cover image The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World

The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World

Jordan Shapiro. Little, Brown Spark, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-43724-0

Shapiro, a coordinator of child development research at Sesame Workshop, presents a well-formulated, deeply insightful point of view on the place of technology in raising kids. Avoiding being either a Luddite or technology cheerleader, Shapiro explains that adults must still take responsibility for guiding child cognitive and social development, despite their possible discomfort at the “multidirectional, nonlinear intersection” of modern childhood and the digital world. His analysis places early-21st-century tools in the context of older concepts, showing how the game Minecraft promotes imaginative play and peer connection just as playing outside does, or how virtual locations can meaningfully and healthily provide public spaces. Shapiro works backward as well as forward, diving into the cultural history of older modes to show how they are not timeless but grounded in outdated ideas; notably, he argues the monastery-based model of school bells and quiet desks no longer matches the diversified attention required by modern workplaces. He admonishes parents and educators not to give technology “autonomy and credit,” but to treat it as a helpful tool. Placing modern child-rearing in the context of the long story of human cultural adaptation, this manual makes the challenges of screens more approachable, and the adult role in meeting them clearer. (Dec.)