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Social media expert writes book about her family’s digital diet

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Seven-year-old Zoey’s family members are more interested in their digital devices than in playing basketball with her.

True story.

And one local mom wrote a book about it, in hopes of helping her own family and others think through and talk about how much technology is too much in their households. With a few specific rules, the new author’s family has gone on a digital diet she thinks might work for her neighbors, too. Balance is the key to her strategy.

Andrea Gribble, whose home-base business contracts out to schools that want to improve their use of social media, used her family as inspiration for her first book, “The Von Awesome Family in a Digital Daze.”

The 34-page, self-published children’s paperback was published in October 2015. It retails for $13.95 — or $8.95 for the Kindle version — on Amazon.com.

Despite being raised in New Auburn, Wis., the hometown of author Michael Perry, Gribble said she “never had aspirations to be a children’s author. It’s just when I needed a book to talk to my own kids, there wasn’t one.”

When she pitched the idea to her author neighbor, Maureen Bartone, Gribble learned of Canadian illustrator Mike Motz, who ended up taking on the book with Gribble. Gribble wrote the book in a week and it took a total of seven months to complete it. Bartone, who has also published her first book, helped Gribble with editing.

In “A Digital Daze,” fictitious Zoey seeks out each of her family members — both parents, a sister and four step-siblings — wanting to play outside.

“She ends up frustrated and in tears,” Gribble said.

The mom in the book calls a family meeting. They set ground rules and come to terms with the reality of how much time is spent with technology.

“The book definitely doesn’t let parents off the hook with their devices,” Gribble said.

Including herself.

“It strikes pretty close to home,” she said.

At Gribble’s home, technology is not allowed at the dinner table. Instead, time spent eating is used to connect with each other face to face. Families might want to institute a no-electronics-during-bedtime rule, limiting devices after 7 p.m., she suggested.

While technology is a good thing, life can be disrupted by email notifications during family time and obsessions with YouTube or Minecraft. Gribble advocates for families to remember to make memories outside.

“I put myself in the same boat,” said Gribble, who has lived in Maplewood for about 1-1/2 years, who owns and operates a social media business called #SocialSchool4EDU, and whose kids attend school in Woodbury. “I do social media for a job, and social media’s like 24-7. I’m a mom. I’m fighting it, too.”

The book is for kids and parents to read together.

It should get the conversation started.

So, as the New Year begins, she poses: Have you ever thought of going on a digital diet?

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