A provocative look at the new, digital landscape of childhood and how to navigate it.
In The New Childhood, Jordan Shapiro provides a hopeful counterpoint to the fearful hand-wringing that has come to define our narrative around children and technology. Drawing on groundbreaking research in economics, psychology, philosophy, and education, The New Childhood shows how technology is guiding humanity toward a bright future in which our children will be able to create new, better models of global citizenship, connection, and community.
Shapiro offers concrete, practical advice on how to parent and educate children effectively in a connected world, and provides tools and techniques for using technology to engage with kids and help them learn and grow. He compares this moment in time to other great technological revolutions in humanity's past and presents entertaining micro-histories of cultural fixtures: the sandbox, finger painting, the family dinner, and more. But most importantly, The New Childhood paints a timely, inspiring and positive picture of today's children, recognizing that they are poised to create a progressive, diverse, meaningful, and hyper-connected world that today's adults can only barely imagine.
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as well as forward, diving into the cultural history of older modes to show how they are not timeless but grounded in outdated ideas; notably, he argues the monastery-based model of school bells and quiet desks no longer matches the diversified attention required by modern workplaces.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.