Back to School: Plan ahead for tax-free weekend

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Tax-free weekend is coming. That’s the three days before school starts when you won’t have to pay sales tax on school supplies, clothing, diapers, shoes and more.

Before you go hog wild loading up your shopping cart, remember to ask yourself: Is this really a good deal?

Tax-free means you’re saving 08.25 percent and if that’s on top of already low sales prices, it could be a good deal. However, sometimes retailers will end a sale during tax-free weekend or they will wait until after it’s over to put something on sale. The real sale price can be the better deal.

The school supply aisle at Target won’t be this orderly much longer. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN

Also know that when you’re shopping — especially if the kids are in tow —  things might end up in your basket that are taxable, not on sale and not a good deal.

What’s tax-free Aug. 10-12?

School supplies: Binders; backpacks and book bags; calculators; cellophane tape; blackboard chalk; compasses; composition books; crayons; erasers; folders — expandable, pocket, plastic and manila; glue; highlighters; index cards; index card boxes; legal pads; lunchboxes; markers (including dry-erase markers); notebooks; paper; pencil boxes and other school supply boxes; pencil sharpeners; pencils; pens; protractors; rulers; scissors; writing tablets.

Clothing: Most clothing; socks; most shoes; ties; coats; pajamas; swimsuits; uniforms; underwear; sports jerseys; sports hats.

Others: Adult and baby diapers.

What’s not tax-free?

Athletic items: Sports shoes like cleats or fishing boots; sports equipment; sports clothing only used for the purpose of a sport (so not jerseys, swimsuits, sweatpants and yoga pants).

Sewing items: Fabric, buttons and zippers.

Accessories: All accessories including jewelry and watches.

Bags: Purses; luggage; wallets and briefcases, or more than 10 backpacks.

Anything more than $100

RELATED: Which store has the best deals on school supplies?


Sending a kid off to college? Follow professors’ advice for an easier transition

Across the country for the next two months, anxious parents are moving their equally anxious kids into their first dorm rooms or apartments. What should first-time college kids know about this next year?

We asked professors at three local colleges what advice they would give first-time students. Here are their thoughts:

Create a routine. Make sure it is a sustainable one that will make it through the whole school year. Routine becomes a part of you. Going back to school doesn’t mean changing the way you live; it means adapting the way you should live to be your best self.

Take care of yourself. Schedule time for reading, thinking, recreating, exercising, connecting with friends and family and tending to the spiritual, if that’s meaningful to you.

Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duran Residence Hall at theUniversity of Texas at Austin in 2016.

Don’t sacrifice social life. Make time for it.

Make time for being alone — especially if you’re in a dorm or busy apartment complex. School can be overwhelming with the amount of people around all the time. Alone time is essential.

Get academic direction. Professors have office hours for you to use them. If those times don’t work, make an appointment with your professors. Students who meet with their professors tend to have better grades. It shows professors that they care about their education. Even if you don’t have a question, you can meet with the professor for one-on-one discussion of the material.

RELATED: How to talk to your professors

Don’t wait to challenge a grade or ask for help. Often students wait until the last few weeks of the semester, when it feels almost too late. It also makes professors question if it’s only about the grade and not about learning the material.

RELATED: Kid not making it in college? Why a generation comes home

Take advantage of tutoring opportunities. Learn what academic resources are available and how to access them.

Know what mental health resources are available and how to access them. When you’re in crisis, you might have difficulty sorting that out. Discover those resources before the crisis begins.

RELATED: Looking at colleges? Are you asking about mental health services?

Meet with the disabilities office. If you have a qualifying disability like autism or anxiety, low vision or hearing impairment, connect with the disabilities office before school begins. Also inform teachers of your needs that first week of school.

Your parents’ helicopter days are over. They should not be calling professors or helping you with homework. You have fled the nest, Little Birdy. It’s time to fly.

