RAISING KIDS IN
THE MEDIA AGE
By Jay Dunlap
Circle Press, 2007
96 pages, $12.95
To order: circlepress.org
A list of modern technology terms that would have resulted in blank stares only 25 years ago includes TiVo, HD, Xbox, RSS, iPod, DVR, pop-up blocker, text message, Wii, Digg, avatar, YouTube, Wiki, Wi-Fi hotspot, del.icio.us, etc.
To some degree, these terms (and others) have wended their way into the common daily experience. Their associated services keep people informed and amused like never before, but they can also result in monopolizing one’s time and attention, which is a particular concern for parents.
Jay Dunlap has developed a concise yet thorough treatise on the topic, Raising Kids in the Media Age, which gives perspective to these trends, as well as suggestions for avoiding or mitigating the potential harm of media overexposure. Calling on his own TV news experience, Dunlap traces the rapidly increasing progression of communications media and its consequent changes in society and human interaction.
While profiting us in some ways, the new media are changing common experiences of human interaction for the worse. That is: The human relationship with the media and electronic devices is increasing, while individual, face-to-face interactions are seemingly decreasing and becoming more superficial or perfunctory.
In the case of parents, Dunlap writes, this is deserving of attention: “The modern family is so saturated by high-speed communications media that I firmly believe parents need to take a step back and look at what is the natural way for humans to interact, and what is a natural communicative environment for the development of a child. We as parents need a refresher course in what is natural in human relations. Just as parents can be rightfully concerned about the effects on a child’s diet of prepackaged, artificial, heavily sweetened junk food, so too we need to be critical of a child’s environment that is excessively dominated by prepackaged artificial, heavily edited communications media. Eating fruit is akin to children playing together spontaneously outdoors; a steady diet of those gooey, dinosaur-shaped ‘fruit snacks’ is akin to children being glued nonstop to ‘Sponge Bob’” (emphasis in original).
Among many topics, Raising Kids in the Media Age, has lengthy sections on TV viewing and the pervasive and dangerous threat of pornography. It also offers practical suggestions on managing media exposure and using media and technology to enhance social interaction in the family setting. An appendix of useful books and Internet sites is included, as well. An unspoken admonition is the need for parental vigilance in keeping abreast of technological advances, which constantly pose new opportunities — and threats.
A quick and thought-provoking read, Dunlap’s book is worth the review, even for parents already striving to control media exposure in their homes.
Peter Sonski is based in
New Haven, Connecticut.