From national tragedies like that at Sandy Hook Elementary School to the increased digital tools at virtually everyone’s disposal — including in the hands of kids — it’s understandable that parents might feel overwhelmed as they try to raise their children in today’s age.
Struggling to find a healthy balance — one that allows their kids to thrive and be unique, while still keeping their children safe in society — is one of the concerns among parents that authors like R. Bradley Snyder are discussing with local communities.
Snyder spoke on a Tuesday evening earlier this month at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe to promote his new book — the “5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids: How to Deal with Modern Problems Facing Your Tweens and Teens” — and also discuss new parenting trends based on the outcomes of scientific research.
The 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids takes scientific data that Snyder has researched and compiles it into a format that parents reading his book will comprehend easier and will better enjoy. He has the ability to take his academic knowledge and apply it in different ways, said Snyder; Snyder is also the president of New Amsterdam Consulting, Inc. He has a background in developmental psychology and has advised major companies such as Marvel Comics and the Discovery Channel to develop successful programs and campaigns for children.
Snyder’s five truths appeared simple enough:
• Kids are kids; today’s kids have the same learning preferences and learning preferences as previous generations.
• Kids are good; despite popular beliefs, kids have lower levels of delinquent behaviors such as risky sexual behavior, drug use, and violence.
• Kids need parents; parents serve as both the educator and protector, not necessarily the friend.
• Kids need adults; kids need role models that do not have a history with the child to learn from and understand a new perspective.
• Kids need communities; they need a system with shared beliefs and attitudes to obtain a more knowledgeable other to model their behavior and be successful.
After talking about his five truths, Snyder took the opportunity to address questions from the audience regarding concerns the group of mostly parents still had.
Most questions regarded new technologies and the best way to parent with them. There were still concerns with the digital age. Some wondered how they could best deal with new media devices and applications such as Instagram.
Kim Tarnopolski, a Tempe resident and mother of a 10-year-old girl, was concerned about the best way to deal with her middle school daughter’s wishes for the latest technology. Tarnopolski’s concern was finding a way to say no and still practice good parenting in this digital age.
“I hate saying no to kids. Make the child apply for that device,” Snyder said.
In order for kids to use a questionable device or application, Snyder suggests having them sign and turn in a form to their parents. The application would include a number of pertinent questions: “Why do you want it?” “Why is it better than any other program?” “What does it do?”
In addition specific rules would need to be made to accommodate the new device.
These contracts would allow parents space to make the decision, learn about the program, and determine what need this is meeting in the kid, Snyder said. Once approved, the contracts serve as a period of demonstration. Having the rules would allow kids to run free with their new tool under reasonable constraints. In this agreements kids and parents are working together but parents maintain their authority.
Ella, Snyder’s 7-year-old daughter, has already piloted the contracts.
“She has had an iPod touch since she was two and an email (address). She has a three second rule. She has three seconds to pause her device … and respond when an adult talks to her,” Snyder said.
Beth Hare, another Tempe resident and mother of two girls, ages 10 and 12, had different concerns than the simple use of devices and technologies
“My main concern with Instagram is the emotion side,” she said. “They feel good that people like pictures. They can feel left out, hurt, unpopular if they don’t.”
Hare referred back to Snyder’s presentation. She was concerned that if middle school-aged kids like her daughter are using these devices during the critical developmental periods Snyder addressed, they may feel worse about themselves if they don’t have a large group of followers online. Offline she is just as concerned.
“What is it doing to them inside? They are not talking anymore, they are bad with confrontation and hide behind their devices,” she said.
In addition to monitoring the use of technological and social devices, Tarnopolski was also concerned about the privacy issues social media devices have.
Parents are less likely to know all of the access points to applications like Instagram today, Tarnopolski said. Her daughter found a link through her iPad mini without even downloading the application, she said.
“How do you keep up with it? It takes time. How the heck am I going to keep up with it?”
Despite their reservations about the digital age, both Tarnopoloski and Hare have either allowed their girls to use devices or set the age they can use them. Both agreed that there is no golden age to give kids technology access.
“Every parent is different. Parents you respect and admire make different decisions than you,” Hare said, “every kids going to be different.”
“At the core you have to believe kids are good,” added Tarnopoloski.
Snyder’s 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids: How to Deal with Modern Problems Facing Your Tweens and Teens” can be purchased at Changing Hands bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe, via changinghands.com (direct link to Snyder’s book: evtnow.com/snyderraisingkids), or other retailers. More information on author R. Bradley Snyder’s research and writing can be found at rbradleysnyder.com.