RELATED: Sending a kid off to college, helicopter parent? Now’s the time to land and let your kid take off

RELATED: How to make the transition to empty nest

RELATED: Have a kid going off to college? Read these books

Sources: Kevin Robbins, University of Texas; Jena Heath, St. Edward’s University; Beth Bernstein, Texas State University; and Jena Heath, St. Edward’s University.

Back to school: Teacher recommend doing these things right now

We asked Austin-area teachers to help us prepare for the upcoming school year. They offered advice for things to do before school begins:

Julian Knox, sixth-grader, and Emma Ocampo, second-grader, get ready for the first day of school.  LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Starting a new school? Check out when the transition camp might be. If you’ve missed it, call the school to see if there is another opportunity for you to walk the halls before school starts.

Read. Read as a family as well as read independently. Find books you love, but if they have a science or social studies-theme that can be helpful. If you know you’ll be studying U.S. history this school year, maybe find a fictional book based on an event in U.S. history. If you don’t love reading, consider putting the closed captioning on the TV and reading that.

Start putting the phones, tablets and video game systems away for longer periods of time. If you’ve been attached to electronics all summer long, time to break yourself of that habit.

Go on educational field trips. Check out the new downtown library. Go to the Thinkery or the Austin Nature & Science Center or the Science Mill.

RELATED: Eight fun things to do before school starts

Keep a journal. Write down what you did this summer before you forget. It can be an online journal or a physical one. Attach photos or drawings.

Rediscover math. Yes, we know you haven’t thought about math in two months, but try reviewing some math facts or find a math game to play. Kids can even test their parents to see if they know their times tables or how to subtract 25 from 57. Make it fun so it doesn’t feel like math. Do activities like make cookies to practice fractions.

Establish a routine again. If you haven’t been going to bed or getting up at school-time hours, start doing that again. It will help you not be as exhausted that first week — and when we say “you,” we mean both students and parents.

Check the school website’s calendar and announcements. That’s where schools will put up important information like Meet the Teacher, the plan for the first day, changes from last year and Back to School Night.

Attend the Meet the Teacher event as a family. It sets the tone that school is important and it lets teachers know that you’re active participants in it. You can even consider bringing the teacher flowers or another small acknowledgement.

RELATED: Things to ask at Meet the Teacher

Talk about the upcoming school year. Parents, be encouraging about what a great school year this is going to be. Build up how much fun your kids are going to have and some of the things they can look forward to. If kids have fears about the upcoming year, listen to them and help them plan how to deal with those scary things.

Go school supply shopping together. It helps get everyone excited. Even if kids share supplies with the rest of the class, a new backpack can be a fun find.

Reunite with school friends. It will help to build the excitement if you plan something fun with the friends you’ve been missing.

Sources: Inez Flores, Mills Elementary; Erica Green, Kiker Elementary; Juli Naranjo, Cowan Elementary; Beth Ann Cole, Boone Elementary; Lori Pearce, Fulmore Middle School; Nancy Stewart, Cedar Park Middle School; Katherine Ratcliffe, Kealing Middle School; Jo Patrick, Fulmore Middle School

Fill your weekend with fun, events to get ready for school, Aug. 3-5

School is lurking. Some of this weekend’s events are helping you directly get ready for school. Others keep the brain active, which is a good thing as we get closer and closer to the school bell ringing.

Check out our weekend calendar of fun family events in and around Austin:


Explore the Thinkery without your parents during Parents Night Out. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2013


Parents’ Night Out, 5:30-10 p.m. Friday. Kids must be 4 or older and potty-trained. $45 first child, $25 each additional sibling. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Toybrary Austin. Henna Fridays. 10 a.m. Friday. $5. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane.

Teen Videogame Free Play. 2 p.m. Friday, Central Library.

Music and Movement. 11 a.m. Friday, Old Quarry Branch.

Teen Book Club. “Uglies,” 10:30 a.m. Friday, Cepeda Branch.


Summer Stock Austin’s “Rob1n” musical by Allen Robertson and Damon Brown explores this possibility. 11 a.m.  Friday. 10 a.m. Saturday. $9-18.


Zilker Botanical Garden Woodland Faerie Trail. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. It’s open through Aug. 10. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road.

