A groundbreaking exploration of how cyberspace is changing the way we think, feel, and behave
“A must-read for this moment in time.”—Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics • One of the best books of the year—Nature
Mary Aiken, the world’s leading expert in forensic cyberpsychology, offers a starting point for all future conversations about how the Internet is shaping development and behavior, societal norms and values, children, safety, privacy, and our perception of the world. Drawing on her own research and extensive experience with law enforcement, Aiken covers a wide range of subjects, from the impact of screens on the developing child to the explosion of teen sexting and the acceleration of compulsive and addictive behaviors online. Aiken provides surprising statistics and incredible-but-true case studies of hidden trends that are shaping our culture and raising troubling questions about where the digital revolution is taking us.
Praise for The Cyber Effect
“How to guide kids in a hyperconnected world is one of the biggest challenges for today’s parents. Mary Aiken clearly and calmly separates reality from myth. She clearly lays out the issues we really need to be concerned about and calmly instructs us on how to keep our kids safe and healthy in their digital lives.”—Peggy Orenstein, author of the New York Times bestseller Girls & Sex
“[A] fresh voice and a uniquely compelling perspective that draws from the murky, fascinating depths of her criminal case file and her insight as a cyber-psychologist . . . This is Aiken’s cyber cri de coeur as a forensic scientist, and she wants everyone on the case.”—The Washington Post
“Fascinating . . . If you have children, stop what you are doing and pick up a copy of The Cyber Effect.”—The Times (UK)
“An incisive tour of sociotechnology and its discontents.”—Nature
“Just as Rachel Carson launched the modern environmental movement with her Silent Spring, Mary Aiken delivers a deeply disturbing, utterly penetrating, and urgently timed investigation into the perils of the largest unregulated social experiment of our time.”—Bob Woodward
“Mary Aiken takes us on a fascinating, thought-provoking, and at times scary journey down the rabbit hole to witness how the Internet is changing the human psyche. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the temptations and tragedies of cyberspace.”—John R. Suler, PhD, author of The Psychology of Cyberspace
“Drawing on a fascinating and mind-boggling range of research and knowledge, Mary Aiken has written a great, important book that terrifies then consoles by pointing a way forward so that our experience online might not outstrip our common sense.”—Steven D. Levitt
“Having worked with law enforcement groups from INTERPOL and Europol as well as the U.S. government, Aiken knows firsthand how today’s digital tools can be exploited by criminals lurking in the Internet’s Dark Net.”—Newsweek
Aiken, a self-described forensic cyberpsychologist, shows in compelling detail how the online world bleeds into people's daily lives in ways that occasionally involve actual bloodshed. The online environments that people increasingly inhabit provide a range of benefits, but they present as many problems. Aiken's stories are stirring enough to stand alone: she covers the near-normalized phenomenon of online dating, the addictive and fatal extremes of gaming, and even murders that are motivated by aspirations of Internet fame. Some analysis focuses on how children respond to the digitized world, information that is especially useful to parents hoping to protect their children from developing bad habits or ending up in danger. Aiken accompanies every anecdote with her own carefully researched, comprehensible analysis. Some of the final notes might read as extreme; for example, her suggestion of a general redesign of the Internet seems at this point inconceivable, and predictions of an all-encompassing battle between humans and machines feels more like the stuff of movies than of scholarship. Still, the relevance of Aiken's careful discussion is undeniable.