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Review: 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid by Jonathan McKee

Smartphone use, a huge social experiment that some say is leading to disaster, needs to change.  We all need to learn to be ‘smarter than our smartphones.’  And while we parents are trying to learn this, we need to be teaching our teens as well.  That’s a tall order, especially since the devices are addicting.

While I read this book, I shared the couch with two of my kids and their smart phones.  (Yes, we, too have the problem.)  I asked one of them, as suggested by McKee, if she was addicted to her phone.  She laughed at the idea.   So I suggested we should both do without our phones for two hours, just to prove it.

And, wouldn’t you know it, the moment I said that, I myself began to itch to pick mine up!  Fortunately I had this book to read and was able to easily distract myself with it and other duties, but I was shocked at myself.  My daughter lasted an hour and a half before she absolutely needed to check the weather forecast to know how to get her chickens ready for the night.  Yes, we can both do without our phones for many hours, but if they are close by they exert a surprising pull on us, especially when we are not busy with other things.

I admit, therefore, that we are both addicted to our phones in some sense.  I’m willing to bet you are, too.  Not convinced?  Just try leaving it sitting out somewhere where you can see it while committing to ignore it for several hours.

Now, with that established, how are we to help our kids master their cell phones? We parents need to learn to leave ours alone, but we can’t wait to teach our kids until we are perfect.  It’s just like all of parenting—we need to set a good example, but we can’t ignore our kids’ issues until we ourselves are issue-free.

And that’s where McKee’s 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid comes in.  With humor, data, and stories from his own family and his decades as a youth pastor, McKee presents practical and helpful suggestions.  Of course, not all of them will work for everyone, and he emphasizes that we parents need to see what resonates with our teens.  But reading the suggestions is like an infusion of hope and fun.   From simple coffee dates to buying a puppy, from family docking stations to camping without wifi, there are ideas here for everyone.

McKee begins his book with a brief discussion of cell phone statistics and research, concluding that ‘we need to help teenagers move from being tech dependent to being tech enabled.’  Then he follows that up with 52 practical ideas (or slightly crazy ones, like buying a tandem bike) that he explains and supports.  The’ Questions to Ponder’ give both guidance and encouragement.  Finally, the book ends with a very brief summary of each chapter and a few engaging questions for each venue to encourage meaningful conversation with your teens.

Did this book teach me anything new?  Not really. What it did do was remind me of things I had thought about before.  More than that, it gave me tools I can use to actually make more of these things happen. For example, the idea, above, of seeing whether or not my daughter was addicted to her phone was sparked by this book.  Even beyond that, it was helpful to see the wise parenting slogan ‘both bonding and boundaries’ applied creatively to kids and smartphones.

The tricky thing for me will be to remember these ideas and make some of them happen.  I have put a reminder in my phone (!) to apply these concepts regularly.

If your kids spend a fair bit of time on their cellphones—or if they grab them the moment they are allowed to—you might want to read 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid.  This is a book worth requesting for your public, homeschooling, and church libraries so that it can benefit your communities as well as your family.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+, where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, friend me on Facebook where I am just a newbie, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure:  We received a review copy from Jonathan McKee.

This article may be linked to Raising Homemakers, Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

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