3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I'm not as convinced by this book as I expected to be. It's worthy and has good intentions. It's generally written to a reasonable standard and some of the ideas behind it are sound. But it's not particularly authoritative, drawing heavily on a set of EU-produced reports with little in the way of wider/original research to support the author's conclusions.
There's no author biography supplied with review copies, so I don't have any idea of who Pamela Whitby is or why she should be considered to have expertise on the subject of child safety online. With the exception of the series of reports whose influence is already noted, the content of the book tends towards informal surveys and the author's epistemic beliefs. Which at times can take on a rather dogmatic tone.
Although the book has structure, the topics under discussion aren't always handled in a particularly methodical fashion. I found the lack of age differentiation in 'children' problematic. Whilst anyone under the age of 18 IS a child, there are some quite different issues involved over the spectrum (although these are, naturally, gradient) - but this gets little recognition.
My other concern is that this book presents the subject in a way that is slanted a little towards scaremongering. Yes, the issues that are discussed are relevant and real but, to present a balanced account, it would be nice to see some recognition of the fact that there are also harmless intellectual and entertainment activities for which children can and do use internet access.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2012
If you're a child of the 1970s and 80s, with a computer knowledge centred on ZX81s and BBC Micros, it's likely you're feeling left behind as a parent as your kids forge ahead with social networking and the internet.
This book is necessary reading for modern parents as it is clear and thoughtful with a responsible tone, and I read nothing I would argue with, and much I agree with.
Where I would go further than this book is in ways to implement its suggestions with your kids. There are suggestions, but you might like to supplement your reading with the CEOP website.
Worth the money, but not the last word.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The book aims to inform parents about what their children will encounter online.
As everyone is aware, there are some parts of the internet that are aimed at adults and many don't want their children exposed to the adult areas.
Then there are the areas that are harmless enough but have a potential for 'misuse'.
Practical suggestions of making sure that the parental controls are enabled on your child's smartphone.
Understanding websites like chatroulette and stickam.
Essentially being aware that kids will want to find a way around accessing things they shouldn't and encouraging talking to the kids about the internet.
Overall it is food for thought and can leave you a little more worried than you were before.
From the perspective of a relatively tech savvy granddad I wasn't expecting too much in this book that I didn't already know, but was happily proved wrong. The book provided me with new insights into this challenging area. While a lot of the information can be found elsewhere (appropriately enough online), there is an advantage of having the information in detail, in a logical order, all in one place.
The book itself is pretty comprehensive. It covers the more widely known dangers, but also some of the less well documented ones such as children misusing parents credit cards. It also covers different devices (e.g. smart phones) not just 'computers'. Thankfully it also covers the most important element of this challenging area, the need for open and honest conversations with your children; and the need to ensure the 'approach' you take as a parent includes mutual trust.
The book does have a limited shelf life. The introduction of new technologies and new social media avenues means the book will quickly be out of date. This is mitigated to some extent by covering general concepts, not just the specific technologies and platforms. However, the book will need to be continually updated to remain relevant.
In books of this type there is a balance to be had between informing/empowering parents and terrifying them. The book accepts the reality that social media is an integral part of our children's social life, and does well to get the balance right. The style is good; it's not a heavy read and most people will find it accessible, regardless of their technical credentials
Overall I'd recommend this book to parents wanting to get clued up in this area, but only for the next year or two.
This is a very sensible book - it is not a Daily Mail - "the internet is turning all our kids into sex addicts" rant. This is a perfectly sound book that provides a lot of very sensible advice, however, most of it is not rocket science. It is also, probably of more help to parents of younger children than older one - after all, unless you work in IT you'll have to fact the fact that your kids will probably be more tech savvy than you by the time they're teenagers, if not before. So, if they want to hide their internet activity from you they will.
The other thing is that a lot of the grief that our kids will go through thanks to the internet will be outside your or their control - my daughter is nine and yet she has friends in her class whose parents have allowed them to have smart phones and facebook accounts already - but who also haven't had sensible conversations with their kids about sex because they find it too embarrassing. Even if you and your child take a sensible attitude to the web, and the wider world, there are always idiots out there who let their kids do whatever they like but don't spend time building a sensible relationship with their kids. Rant over.
