26 September 2023

Families in the Digital Age

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Toni Hassan, Hybrid Publishers, $24.99.

This every parent’s guide has been described as “one of the most needed books about social media”. In fact, “… the whole digital box and dice”.

Canberra-based author, Hassan says she has met many parents who have been concerned that personal devices are reducing happiness at home.

“It has become a source of tension that has shrunk a family’s capacity to spend time together, and when together, increased conflicts.”

In this confronting, yet productive guide on parenting in the digital age, award-winning journalist, research scholar, visual artist and a parent, Hassan catalogues the impacts of interactive devices on children and young people and offers ways out.

“Rather than freeing us, screens have made us dependent,” she says. “They have thinned relationships and thinned time for the things that ultimately nourish use. Almost no part of children’s lives are free from the anxiety created by commercial forces curating their moment to moment experiences.”

Moving beyond the gloom, Hassan offers lots of practical hope with ideas and tips for families to manage the digital age so that despite the challenges, children and young people can thrive.

Toni found herself thrust into the online world of hazards when her eldest child got her hands on a mobile phone at the age of 12. It resulted in her writing the book and changing her own screen habits. She outlines how we can define what a ‘healthy digital family life’ looks like for us and how to lay the groundwork to make it happen

In the foreword, author Steve Biddulph rightly says there’s a place for social media that is powerful and good. “But it’s not in childhood, and it’s never a replacement for real people, real connection, and real time to dream and imagine. Perhaps it will make us value those things even more.”

We live in an epoch of technology. As we don’t know where this digital revolution will take us, it is up to us to make sure we have quality time for ourselves and each other … because it matters.

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