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Book review

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Book review

CyberSafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming, and Social Media by Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011, 335 pages, $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-58110-452-3 Like it or not, some of the biggest stressors our kids face stem from online connections and activities. For most children, such contact takes place all day, every day, whether they are at our sides or away from home. This means that guiding our favourite young people along their digital paths is equally as important, if not more, than how we steer their food, personal hygiene, education, recreation, clothing, and friendship choices from the time of birth to independence. The book’s author, Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe (aka Dr. Gwenn), is highly qualified on several levels. Her practical field of expertise focuses on the areas where child health care and social media meet. As the mother of two daughters born in the digital age, O’Keeffe knows first-hand the task of parenting a new generation is not easy— in fact, it’s daunting. O’Keeffe serves healthy doses of reality and insightful questioning to help assess where each family stands today and shares much perspective and guidance for where we are headed. It’s important to remember that even though our children know more about the digital world, we parents will always know more about the nondigital world. The onus is on parents to discuss, role model, and instill the filters and values that enable us to choose the safest, healthiest digital path. Just thinking about the dangers inherent in cyberbullying, extreme texting, sexting, and “Facebook depression” is enough to cause anxiety in most parents. But there is help. O’Keeffe looks at specific potential pitfalls for all age groups (from baby users to full-grown teens) and the ways parents can mitigate digital threats. At what age should children begin to use digital screens? How best to safeguard the four-year-old, the seven-year-old, the 10-year-old? No matter the age or engagement level of your children, the time to read this book is now. My only complaint about CyberSafe is the book’s somewhat clinical cover, which gives the appearance of being a government publication more than the practical parent’s ally that it is. In contrast, the inside pages read as one mother/doctor’s personal exploration of how parents can best understand and influence healthy choices in the ever-changing, ever-growing wired world. buy CyberSafe at amazon.ca

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