BWW Review: Parenting in a Social Media World – Keeping Your Child Safe in Cyberspace

BWW Review: Parenting in a Social Media World – Keeping Your Child Safe in Cyberspace

Review by Aimee Garn

In Parenting in a Social Media World, Charlene C. Giannetti provides timely guidance for parents who realize that the digital age provides both great opportunities and new hazards for children. Social media is constantly expanding, and this book is comprehensive, but it is divided into short, sound bite-sized essays that are easy to read and absorb. Giannetti suggests ways to handle issues of our digital age, and delivers a convincing argument for parents to consider the topic seriously.

Giannetti is the author of nine books on parenting, seven written with co-author Margaret Sagarese, and she is a bona fide expert. Her books (which include The Roller-Coaster Years, on the challenges of early adolescence, and Cliques: Eight Steps to Help Your Child Survive the Social Jungle) are based on extensive research and interviews with hundreds of children, parents, and teachers. Her advice, coming as it does from information and interaction with real people, is grounded and practical.

Giannetti speaks to parents of all ages and attitudes. Whether you feel that the constant stream of information is fine or "over-disclosure," her thoughts and advice will resonate. The book is divided into two sections: the first offers suggestions on countering the negative effects of social media, and the second on using the teaching opportunities it provides. Giannetti discusses the emergence of cyber-bullying and its terrible contribution to the rise of teenage suicide; the sexualization of young girls and celebrities (Miley Cyrus); and the Internet as a place where adolescents' anxieties about body-image, weight, and identity can be heightened. In the section on "teachable moments," she guides parents to consider positive role models and heroes, especially teachers; the culture of fame where people are famous for being famous and not for accomplishment; and ways to examine discipline and achievement as exemplified by athletes.

There is a quality that Parenting in a Social Media World shares with many books of advice and self-help: to reap the full benefit, parents should accept some basic assumptions. Giannetti expects parents to consider their own values carefully, and to take time to share them with their children. She doesn't recommend scheduled and scripted "meaningful discussions." Parents and children can exchange a few sentences on the way home from soccer practice. But communication is key to a parent's success in effectively engaging a child on these issues.

Giannetti's advice is also aimed at parents who want to be parents, not friends, to their children. It is best if parents who read the book are prepared to make rules and enforce them. With its organization in small sections, this book is easy to read and understand, and offers practical, realistic solutions to the changes that the Internet has brought to parenting.

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