Zilker Summer Musical “All Shook Up.” Zilker Summer Musical returns with the music of Elvis. 8:15 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Aug. 18. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive.

Summer Stock Austin’s “The Music Man.” 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Friday. 2 p.m. Sunday, Saturday. $26-33. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

“Beauty and the Beast” comes to the stage at Zach Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 2. $25-$150. Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd.

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Club offers movies for a $1-$5 donation. Plus you can collect stamps for prizes. “Paddington 2.” 10 a.m. Friday 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Slaughter Lane. “Prince of Egypt.” 10 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Lakeline. Events: PBS Kids Back to School with “Daniel Tiger,” 10 a.m. Saturday, Slaughter Lane.  “Christopher Robin” Cereal Party. 10:20 a.m. Saturday, Lakeline. 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Mueller.

Last year Bryan Mondragon, 7, yells for his mother and siblings to wait up as he packs his new backpack with more school supplies during the Austin Independent School District’s Back to School Bash. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015


AISD Back to School Bash. Get free backpacks and supplies, medical screenings and vaccinations with shot record, and haircuts and more. Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. Buses leave from Guerrero Thompson and Summitt elementary schools; Bedichek, Martin, Mendez and Covington middle schools; and Lanier and Reagan high schools.

Heart screenings for student athletes. Call ahead at 512-478-3627, or visit to schedule your screening. 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Heart Hospital of Austin, 3801 N. Lamar Blvd.

Nordstrom and the Kindness Campaign Back to School Bash. See the fashion show, meet Enoughie and the magic mirror. Noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. $15 VIP tickets. Barton Creek Square.

Hey Lolly Music Sing-Along. 10 a.m. Saturday. $3. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St.

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for children younger than 3. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Dr. Kold. Watch what happens when you play with liquid nitrogen. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City.

Toybrary Austin. Unicorn Swimming. Swim in the unicorn pool. 10 a.m. Saturday. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane.

BookPeople. 10:30 a.m. story times. Shapes and Sizes, Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Barnes & Noble events. 11 a.m. Saturday story time. “Cece Loves Science.”


Felt Food, for kids 4 and older. Learn to sew by making food out of felt. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. $8.  Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

From top left, Jennifer and Kevin Miller react as their daughter, Laurel, 4, center, takes part in an inertia game at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Paramount Theatre’s summer series. “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” 1 p.m. Sunday. $6-$12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.

Bullock MuseumFree First SundayFriendship. Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave.

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

Back to school: Reflections on lessons still to learn as son heads into senior year

We have hit the home stretch — that final year of grade school. Senior year of high school.

How did this happen?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that my husband and I dropped 5-year-old Benjamin off at his kindergarten classroom and stood outside the doorway trying to see what was going on while hoping he didn’t see us?

We’ve done it all: parent-teacher conferences, trips to the principal’s office, field trips, clubs, science fairs, impossibly challenging projects that had us cursing teachers’ names, tests failed, tests aced, school performances that had us beaming with pride.

Now, in this senior year, I can’t help thinking about all the things we still need to teach him. We thought we had more time.

RELATED: Taking a kid to college this month, read this

Luckily, this year Benjamin is actually taking a class called “How to Be an Adult,” because in between physics and calculus, sometimes real life skills take a back seat.

RELATED: Why college kids are coming back home sick

So, for Ben, here’s my list of things to learn this year:

Benjamin Villalpando holds up his learners permit after getting it earlier this year. Nicole Villalpando/Austin-American-Statesman

1. How to drive. Yes, you have a permit, and, yes, we practice, but in this world where Uber is at the touch of your fingertips, you’re not really seeing the point. And you’re not alone. A lot of your classmates aren’t licensed drivers either. Dude, it’s a life skill. Let me help you get it.

2. How to manage money. Debit cards, credit cards, checking accounts, that’s all something that happens in theory. This year we’re moving beyond the savings account to having a checking account with a debit card to practice working within a budget before college next year.

