CYBERBULLYING CRASH COURSE

PROTECT YOUR KIDS FROM CYBERBULLIES, CYBER VIOLENCE, AND DIGITAL PEER PRESSURE

A wise and levelheaded look at cyberbullying and some possible remedies.

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A wide-ranging manual focuses on the world of cyberbullying.

When bullying happens to somebody in person, writes Beam at the outset of his compact nonfiction debut, it’s fairly obvious. A fight erupts between children in a schoolyard; the kids are separated and brought to the principal’s office; the matter is quickly sorted out; and the bully is cautioned or punished. But cyberbullying leaves no traces, the author points out, and it’s far from being merely a childhood problem. “Plenty of adults are cyberbullied through dating apps, chat rooms, social media threads, and the posting of unwanted content, like in photo extortion,” he writes. “This problem does not just stop at cyberbullying; it also extends to cyberhate, where people are targeted because of their religious belief, skin color, sexual orientation, or political views.” In other words, everyone lives every day in an environment fraught with many forms of cyberbullying, and Beam’s book provides a wide-angle overview of some of the most prevalent forms it can take in the modern age. These range from the rise of online sexual predators “catfishing” students and young people online to cyber-harassment designed to “target, embarrass, and silence the victim.” The author notes that new advances in technology make virtually every aspect of cyberbullying both easier and more pervasive: “The sky is the limit” for things like online impersonation. But even older forms of online activity can be enlisted for bullying, as when individuals make a website intended “to aggregate everything they want to share with the public, ensuring the target is completely embarrassed.”

In all such cases, Beam tends to favor straightforward, common-sense advice. When it comes to pirated photo manipulation, for instance, he advises that people never send “sensitive content” to anybody (even a trusted friend) that they wouldn’t want broadcast to the entire world—a sound rule for all aspects of online dealings. The book’s organizing message, aimed at parents and teachers, details all the clues that may point to children or teens being cyberbullied (excessively hiding their phones, indulging in sudden and unexplained bursts of anger, withdrawing from families—all signs that they’re concealing something that’s troubling and embarrassing them). Beam underscores the deadly urgency of such pressures by reminding his adult readers that cyberbullying can happen to anybody and that it can quickly create very dark feelings of rage and helplessness in its victims—feelings that can push even a seemingly self-confident young person to despair and perhaps thoughts of revenge or suicide. For all of this, Beam offers some simple correctives: privatize online accounts, set internet times and enforce them, bolster self-esteem in kids and teens by “encouraging their passions (even if they deviate from your idea of cool).” The author quite rightly emphasizes the crucial importance of teaching children empathy, and the advice given here will help greatly with that. Anyone who has ever dealt with cyberbullying will find useful insights in these pages.

A wise and levelheaded look at cyberbullying and some possible remedies.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73426-732-7

Page Count: 74

Publisher: Beam Reach Ventures

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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