Archive for the ‘MySpace’ Category

Book Review: Generation MySpace

September 23, 2007

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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MySpace books: 3 Reviews

January 26, 2007

MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking, by Larry Magid and Anne Collier, Peachpit Press, 2006.

This stands out as the best of the three books. It is logically organized and well presented, with color screenshots. The authors present a balanced approach to MySpace, without an alarmist attitude, but with very insightful observations and helpful suggestions, backed by cited research. Their approach is based in the reality of the Web and social networking, addressing the issues one needs to know while guiding the reader through setting up a MySpace account and using MySpace resources.

Sprinkled throughout the book are “Key Parenting Points” which speak directly to parental concerns about MySpace features. Their philosophy on dealing with those parental concerns can be summed up by their statement (on page 12), “There is no substitute for engaged parenting…But that engagement…is less about control than it is about communication.” Hence the book is about informing for constructive parenting rather than controlling a teen’s access to MySpace.

The writing style is informal and easy. The authors speak as parents and professionals who are actively involved with teens, parents, and the Web. Their experience shows. It should probably be noted the authors are the directors of the online resource BlogSafety.com. If you need a book about MySpace, this is the one to get.

MySpace Safety: 51 Tips for Teens and Parents, by Kevin Farnham and Dale Farnham, How-To Primers, 2006.

This book is written (obviously) from a purely safety perspective. While not entirely alarmist, the authors present guidance on using MySpace from the standpoint of minimizing the risk of contact from members with “malicious” intent. Minimizing that risk is not just about minimizing visibility on MySpace, so there are warnings and advice throughout the book as it steps through the process of signing up and using MySpace.

Notably, the authors’ philosophy on parenting teens using MySpace is to get to know their world to be able to advise them appropriately:

“What’s an appropriate response for parents? To get accustomed to the new world…learn about and teach your teens about the risks, and ideally to enjoy participating with them in this new form of interaction that has become normal for [this] generation.”

The book is intended to be a “user’s manual” with “specific warnings about MySpace dangers and specific methods to minimize the risk that comes with having a MySpace.com account.” As the book moves from introduction to setting up an account and modifying account settings, to using MySpace, there are numbered “Safety Tip” sections after discussions of each feature, giving the authors’ recommendations.

While the book is well written, it speaks primarily to the parent reader, occasionally stepping aside to address teens. While the discussion and tips are good, the focus is so narrow it is easy to begin relegating the whole book to paranoia. I think the better choice of books would be MySpace Unraveled. Although in some areas this book has more information, it is more dated, and lacks screenshots. Still, it is worthy of consideration, especially if your main concern is the safety issue on MySpace.

A Parent’s Guide to MySpace, by Laney Dale, DayDream Publishers, 2006.

There’s not a lot to say about this book. It appears to be self-published. It is rife with errors and typos. The tone alternates between patronizing and inflamatory. There is no documentation. Needless to say, even as short as it is, I had a hard time finishing it. Try one of the other two listed above. Forget about this one.