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Sunday Reflections: This is what happened when the The Teen asked me if .gov websites were trustworthy

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I’m sitting in the Teen MakerSpace when my phone beeps and I see I have a text from The Teen:

“Are .gov websites trustworthy,” she asks.

And before responding, I pause.

In the past, I would have said yes without that pause. That’s one of the things I have always taught my teens, one of the first things you learn in library school, how to determine whether or not a webiste is authoratitive, biased, etc.

.Com is a commercial website, so you have to consider a lot of factors before deciding whether or not it’s a trustworthy source. Who is producing the site? What are their goals? What type of bias do they hold?

.Gov is a website produced by a government organization or agency. Those sites have always been considered reliable. They are full of facts and figures and data. WHO, the FDA, the EPA, the USDA, etc. – these are all government websites that get cited and used frequently and have been considered reliable – trustworthy – sources of information because they are produced by government agencies.

But after my brief pause, I answered The Teen’s question with a no. Government websites aren’t a trustworthy source of information in the year 2018 because data is being scrubbed, whole phrases are being banned, and a very anti-science bias is being pushed.

These are just a few of the discussions that you can find regarding this topic:

How Much Has ‘Climate Change’ Been Scrubbed From Federal Websites? A lot

Breast Cancer, LGBTQ Info Removed On Government Website

2017 Was a Big Year for Scrubbing Science from Government Websites

A webpage about lesbian and bisexual health was removed from US Government websites. This is a pattern.

These important pages have already been deleted from the White House Website

So I told her no; no having a .gov web address does not make an informational web resource trustworthy. And then I thought about the implications of what that means for us as a country: we can’t even trust our government websites to give us complete and accurate information. The very agencies that are tasked with keeping our water safe, our food safe, and protecting our health and well being, are being forced to remove and stop discussing the very information we need to keep us safe and informed because of the political agenda of people in power and those with enough money and political clout to influence them.

As a librarian who regularly works with the general public to find and evaluate information, I no longer feel comfortable telling the general public – even my own teenage daughter – that they can find a government website trustworthy while doing research for a report. Her question was, is a .gov website trusthworthy and the correct answer in the year 2018 is no. In a government that is supposed to be by the people and for the people, the fact that the answer is no should worry us all.

Book Review: Internet Famous by Danika Stone

Publisher’s description

ra6An engaging and relatable novel for the digital age that perfectly captures the complicated interaction between what goes on in our real lives and what we say online.

Internet sensation Madison Nakama has it all! Her pop-culture rewatch site has a massive following, and fans across the world wait on her every post and tweet. And now Laurent, a fellow geek (and unfairly HOT French exchange student!), has started flirting with her in the comments section of her blog. But Laurent’s not the only one watching for Madi’s replies…

Internet fame has a price, and their online romance sparks the unwanted attention of a troll. When Madi’s “real life” hits a rough patch, she feels her whole world crumbling. With Laurent’s support, can Madi rally her friends across the globe to beat the troll, or will he succeed in driving her away from everything—and everyone—she loves?

Internet Famous is a fresh, contemporary young adult romance for the iGeneration from Danika Stone, author of All the Feels.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

internet famousA great display idea would be YA books with stories that revolve around blogging/vlogging/fanfiction/social media. The list of them is growing and there’s something about them feeling so very *now* that makes them enjoyable.

 

Madi’s blog, MadLibs, is all about her love of pop culture. She watches movies and liveblogs them. She has an enormous following but manages to stay anonymous in her real life. Her full name hasn’t ever leaked and she’s glad—her dad is a newspaper columnist with a rather conservative readership and, while it’s not like Madi’s blog is anything controversial, she worries about anyone connecting her to him. While her internet life is pretty cool, her real life is less interesting. She’s in the final weeks of her senior year (she attends online school) when her mother breaks the news that she’s leaving for a few months for a fellowship at Oxford. Madi’s worried what her mother’s absence will do to Sarah, her younger sister who has autism and does well with predictability and routines. While we’re on the topic of the parents: her mother is terrible. She’s selfish and doesn’t appear to do much parenting at all. Madi and Sarah’s dad is also almost entirely checked out, leaving Madi many of the adult responsibilities, though he becomes a better parent as the book goes on. Anyway. Madi becomes friends with Laurent, one of the readers of MadLibs, and pretty quickly realizes she’s totally crushing on him. At the same time, an unpleasant thing begins to happen, too: an online troll starts harassing Madi. He leaves nasty comments on her blog, sends her horrible emails, and eventually reveals he knows where she lives. She also begins having an issue with school that might keep her from graduating on time. Though her online life is thriving, everything in Madi’s real life suddenly feels like it’s falling apart.

