For this week’s Word Wednesday, I have Dr Christian’s Guide to Growing up Online by Dr. Christian Jessen. For those unaware who Dr. Christian Jessen is, he’s a UK TV doctor most famous for presenting Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies. He is known for delivering medical information in an accessible way. On his website it states,
“Dr Christian is involved in a number of public campaigns and he works closely with various health charities to help look for new ways to educate people in health matters. His main aim is to help raise medical awareness and simplify, demystify, de-stigmatize and explain the sometimes complicated and inaccessible world of medicine to the public.”
Which, I’m guessing, is why he’s more than happy to put his name to a guide to growing up online.
What is Dr Christian’s Guide to Growing up Online?
Parenting teens during the social media age is, frankly, terrifying. There’s a whole new universe out there that wasn’t present when we were teenagers (assuming you’re not a lot younger than I am.) The pressures to conform were there, but by and large, when we closed our front door at night, whatever was going on elsewhere was shut out too. Nowadays, the world fits in your pocket, and your troubles can follow you wherever you go.
The Guide to Growing Up Online sets out to demystify the allure of the internet and to help take the pressure off. Whatever it might be, Facebook, Snapchat, or Musically, It may feel like “everybody is doing it” but the book asserts that a) not everybody is, and, b) more importantly, even if they are, it’s perfectly OK for you not to. If your friends are your friends, they’ll respect your decision.
The book has taken questions from teenagers about the internet and social media and answered them, roughly one question to double page. As there are a few core principles (such as never share personal data online) there is some repetition between the answers, but the overriding messages of the book are well worth reinforcing.
Taking a random selection of pages, the book looks at doxing, grooming, photos, and the persistence of data on the internet. It advises against using location services, feeding the trolls, and what to do about cyberbullying. It gives practical advice about how to avoid doing things you don’t want to do. It is very clear about maintaining a real-life dialogue with a trusted adult. There is also a section about mental health. How to get help if you need it, and how to help if you think a friend is in need.
It’s also filled with great analogies. “The internet is like the high street,” being my favorite. If you wouldn’t do it on the high street, don’t do it online.
At the back of the book, there is a glossary of terms and places to find help. There is also a couple of pages of description of “Ditch the Label”, an international anti-bullying charity and co-developers of the book.
Why Read Dr Christian’s Guide to Growing up Online?
The internet promises to be Rivendell for our children, where their parents see the fiery Cracks of Doom. Books like this can help make sure that our children’s internet lives are more elves and singing than dark and all-consuming.
As a parent, the thing I love about this book is how often it stresses the importance of talking to mum, dad or a trusted adult about what’s happening. How parents wanting to limit access to technology is not just them being square, but how they’re trying to help you navigate an uncertain world. It discusses how taking an interest in your online life, is your parents showing they care, and not the opposite. Their involvement is not centered around “spoiling their children’s lives.”
Yet despite that, the book is still written in a fashion that keeps its intended audience engaged. It is never preachy. There is nothing earth-shattering in this book, but it delivers its information in a way that teenagers can relate to. It’s a gentle authority that (hopefully) won’t be dismissed out of hand. Unlike observations from mum and dad.
Dr Christian’s Guide to Growing up Online is a sensible primer for staying safe and making the most of the internet, without falling into many of its traps. It’s a slender volume but one that filled with nuggets of wisdom, perfect for those who might already think they know it all.
If you want to buy a copy of Dr Christian’s, Guide to Growing up Online, you can do so, here in the US and here, in the UK.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the UK Amazon Vine Program