Safety 'Net

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Local author says social websites teach kids about how to interact with others

By Emile Hallez

A South Jeffco author has an unusual message for parents about social networking sites such as Facebook: Be worried if your children are not using them.

The Internet may be teeming with predators and creeps, but exercising a little caution allows teens to safely interact on social media sites, which are swiftly replacing the need for face-to-face conversations, the author says.

“If they’re not interacting in those ways, then they’re missing out on a lot,” said Michelle Cimino, author of “Netiquette (On-Line Etiquette).”

“Especially a young person. If they’re not texting or online somehow, I’d feel like their not socializing.”

Netiquette is Cimino’s second book. And though it probably wouldn’t explain anything new to an Internet-savvy generation of young people, the 56-page reference book is geared more toward their less-hip parents. It provides a walk-through of social sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, giving parents general advice about acceptable Internet behavior. A large part of the book is a dictionary of Internet parlance, defining jargon such as “sexting,” “MySpace angle” and “Twitter litter.”

“I interviewed a bunch of my kids’ friends for the funny stuff that they do,” Cimino said of assembling the dictionary. “Some of it was (from) urbandictionary.com. I got a lot of stuff off of that.”

Cimino doesn’t offer any official credentials to back up her social media expertise, though she is the parent of teenagers, and she uses the same Internet sites as her children.

“I think because I have two teenage daughters, and I just see the draw to these social sites,” she said. “When I was a teenager, we used to talk on the phone for hours and hours. And now they’re talking on social sites.”

An example of her advice for the users of the new media: Making online friends is OK, but meeting them alone in person is not. Always bring a buddy. And don’t post naked pictures of yourself on Facebook, obviously.

“Don’t meet anybody in person without talking to them on the phone a bunch of times,” she said. “You never know if it’s a pedophile or a weirdo or somebody pretending to be someone who they are not. Those dangers everybody kind of knows about.”

Response to Cimino’s first book, “Cell Phone Etiqutte: Observations from a Mom,” was tepid, she said. Though sales were decent locally, the book never caught on at the national level. PublishAmerica gives Cimino a cut from all sales of her books, though she has not received any advances, she said.

“My first check wasn’t that big,” she said. “You really can’t make a living off of it, so you really have to work it hard. … It’s hard promoting those kind of things. I went to New York for a big publicity summit and tried to meet with some people on a national level.”

Netiquette has a release date of Dec. 6 and will be available at local bookstores for $16.95. The book can also be purchased at www.publishamerica.net.


“Netiquette (On-Line Etiquette)”

by Michelle Cimino 56 pages, paperback Available Dec. 6 $16.95

ISBN 978-1-61582-317-8