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Review: Talking Back to Facebook by James P. Steyer

Title: Talking Back to Facebook: the common sense guide to raising kids in the digital age
Author: James P. Steyer
Year Published: 2012

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 198 (including notes)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Challenges: Non-Fiction/Non-Memoir
Geography Connection (my Google Reading map): USA

FTC Disclosure: My dad bought this book and gave it to me

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Now, more than ever, parents need help in navigating their kids' online, media-saturated lives. Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, the nation's leading kids-and-media organization, and the father of four children, knows that many parents and teachers--unlike their technology-savvy kids--may be tourists in the online world. In this book, Steyer--a frequent commentator on national TV and radio--offers an engaging blend of straightforward advice and anecdotes that address what he calls RAP, the major pitfalls relating to kids' use of media and technology: relationship issues; attention/addiction problems, and the lack of privacy. Instead of shielding children completely from online images and messages, Steyer's practical approach gives parent essential tools to help filter content, preserve good relationships with their children, and make common sense, value-driven judgments for kids of all ages.

Review: I am a mom of an 11 year old. I am a webmaster for my school. I am a blogger. I am a tech coach. All of that is to say that I feel immersed in technology every day and yet I still have so much to learn and think about, especially when it comes to my own child and the teens at the school where I teach and how they live in the online world.

I am not sure how to review this book in nicely written paragraphs, so I am going to hit the main ideas that I carried away from it in bullets.

  • There are chapters on video games and violence, but that doesn't relate to my life. I have a daughter who is not into video games and doesn't watch violent movies (except Harry Potter and then she closes her eyes sometimes).
  • The section on TV and fashion/behavior was more interesting to me since I do have a pre-pubescent girl who used to watch Disney/Nickelodean shows and now likes shows on other channels. Lucky for me she still hides her eyes for kissing, but I know that won't always be true. I am also lucky that she is small for her age so she doesn't fit into the fashions for teens yet. However, she is definitely exposed to the ideas and looks that are on the TV and in movies.
  • Steyer discusses the role of media in our lives and these sections are interesting. What would the Arab Spring have been without Twitter? News spreads much more quickly these days; a small protest can spread and bring down a regime. Even if someone doesn't like social media, they cannot escape it or avoid it. It is here and it isn't going away so we should learn to use it wisely.
  • The bulk of the book concentrates on our children's use of social media, in particular Facebook. How much time is okay, what sort of use is acceptable, etc. I have given this a lot of thought and, against the advice of some, my daughter has a Facebook. I am her friend so that I can monitor, she asks me if she can accept each friend request, and so far, she has limited it to people she knows through dance, excluding her friends from school. I know that as she enters high school that may change, but for now, it keeps the circle smaller and more controlled.
  • Steyer's biggest issue is privacy and our online footprint that we all leave. Once it's out there, there is no going back. This is something I really wish we taught more in the schools. Students, particularly high school students, are online all day, they have no filter, and no concept of consequences. Not a good combination. I'd love to incorporate digital citizenship into a freshman class, but haven't been able to get buy-in yet. I'll tell you this: I am going to check my own privacy settings every couple of months!

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