Suzie Hayman and John Coleman: Parents and Digital Technology

Read our exclusive interview with Suzie Hayman and John Coleman, authors of Parents and Digital Technology, and learn more about their fantastic book!

Children today are digital natives, growing up in an age where social media and online communication is the norm. This book is an indispensable guide for parents who may feel they are struggling to keep up, addressing the issues that young people and their families face in the world of modern technology.

Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you describe it in 50 words?
John: The essential guide for parents on the digital technology their children will be using. We live in an increasingly digital world and if we want our children to be benefitting and enjoying, not suffering from the access offered, we need to understand the technology, what it can do and how we can make them safe.

Why did you decide to write this book?
Suzie: From my experience as an agony aunt and parent educator, and as trustee of the family charity Family Lives, I became acutely aware that parents had anxieties about the digital world. They also often felt helpless in the face of their children’s demands and expectations to know how to set boundaries or rules around use.

John: From my experience as a psychologist doing research and running workshops with parents of teenagers, it became clear to me that the challenges of technology were top of the list of parental anxieties. This seemed to both of us a key issue where good information is urgently needed. The book aims to provide a roadmap for parents on understanding the technology and the issues, and offering tips, strategies and ideas on how to deal with it.

Is there anything you’d like to highlight about this topic or your book in particular?
John: Unlike most commentators on the subject, our research led us to see the impressive positives in using digital technology as well as the possible dangers. Our approach is to explore the anxieties, explain the genuine worries and threats but then to look at the very real benefits. The trick, which we aim to help parents manage, is to balance the two and learn how to maximize the benefits while minimizing the dangers.

What is the impact of digital technology on ‘digital natives’ and their families?
Suzie: You simply can’t get away from digital technology today and it will be even more prevalent in the future. Education, employment and entertainment will all rely on the ability to be comfortable with using technology. What is vital is to be in control rather than letting it control you. Young people today, as digital natives, have a facility in using this technology and take it for granted. However, that is not to say they understand the risks and it’s up to parents to guide and mediate. They can’t do that unless they have an understanding of the technology but also the important issues in using it. That’s what our book is all about.

So, what are the actual threats of the digital world?
Suzie: Disclosure – where people give away information that could put them at risk and have access to misinformation that may normalize destructive behaviour. This can range from seeing making nasty remarks online is just a joke rather than damaging bullying, to assuming that sex is not about mutual respect and caring or pleasure, but about violence, coercion, men abusing women and women accepting that. There is also the real threat of a lack of sleep due to too much screen time leading to family conflict, short attention spans and ill health.

And what opportunities does it provide?
John: Keeping in touch with friends and family and the development of social and communication skills. Access to a communities and role models that result in the increase of confidence, competence and self esteem. Opportunities in education and the chance to learn to be analytical and critical. There are also massive opportunities to be creative – to make films, compose music, write, share and publish.

What’s a common misconception about this topic that you’d like to clear up?
John: That it’s all bad news and the most important lesson for parents is to take control and suppress. Saying “NO!” often doesn’t work – it just makes kids want to fight. Saying “Yes, but have you thought about…could we discuss…what you think about…” usually helps you all come up with an agreed and workable answer.

What would your advice be to parents who are worried about their families’ reliance on technology?
Suzie: Look to your own behaviour first. Young people do what we do, not what we say, so your example is really important. If you want to cut down their reliance on technology, manage your own first. Lay down rules and draw boundaries but keep them too. Have at least one day a week and certain times at home when you all digitally detox but offer fun and exciting alternatives. Surprisingly, few young people can resist the lure of a family board-game night!

Have you read any Routledge books? If so, which your favorite Routledge book at the moment? 
Suzie: Of course! My favourite at present is Japanese Gardens: Symbolism and Design by Seiko Goto and Takahiro Naka. Spring is coming..

Do you have any events lined up?
Suzie: Yes! I will be holding a question and answer session on parenting teenagers on the 22nd of October from 10am-12pm at St John’s Marlborough – The Theatre on the Hill.

We just publish your book, what’s next in the pipeline for you?
Suzie: We’re not sure, although John and I so enjoyed working together that not only are we apparently unusual in still talking to each other, we even want to do another book together! So we’ll be talking ideas as soon as this book is safely launched. Probably over a few wonderful meals and country walks where I live, in Cumbria.

Final thought:
John: We’re really proud of this book. I think we did an excellent job covering all the bases and that any parent who reads it will find something of use and interest. It’s thought provoking and inspiring but also immensely practical – it will help parents make a difference. 

Featured Book

  • Parents and Digital Technology

    How to Raise the Connected Generation

    By Suzie Hayman, John Coleman

    Children today are digital natives, growing up in an age where social media and online communication is the norm. This book is an indispensable guide for parents who may feel they are struggling to keep up, addressing the issues that young people and their families face in the world of modern…

    Paperback – 2016-04-05
    Routledge

Suzie Hayman is a Relate-trained counsellor, an accredited parenting educator, an agony aunt and the author of 30 books on parenting.

http://www.agony-aunt.com/about/

John Coleman is a psychologist whose primary interest is adolescence. His pioneering work with parents and families has been widely recognised, and in 2001 he was awarded an OBE for his services to young people.

www.jcoleman.co.uk

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