New book by local authors tells parents how to survive in Digital Age

The Digital Age is now even reaching into the crib.

Babies as young as 4 months old are reportedly viewing computer- and smartphone-type screens. It brings to mind a somewhat Orwellian vision of a nursing ward filled with babies in a hospital, all of them with little screens conveniently located above their heads.

Perhaps they will learn to tap out messages like, “Hey, Ma! Feed me!”

But it is no fantasy that major toy makers, like Fisher-Price, are turning out many products connected with digital equipment for children, thus replacing the toy trains and catcher’s mitts. The digital world is getting larger all of the time. Its message can go right over the heads of parents to reach their children.

by: CLIFF NEWELL - Monique Terner, left, and Kathy Keller Jones have contributed to the new book Face to Face, a how-to manual for parents worried about too much technology in their children's lives.There is even some fear that technology will replace childhood.

That is where the Family Empowerment Network’s new book “Face to Face: Cultivating Kids’ Social Lives in Today’s Digital World” comes in. Kathy Keller Jones of Lake Oswego and Monique Terner of West Linn are two of the authors who have contributed articles to a book aimed at helping parents to allow their children to keep their digital screens but not let digital technology take over their lives.

The digital tide is massive, but it does not have to overwhelm families.

“The main point is that we want to encourage parents to get together instead of grappling alone,” said Terner, who has counseled children, parents and educators for more than 20 years.

“With this book we’re trying to help parents remember their basic values and not those of the video world and stay connected with their kids,” said Jones, a parenting counselor who has worked on two previous books for the Family Empowerment Network.

Jones and Terner helped write “Face to Face” because there is simply no way digital entertainment and communication technology can develop the qualities a child needs to become a “well-balanced person.” That is the phrase Jones and Terner use often, and it can only be achieved by making interpersonal connections, most importantly with their parents. This is how children learn how to achieve true friendship and communication skills, cultivate empathy and foster resilience, which involves building emotional hardiness, competence and confidence. These things cannot be achieved by playing video games.

But the media marketing message of “Buy an iPad for your kid” is powerful. Terner noted that major marketing campaigns are even aimed at selling bouncy seats equipped with iPads and teething rings and potty chairs with iPhones. It is tempting for parents to give in to such pressure and simply hand their kid an iPhone.

“It’s all about shortening childhood,” Jones said. “The digital world tells our children, ‘You shouldn’t have to sit still for 10 minutes. You deserve to be entertained all of the time.’”

“One time I was tutoring a 10-year-old girl, and she couldn’t concentrate,” Terner said. “She said she had a video game going on in her brain.”

Terner and Jones could have cited lots of worrisome statistics and many more examples about how digital technology is dominating children’s lives, but one of the strongest is about a local family that was doing everything right with their 12-year-old son, such as making sure he spent plenty of time in nature.

But, as Jones remembers, he told his parents, “Because I don’t play video games I have nothing to talk about with other boys.”

Still, moving into a cave is not the solution.

“The doomsday approach will not work,” Terner said. “We want to look at the alternative. We can’t take electronic devices away from our kids, but we also want them to learn how to make relationships.”

Parents can do this by picking up “Face to Face” with its articles and exercises that can lead a child into becoming a well-balanced person. Jones contributed articles on the brain revolution and tips for maintaining digital sanity and protecting your family, girls’ body image and eating disorders, and others. Terner’s articles address media violence and its effects on children.

“There are so many things we can do,” Jones said.

“Face to Face” can be ordered from the Family Empowerment Network at the website

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