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The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Ageby Lynn Schofield Clark
Synopses & Reviews
New technologies offer new ways for families to connect, access ideas and entertainment, and manage the risks faced by children and teens, but they also bring more responsibilities, choices, and challenges. Texting, sexting, Net Nannies, Facebook, mobile phones with GPS, and cyberbullying all create everyday conflicts parents and children must manage while balancing questions of authority and autonomy, and trust and risk. Just how are digital, mobile, and more traditional media changing family life today?
Drawing on over ten years of observations and interviews with families, The Parent App analyzes why digital and mobile media play such a large role in the lives of children, what most concerns parents, and what approaches to new technologies prove most successful for both parents and kids. Lynn Clark argues that middle class and lower income parents have markedly different experiences with digital and mobile technologies in their children's lives, especially during the preteen and teen years. Middle class parents incorporate new technology into what has been called their "concerted cultivation" style of parenting by utilizing the control and monitoring systems available to them, while also limiting the amount of time and type of activities their children may spend with technology. The "natural growth" approach to parenting typically observed in lower-income families means parents trust their kids to know right from wrong, but the mediated environment complicates this trust. For one, parents know far less about the latest technology than their children, yet they consciously use media to keep children in the home and avoid risks outside it. They often associate media with leisure time and staying connected, rather than with work or school as middle class families do. In contrast to middle class families who feel they should do something better with their time than watching television together, less advantaged families value the time together, and view television and gaming with less ambivalence.
Whatever the parenting style or economic bracket, parents experience anxiety about how to manage new technology, especially how to assert authority while respecting the wishes of young people. Clark's book provides the kind of guidance backed by thorough research that today's parents desperately need.
"Clark's research and richly textured interviews yield tips that can help parents use social media to cope with work-family stresses in ways compatible with their particular values and needs. This thoughtful book challenges doomsday predictions about the impact of digital technology on individuals but offers disturbing evidence that the current organization and context of social media may exacerbate rather than reduce social differences."
-- Stephanie Coontz, author, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap
"For any parent out there who is anxious about your child's use of social media: this book is for you. The Parent App provides important insight into the role of technology in contemporary middle class family life, combining the perspectives of parents and youth in order to highlight where there are tensions and confusion. Using a delightful mix of narrative and analysis, Clark invites parents to understand what is unfolding so that they don't feel so trapped."
-- danah boyd, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research
"Sociologist Clark (Religion, Media and the Marketplace), a media, film, and journalism studies professor at the University of Denver, is also the mother of a preteen and teen. In this book she studies how the Internet and digital and mobile media are reshaping the American family. With more than 10 years of research under her belt, Clark offers interviews and case studies with parents and children from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds as the core of her text. She observes that while parents across the board voice concern about the risks that the Internet, social media, mobile phones, and so forth present for their children, they also realize that parenting in the digital age requires involvement and mediation. In upper-income families, Clark finds, parents keep kids busy with after school enrichment activities, and encourage them to use media to enrich their education and self-development. Lower-income families, she observes, use media to foster family ties and generate respect. Although the digital world is an indisputable and increasingly indispensable part of children's lives, it is also an arena, she argues, that widens the gap between classes. Clark provides a detailed, savvy, and scholarly view of how families are handling both the risks and benefits of the digital age. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ninety-five percent of American kids have Internet access by age 11; the average number of texts a teenager sends each month is well over 3,000. More families report that technology makes life with children more challenging, not less, as parents today struggle with questions previous generations never faced: Is my thirteen-year-old responsible enough for a Facebook page? What will happen if I give my nine year-old a cell phone?
In The Parent App, Lynn Schofield Clark provides what families have been sorely lacking: smart, sensitive, and effective strategies for coping with the dilemmas of digital and mobile media in modern life. Clark set about interviewing scores of mothers and fathers, identifying not only their various approaches, but how they differ according to family income. Parents in upper-income families encourage their children to use media to enhance their education and self-development and to avoid use that might distract them from goals of high achievement. Lower income families, in contrast, encourage the use of digital and mobile media in ways that are respectful, compliant toward parents, and family-focused. Each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks, and whatever the parenting style or economic bracket, parents experience anxiety about how to manage new technology. With the understanding of a parent of teens and the rigor of a social scientist, Clark tackles a host of issues, such as family communication, online predators, cyber bullying, sexting, gamer drop-outs, helicopter parenting, technological monitoring, the effectiveness of strict controls, and much more.
The Parent App is more than an advice manual. As Clark admits, technology changes too rapidly for that. Rather, she puts parenting in context, exploring the meaning of media challenges and the consequences of our responses-for our lives as family members and as members of society.
About the Author
Lynn Schofield Clark is Associate Professor in Media, Film, and Journalism Studies, and Director of the Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media at the University of Denver. Her books include Religion, Media, and the Marketplace; From Angels to Aliens, and Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media.
Table of Contents
Foreword: The Parent App and the Parent Trap
Part I: Digital media and family communication
Ch. 1 Risk, digital media, and parenting in a digital age
Ch. 2 Communication in families: expressive empowerment and respectful connectedness
Ch. 3 How parents are mediating the media in middle class and in less advantaged homes
Ch. 4 Media rich and time poor: The emotion work of parenting in the digital age
Part II: Digital media and youth
Ch. 5 Identity 2.0: Young people and digital and mobile media
Ch. 6 Less advantaged teens, ethnicity, and digital and mobile media: respect, restriction, and reversal
Part III: Cautionary tales
Ch. 7 Cyberbullying girls, helicopter moms, and Internet predators
Ch. 8 Strict parents, gamer high school dropouts, and shunned overachievers
Ch. 9 Conclusion: Parenting in a digital age: The mediatization of family life and the parent app
Appendix A: Methods
Appendix B: Parents, children, and the media landscape: resources
Appendix C: The Family Digital Media contract
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