3. How to advocate for your own medical care. It’s time to practice how to make a doctor’s appointment, refill medication and use the insurance card. Mom needs to ease out of being the medical manager.

Ben Villalpando couldn’t wait to start kindergarten in 2006. Now he’s looking at colleges. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

4. How to feed yourself. Yes, you’re a wiz at making cookies, sandwiches and frozen pizza. Let’s try to expand those chef skills.

5. How to clothe yourself. Hooray, you finally mastered the washer and dryer, but shockingly, we haven’t really had you go shopping for clothes. Why? Because you hate it. But it’s time to head to the store, pick out your size and try things on, and then buy them with your debit card. Maybe if you knew how much those jeans cost, they wouldn’t be on the floor all the time.

6. How to read a map and navigate public transportation. If Mom or Dad have always driven you everywhere, can you find your way? Next year at college will you be able to get from your dorm to class, to the grocery store or anywhere else you might want to go?

7. How to have a conversation. In this world of texting, let’s make sure you can talk to people, make eye contact and be comfortable talking to a stranger. (Yes, I know we told you never to talk to strangers, but now you’re going to have to.)

8. How to advocate for yourself to get something fixed. If you have an issue with a store, a professor, a service provider, your dorm room, will you know how to effectively state your case and ask for what you need? Mom or Dad won’t be there to do it for you next year.

9. How to manage your time. That nice alarm that wakes you up every morning with a kiss? That won’t be coming to your dorm room. Nor will the reminder service that tells you to get off your phone and do your homework. You’ll have to do it yourself. Senior year is a great year to build up these skills.

10. How to access resources. If you had a problem, would you know where to turn? If Mom or Dad are the only ones with the power to Google or ask a school administrator what is available to you, what will happen next year? Will you be able to find academic counseling services, tutoring, or even know what the weather is going to be like that day and what clothing is appropriate?

I’m sure there is more to consider, more to teach and more to learn. This time next year, you’ll be off on a new adventure. And that will be wonderfully exciting  —and a little bit scary, too. Good luck, sweet Ben.

Shopping for school supplies? Pick up these things for teachers

The first day of school is coming. As you’re shopping for school supplies, consider picking up a few extra things to help your children’s teachers stock their classrooms.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that 94 percent of public school teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies. The center found that they spent an average of $479 each year. Of course, that greatly depended on the income level of the students at the school where they worked and how active the Parent Teacher Association was at that school.

Especially, as the year goes on, the supplies in the classroom start to dwindle.

The school supply aisle has supplies right now that both your kids and your teachers need. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN 2016

Right now, when the price of supplies are at their lowest, consider stocking up on some common things that teachers need. You can store them in your house and give them to teachers throughout the year, or give them to the teachers on Back to School night or at Meet the Teacher.

Consider these supplies:

  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Notebook paper
  • Printer paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Crayons
  • Scotch tape
  • Paper clips
  • Staples
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Erasers
  • Dry erase markers

Once school starts, ask teachers if they have a wish list, and then pick something on that list to give.

Have a teacher that doesn’t have a list? Consider a gift card to Amazon, Walmart or an office supply store. Then when the time comes that they need something, they can use that.




A backpack inspired by Austin, plus how to choose the right one for your kids

Looking for a new backpack for school?

One backpack is inspired by an Austin treasure: Our bats.

Animal Packers’ new bat backpack is called the “Austin” and is designed for younger kids to be the right size for them and be adjustable to not drag down to their knees. It’s also light-weight and comes with a removable tag, which you’ll want for day care or school, but not when you’re out and about.

If you’re kids aren’t into bats, there’s also ducks, bears, monkeys, horse and dogs. The backpacks are $35 at

Animal Packers Austin backpack.

We’ve been shopping the backpack aisles for our back-to-school photo shoot and found some really cute ones for littles, mediums and big kids.

We found Skip Hop Zoo Pack backpacks at Carter’s for $20. We especially loved Luna Lama and Bailey Bat.


At Justice, we found sequined owl backpacks for $39.90.

At Old Navy, we found a cool space backpack for $24.99.


