Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Commentary: Totally wired : what teens and tweens are really doing online

Check out the information about these book commentary posts if you have questions.

Publication information:

Title: Totally wired : what teens and tweens are really doing online
Author: Anastasia Goodstein
Publisher: Saint Martin's Griffin
Publication date: 2007

General description:
The publisher's description:
With headlines like "Online Danger Zone" and "Are Teens Saying Too Much Online?" appearing in publications like The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek everyday adults are becoming increasingly worried about what kids are really doing on the Internet and with technology today. What are MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, Live Journal? What exactly are teens doing on them? Totally Wired is the first inside guide to explore what teens are doing on the Internet and with technology. Speaking with a cross section of industry professionals and teenagers, Anastasia Goodstein gets to the bottom of how teens use technology as well as the benefits and draw backs of this use."
This is a good overall description of the book: an overview of common technology uses, as well as some benefits and concerns.

Topics covered include:
  • A Day in the Life
  • Blogs
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Bullying Online
  • Parental Controls
  • Teaching Teachers
  • Activitism
She also covers topics like illegal downloading and how to address concerns proactively.

Things I Liked About This Book:
1) One of my biggest likes is that this book has clear, tightly focused chapters. It's very clear in each chapter what the focus is, and each chapter includes a number of examples and experiences to help readers see the whole picture.

2) I like that she has a (now concluded) blog focusing on many of the same issues, allowing for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of topics covered in the book. If you prefer audio interviews, there are a few of those, too. There's also a discussion guide and other resources.

3) She includes a discussion of many sites, with examples, rather than focusing on one particular site. This helps keep the book useful, even if teens are using different sites than the best known few.

4) She avoids fear-based responses. She's very clear about the fact there are many benefits to online interaction, provides examples, and makes it clear that some fears are overblown by media reports.

5) The book is well-designed. There are informative and engaging sidebars that highlight specific subtopics. She gives many specific examples throughout the book. She includes a glossary of common terms. She also gives clear citations of where she got her information or resources.

Concerns and Limits in Coverage:
1) While the book includes many stories and anecdotes, it is less good at providing specific and direct information to help non-technically inclined parents navigate online sites and issues. (This isn't really its focus, however.)

2) There's no specific information about individual sites (again, not the focus.)

3) There's not much information about dealing with difficulties outside of a family setting (for example, helping teens to make thoughtful decisions about problems once they go to college.)

Any Other Comments:
Overall, I liked this book a great deal as an overview of a wide range of benefits and concerns with online time and use. It's engagingly written, thoughtful, and doesn't fall into any logical traps. It gives a lot to think about without overly pushing one particular type of response (except being thoughtful and aware: both good things.)

Recommended for an excellent overview - but you may want additional reading based on particular sites of interest.

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