Durable Human (2 book series)

Yearly Archives: 2014

3 Questions To Consider Before Giving a First Cellphone

Child writing on paper

So your child has been clamoring for months, if not years, and you’re still not sure it’s the right time for that first mobile device. You are wise to think it over carefully because a phone has more strings attached than the most sought-after pair of sneakers.

For some kids, a phone is needed at an early age to keep in touch as they transfer between caregivers. But if your child is always under the watchful eye of an adult (at home, on the bus, or in school), having a phone may be more of a want than a need.

To determine if you and your child are ready for this life-changing milestone, ask yourself these questions:

Does my child really know herself?

The early pre-digital years–when a child is still technically wild and completely unplugged–is the only time in life when she can spend full time sensing the world and discovering her unique powers as a human animal. This is the time when she learns the capabilities of her own body and mind. By the time kids get to elementary school, new research shows that many don’t have a good sense of balance, direction, or even their own strength. As it says in The Durable Human Manifesto, “if kids spend too much time with technology too soon, they may never fully establish their own operating systems and understand what makes themselves tick.”

Is my child ready to step up?

What parents may not realize until too late is that giving a child a phone ends the simplicity of childhood. A child will never skip as high with a phone in his pocket. He’ll be forever saddled with adult-like responsibilities such as keeping an expensive and delicate object charged and out of the toilet. Take a look at whether he is handling responsibility in other aspects of his life. Consider having him earn the right to have a phone by showing  that he can be ready on time, do chores, etc.

Am I ready to rock the family boat? 

Once a child has a cellphone, it permanently changes the family balance of power. Life becomes a lot more complicated because he will begin to operate outside your oversight. Even if you use monitoring tools, it’s much harder to keep track of your child’s social life, whether offline or on. If you don’t feel comfortable dropping off your child alone at a shopping mall, he is not ready for a full-scale smartphone.

A full-fledged smartphone is extremely powerful and definitely not kid-friendly. Giving one is akin to handing over the keys to a Maserati when all your child can handle is a bike with training wheels.

A vastly simplified but slick device is Gabb Basic. It allows kids to call, text, and use a calendar, alarm and calculator. What they can’t do is get on the Internet, play games, use social media, shop in app stores, send picture messages, or group text.

If you decide to hold off giving a phone, it gives you and your child more time to prepare for your child to skillfully enter the digital world. In the interim, I suggest two books. Screenwise, Helping Kids Survive (and Thrive) in Their Digital World by Devorah Heitman, has excellent advice for you (as your child’s technology mentor) about how to bring up a good digital citizen who knows how to navigate online as well as to be a good friend in real life. The second title is Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela Hanscom, which explains how to instill the non-tech skills your child needs to become a durable, self-reliant adult.

To teach life balance in general, it’s also a good idea to sit down with each of your kids to plan out a balanced day using the American Academy of Pediatrics new Media Time Calculator. It pre-populates with the recommended amount of sleep and physical activity so media use is put into perspective with all your child’s needs over a 24-hour day. Here’s a 3 minute demo: 

Also, to help the whole family stay connected as they learn better tech management habits, take the Durable Family Pledge. Family members choose five life-balance habits to try over 4-week period. Long enough that they just might stick.

Download the Durable Family Pledge for FREE:

For more information and inspiration for raising active, engaged kids who know their way around the natural and digital worlds, also check out How To Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design. Each practical chapter includes a special section just for parents.

Learn about more about this author on Google+

This post was revised in December, 2019

6 Books that Make You Feel and Think

Beach girl cartwheel crop by Jenifer Joy MaddenWhen reading or giving a book, you want the experience to be uplifting or at least thought-provoking. These titles are worthwhile because they exemplify redeeming qualities of human nature – or prompt us to work harder to retain them.     

Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson cover compressRESILIENCE. One reason Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s Rare Bird has rocketed to the top of the non-fiction bestseller list is because of her extraordinary candor. Here she recalls what happened when her young son was swept to his death by a swollen creek near their home. Anna admits she’d always been the kind of  mother who let her kids play out in the rain, which she did that fateful afternoon. In her book, she intimately describes her struggle with the ensuing anguish and guilt. Her humor, honesty and faith are startling and cathartic, making Rare Bird soothing to the soul of anyone who has experienced a sudden loss, whether of a loved one or a way of life.

HOPE. In The Survivor TreeCheryl Aubin tells the story of a lone Callery Pear lovingly rehabilitated after it was buried in the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Centers. Beautifully illustrated in watercolor by Sheila Harrington, this is technically a children’s book, but has brought consolation, peace and hope to 9/11 survivors of all ages and the loved ones of those who were lost. Cheryl says she was called to research and write this story after seeing a tiny mention in USA Today about a little tree that was unearthed mangled and badly burned – but alive.

Best Care Possible cover compressCOMPASSION. In The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care through the end of Life, which I wrote about here, physician Ira Byock presents a positive approach to palliative care – the science and art of helping people in the end stages of life. In his sensitive and sensible guide, Byock holds the reader’s hand, making a heart-wrenching subject easier to face, as he summarizes in this statement: “We will encounter people whose lives we cannot save—diseases we cannot cure and injuries too grave to repair—but we can always make dying people more comfortable…to walk with patients, alleviating the person’s discomfort, optimizing his or her quality of life.”

Courier by Terry Irving cover compressIMAGINATION. We humans take delight in a good story, which Terry Irving delivers in Courier. Set in Washington, D.C. during the 1970s, a Vietnam vet, entrusted with delivering sensitive documents and fresh video for a major news network, rides straight into the center of a nation-shattering political scandal. Terry, whom I had the pleasure of working with at ABC, paints an accurate and vivid picture of the heyday of network news, bringing back the clatter of the old Associated Press wire machines even as he hints at the coming digital age. I never thought I’d be enthralled by the details of high-speed motorcycle chases, but Terry Irving proves me wrong with this delectable thriller.

The Circle by Dave Eggers cover compressPERSPECTIVE. As our lives become more entwined with technology, in The Circle Dave Eggers issues a dystopic wake-up call about what could happen if we don’t watch out. Set in the near future, Eggers describes how online life has been simplified to the point where everything we do is accessed through a single password and our activities are integrated by one, giant company which has managed to subsume all its competitors. We witness how one young woman, her family and her freedom are quickly transformed when she’s plucked from a dead-end job and brought into The Circle. This book presents a discomfiting look at one way that humans might figure in the future’s equation.

DURABILITY. The Durable Human Manifesto is an antidote to Eggers’ unnerving scenario. Baby giggles, crashing waves and other sounds of life accent the new audio version of this slim book which inspires you to be happy and effective in an increasingly digital world. As one reader describes it: “This quick 25-minute-listen is well worth your time.” From another: “Madden helps me understand how paying attention makes us more durable and better equipped to thrive in everyday life.”

Read more by Jenifer Joy Madden by joining the Durable Human News email list and following her on Google+.

Lessons From the First Kid Community Organizers

A no-nonsense group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders has transformed “the most depressing park in America” into a kid-friendly community mecca. No small accomplishment since it’s located in what has been considered one of the roughest U.S. cities: Camden, New Jersey.

The short history of the Student Leaders’ Von Nieda Park Task Force is in my last post. What you’ll see here are the secrets of their success.

The kids who may be the first-ever middle-school community organizers were in Washington, D.C. recently to visit their congressional delegation. They also shared with students from a multi-cultural Catholic parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Task Force formula for action: Continue reading


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