Talking Back to Facebook

May 21, 2012
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Parents and Families, Tools

Kids today are spending more time with digital media and mobile technology than ever before.  In his new book, “Talking Back to Facebook: A Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age,” Common Sense Media CEO and founder Jim Steyer aims to help parents and teachers better navigate children’s digitally-connected lives.  Steyer provides an engaging blend of candid advice and personal anecdotes, addressing the drawbacks related to kids’ consumption of digital media.

He says its more important than ever before that both parents and teachers get invovled in teaching media literacy and citizenship education at home and in the classroom.

Steyer abbreviated the three most prevalent pitfalls “RAP,” which stands for: relationship issues, attention/addiction problems, and lack of privacy. However, Steyer’s approach to these issues is not one of censorship; instead he equips readers with the essential tools needed to help guide children into making informed decisions online. In this book, Steyer provides detailed ways for parents and educators to filter content while still preserving healthy relationships with their children.

Ken Auletta, New Yorker contributor and author of “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It,” said this of “Talking Back”:

Steyer has penned a vital wake-up call for parents and government. He is a champion of both kids and the digital revolution. But he's neither giddy nor an apologist. He recognizes that companies like Facebook and Google and video game makers sway our kids, how they think and read and study and behave. If you're a parent and want some shrewd tips on parenting in this digital age and how to protect your children, read this book.

Along with the book, Steyer has provided an abridged “Top 10 Tips” for both parents and children. The parents’ list includes simple tasks such as:

  • Set firm time limits
  • Keep all technology in common areas
  • Be a “digital role model”
  • Learn their world and partake in their activities – both on and offline

While his tips for kids include:

  • Respect others’ privacy and don’t share anything without first asking a friend’s permission
  • Unplug every once and awhile
  • Respect and give credit for other peoples’ work
  • Don’t say or do anything online that you wouldn’t want your name attached to

As we all know, the impact of these new technologies is only beginning to be studied, but it is undeniable that digital media has become a crucial part of children’s lives. Its ability to affect their relationships, as well as their own self-image, is certainly powerful. Given recent studies of “Facebook depression” and Sherry Turkle’s recent assessment of social media, it is becoming increasingly important to give children the implements they need to become digital citizens—to maximize the promises that digital media afford while limiting its perils. Steyer’s guide delivers an active approach to teaching kids about healthy media consumption. Turkle herself referred to the book as a smart and down-to-earth text that will be a real “conversation-starter for families” and, more important, something that parents and children can read together.

Steyer has co-authored an op-ed at CNN Opinion today with Chelsea Clinton, who is also a member of our board of directors. Steyer and Clinton say that the explosion of online access for kids is changing the way kids think and interact with others. They write:


We urgently need a public conversation in our country among key stakeholders: parents, educators, technology innovators, policymakers and young people themselves. The dialogue must focus on the ways social media and technology enable our kids to give up their privacy before they fully understand what privacy is and why it's important to all of us. We should also discuss how social media can help empower kids to find their voice, find their purpose and potentially create the next technology revolution.


Steyer and Clinton call for legislation, and education to "maximize the opportunities and minimize the risks for our kids." Read the op-ed here. And join the conversation at