At Target, we found a Swiss Gear’s backpack/briefcase, $49.99, and a geometric shape iPack backpack, $22.49.

Before you pick a backpack for your kids, know this:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are more than 7,300 backpack-related injuries treated by doctors and hospitals annually.

With that in mind, how do you know which backpack is the right one for your child’s body (not for your child’s style.

Ask yourself these questions:

Is the bag lightweight?

Does it have two wide shoulder straps? Skip the cute messenger bags or laptop bags.

Is the back padded?

Does it go past your child’s waist? If so, it’s too big.

Does it have a strap that goes across the waist or across the chest? That can help get the weight off the back.

Once you have the perfect bag, ask yourself these questions:

Does everything your child is putting in there have to go in there? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a  bag should not weigh more than 20 percent of a child’s weight — and that’s still A LOT.

How much do those school supplies weight and do they have to? Think about the weight of those three-ringed binders, folders and notebooks, and if there is a lighter option, choose it.

Are they packing the bag correctly? Are they distributing items across all the compartments, and not just putting everything in the large center one?

Are they wearing it correctly? That means using both straps, Kids, and the straps should be tight against their back and allow the pack to sit 2 inches about their waist.

Are they picking it up correctly? This is a perfect time to learn to bend with the knees and use both hands, not just the thumb.

For more about picking the right bag and using it correctly, see my interview with Dr. Barbara Bergin, an orthopedic surgeon at Texas Orthopedics. 

Find more back to school tips at, including ways to save money on school supplies, our school supplies comparison shopping and the 10 things you need to do before school starts.



Back to School: What’s trending in kids’ clothes

Going back-to-school shopping for kids’ clothes soon?

We asked Carla Feely, vice president of kids at Stitch Fix, what trends to look out for in the aisles of favorite kids’ clothing stores. Stitch Fix just expanded to styling fashion for kids.

Girls box from Stitch Fix.

The big trend is deep woods: That’s cozy, comfortable fabric in an earth-tone palette. Even with girls, it’s soft pinks and creams, mixed with some forest green.

Feely pictures the clothes as like the woobie from “Mr. Mom” — that comforting blanket with which a little kid doesn’t want to part ways.

Sometimes the woobie texture is hidden in the lining, like a secret that only they can feel, sometimes it’s on the outside.

A boys box from Stitch Fix Kids.

Also look for these trends:

  • Kids’ lines are playing up the athleisure look. One boy told Stitch Fix that the clothes made him feel fast when he wore them. These are clothes that can go to class and then outside to skateboard or play soccer.
  • Expect to see a lot of hoodies and joggers, and shirt jackets that have a skater vibe.
  • Jeans also have an update: They’re made more comfortable. They look like jeans but feel like sweatpants.
  • Jeans also are starting to move away from the skinny-jean look. You’ll start seeing boot-cut or a straight leg.
  • Leggings are still very popular, and look for more fun patterns to them.
  • Little details such as ruffles and lace, embroidery and mesh are still popular, as are adding stripes on the side of the pants and shirts that have sparkly glitter or sequins.
  • Popular patterns for girls are multiple vertical stripes or swirls.
  • Look for shirts with interesting sleeves and cold shoulders for girls.
  • Graphic T-shirts are still popular, particularly ones that reflect the 1980s and ’90s. These often are the opposite of the deep woods trend, in that they offer vibrant colors and hints of neon.
  • Character T-shirts from television and movies, as well as superheroes, still are popular, but so are T-shirts with science themes.
  • Dresses are still doing well, but they have an athleisure look of comfort and might include a belt.
  • Expect for skirts to be making a comeback, especially shorter skirts and jean skirts.
  • And the tutu is very much a thing.


Back to school: Sign up for free heart screenings

University of North Texas cheerleader Skyler Sanders, 21, was a junior at Hays High School when doctors discovered that she had a hole in her heart: officially an atrial septal defect.

She had started having heart palpitations in middle school. She would get short of breath and feel like she needed to sit down. At first she was having one episode every six months; then by high school, she was having about one a month. “They were very random,” Sanders says.

