Who’s Raising the Kids?

Big Tech, Big Business, and the Lives of Children

From a world-renowned expert on creative play and the impact of commercial marketing on children, a timely investigation into how big tech is hijacking childhood—and what we can do about it

“Susan Linn is a hero of our times.” —Howard Gardner, author of Changing Minds

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, digital technologies had become deeply embedded in children’s lives, despite a growing body of research detailing the harms of excessive immersion in the unregulated, powerfully seductive, profit-driven world of the “kid-tech” industry.

In Who’s Raising the Kids? Linn—one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of Big Tech and big business on children—explores the roots and consequences of this monumental shift toward a digitized, commercialized childhood, focusing on kids’ values, relationships, and learning. From birth, kids have become lucrative fodder for a range of tech, media, and toy companies, from producers of exploitative games and social media platforms to “educational” technology and branded school curricula of dubious efficacy.

Noting that many Silicon Valley elites wouldn’t dream of exposing their young kids to the very technologies they’ve unleashed on other people’s children, Who’s Raising the Kids? is unique—a highly readable social critique and guide to protecting kids from exploitation by the tech, toy, and entertainment industries. Linn provides a deep and eye-opening dive into exactly how new technologies enable huge conglomerates to transform young children into lifelong consumers by infiltrating their lives and influencing their values, relationships and learning. She persuasively argues that our digitized-commercialized culture is damaging for kids and families as well as society at large, and maps out what we must do to change course.

Written with humor and compassion, the book concludes with two hopeful chapters—“Resistance Parenting” and “Making a Difference for Everybody’s Kids”—that chart a path for protecting kids from targeting by the tech, toy, and entertainment industries that treat them as lucrative bundles of data and as mini-consumers ripe for exploitation rather than as the children they need to be.

Praise

“Pioneer researcher and activist Susan Linn shows that we have been passive as our children were shaped into the selves that tech companies wanted them to be; adults have not met their duty of care. Who’s Raising the Kids? is a call to arms and a core text for a necessary national conversation.”
—Sherry Turkle, professor, MIT, and author of Alone Together, Reclaiming Conversation, and The Empathy Diaries
Who’s Raising the Kids? is a book about a dangerous divergence—between the profit-maximizing strategies of companies that market toys, apps, and social media to children, on the one hand, and the actual needs of children, on the other. Drawing from an impressive collection of studies and stories, Linn illuminates the harms of what she aptly calls ‘a corporate takeover of childhood’ and shows us what we can do to protect all our kids.”
—Alfie Kohn, author of The Schools Our Children Deserve and Punished by Rewards
“Brava to Susan Linn! This is a timely and profoundly important book. Children are being transformed into passive consumers by advertisers and social media companies who view them as easy targets for their attention and desires. More often than not, parents are allowing this to happen without thinking about the consequences to their children’s development. Who’s Raising the Kids? is a reminder to parents and all who care, that children are vulnerable and can be easily preyed upon by profiteering businesses who see them only as consumers. If we truly cherish and value our children we must heed Linn’s warning, not allow our kids to be exploited, and keep a close eye on how they grow, develop and are influenced on their way to adulthood.”
—Pedro Noguera, dean, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
“Susan Linn is every parent’s hero. Her work calls out the manipulative marketing tactics that Big Tech and big business direct toward our children, strategies designed to exploit their vulnerabilities and ours as parents. Who’s Raising the Kids? explores the pervasive and often covert commercialism in digital child culture and the negative influences corporate profiteers have on our children’s values, learning, emotional health, and relationships. This is an eye-opening, at times unnerving read and a hopeful call to action with practical advice for weakening the forces of consumerist culture in our families and how we can advocate for a freer childhood for our kids.”
—Janet Lansbury, bestselling author of No Bad Kids and Elevating Child Care
“A must-read for any parent.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A guide on changing course both individually and as a society, by an experienced activist; a must-read.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“An invaluable response for parents at an impossible moment—and for those of us whose kids are already grown, a great guide to resisting the platforms and apps that are constricting the life of our society in ever more painful ways.”
—Bill McKibben, author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened
“Every child needs an advocate like Susan Linn; every parent—a wise friend like her; every politician and corporate leader—a bold challenger like her. And every reader needs this book—a passionate and supremely practical reckoning with one of the great dilemmas of the age.”
—James Carroll, author of The Truth at the Heart of the Lie
“In this unsparing account of what it means to raise children in a commercial society, Susan Linn issues a clarion call to governments, schools, and parents to push back—against the relentless marketing, the false promises, the saturation of tech into our most intimate and private moments. With practical advice on how parents can navigate this morass, her expertise and research-backed conclusions also serve as a real source of comfort: children, she rightly insists, are born with all the skills they need to succeed in life—no toy, app, or flashy screen required.”
—Sophie Brickman, author of Baby, Unplugged
“Today’s kids are tomorrow’s adults. If you love children and care about the future (and who doesn’t?), Susan Linn’s Who’s Raising the Kids? is a terrifying book. The digital conquest of our progeny’s hearts and minds is nearly complete, and if she’s right, it’s almost too late to take back what’s been surrendered. This book is a much-needed call to arms.”
—Russell Banks, author of Rule of the Bone, Continental Drift, and other works of fiction
“A stunning examination of how marketing, technology, and consumer capitalism impact the well-being of children. . . . This is a must-read for parents and educators.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Engrossing and insightful. . . . [Who's Raising the Kids?] is rich with details that paint a full portrait of contemporary child-corporate relations.”
The New York Times Book Review

News and Reviews

New York Times Book Review

Read a review of Susan Linn’s “engrossing and insightful” Who’s Raising the Kids? in the New York Times Book Review.

Parents

Read an interview with Dr. Susan Linn about Who’s Raising the Kids? in Parents magazine.

Publishers Weekly

Read a starred review of Who’s Raising the Kids? in Publishers Weekly.

Books by Susan Linn

The Case for Make Believe
Saving Play in a Commercialized World

Susan Linn

Consuming Kids
The Hostile Takeover of Childhood

Susan Linn

Goodreads Reviews