The only sensible approach to this is to be as tech aware as you can, but to hope that you have been ale to build a relationship with your kids that means that they will trust you and talk to you when they have a problem, and that that will last through the surging "it's so unfair" hormone induced self pity and peer pressure that they're going to go through. This book makes those points, and provides a lot of sensible advice and some reassurance but I fear that in the end it does come down to luck and your kid's friends's as much as you and your kid.
I consider myself to be both computer literate and not too far behind the curve of what's going on in cyberspace. But I will happily admit that I haven't been particularly proactive in ensuring that my child's access to the internet is managed safely. She's only just beginning to get online (pre-school sites under my supervision), so this is the moment at which I felt it appropriate to inform myself. Unfortunately, this book isn't written for my needs. It's a fairly flimsy approach to the subject by someone whose expertise (before she set about writing this at least) was less than my own. Her approach to information gathering is anecdotal and, though well intentioned, just made me feel that her findings were fairly superficial. I passed this book onto my wife who would also freely admit that she's much less well informed about information technology and social media than I am but she also found it all fairly obvious. If you are computer literate enough to be able to be of any help to your child in navigating the perils of the web, then you'll probably be able to find fresher and more pertinent information on the web itself.
While the book doesn't cost all that much and is very short, the key element here is time. Is your valuable time best spent reading this or searching on the web for good advice? Personally I'd recommend skipping this and getting on with doing your own research. If you're sufficiently technophobic to be in the target readership for this book, then you'll do yourself as much good by getting more familiar with the web as anything else! But to be forewarned is to be forearmed so if this book helps you to see the dangers then maybe it served its purpose.
I asked a friend with teenage children to have a look at this, and here is her review:
I came to the book 'Is Your Child Safe On-line?' with an open mind but assuming I would read things that as a parent I thought I already knew. I was, therefore, not really expecting to have any new revelations about the dangers of the internet. However this book was incredibly challenging to me and would be to any concerned parent as it covers every area of danger imaginable that a child might encounter as they enter into this technical world. It horrifies me to think how this cyber world can lure an unsupervised child in an instant and could leave images in their mind that last for a lifetime.
But this book is not all doom and gloom and it offers practical advice and direction showing how parents and carers and even teachers can offer support and oversee a child's usage of the internet, not just with a computer but also with smart phones that can offer just as much access to the world wide web without a parents knowledge!
'Is Your Child Safe On-line?' is not written just to scare parents but helps them by giving very useful guidelines as to the different ways and means of putting blocks and controls on material that a child views and hears on-line and it gives parents hope that the internet can indeed help children to socialise via sites like Facebook and Twitter for example, which encourage conversation between users.
I would recommend this book not only to parents but to anyone interested in praying for this generation who have far greater access to so much more than I ever did as a child.
It is a relief to me that my children are grown up and I don't have to worry about the minefield that cyberspace is for modern kids; also I am very glad that my son is quite savvy enough to monitor his children's usage. Many parents would welcome any constructive help, and this book is an excellent primer for them. Whitby, as a mother of two children at primary school, obviously has a passionate stake in her subject - "I hope that what I have learnt benefits them".
The book covers all the necessary topics; as well as the highest-profile issue, i.e. sexual risks, it also deals with cyber-bullying, excessive use of PCs and commercial risks (your child can damage your bank balance, either as a victim of phishing or by using your credit card on-line themselves). It also has a brief but useful section on e-safety in school, giving rise to one of Whitby's many incisive observations ; she points out the tension between "child health professionals telling us to limit the time our children spend in front of screens" and "schools sending home usernames for children as young as five" .
A major strength of the book is that much of it was based on interviews with not only professionals (both teachers and industry experts) but also parents and children. It includes many quotes from these groups, including several relevant horror-stories, e.g. a mother who bought Call of Duty for her five year-old son, without realising its content. Another mother, herself a programmer, told her teenage daughter that "I could see everything she was doing online if I wanted to. She believed me and it worked." [Although the mother's motives were good, will her daughter still trust her when she finds out the limits of this claim?] The second lady should, perhaps, consider the opionion expressed by a "threat researcher": "You would be amazed just how many children know how to bypass supposedly secure systems to access the content they want". [To lighten the mood for a second, this reminded me of the cartoon where Dilbert asks a child to test his porn-blocking filter ("his youthful curiosity is no match for my technical brilliance") only to comment a moment later "I hope that wasn't the sound of eyeballs getting really big!"]
Whitby frequently emphasises that the key for parents to ensure a healthy on-line experience for their children is to keep communicating with them. She suggests several useful strategies for this, which should help parents desperate to achieve a positive result but unsure how to do so.
