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Monday, October 25, 2010

A Young Adult's Guide to Safety in the Digital Age

Here's the scenario:  You've done your best to raise your kids to be decent digital citizens.  Over the years you've had a few online issues but overall you've done a good job keeping your kids safe.  Next year, they go away to college - far removed from your guidance and watchful eye.  They are embarking on a journey into the digital wilderness alone.  Waiting for them are not only the creeps, predators, and bullies you worried about when they were younger, but also a whole new troop of bad guys trying to steal their financial information, rip them off, catch them in a scam, or load their machines with spyware and viruses.  Nervous?  I will be when my kids reach that age ( the not to distant future).  What's a responsible parent to do?  Jeff Sechler has the answer.

Jeff's book: "A Young Adult's Guide to Safety in the Digital Age" is intended for teens and young adults and is a survival guide of strategies that will help young people stay safe and maintain their personal integrity online.  The book is written in a language that is easily understood, it contains simple rules and suggestions, and covers most everything a young adult might encounter.

There are several things I really like about this book.
  1. It fills a void - Most online safety guides are written for parents or teachers of younger kids.  Not much exists for young adults who are experiencing new freedom in the digital world.  Late teen and college age kids don't necessarily need filters for bad words and offensive content.  They need a whole different set of strategies that very few people are writing about.  Sechler's book hits the mark in these areas.
  2. It's comprehensive - The book addresses three primary risk areas: personal safety risks, personal property risks, and professional risks.  The few books that do exist for young adults usually focus on one of these.  The most common are books on protecting your personal safety (from predators, perverts, stalkers, etc.).  The next most common are guides on online privacy and protecting personal property (like bank accounts, identity theft, credit fraud, etc.).  Very few things have been written about professional risks, which is becoming a huge problem for many young people.
  3. It's written for it's target audience - Easy to read, doesn't waste time with a bunch of background or historical info.  This book says "here's the problem and here's the way to protect yourself."  It's hard enough to get kids and young adults to read anything so why muddy the water with auxiliary, useless verbiage?  
  4. It's current...for now - The problem with any print book about technology is that it becomes obsolete so quickly.  But I'm sure this is just a first step for Mr. Sechler and he has plans for keeping this guide up to date (and if he doesn't, he should).  Right now this book addresses all the relevant stuff young people will face as they embark on their solo digital journey.
Of all of these positives, my favorite is definitely how comprehensive this book is.  It tells young people that they have to worry about their personal safety and property as well as their professional integrity.  How many times have heard stories of people posting their drunken "train wreck" photos on Facebook and then regretting it two years later when they try to get a job? Employers are definitely using social media as screening tools, and yet college kids remain selectively oblivious to the dangers of posting risky content.  Sechler's approach to the three primary risk areas that young people face is extremely appropriate and timely.

Here are a list of the major topics in the book:
  • Sexual and Online Predators
  • Cyber-Bullying and Harassment
  • Cell Phone Texting and Sexting
  • Internet Addictions
  • Personal Property Risks
  • Identity Theft
  • Online Scams
  • Computer Viruses and Spyware
  • Professional Risks
  • Online Reputation and Applying for College or Jobs
  • Copyright and Plagiarism Laws

My recommendation?  I think that this book should be required reading for every high school in the USA.  The problem that Mr. Sechler faces with this book is getting it into the right hands.  Kids that age are probably not going to go out and buy a book like this.  Required reading might be the only way to appeal to large numbers.  This book is valuable enough to make it part of any school's required reading and it is short enough and easy enough to read that it won't have too big an impact on the rest of the curriculum.  My suggestion for Sechler: come up with a teachers guide on how to teach a short unit around this book.  That would definitely drive adoption by school districts.

I definitely recommend this book, not only for young people, but for parents of young people who want to help their children stay safe online.  I am also going to actively suggest it to the school districts I work with.  It's cheap, easy to read, and covers some really important stuff.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

And here is a link to the book's website where you can get in touch with the author and/or publisher:

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