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Monday, July 21, 2014

"Growing Up Social" (Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane)

TITLE: Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World
AUTHOR: Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014, (240 pages).

These days, screens are everywhere. With the popularity of digital tablets and the ubiquitous smartphones, all it takes is to notice people looking down on the phones in their palms, and we can recognize a social phenomenon these days. How do we cultivate relationships in a screen-driven world? The best hope is to begin when they are young. That is why Gary Chapman, author of the famous Five Love Languages and Arlene Pellicane, author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife have come together to help us ensure that technology does not overwhelm our relationships. According to the authors, "Screens are not the problem; the problem lies in the way we constantly use them." This is the central message of the book. As it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep technology away from growing kids, it is more practical to cultivate guidelines on technology usage.

For all the benefits, the authors remind us again about the problems of technology.

  • Lack of real-world teaching moments and family bonding
  • Inattentiveness
  • Too much technology
  • Too early exposure

A) The A+ Method for Relational Kids

In order to counter the negative effects of such technology usage, Chapman and Pellicane propose an A+ skills method.
  1. Show Affection
  2. Appreciate others
  3. Deal with Anger
  4. Learn to Apologize
  5. Pay Attention.
The first skill is "Affection" which is often undermined by the tendency to exaggerate the promises of technology as the means of connection. It subtly tells us physical presence does not matter as much. It makes us think we are making real friends in the virtual world. It increases egoistic behaviours leading to a new phenomenon called "Facebook depression." Every child has an emotional love tank that is filled by the love languages of physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. 

The second skill is about showing gratitude instead of indulging in non-stop acts of self-gratification. Readers will learn of "10 screen-free ways" to help cultivate a heart of gratitude.

The third skill is about teaching kid show to manage their anger, without resorting to "distractions, delays, or deflections." They need to learn how to deal with such emotions as part of growing up. When parents simply shove an iPad to a child to divert his anger, it is not helping the kid at all. It just delays the problem. Touching on online anger, the authors notice that the amount of time a child spends on a screen may very well be due to the lack of time parents spend with their kids!

The fourth skill is about learning to apologize as full as possible, without making disclaimers. Five keys are provided to help parents and kids do just that.

The fifth skill is attention. In an information overload age that promises interesting and instant screen information, reading habits have deteriorated. Five ways are suggested to help foster a love of reading for the child. Noting the rise in attention deficit and multitasking difficulties, the authors put forward some practical tips to help boost one's attention. Have more outdoor activities; experience more of nature; help make eye contact; and so on.

B) Screen Time Observations

Chapman and Pellicane then highlights seven areas that screen time can influence tremendously. They make a connection between screen-time and shyness, arguing that it is a direct result of people spending too much time alone with technological gadgets. They say that technology shapes our brains especially young ones. They see opportunities to build the child's emotional love tank through the five love languages.  They advocate the need to protect children from cyberbullying, Internet predators and porn, and safe privacy settings, ending with a "screen safe family pledge" that can be used straight off the page. They look at the area of parental authority and suggests that the way parents put together protective steps in outdoor activities be similarly applied to online activities. Provide instructions, corrections, and positive modeling to the children. With each screen time, ask about the effect on the child's attitude; their behavioural change; and their character building. Chapman and Pellicane also note the unique challenges of single parents, and warn about how anger can run deep in divorce situations. Finally, how does screen time influence each of us? Cultivate digital sabbaths.

So What?

Although the authors have aimed the book at children, I feel that the contents of the book can be easily applied to all ages, as parents too need help in managing the technology that is becoming so pervasive and increasingly intrusive in our personal lives. Maybe, it is not the kids that is the main point. It is teaching the parents that change must start with them. They must model what they want their kids to learn. It is no use if a parent tell the kid to do something and then turn around and do the very same thing he/she forbids the child to do. We live in a world where it is no longer possible to prevent anyone from being in touch with technology. Peer pressure and the powerful world of social media are dominating the very way we work, live, and play. The modern smartphones are becoming so powerful that they can can empower anyone to do email, text, phone, social media updates. Technology is here to stay, but we can certainly carve a way and a will to know when to stay online and when to stay offline. Both environments exist and both are real today. However, one is more real than the other. The more we know the difference, the better it is in our ability to distinguish fact from hype; reality from virtual; and face-to-face rather than Facebook.

Written with the practitioner in mind, this book is a needed resource in our screen-infatuated world.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.


  1. Mr. Yap, I would like to know if we could copy this book review to our website (www.lavalfamilies.ca). We have a new section where we would like to post book reviews for our visitors.
    Our web site is mostly visited by people living in the city of Laval, Quebec.

    1. Hi Manon,

      I was searching through the SPAM comments and found your mail. Sorry for not replying to you earlier.

      You are most welcome to use my review.

      With care,

      Dr Conrade Yap