Things to act on in 2014

Elizabeth Cran
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Raffi Cavoukian is not only a well-known musician and children’s entertainer, he has written or co-written three books, founded the Centre for Child Honouring (part of a global movement) and, with the centre, founded Red Hood Project, “a movement for online security for children and youth.”

The present book, “#lightwebdarkweb” is largely about the latter topic and is dedicated to the memory of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old from Vancouver who killed herself “after years of online harassment.”

And she has not been the only one to commit suicide for this reason.

“#lightwebdarkweb” is subtitled “Three Reasons to Reform Social Media Be4 it Reforms Us.” It’s a small (150 pages plus appendices) book, published by Homeland Press, (the publishing branch of Cavoukian’s enterprise; $15.95 plus shipping and handling and has mostly been sold on the Internet at www@raffinews.com).

Cavoukian’s book is divided into three main parts: safety, intelligence and sustainability, as well as an introduction and conclusion. Four important appendices follow, as does a considerable list of notes for each part and a short bibliography.

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination,” a statement by Henry David Thoreau, forms the epigraph.

Safety is probably the most obvious factor that social media lacks. It changes so fast no legal system can keep up with it, nor does it seem the existing precautions are widely observed. For instance, no one under 13 is supposed to become a member of Facebook. However, in 2011 more than a third of Facebook users — over 7.5 million — who were actively using it fell in that age group. Other safety issues are lack of privacy and obsession.

As for intelligence, here’s what a noted professor at Stanford University has to say: “Many of today’s students are less able to concentrate, write well, think coherently and synthesize information than they were just a few years ago.

“And every year they seem to have shallower and shorter attention spans, as well as diminished memory capacity.”

Sustainability covers, among other dangerous ingredients used in making smartphones and other electronic devices, conditions in which many of them are made, “e-waste and recycling” and more. Raffi uses some electronic media himself — How I Use Digital Tech relates this part of his life in detail — but he’s careful to explain his stance: he thinks children should be children, everyone should enjoy some privacy and watch out for greed.

Some of this book may be painful reading. But it’s not pessimistic. He believes there are several ways to defeat “dark web” and improve “light web.” One of them is to look after children and follow their development thoughtfully.

In the process, we improve ourselves. Benefits of Children and Adolescents Using Social Media (pp. 146-148) is another valuable tool.

Yet another way is “benigndesign” — imitating nature when trying to design something new (pp.107-110). Everyone who can read should read this book. It may be the last, best book of 2013.

Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at 111 Sydney St., Apt. 17, Saint John, N.B., E2L 2L8, or call her at 506-693-5498.

Organizations: Child Honouring, Red Hood, Homeland Press Stanford University Adolescents Using Social Media The Guardian

Geographic location: Vancouver, Saint John

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