The pity is that any book like this, however good, will quickly start to become outdated. If it had been written ten years ago, it would have needed to cover only "dumb" mobiles; nowadays, many children have smartphones; as Whitby ruefully acknowledges, this has given parents a whole new raft of problems. Whitby discusses Facebook in detail, but today I read that, following public pressure, Pinterest (touted as the successor to Facebook) has had to implement guidelines which prevent users posting pro-anorexia content. Pandora's box is well and truly open; let's hope that some hope remains within it.
If you have children who study, play or socialize online, then this is a handy little book to read. It's not without its faults but it does cover most of the issues likely to concern parents.
It takes a non-technical approach to a subject that is usually the domain of technical jargon and know-how, giving useful advice about keeping your children safe online. It is worth noting that the book regards anyone under the age of 18 as a child. That assumption makes for some interesting muddy thinking on the matter of pornography, given that the age of consent in the UK is 16.
Much of its content is based on research and reports published in the last few years in Europe. Many works on this subject are simply not recent enough to cover the rise of the smartphone and social networking, but this one is nicely up to speed with all those things. It covers all the main risks: grooming, pornography, consumerism, bullying, addiction and so on. However, it does fall into the perennial trap of avoiding telling parents to take time to learn a bit about the technology their children are using. That does not mean becoming a so-called computer expert, but it seems to me that it would be sensible to gain a little understanding of what "being online" means, and useful to know something about what a computer or smartphone does that differentiates it from a television or household telephone. That wall of ignorance about the technology in the hands of children is one of the dangers, but the book does not address it in any way.
It makes many relative statements of fact without context. For example, on page 30 it says "A Bristol University Study [sic] showed that 10- and 11-year-olds who spent more than two hours a day at a computer had a 60% higher risk of psychological problems." A higher risk than what? ...children who never use a computer, children who watch two hours of TV a day, a 5-year-old, a pensioner, a computer programmer? Vague headline facts litter the book, but in my view they are sometimes used carelessly for little more than dramatic effect.
If it is facts you want, I would get a copy of "EU Kids Online II", from which the book pulls many of its facts. The report is available free from the London School of Economics website (or just Google the title). It is an easy read, presents a much more detailed (and very colourful) view of the facts, and sets them into a proper Europe-wide context. I found it gave a far better insight into the facts and figures, and made much less scary reading than this book does.
Overall then, it is a reasonably well-written book. Its grammar is all over the place, and it has a generally crusading tone which I found a bit tiresome, but on the whole it's okay. Its definition of a computer virus is not great and, for a book largely about Internet issues, the author ought to know that Internet is a proper noun and should have a capital I (see the book cover).
I am a technological idiot who can only turn PC related things on and off to fix them. Yesterday I drove my husband to distraction asking how to put something in bold in email text. B at the top he shouted across the room. I failed miserably to locate said B, had a tehnological blank which obscured my ability to recognise letters of the alphabet and and pleaded for direct button pushing help. In my defense B wasn't at the top, top in that status? bar thingy at the top but somewhere in the middle. I have attempted to turn off all things electrical as a solution to the online problem. I had the loveliest month of my life when a child threw a controller through our less than one month old huge wall mounted tv and our internet connection was broken.
However I understood this book so it is well explained for anyone even if they are not technologically qualified. I am now worried about more online things than I was before. Pro Anorexia and Pro Bullemia websites, didn't know those existed. As mother of a preteen who has just plucked her eyebrows to obscurity due to indirect (I hope) peer pressure it is v worrying. Do I now look up said websites, find the symptoms of said illnesses and scare myself sillier. Parenthood eh.
I didn't realise also that those club penguin sites etc can have free chat if you set the settings the right way.
Apparently trying to set parental controls and get on top of the problem technologically is useless as children just need to look up the youtube video how to fix them. So you need strong passwords or something and someone who knows how to install the most up-to-date parental control things. You also need to be able to install parental controls on X-boxes, playstations, mobile phones. You need a career in technology.
Also you can install all this parental control stuff and other not parentally controlled peers can just show it or email it to your children anyway.
So we can never keep our children completely safe online.
This book is perfectly worth buying if you are interested in it to highlight the ways your children are not safe and to make you aware you can report stuff like cyber bullying to the police.
It's well written and highlights the issues you should look out for and raise with your children along with the traditional green cross code, don't talk to strangers etc safety lessons.