Parenting for a Digital Future – How Hopes and Fears about Technology Shape Children’s Lives is a new and very important book for parents and professionals working with parents by Prof. Sonia Livingstone and her co-author, Alicia Blum-Ross. The book provides ample first-hand research evidence as well as evidence-based reflections about various challenges parents face in a more and more digitalised world. The issue of bringing up children in a digitalised environment has become far more topical recently, due to school closures around the world. In a world that demands more and more from parents, this book can be a flashlight helping parents to find their own path and help professionals to support parenting in the right way – while ensuring us all that there is not only one “right”.
Sonia Livingstone has long been an important voice in the field of digital media and parenting, one of the few who always advocated for a positive approach and the need for empowerment rather than the more common approach of both academia and NGOs, trying to impose legal restrictions and making people frightened by sharing horror stories. The new book is a powerful tool for advocates of digital age as an opportunity.
The research presented went deep into all aspect of the digital age, and catalogues nearly all areas parents might have doubts or questions in raising children in a world that depends more and more on digital technology. They draw a colourful picture showing many different approaches to digital realities, the use of technology, impact of digital developments on the present and future life of children. It investigates how digital technology use has changed the daily lives of families, ensuring all parents that there is no “right” solution. At the same time the book also tries to finally make people finish talking about screen time in general, and helps us to have a much-needed nuanced approach to passive and active screen time.
Inequalities, one of the most crucial elements of the whole digitalisation reality, get a major highlight. Again, it is dealt with in a very delicate way, showing an important element of reality: it is much less of a problem to get physical access to technology, the core challenge is about the amount of support, scaffolding parents can offer their children. We can clearly see why it is of utmost importance that the focus is on parenting support in order to enable all parents to educate their children well. This way, this book can be added to the evidence-base toolbox of all parenting experts.
We can also see how digital technology is probably the first tool to build a bridge for the inclusion of children with special needs. As education and services try to reflect the needs of individual children, and thus more and more special needs are catered for, we need to stop for a moment and reflect on all advantages of digital technology as well as raise all questions around potential harm. Parenting for a Digital Future offers a balanced view in this respect, too.
Being focused on digital technology per se, we may need to look into the broader impact of technology together, as this is the area where the book raised more questions in us as readers than offered answers in. For example, the chapter on education, clearly written before the coronavirus school closure period, solely focuses on learning digital and not using digital as an additional and flexible resource. However, it is still very much in line with what Sir Ken Robinson, who died the day before the writing of this book review, had pledged for in education.
Parenting for a Digital Future is a surprisingly easy read. It is full of short examples and anecdotes from the qualitative research the authors have carried out. It makes the reader reflect on realities, understand the importance of approaching parenting support with multicultural awareness and in a non-judgemental manner. We can only recommend you to read this new publication if you are a parent, a teacher, a teacher trainer or a professional working with parents with children of any age. It is education professionals who are more likely to know more than average about this topic. We would definitely like to see the book in their hands, but also in the hands of other trusted professionals parents go to for advice (paediatricians, social workers, NGO workers). It is an essential read for all advocates of child rights who want to have an impact on legislation and methodology tackling all implications of digital technology and digital realities. Bearing in mind that parents are the most impactful educators of their children, this book is a must-read for those who wish to empower the primary educators for a bright future of our children – that nearly certainly will be digital.