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According to two new books, being a dad isn't what it used to be


The "PC Dads" on...

What their book is about:
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The dangers to kids on the Internet:
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June 21, 1999
Web posted at: 5:06 p.m. EDT (2106 GMT)

By Jamie Allen
CNN Interactive Senior Writer

(CNN) -- Once upon a time, legend has it, being a dad meant playing with Junior in spare time, making sure he didn't watch too much TV, and heading off to work to put bread on the table.

Financial and disciplinary responsibilities were placed on Dad's shoulders, but the rest went to Mom and her endearing touch.

Things are different for dads today: The Internet and its vast array of offerings make "watching too much TV" seem a comical offense. And dads are taking more active roles in raising and loving their children.

In response, two books on the shelves this spring are helping dads be, well, modern dads -- protective and nurturing, guiding their children through an information age of opportunity and danger.

"Throwaway Dads: The Myths and Barriers That Keep Men from Being the Fathers They Want to Be" and "The PC Dads Guide to Becoming a Computer-Smart Parent" take old notions of fatherhood and give them a new-millennium twist.

'We call it digital parenting'

"The PC Dads" (Random House) are Mark Ivey and Ralph Bond, two Intel Corp. senior managers who have turned a simple idea of giving computer advice to parents into a profitable venture financed by their employer. They're also loving parents, modern dads who want to use the technology of the age to make their children better people.

As they point out, millions of homes now have computers, and children have ready access to the Internet. Ivey and Bond want to wake up parents to the changing job responsibilities of raising children.

"Parents can't keep parenting like they have before," Ivey says. "We call it digital parenting. We think they really have got to sit up, take a deep breath, take a clear look at this and think, 'How on earth can we make sure we're managing this powerful tool in the house the way we should?'"

That's where "The PC Dads Guide" comes in.

In touring the country, talking with parents about questions and concerns of the information age, Ivey and Bond have developed a resource of information that holds the reader's hand, starting with the purchase of a home computer, then introducing them to the Internet's World Wide Web and showing them how to get the most use out of it.

"The difference is this is not one of those how-to reference books for computers, like the 'Dummies' series," says Bond. "What we did is we went out on the road and talked to thousands of parents, and we kept hearing the same basic set of questions coming back. And we realized those questions really had more to do with parenting as it related to the computer and the Internet in the home, and we said, 'Wow, there's a book that needs to be written.'"

Some of the issues discussed: five ways to make PCs "kid-friendly"; keeping kids safe on the Internet; how to use the computer as a learning tool.

And while Ivey and Bond want parents to realize the potential of the computer, they also want to caution parents about letting kids get carried away, logging on to cyberspace every free moment they get.

"It's a sorry day when the computer at home becomes your child's best friend, when they're spending more time interacting with that than they are with you or their own peers," Bond says.

"We can talk all day long about the technology," Bond says. "But at the end of the day it's your parenting skills, it's your relationship between you and your child."

Myths and barriers

To some, being a dad in modern times isn't always easy.

"Throwaway Dads" (Houghton Mifflin) is a pro-dad collaboration between Armin A. Brott and Ross D. Parke. Brott has developed a reputation for guiding new fathers into the adventure of parenthood with his books "The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-To-Be" (with Jennifer Ash) and "The New Father."

Now, in "Throwaway Dads," he and Parke use level-headed, precise arguments and statistics to back their ideas, aiming to cut down what Brott says is a forest of established stereotypes that can prevent men from being better fathers.

For instance, work. Brott says when his then-wife had their first child, he wanted to spend more time at home, just like a new mother would. But his employer didn't see eye-to-eye with him on that.

"I decided I was going to work part time, and I got a lot of hassles from my employer," Brott recalls. "Eventually I had to leave because of that. I was made to feel very uncomfortable."

Brott and Parke confront this issue as an all-too-common hurdle that men shouldn't be forced to jump, one of several barriers in men's quests to be good fathers. There's also the way the media give us a low expectation of how fathers should act -- and of how we should treat them.

Brott cites TV's Homer Simpson and Tim Allen as prime examples of the media's interpretation of fathers.

"I watched 'Home Improvement' the other night; Tim Allen is a complete buffoon," says Brott. "The kids wouldn't think for a moment of listening to anything he has to say. And that's the image we have of what a good father should be."

There also are the "myths," according to Brott, that deny men their fatherhood instincts. For instance, Brott says most people believe mothers are biologically superior parents -- they're made for parenting -- while fathers must learn how to parent.

Brott and Parke this is fallacy by citing recent research that shows men go through biological changes during and after their wives' pregnancies, perhaps readying them for their fatherhood roles.

"Throwaway Dads" also touches upon issues like "deadbeat dads"; the men's movement (including groups like Promise Keepers); how those groups may be helping or hurting today's new father; and what influence the presence of a father in a family has on children later in their lives.

So what's the intent behind Brott and Parke's theories? Brott says he believes they can help lead to better parenting, which in turn will lead to better children and a better society.

"I guess I'd like (readers) to take a real hard look at what's really going on and understand these obstacles really exist -- and the difficulties of fathers getting involved," Brott says. "And I'd like them to join us to help us overcome these things.

"I really want people to understand that men can be as important in children's lives as women are. That's true, but getting people to believe it is another thing."

All Our Fathers: William Pollack's 'Real Boys'

Houghton Mifflin
Random House
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