How Safe Are Our Kids Online?


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Fall 2010 talk for parents and school community in Chicago

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  • Parents, we have been misinformed. The Internet has been portrayed in the news media, on shows like “To Catch a Predator,” and by some politicians as risky for kids. Well, LIFE is risky for kids. Right? We ’re here to help them learn how to navigate life. The same goes for the Internet. DON’T believe everything you hear in the news about kids and the Internet.
  • Don ’t believe online safety messages that have these characteristics. I hope this talk will explain why. Let ’s consider what fear does: When we ’re afraid and overreact, kids want to get as far away from us as possible – especially if they feel we’re clueless or unwilling to understand. They go “underground,” find workarounds, are on their own, which can put them at greater risk. Adults need to be in the mix – just as we’re in the mix in their OFFLINE lives! [Last bullet:] If we don ’t base our understanding on what the research – about how kids and teens ACTUALLY USE technology, we won’t have any credibility with them.
  • Here ’s what we’re ALL dealing with (everybody who has anything to do with media). This is the new media environment we’re all in.... Media is SOCIAL now – behavioral. USER -driven – not produced in New York and L.A. by professionals and regulated in Washington like it used to be. It ’s the lives, thoughts, social experiences, research, productions, and activism of a growing proportion of humanity all over the world. Facebook, for example, is used in every country. It ’s not something in ADDITION to ppl’s lives, it’s embedded in them. It ’s on phones, game players, music players, and game consoles as well as computers; it’s completely mobile, so it’s virtually everywhere. How can we or anyone control that (including governments and even Internet companies)? Because it reflects virtually all of human life, it reflects and displays the bad as well as the good, including the full spectrum of self-destructive, malicious, and criminal behaviors. I ’ll get into those more later, but first: more on how young people are using the Net....
  • A little bit on young people’s perspective just for fun. The students in the video are at Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy. The principal, Chris Lehmann, said in a recent interview: "In too many schools we have this idea that we have the school we've always had plus some computers.” He said, “Technology needs to be like oxygen - ubiquitous, necessary, invisible. It's got to be everywhere ... just part of the day-to-day work that we all do. Stanford Psychology Prof. Philip Zimbardo <> talks about how their use of new media is rewiring our children’s brains. Because of their active, nearly constant use of digital media from social media to cellphones to videogames, they are used to being active participants . But every 9 seconds a student drops out of school somewhere in the US, Professor Zimbardo says. Why? Because school is designed for passive consumption – it’s analog, somebody talks at you (usually without even cool pictures, much less video). It’s incredibly and increasingly BORING to these rewired brains. “They have to be controlling something” in the learning environment. So do we shut out the technology that’s everywhere else in their lives? NO!!! [Prof. Zimbardo says that would be a disaster.] [See also “School & social media” about how we might think of digital media as the new book: .] Joe’s Non-Netbook:
  • Now I ’ll tell you a bit about what we’ve learned from the growing body of social-media research.... A big start was the “Digital Youth Project” begun more than three years ago, funded by the MacArthur Foundation to the tune of $50 million and involving more than 2 dozen researchers, studying young people’s use of social media in school, at home, and in after-school programs.... NOW IT ’S A BOOK!: Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (from MIT Press) Missouri 8 th -gradecommunic.-arts teacher Tom Maerke reviewed it in the National Writing Project ( site, saying “ it’s important to read this book because it presents in extensive detail the diverse learning opportunities available to young people” in social media. Lots of examples. “ *Serious* informal learning: Key online youth study” <> “ Why participatory media need to be in school”]l
  • This is just a partial list of activities and behaviors occurring on the social Web. But of course it ’s not all positive....
  • ...There ’s plenty of neutral and negative behavior too, but not from all young people – a lot of what has always been going on during the adolescent years, except that now it’s a lot more visible. Which can be scary but certainly not all bad. This visibility can help parents and educators with early detection before problems get out of hand, and it helps researchers and risk-prevention practitioners as well as law enforcement.
  • ONLINE SOCIALIZING IS JUST AS COMPLEX AND DIVERSE AS THEIR OFFLINE SOCIAL LIVES – both what ’s going on in their individual lives and in the cultural environment around them.
