The Teenage Guide to Life Online

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Nicola MORGAN, The Teenage Guide to Life Online, Walker Books, August 2018, 190 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406377903

This fairly densely printed book with a thorough index at the back might seem an odd response to the internet. If teenagers do want to reflect upon their online life or learn more about its context, history, opportunities and dangers, wouldn’t an online site with plenty of hypertext links be the way to get to them? Besides, this scene is so fast-moving that wouldn’t a more fluid form of information be able to respond to needed updates? Nevertheless, this book retains and preserves valuable information about the state of play in 2018.

It might become an embarrassment, or a vital archive of attitudes and warnings for the future. Difficult to know with such a book. The author, Nicola Morgan, has a strong internet presence, and is herself a teacher, a researcher, and the author of many books for children and about the neuroscience of childhood. Her focus is upon the psychology and neuroscience related to being a teenager. Her book is full of well researched facts, theories and considered advice. What, for instance, is the nature of an ‘addiction’ to screen devices? How might you measure the health of your relationship to your smartphone? What security or safety precautions can you take when you are online? How ‘normal’ are pornographic images? What might be some tips for good screen habits when interacting with social media? What is an online disinhibition effect?

This is a most thoughtful, deeply well researched, and finely written account of current knowledge and current challenges in this overwhelmingly important field of action for teenagers. If a teenager does not have the patience or the willingness to read such a book, then I would urge parents to make use of it as a basis for conversations with teenagers, and for their own information (it can allay many unnecessary worries). A remarkable book.

Recommended for readers 13 onwards.

Reviewed by Kevin Brophy

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