Book Review: Generation MySpace

Generation MySpace, Helping Your Teen Survive Online Adolescence, by Candice M. Kelsey, Marlow & Company, 2007. Available from Amazon, among others.

“Sheesh! Another MySpace thing! Mom, MySpace is really not that big a deal!” –My son, on seeing the book.

And therein is the point of the book. This is not a book for teens; it is an attempt to bridge the generation gap between parents and their children, using MySpace as the point of departure.

The author is a middle school teacher in California who has supplemented her personal experience with extensive research. There are no footnotes, but expert commentary and research is well documented within the text. There is also a “Resources” section at the back of the book, listing sources by chapter, as well as a “Recommended Reading, Surfing, and Viewing” section, also broken down by chapter.

There are few holds barred as the author delves into the current world of teens. In the first chapter the author points out that it’s not all about MySpace, it’s about social networking sites, of which MySpace is the largest. She then proceeds to explain why social networking is so important to teens and how it fits into the overall picture of their lives. In doing so, she exposes the terms and terminology they use and their current cultural context. Although she gives frequent warnings, if you are not prepared for language that would have been offensive in prior generations, you may want to skip this book and try one of the others available.

But the author is not trying to shock as much as to wave red flags. She and many experts say MySpace is not the problem, it is simply a symptom of a larger cultural shift. Kelsey believes, and offers good documentation, that the shift is driven by media and consumerism. With the red flags she also offers advice on dealing with the negative issues surrounding MySpace. The first step, also recommended by other authors of MySpace books, is to visit this part of a teen’s “world” by creating a MySpace account and looking around. There is a guided tour through the process, beginning with Chapter 2, “Pimped Out: Anatomy of a Profile.” The author recommends not going straight to your child’s profile, but using the experience to understand the world of today’s teens by seeing it through their eyes. There is a chapter later in the book devoted to assessing your child’s MySpace involvement, and strategies to use.

Overall, the book is well written and well documented, promoting strategies that are recommended by experts for dealing with teens and MySpace. The book overall also has an alarmist tone, and uses very frank language. For the clueless parent (including the one(s) thinking, “Not MY teen!”), this is probably a good thing. But it may not be the book for every parent. If you want a full picture of the teen world and teens on MySpace, this book should top your list. If you’d rather not know all the gory details, but still want to know how to approach MySpace, consider something like MySpace Unraveled, by Larry Magid and Anne Collier (reviewed here).

Back to the beginning quote: he’s right. I have two teens on MySpace, and for them it isn’t a big deal. It’s their world. I also have a MySpace account, which I set up over a year ago to find out what it was all about. They, and their friends, seemed to think it was awesome that I was in MySpace.

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