Shaping Youth Online: “Totally Wired” is Totally Worthy

totally-wired.jpgRalph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our distrust is very expensive.”

Author Anastasia Goodstein echoes this sage premise throughout her excellent book, Totally Wired, What Tweens and Teens are REALLY Doing Online.

We pay a high price for parent-child internet estrangement, whether resulting from our own technology intimidation, media scare tactics creating a wedge, or peer paranoia fueled by “such & such happened to so & so online.”

Totally Wired’s author is clued into kids’ digital worlds at a level most parents can’t conceive of, tapping into these deeper issues of online and offline “disconnects” between parents and their offspring.

Anastasia’s tonality comes across like a wise Auntie who’s close enough to be concerned, but distant enough to be objective. Every parent needs someone like this in their lives, whether it’s a favorite sitter or trusted friend!

She’s a media savvy Gen Xer who’s not yet a parent but clearly has the chops to be, and ironically, that’s part of her “street cred” in my eyes. Her expertise in the sphere of youth culture is substantial, and she tries to balance the pros and cons of most EVERY media situation with common sense precision.

I value this a great deal, because at Shaping Youth, even though I TRY to remain centrist and balanced, as a parent of a tween, my emotions engage at a far more personal (even visceral!) level. Sometimes I rant impatiently when I feel media is veering toward the toxic rather than the positive, whereas Totally Wired steps back a bit and blends reason with research to defuse some of the angst.

Here’s a video of Anastasia speaking to parents on her book tour, a pbs audio interview on KQED’s Forum, some parenting quick tips and pitfalls of a communications culture, and a feature in my fave digital resource, Net Family News. Personally, I happen to agree that shutting out kids, or shutting down computers is far more dangerous than ANY online activity kids’ are engaged with…

…But sometimes I get caught up in those head-banging “what could they possibly be THINKING?” types of moments that Totally Wired sheds light upon more objectively.

As a parent primer for the digital age, Totally Wired jams in all the new media basics in an easy to read, entertaining format that’s well-researched without being statistical, (2,000+ teens surveyed) pithy without being patronizing, academic without being snooty, and anecdotal sans self-absorption.

It’s a “no excuses” wake up call for disempowered parents to “get in the game” if they’re feeling left out of their kids’ internet world…

And for parents already ‘totally wired?’ It validates the merits of media literacy, proving that mindfulness trumps prying and distrust any ol’ day.

Parents will make their own judgment calls on the fine lines of fully understanding and embracing the teen scene, but opening up dialogue that’s realistic is imperative.

Giving tweens media literacy from the get-go is a must, even if teen siblings think they can ‘show ‘em the ropes, or parents feel confident they’re ‘on it.’ Tweens are particularly vulnerable to making safety mistakes in ‘wannabe’ style, and Anastasia clearly drives the point home that there’s a huge difference between tween and teen media savvy.

(I’ll also be featuring MyPopStudio’s media literacy site for tweens soon, as the Media Lab at Temple University has made some fabulous strides with tweens in less than a year and are a positive parenting pick for certain!)

Suffice it to say, for me, Totally Wired is worthy of ordering “a bulk shipment” for our 2007 Shaping Youth Advisory Board, much like my holiday picks of Packaging Girlhood and Appetite for Profit. I’m a tough sell and light on the prose praise, so that’s an accolade for sure!

Anastasia’s own reveries of being a wild child add poignancy and context as she runs the gamut of subject matter…Ethical interventions. Cyberbullying. Bold sexuality. Multi-tasking conundrums. Even the ol’ “wikipedia used for term paper” routine where kids accustomed to instant Google gratification need help discerning reliable resources. (parents, now’s your time to shine)

She covers all the basics and lobs pragmatic advice onto the parenting court, reminding that one e-blast via social networking and cell tribes can turn a small party into a huge happening…Prompting parents to turn toward “teachable moments” rather than “freakout” reactions…All good stuff.

Like Shaping Youth, she considers herself a ‘voice of reason’ and makes no bones about the fact that she loves media and technology, believes in its positive power, and feels strongly that it can be a welcome addition rather than an object to be feared.

Several detailed reviews have been written already, including this one from Yahoo that talks about “screenagers,” summing, “Goodstein captures a world in which the impulsivity and brashness of youth meets the ferocity and speed of the Internet… Her bottom line seems to be that being teenager hasn’t changed much, but the tools sure have.”

Our own Totally Wired interview will be posted on Shaping Youth tomorrow…

We caught up with Anastasia Goodstein in person on one of her book tour stops, and my tween helped me form some of the questions!

It’s an insightful snapshot of why her blog and book have earned their place on Shaping Youth’s permanent sidebar.

Stay tuned…

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