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Reviewed by Dr. Jordan Alexander for Readers' Favorite
I’ve just finished Parenting Beyond Screens by Brandon LaFontaine. It's so good, I will read it again. Where was this book a decade ago when I desperately needed advice on managing kids and new technologies? How to navigate this new “crossroads between parenting and technology” raises issues of how much screen time, what to censor, how to set hard boundaries and when to hold firm to reclaim family first time. Fortunately, this book has answers. Starting by framing your family as an ecosystem - and appreciating we all start from different families - LaFontaine carefully weaves science and research (but not too much) with practical stories that make sense (but don’t insult your intelligence), leaving you with options to consider for your family, without judgment or preaching (despite that being his day job). This well-written yet succinct book gets you thinking. “What is something you wish you would have been taught as a kid that you can pass on to your children?” What’s that got to do with technology you may ask - well, a lot as it turns out. This is a parenting book after all, and that's exactly what it delivers.
This book acknowledges how technology scratches the human need for connection, but quickly distinguishes the QUALITY of the connection comparing a movie date where there is little or no ‘meaningful connection’ while watching the screen. Connecting with your kids in the digital age is challenging; fortunately, LaFontaine doesn’t leave us hanging. He provides exercises in each chapter, and the ‘Stop and Think’ questions are invaluable to help digest the content and his advice. I especially loved the how-to process he outlines in section three that helps your family identify its values.
If you seek to better understand this age of distraction, this book will provide you with a sense of direction for your family and confidence for you to steer toward face-first family living. LaFontaine encourages us not to use technology as an excuse to step away from parenting responsibilities just because some tech baffles or today’s culture makes us feel “uncomfortable exercising authority”. Instead, he allows readers to understand the paradoxes of parenting and helps us appreciate and accept technology has an impact on our families - like it or not. LaFontaine has a warm, straightforward, tell-it-like-it-is style that helps diffuse any bad parent guilt you might have. Focusing on how to make your family better in your space at home, how you communicate, and ways to address the impacts on our hearts, minds, and bodies provides readers with much to think about regarding the appropriate use of tech in our lives. “As the world is spinning and flying by for kids in the midst of this culture change,” LaFontaine says “they need an anchor.” His book helps parents learn how to be that anchor.