advanced they are than the ones that Kiddo had not even FIVE years ago! Don’t even ask about the stuff when I was that age, LOL! Taylor is right when he says that corporations may start the process of usurping what ‘we, the parents’ think is right for our kids at a certain age, but when we give in to popular culture and think we need to give our kids a ‘early start’, we are in many ways entrenching the need for technology in our kids lives.I can’t even begin to tell you how much grief I’ve gotten over not allowing Kiddo to watch certain kids shows, from friends/family and acquaintances! But does a 5 year old NEED to watch Barbie? I’d rather she watch Doc McStuffins or Handy Manny and learn MORAL lessons suited to her age. Too many parents let the TV be theie babysitter, WITHOUT being aware of what their kids are being taught, or shown in the commercials.(personally I think commercials should be called ‘brainwashing’ as much as they convince kids they need even more stuff, most of it NOT age appropriate!)
Taylor says there is a ‘large chasm that lies between that artificial (media/corporate driven) culture and the genuine and caring culture (family) that they (kids) need to feel safe and secure. purpose of popular culture is to enculturate children into society by communicating to them accepted values, norms, attitudes, and beliefs. The intent of this process is to prepare children to be functioning and contributing members of that society. ” Just think about those 2 sentences for a minute. What does it say to a 6 year old, when you take her clothes shopping and it’s ok to buy her pants with ‘juicy’ on the butt? When you preach she needs sun protection as a toddler, and then suddenly it’s ok for her to have an itty bitty bikini on at age 5? When she watches her favorite ‘kids’ show and the ‘bad character’ always says “ahman” and has a lack of respect for authority? When we take modesty, respect, and age-appropiateness out of our culture, should we be SHOCKED when 9 years want to date boys and 13 year olds are getting pregnant? We blame popular culture, but WE the parents are the glue that holds it together- when we cave to media and technology, we’ve abandoned our kids.
When we realize media and corporate ideas of what is right are directing what we do with our kids, we have to make a stand and say WAIT! Kindergarteners should not be having 5 TESTS every week in reading, phonics, writing, math and social studies! They should be in a safe environment being able to learn and experience, not being pushed to do work that 2nd graders from 8 years ago did! Why do we feel we need to push our kids SO much? We look at 20/30 somethings and see how they have a disconnect from traditions and family, and we wonder why? Taylor gives the reader a thorough understanding in his book, that when we let media become central in our kids lives, family life suffers, and our kids self-identity that they will take into their adulthood, is not the ones we wish for them.
I wish all parents would get this book as a baby-shower present, so they can get a grasp on how media and technology is going to be such a MAJOR factor in raising their kids, so they can decide when the child is a baby, how they as a FAMILY will handle issues that will arise.Taylor doesn’t say we should shun media and technology, but we need to learn how to have an ‘unmediated life’- where it doesn’t rule our decisions, and where we as parents control how our kids are raised. The book is very approachable, and Taylor gives you all the information you need to have an eye-opening read about how much media and technology is influencing YOUR kids! We need to go on the offense and be pro-active, and if that means having ‘no technology’ weekends, so we can re-connect as a family, then we NEED to! Get the kids moving outside, have a family adventure, rediscover the beauty of the OUTSIDE world and empower your kids self-discovery, communication skills and problem solving skills. When we do, we give our kids a much stronger self-identity and personality, that truly lets them be ‘all they can be”.
This is actually a pretty good formula and was what I was expecting when I started reading “”Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your
Children for a Media-Fueled World”. Instead, the author, Jim Taylor does things a little differently. Yes he does go over some of the new research and yes he includes some real life anecdotes, but what stood out for me was his philosophical take on the storied relationship between children, media and family.
As someone who has read extensively on how media is affecting both children and adults, I wasn’t expecting anything particularly new. But you can tell Dr. Taylor has thought about this deeply and has found some new, very interesting ways of looking at these media issues. For example:
– on the advantages of living an “unmediated life”, not a no-technology life, but a life where media does not play a central role in one’s life.
– “externalization of Self-Identity”, how children develop a self-identity, and how this process is being usurped by corporate media (i.e. Popular Culture).
– how Popular Culture teaches a distorted view of reality and a false self – how parents themselves are often overly focused on technology to the detriment of family life.
A number of parenting how-to books have come out looking at the effects of technology on kids and family life. All too often the emphasis in on the internet, video games, texting and social media, with barely any mention of television. But children still spend more time watching TV than any of the new technologies combined, so that pretending that it is not an issue makes no sense. Luckily “Raising Generation Tech” does not make that mistake.
For parents looking for some hard and fast rules, you won’t find them here. But Dr. Taylor does provide ample new ways for looking at the problems of media overuse, and he very much encourages parents to think about and be aware of how much technology their kids are consuming. And whether parents want to raise their own children, or let technology and corporate media (pop culture) step in and raise their children for them.
Dr. Taylor writes in a breezy, easy-to-read manner, yet his subject matter is in many ways philosophical and deep. I would definitely recommend “Raising Generation Tech”.
Raising Generation Tech by Dr. Jim Taylor offers practical parenting advice on how to prepare children for the ever-increasing presence media play in our lives. Dr. Taylor, a parenting and technology expert, lays out the risks and benefits of media immersion and shows a feasible way in which media, through the right means, can be used in a healthy way for social and intellectual growth.
Discussion and guidance on such relevant topics as iPhone overuse, Facebook depression, and Internet addiction give parents a strategy to follow for steering clear of media saturation. Dr. Taylor addresses parents who are understandably fearful of popular and media technology overexposure and gives tips to help avoid the “plugged in” phenomenon of the new generation. Emphasizing a moderation approach to exposing children to media, this book covers prominent media issues parents face and introduces a mindset for balancing media with beneficial values and outside activities.
"Jim Taylor provides insights and lessons about the toughness that successful people have discovered within themselves, that has propelled them beyond the inevitable obstacles. We can all learn from and be inspired by Jim’s work."
Wally Walker, former NBA player, former CEO, Seattle Supersonics
President and CEO of the Seattle Supersonics