Skyler Sanders has won numerous awards for cheerleading.

Sometimes palpitations would happen in cheerleading practice, but sometimes they happened when she wasn’t exercising.

She thought she was having anxiety, but her primary care doctor directed her to a cardiologist as soon as she mentioned the shortness of breath.

The cardiologist did an echocardiogram and ultrasound and saw the hole. The defect was enlarging her heart slightly, she says. She also had a leaky mitral valve.

Doctors told her that it wasn’t something she had to fix right away, but she says, she was told she needed to get it fixed before she turned 24 because that would be when problems would start arising. If left untreated, it could have caused a stroke or congestive heart failure.

Sanders decided to have surgery in May 2017 and was back cheering again two months later. Doctors were able to minimize scarring and shorten recovery time by making incisions in between her ribs instead of cracking her chest open.

Sanders’ heart problem is one of the problems that doctors can detect through screening. On Aug. 4, Heart Hospital of Austin will be offering free screenings for teens age 14-18. During the screening, technicians will do an echocardiogram and an EKG to look for heart defects such as atrial and ventricular septal defects and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — that’s the one you sometimes hear about in seemingly healthy athletes. It can lead to a dangerous arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.

The screenings are a great resource to the community, says Dr. Faraz Kerendi, surgical director of the Heart Valve Clinic at Heart Hospital of Austin and cardiothoracic surgeon at Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeons. “It allows young student athletes, young students in general, to find conditions that may otherwise be totally asymptomatic that could be life threatening. This allows them to get an echocardiogram, and an EKG, basically at no cost to them, to detect things that could otherwise show up in a bad way.”

The Heart Hospital does screenings two times a year, typically before school starts and in February. Out of those screenings, a few kids get diagnosed with one of these conditions. “For those few, it could be devastating if not discovered,” Kerendi says.

The screenings are for any teenager age 14-18, but it’s especially important for student athletes because of the exertion their hearts go through. Sometimes, if something is found, teenagers can continue doing their sport, like Sanders did. Sometimes, though, they might need to switch to a less-strenuous sport.

Dr. Faraz Kerendi

One of the people who will be doing a screening on Aug. 4 is Sanders’ sister Ryan, who plays volleyball. Even though Sanders’ condition is not genetic, Ryan still wanted to get screened and Sanders’ helped Ryan by signing her up.

Sanders wishes that she had taken advantage of the screening program when she was in high school. She might have chosen to do her surgery in high school instead of waiting. “That would have been easier,” she says.

Kerendi wants to remind teens and their parents that you don’t have to think something could be wrong to do a screening.

“There are conditions that are unknown and asymptomatic, and people shouldn’t assume that everything is fine,” he says. “You never know when one of these things could cause a problem until it does.”

Free heart screenings

8 a.m. to noon Aug. 4

Heart Hospital of Austin, 3801 N. Lamar Blvd.

Call ahead at 512-478-3627, or visit to schedule your screening.


How to raise a ‘Tech Generation’ kid when his head is in the cell phone

The new movie “Eighth Grade” is a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be an eighth-grader in 2018. Kids have trouble talking to one another. They live one life online on their social media accounts and another life in the real world.

The movie shows Kayla trying to navigate these two different worlds and her father trying to navigate what’s going on with her.

Elsie Fisher in “Eighth Grade.” (A24)

Many parents are father Mark Day: wanting to have real conversations, wanting for their kids to put down the phone at dinner, and still wanting to be cool in their daughter’s eyes.

Many of their kids are like Kayla: not sure of how to have meaningful relationships with people in real life, but finding comfort in the world of their phones.

Jon Lasser is a professor at Texas State University.

Austin psychologists Mike Brooks and Jon Lasser try to explain to parents what’s going on with their children and technology (and what’s going on with their own use of technology) in the new book “Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World.” ($24.95, Oxford University Press). They’ll be at BookPeople Aug. 2 reading and signing the book.

