Raising Children in a Digital Age
by Bex Lewis (Lion Husdon)
Reviewed by Nikki Slade Robinson
Grooming, identity theft, security settings, inappropriate content, viruses … and your children. The ‘Digital Age’ is yet another area that parents have to get their heads around managing. Another lot of negotiating, researching, talking to other parents. Making sure your children brush their teeth, eat their veges and learn how to cross the road safely all seem quite straightforward when compared with tackling the ever-changing world of digital access using all manner of digital devices that are now available. How do you give your children the skills they need to use this resource sensibly and safely? How do you keep up with the changes? Wouldn’t it be great if somebody could bundle up all the information a parent needs, into one nice, non-technological device called a book?
Bex Lewis, an expert in social media and digital innovation, has done just that. She starts by discussing the pros and cons of digital technology, putting the issues in perspective. She explains how media reporting often focuses on a minority of users and incidents, portraying digital issues in an inaccurate way, ‘fear sells. … The press has a habit of scaremongering parents and hyping the online risks’, and she then discusses the benefits to be had from digital technology.
Analogies are drawn to help explain where digital technology sits within our world – ‘Do you need to understand how electricity works to be able to turn on a lightbulb? No. … Similarly you don’t need to know everything about how the internet works in order to use it.’ Throughout the book, questions are asked, with surveyed (usually parent) respondents quoted. There are also ‘exercises’ you can do with your children; topics to discuss together. The message is to communicate, communicate, communicate.
Chapters cover topics such as drawing up an Internet Safety Agreement, types of sites, apps – their benefits and pitfalls, security settings, managing your digital fingerprint and much more. One chapter talks about digital advertising – the pressure to buy while viewing content online. It is something that can be overlooked when talking internet safety. There are also lists of useful links, be it for finding out more about security settings or legitimate download sources. Advice applies not only to computers, but other digital devices like smartphones – ‘Make a note of your International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) in case your phone is stolen.’ The information is presented in non-technical language, however if you do get stuck, there is a ‘JargonBuster’ appendix listing terms and definitions.
The final section contains a list of additional sources of information (with links), should you want to do your own in-depth research on any particular area covered within the book.
It is a comprehensive guide ideally suited for parents or those who work with children. It is also a book that teens could potentially dip in to, if they were concerned about any aspect of digital safety. I found it very accessible and useful both in terms of our children’s use of the internet, as well as gaining a greater understanding in general.