Book Review and Giveaway Blast #4: ‘Raising a Digital Child’ (CLOSED)

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I can clearly remember when I first entered the ‘computer age’ as a child. My mom knew that computers were important for kids to be learning about, so after much saving she walked into Toys-R-Us and bought my brother and I a computer. From what I remember – it was made by Atari, and came with three pieces – the CPU, a disk drive (floppy) and a keyboard. No mouse (this was way before their time). And no monitor either – we hooked it up to our television and sat in front on the floor with the keyboard on our laps. The very first time we turned it on, we waited for something to happen. What we got was a blank blue screen – nobody had thought to inform my mom that we would need something called DOS – an operating system. Or software.

Growing up in the early days of personal computing was interesting. In 7th grade, I learned to type on an old manual typewriter. By 9th grade, the high school was offering ‘Keyboarding’. In college, I took cartography during the first year that it was taught on computers rather than by using a drafting table and tools. And it was in college when I purchased my very first personal computer. Not too many years later, I bought my first cell phone. It was just that – a phone. No mp3 player, internet or e-mail access, or camera on it.

It’s been a relatively short amount of time (within my lifetime) that our society has truly entered the Digital Age. Kids nowadays are bombarded with websites before they can even talk, and even my 6-year-old is wishing for her own cell phone. I like to think that I’m fairly tech savvy – I have a Facebook account, I’m on Twitter – heck, I even blog. But with new products and services coming out almost every year, it’s hard for parents to know, much less keep up with, what their kids are facing in this ever-changing, quickly evolving arena. That’s why the book ‘Raising a Digital Child’ by Mike Ribble is such an important read for all of us.

What it is:

DICIPA Raising a Digital Child: A Digital Citizenship Handbook for Parents is a look into what technologies today’s kids are learning about and exposed to, and what parents can and should do to keep up, and to keep their kids safe. The book was published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in January of 2009, and is their first book aimed at parents.

Here’s a synopsis:

As a parent, do you ever wonder how you can possibly keep up with all the new technologies your children take for granted? Cell phones, online games, instant messaging, social networking, and other technologies have all become so important in the daily lives of young people, and they seem to take them up at younger and younger ages all the time. The kids view this new digital culture as a normal way of life, even though as parents you may feel overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar challenges. Cyberbullies, stalkers, identity theft, intellectual property theft—it’s hard to know just what you can do to confront the risks.

You want your children to enjoy all the benefits a technological society has to offer, but at the same time, you want them to stay safe and act as responsible members of society. Raising a Digital Child is your guide. Inside, you will learn about many of the newest and most popular technologies, in parent-friendly language, along with discussions of the risks each might harbor and the types of behaviors that every child should learn in order to become a good citizen in this new digital world.

This book is 216 pages and contains everything from a definition of terms, to quizzes you can use to find out how much your kids already know about current technology, and a suggested ‘Family Contract for Digital Citizenship’ that can be adapted to meet the needs of your individual family.

Courtesy of ISTE, I received a copy of Raising a Digital Child to read and review.

Here’s my take on it:

Even as a fairly sophisticated user of technology, the idea of what my kids are already being introduced to – and will be in the future – still scares the heck out of me. Our kids are just starting to venture online, and already have ‘kid’ versions of mp3 players, digital cameras and one (educational) gaming system. I almost feel though like once that barrier between them and all of this technology is lifted, even a little, it’s just going to start rushing in with no way to stop it.

Not that I necessarily want to – I want my kids to understand and be able to use the latest technology for many reasons, including being able to keep up with their peers and be competitive in the job market down the road. But I want them to be safe as they learn, and I want to know what they are doing and learning and seeing as they go.

This book starts off by introducing the concept of ‘Digital Citizenship’- defined as “using technology appropriately and responsibly”. While not a specific set of rules – it’s more of a foundation that helps both parents and kids know what are and aren’t appropriate uses of technology. Within the broad idea of Digital Citizenship are 9 more detailed elements: digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security. The rest of the book goes over these elements in more detail, and looks at everything from file-sharing and copywriting to acceptable behavior while using a cell phone and e-mail etiquette.

Technology can be scary – especially if we don’t know much about it ourselves. What I like about this book is that it breaks down what parents need to know, without them having to be current on what’s popular and trendy in today’s technology. In fact, the ideas presented here can evolve as technology itself does, because the book makes you think about how you use technology in general – not how to use any particular form of technology.

I especially like the quizzes the book provides to see what kids and teens already know about technology use and etiquette. Kids can tend to see a lot of these issues differently – what may seem rude or inconsiderate to us may be normal and commonplace to them. What’s acceptable at home may not be at school or in the workplace. Society is ever evolving, but at a much slower rate than technology.

As a user of Web 2.0 and social media myself, I know that these will absolutely impact my kids at some point in their young lives. They already are to some extent even now – most of the websites they visit to play games on have some sort of social networking built-in as well. Not to mention the pictures and stories already posted about them on photo and video sharing sites, and (ahem) blogs. How will that information affect them down the road? Even done with the most benign of purposes – any information provided has the potential to impact their futures. As they grow, what information will they themselves share online? The chapter entitled, “Web 2.0? What Happened to Web 1.0?” provides a lot to think about and consider. And I certainly am considering it all.

The bottom line:

Technology is out there, and will certainly impact every child’s life in some way as this next generation grows and matures. Raising a Digital Child takes a good, hard look at what parents need to know and things that they can do to help understand and monitor what their children are doing in today’s digital world, and how this world will impact families in years to come.

Where can you find it?:

Raising a Digital Child by Mike Ribble is available directly from the ISTE Bookstore at You can also purchase it from Amazon as well. The list price is $24.95.

Would you like to try it?:

I have an extra copy of this book available for one lucky reader. If you would like to check out Raising a Digital Child for yourself or share it with another parent in your life, here are the rules:

  1. Enter by leaving a comment here to let me know how old you were when you first used a computer or cell phone. Please don’t just say ‘choose me’, or your entry will be discarded.
  2. The contest will run until Wednesday, July 8th at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be selected through random drawing, contacted by e-mail, listed on this post and also submitted to PRIZEY. US entries only, please.
  3. Please leave a valid e-mail address or other way to contact you! If you don’t wish to leave your e-mail address, please make sure that you leave a unique name and check back with PRIZEY to see if you won. If the winner hasn’t responded within 3 days, an alternate winner will be chosen by random drawing.
  4. If you’d like extra entries, you can:
  • Post the Giveaway Blast button on your site (code is in the sidebar) for the duration of the event week. Leave a comment here with your site’s URL where the button is posted.
  • Subscribe to my RSS feed (click on the orange icon in the upper left of the screen) or subscribe via e-mail – leave a separate comment to let me know.
  • Mention this contest on your blog with a link back to this post, and leave a separate comment with the link to your post so I can find it.
  • Either Twitter about, ‘Digg’ or ‘Kirtsy’ this post – leave me a separate comment with your username at whichever site(s) you chose (one extra entry per method).
  • Take my survey! Leave a comment to let me know. Even if you’ve previously taken it, just leave the comment and you’ll get the extra entry.

So that’s a total of 8 comments/entries if you do all of the extra entry options.

Good luck!  :)

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED – the random number generator has chosen comment #8 as the winner:


Congratulations to Tia (no blog), who said, “The first computer I used was the Radio Shack TRS-80 in my Junior or Senior year of high school. I don’t really know the purpose of that computer but that was the one.“! I will be e-mailing you shortly to work out the details.

This post courtesy of: ISTE. No payment or compensation, other than product samples as described above, was received for this post.