Professor's book describes promise and perils of smartphones for kids

August 16, 2022
Cover of You Got a Phone Now Read This Book by Professor Katharine Covino
Katharine Covino headshot
Associate Professor Katharine Covino

Smartphones are powerful tools that open up worlds of opportunity for learning and engagement for kids, but also pose dangers. A newly-published book co-authored by Fitchburg State University Associate Professor Katharine Covino aims to give kids and parents a roadmap for keeping safe while getting the most out of their new devices.

Professor Covino, a member of the university’s English Studies Department, began working on the book more than four years ago with Dr. Elizabeth Englander, a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University and the executive director and founder of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center.

Their collaboration has yielded You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book), which was published this month by Free Spirit Press.

“Today, very young children are getting their own cell phones,” Covino said. “There are links between owning a cell phone in elementary school and bullying and cyberbullying behavior. With that in mind, Elizabeth and I wanted to offer children some much-needed guidance and support. Specifically, we thought kids could benefit from a ‘survival guide’ that didn’t feel boring or pedantic. Our approach, using research, science, and humor, seemed the perfect fit.” 

Cover of You Got a Phone Now Read This Book by Professor Katharine Covino

The target audience for the book is kids ages 8-12. The illustrated volume was designed to be light, accessible and funny, with information on texting, taking and sharing pictures, online privacy, and maintaining healthy screen habits. 

“When we were workshopping various chapters in local elementary school classrooms, it was always so gratifying to hear feedback from kids that they enjoyed the book, laughed out loud, and took away some key ideas about safe and responsible cell phone use,” she said. 

The book is designed to inform kids about screen-related cyberbullying, neurological changes, and sleep problems that can come with having a phone. Told in a humorous yet supportive tone, with lighthearted illustrations, kids can learn about the fun and productive ways they can use their new phones.

Learn more about the book at the publisher’s website or on their blog.