Free Youngsters from Their Screens

February 9, 2024

Silicon Valley’s wardens of the Internet Gulag continue their daily abduction of youngsters into their addictive grip. Harm to the physical and mental health of millions of tweens and teens, separating them from family, community and nature, has been condemned by Democratic and Republican state and Congressional lawmakers, conservative and liberal families and children’s protection groups.

Dr. Claire Nader directly addresses these youngsters with over 50 topics relevant to their life and preparation for young adulthood. Law Professor Robert Fellmeth, a leading children’s advocate, highlights her book in the following guest column, taken from the Public Citizen newspaper.

“You Are Your Own Best Teacher!: Sparking the Imagination and Intellect of Tweens”
By Claire Nader (Essential Books)

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It is quite extraordinary and cleverly written.

As the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, I am well aware of the child developmental process and the frequent difficulties in having constructive communications with tweens. In our modern world, these children are bombarded by big tech entreaties and communication systems that are unprecedented in their extent and depth. This situation drastically complicates the challenge for parents — and society — to nurture, engage and raise children.

Developmentally, tweens are in the early stages of finding and creating their identities and sense of self. Their brains will not fully mature organically until around the age of 25. Until then, they may be exploited or damaged by those with a commercial interest focus (and it’s not as if adults are immune to commercial manipulation). Tweens are especially vulnerable and susceptible to the deliberate abusive practices of Big Tech, which aim to purposefully addict children to their respectively created self-interested and parent-absent communications world.

Our challenge is not only to prevent the capture and abuse of their minds, but also to understand how they best learn, and how we, as parents and teachers, can best develop their ability to think, appreciate, and learn. “You are Your Own Best Teacher!,” by Claire Nader, does this in a profoundly positive way. The book is for us: the adults and parents who want to be able to communicate with this current generation, one subject to unprecedented distraction, but at the same time who are able to exchange thoughts and learn from many more sources than we encountered even a decade or so ago. The book is also for tweens themselves, written plainly and directly and with robust respect for tweens’ intelligence and curiosity.

“You are Your Own Best Teacher” teaches us how to teach the current Tween generation. Nader’s work is divided into many 2-to-5 page messages. Its issues are of concern to all of us, including how we best learn. It is not at all bombastic, but calmly sets forth how to think, question, and learn. The subjects include “The Truth about School,” “Time out for Gratitude”, “Playing Different Roles Expands the Mind,” “Concentration, Imagination, and Curiosity,” “Social Action: An Urge to Improve the World,” “Peer Groups and Outside Pressures,” “Order in the Classroom Versus Critical Thinking,” “Company Ads and Deceptions,” “The Dictionary,” “Being Smart,” “Solitude,” “History Infused with Myths,” “Unlearning to Learn,” “Learning by Doing,” “Addictions,” ”Who is Raising You Anyway?” and “The Importance of a Questioning Mind.”

Importantly, “You are Your Own Best Teacher” does not adopt the tone of an adult lecturer or an arrogant “this is how it is, buster” messaging. Nader writes in a way that gets through — telling stories, sharing her own lessons and experiences. The book picks out some examples to make her points come alive, including commentary on 3 historic Americans, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglas and Helen Keller. I realized that I had underappreciated all three. And the details she outlines makes her points about maturity with great efficacy.

This book is written with subtle humor and without hidden agendas. All in all, this book is full of wisdom — more than any other I have read in my 76 years on this earth. I wish I could have read it with my two, now-adult sons. None of us would have fallen asleep and all of us would have grown wiser.

— Robert Fellmeth is Price Chair in Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego and a member of the Public Citizen board of directors. He directs the Children’s Advocacy Institute and is the coauthor of a widely used juvenile law text Child Rights and Remedies (Heldman, Clarity Press, 4th Edition).

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