Brooks, who has always loved video games and did his dissertation on video game violence, works in private practice at the APA Center. Lasser was once a school psychologist and now supervises students in the master’s program for school psychology at Texas State University and is the associate dean for research at the college of education there. Both Brooks and Lasser noticed in their private practices that parents and kids were coming to them with conflicts around technology. Often, it was the kids complaining about their parents’ seemingly inability to put down the phone, as much as the parents being concerned about their children’s use of technology.

“The problem is pervasive,” Lasser says. Yet, he says, “Kids’ basic needs haven’t changed. They need face-to-face communication; they need to feel loved; they need to be connected.”

Psychologist Mike Brooks is the director of the of the Apa Center,

Both Lasser and Brooks are parents. Brooks’ three boys are still in school; Lasser’s two daughters are now in their 20s.

Brooks and Lasser met in graduate school and were jogging together when they came up with the idea for writing a common-sense approach to using technology that also looked at the neuroscience and evolutionary psychology behind it.

The book offers parents a lot of science such as research that shows that cognitive ability is reduced just by the presence of a cell phone. It doesn’t have to be on, just in the room. “It’s quietly leeching away our happiness and productivity through constantly checking it. Our eyes are more on it than on each other,” Brooks says.

They wanted it to be grounded in research, but also offer parents relatable anecdotes and solutions that would work for them.

Mike Brooks and Jon Lasser wrote “Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World.” $24.95, Oxford University Press

If you’re looking for the quick-fix book, this isn’t it, “It’s nuanced and complicated and changing as we speak,” Lasser says. “It gives parents some strategies they can try.”

The book doesn’t advocate for doing away with technology because that’s not realistic. Nor does it believe that monitoring your child’s use of technology through apps will solve the problem.

“If you try to overly manage your child through apps, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game,” Lasser says. Kids figure out how to work around the app or how to find the game controller that you’ve hidden, he says.

Instead, Lasser and Brooks talk a lot about building up the parent-child relationship and making children part of solving the technology problem.

“Instead of having a power struggle, you want the parent and child to collaborate and mutually agree on some limits,” Lasser says. It could be that you all agree no phone during homework or at dinner.

That doesn’t mean that there are no limits in the Lasser and Brooks style. “We don’t believe kids should run amok,” Lasser says, “but (parents are) more likely to get the results they want by sitting down with kids and collaborating on problem solving.”

Brooks likes parents to think about the long-run, not just the current battle. “The ultimate goal is self-regulation,” he says. “If you over-control kids, they don’t have the chance to develop the skills to self-regulate.

“What sets our book apart is it’s prevention-oriented,” Lasser says. That doesn’t mean that if you have children who are already out of control with their use of technology, it’s not a book for you.

The book uses a stoplight’s color scheme as being symptomatic of how technology is interfering with your family’s life. Is the situation green (managed well), yellow (giving you pause for concern) or red (out of control)? It offers different techniques for parents to use based on whether you’re in a green, yellow or red situation. Even though Brooks and Lesser are strong believers in involving children in the solution, at the red level, you might have to just take away the technology for a bit to reset the dynamic.

It also talks about different parenting styles and which one works better to create order in the universe (or at least your home).

Their No. 1 recommendation is for parents to spend more time with their kids without technology. It reminds them that they have value, that they have worth.

“Our interaction is nourishing,” Brooks says. “The more time we spend with kids in that capacity, it feeds that part of their soul that is going to be happy, healthy, and they will have that in them that is it’s valuable to be in relationship.”

Of course, “change always starts with parents having to be mindful of our own patterns and behaviors,” Brooks says.

This means we have to role model what we want. “We have to lift our own heads up on our own devices,” Brooks says. “We’re trying to instill the values of the importance of the relationship through modeling and interacting with them.”

Think of it like healthy eating, Brooks says. We can’t force them to eat healthier foods, but if we model eating healthfully, they might do it.


Reading and Signing

“Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World,” by Jon Lasser and Mike Brooks

$24.95, Oxford University Press

7 p.m. Aug. 2

BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.