 

Without reading the flap copy, the cover and the title make this look much lighter than it is. Yes, it’s still a romance at its heart, but it’s also a really suspenseful story about the downsides of internet fame. Readers may guess who the troll is, but Stone makes it seem like there are multiple possibilities. Text conversations, blog posts, emails, and photos are interspersed, which, combined with the suspenseful plot, make this a quick read that will appeal to fans of romances, those invested in fandoms, and teens who like books with nontraditional formats. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250114372

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication date: 06/06/2017

#MHYALit: Why You Shouldn’t Ban Your Kid from the Internet, a guest post by Laura Tims

MHYALitlogoofficfialWhen I was growing up, losing internet privileges was a common punishment in my family. It’s a common punishment in most families. Bad grades? No screen time for a week. Missed curfew? No internet.

 

It seems like a reasonable punishment. However, it may have unintended consequences.

 

Nowadays, twenty percent of adolescents have a diagnosed mental illness. That’s a huge number. But school counselors are typically understaffed and not equipped for longterm mental health care. When you’re under eighteen and you need mental health care, it pretty much has to go through your parents.

Imagine telling your parents that they need to pay for your therapy and medications, which even with insurance can be expensive, and drive you to appointments, which can be far away. This is assuming your family has insurance, a car, and the means to afford treatment. This is assuming that the guilt and self-blame, common with many mental illnesses, and the stigma of needing mental health care aren’t enough to keep you silent. This is assuming that you have a good enough relationship with your parents to come to them with this immense vulnerability. And even the most well-meaning parents don’t always understand what mental illness is – the fear that they’ll react with unintentional ignorance, dismissiveness, or self-blame themselves is enough to stop a lot of teenagers from speaking up.

 

It’s unsurprising that a lot of teens have little access to adequate mental health care. So they reach out wherever else they can – you see people trying to manage their own mental health and that of their friends’ at the same time, which, obviously, can be overwhelming. Oftentimes, they turn to the internet.

 

On December 28th, 2014, trans teen Leelah Alcorn died by suicide after posting a final note to her Tumblr. Among other things, she had been isolated by her parents and restricted from the internet for some time. Her death shone a light on what had already been going on – that plenty of teens share suicidal ideation on their social media accounts when they haven’t told anyone in real life.

 

Blocking access to the internet can cut someone off from the only venue where they might feel comfortable reaching out for help before they do something drastic. It creates an opportunity for someone to see the message and contact the authorities.

 

There’s also the fact that a lot of teenagers turn to the internet as their primary source of mental health resources. While it’s not a replacement for professional mental health care, there are tons and tons of blogs, videos, and forums online for DIY mental health care, which is sometimes all someone has access to.

 

Acting out is often a symptom of mental illness.  It can be the worst time to isolate a teenager from their best source of resources, or from their support group of friends. Even if you don’t think your teenager has a mental illness, it’s possible that they just don’t feel comfortable bringing it to you. There’s a stereotype of kids getting hysterical for no reason when losing access to their phones or laptops (often going along with the ‘millenials are too attached to their devices’ refrain) but if your teen reacts with seemingly unreasonable desperation or intensity to having their internet privileges taken away, it’s best to talk to them and see what it is they need instead of chalking it up to dramatics. You may be removing their only way to cope with a mental illness.

 

For a thorough list of online resources for mental illness and other issues, check out the resources page on my mental health blog

 

 

Meet Laura Tims

Laura Tims PhotoLaura Tims is a young adult author, a fan of humans, and a reasonably cute organism. Her debut novel, PLEASE DON’T TELL, will be out 5/24/2016, from Harperteen. Her second, THE BEST THING ABOUT PAIN, is coming 2017. She’s a Hufflepuff, an ENFP, a Cancer, and she likes pretty much everyone. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her mental health blog.

 

 

About PLEASE DON’T TELL

Debut author Laura Tims writes an intense and utterly gripping contemporary YA tale perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars. Joy has done everything to protect her twin sister…including murder.

Joy killed Adam Gordon for what he did to her sister, Grace. At least, that’s what she thinks happened. Now Adam can’t hurt anyone ever again, and her sister can be free from the boy who harmed her.

But someone else knows what Joy did, and they’re going to out her as a cold-blooded killer if she doesn’t expose the scandalous secrets bubbling just below the surface of her mundane town. As the demands escalate, and she finds herself falling for Adam’s half brother, Joy must figure out the blackmailer’s identity before everything spirals out of control.

ISBN-13: 9780062317322

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 05/24/2016