Book Review: Raising Humans in a Digital World

March 12, 2019

Raising Humans in a Digital World walks parents through the challenges of raising their kids in a digital world. Where there are never-ending technology opportunities, devices, and attention-getting games, apps, and experiences. Written by Diana Graber, a cofounder of Cyberwise and founder of Cyber Civics, this book is structured in a parent-friendly way and perfect for parents whose children are not receiving instruction at school.

Graber, herself a parent to two daughters and educator of hundreds of middle school kids, has a unique perspective and plenty of experience. 11 - 13 are the ages where kids are first learning social media, media literacy, and the importance of being thoughtful online. While she and her own kids benefitted from the inclusion of digital skills into their curriculum, she realizes not all parents have the same opportunities. Enter this book: a manual for parents who want to teach their kids digital skills.

Raising Humans in a Digital World is an easily digestible read filled with thought provoking questions about the implications of growing up with devices in hands and eyes on screens. Also of note are the “Cyber Civics Moments” peppered throughout the book that give parents fun and compelling exercises about tech to do with their children. Some examples are having kids ponder what life was like before cell phones, Googling themselves, or to play Pitch Me!, an activity where kids pitch parents on why they should be allowed to download certain apps.

Graber compares an online safety education to building a strong neighborhood, filled with a solid foundation, sturdy structure, and a vibrant community. With these three components, parents can feel that their child will be successful in navigating a digital life. Furthermore, Graber provides guidance on tricky topics such as digital reputation, screen time, relationships within the online space, and privacy.

Three lessons on intentionality, digital on-ramps, and media literacy stood out:

  • Being intentional. Graber stresses the importance of plainly spelling out to your child what you are doing on a device. She notes that children are mimics and if you are not modeling good behavior, your children will have a harder time understanding good balancing habits. Graber specifically notes that parents should be mindful about how many times they use their phone in front of a child. She suggests they explain what they are doing or invite the child to do it with them if they must use the device near the kids.

  • Digital on-ramps. Graber pondered how best to introduce technology to children in a way that is appropriate for their developmental age. Alongside Patti Connolly she provides useful examples of activities that are appropriate for each stage of a child’s life. Examples include playing child-friendly video games together at ages 7 - 9 but only video chatting with loved ones at age 0 - 2.

  • Teaching Media Literacy. Since Graber is a middle school educator, she takes an interesting approach to teaching media literacy involving “C.R.A.P.” or “Currency, Reliability, Author, and Purpose/Point of View.” By remembering these four categories, children will think critically about anything published online and use their own judgement on its ability to provide credible information.

Overall, Raising Humans in a Digital World will guide parents of all digital skill levels through the necessary steps to build a successful and healthy relationship with technology for their children. More information about Diana Graber’s book can be found here:

Written by

Erin McCowey

Erin McCowey is the Program Coordinator for the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) where she curates the Good Digital Parenting (GDP) program, supporting parents and educators as they navigate the digital world with their children and students. Erin coordinates resources and external contributions to GDP; publishing blogs, parenting resources, and parenting tools. In her work with GDP, she aims to boost the work of other experts in this space so that parents, educators, and other stakeholders are able to benefit from an overall greater digital experience. Erin contributes to FOSI’s events and communications practice, and regularly consults with member organizations on their parenting related resources.

Erin studied Political Science and International Studies at the University of Michigan, graduating in 2017. She joined FOSI as the Program Assistant in 2018 after previously serving as a Program Intern in the summer of 2016.