  • Social-media researchers have helped us see that youth are actually engaged in two kinds of online social networking: FRIENDSHIP-DRIVEN is the way most of us think of social networking – the online extension of their RL social lives. INTEREST-DRIVEN is about where young musicians, videographers, athletes, game designers, anime-translaters, code-writers, etc., get feedback, context for their work, mentors, inspiration, healthy competition – where geography is not a factor, and they don ’t have to grow up to find their professional peer groups. [Data from qualitative study of 61 people aged 15-25 by Harvard GoodPlay Project.] In this INFORMAL LEARNING environment . THE DIGITAL YOUTH STUDY FOUND THAT IN BOTH forms young people “create and navigate new forms of expression and rules for social behavior. By exploring new interests, tinkering, and “messing around” with new forms of media, they acquire various forms of technical and media literacy.... By its immediacy & breadth of information, the digital world lowers barriers to self-directed learning .” – Mimi Ito, Cal Berkeley Hanging Out, Messing Around & Geeking Out: Kids Living & Learning with New Media , MIT Press (2009) <>
  • It ’s a mistake to think social networking is either a single activity and even more of a mistake to think it’s a waste of time, as many people of my generation seem to believe. According to a 2010 German study, although many teens can have Facebook running in the background all day long, it hasn’t replaced offline interests ). Hanging out or “chilling” with friends (casual socializing) Messing around (info-gathering, exploring an idea, tinkering with digital media, experimenting, play ) Geeking out (more professional - using digital media the way a musician practices w/ an instrument - more intensive and frequent use, developing higher levels of skill or specialized knowledge) “ Youth engage in peer-based, self-directed learning online. In both friendship-driven and interest-driven online activity, youth create and navigate new forms of expression and rules for social behavior. By exploring new interests, tinkering, and ‘ messing around’ with new forms of media, they acquire various forms of technical and media literacy. Through trial and error, youth add new media skills to their repertoire, such as how to create a video or game, or customize their MySpace page. Teens then share their creations and receive feedback from others online. By its immediacy and breadth of information, the digital world lowers barriers to self-directed learning. Some youth ‘geek out’ and dive into a topic or talent. Contrary to popular images, geeking out is highly social and engaged, although usually not driven primarily by local friendships. Youth turn instead to specialized knowledge groups of both teens and adults from around the country or world, with the goal of improving their craft and gaining reputation among expert peers. While adults participate, they are not automatically the resident experts by virtue of their age. Geeking out in many respects erases the traditional markers of status and authority” (Digital Youth Project summary and a review of it <>).
  • YOU KNOW THIS, RIGHT? PHONES INCREASINGLY HAVE ALL THE SAME FEATURES AND CAPABILITIES AS COMPUTERS – AND JUST-RELEASED RESEARCH FROM THE PEW PROJECT SHOWS THAT 75% OF US 12-TO-17-YR-OLDS NOW HAVE CELLPHONES [2/3/10 ] [How can the ESRB just rate console and Web games when there are 1,000s of games on the iPhone alone?] Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabes : “18 mos. ago I would never have said to a school that their firewalls are irrelevant. Now they are. There is no purpose in any school having any blocks or filters because kids are coming into school with cellphones that have Internet access. More and more the real safety issue has to be about how we treat each other.” 47:45 Of course there are phone-only social-network sites (accessible via the Web but designed for phone screens), and MySpace and Facebook – all the major social sites – allow users to update their profiles from their phones. [Based on a study of experts, Pew said cellphones will soon be “the world’s primary tool...” ; “Big sign of increasingly mobile Web” ; and “Google Moves to Keep Its Lead as Web Goes Mobile,” 1/4/10 ]
  • For 15-year-olds, the preferred communication methods with friends fall in this order: texting (54%), talk face-to-face (42%), calling on a cellphone (41%), social network site (40%, and SNSs have features like IM and email), calling via landline (37%), instant messaging (33%), and email (12%). PEW: “Beyond the cell phone, teens have other arenas for digital communication with their friends. More than a quarter of all teens (26%) reported using social network sites such as Facebook or MySpace to socialize or communicate with their friends daily, while another 38% of all teens never use this form of interaction. Social network sites are used for interpersonal interaction, but also to organize larger events, while the cell phone is for more personal interaction. One high school girl in the focus groups said, "I think Facebook is really [more] dominant than the phone for like, big activities. For just hooking up with friends, I’m on the phone." Pew/Internet: April 2010 <>
  • There are more than 200,000 apps for the iPhone now, Apple reports – productivity apps, game apps, shopping apps, news & info apps, and plenty of.. ...and tens of thousands for Android phones, reports Google, creators of the Android OS . HOW DOES ANYBODY RATE ALL THOSE OR CONTROL ALL THOSE? APPLE CERTAINLY CAN ’T – KIDS THINK IT’S COOL TO JAILBREAK THEIR iPHONES & iPOD TOUCHES SO THEY CAN DOWNLOAD ANYTHING TO THEM (and a high court just declared that legal). [Check out Georgia college student Travis Allen ’s iSchool Initiative for links to nearly 2 dozen educational apps for using cellphones as teaching tools and school and homework helpers. I wrote about him here . ]
  • BUT OF COURSE YOUNG PEOPLE ’S SOCIAL TOOLS INCLUDE A LOT MORE THAN SOCIAL NETWORKING! KZERO just announced that that there are more than 1 billion VW accts worldwide and half of them are held by people under 16 <> 39% of 3 rd -grade girls are in VWs (Webkinz, Poptropica,,, and Disney ’s ClubPenguin and Pixie H.) 2009 FTC report on VWs: “ Although little explicit content appeared in child-oriented virtual worlds, a moderate to heavy amount appeared in virtual worlds designed for teens and adults ” <>. Other evidence: Five major feature films and documentaries about virtual worlds and avatars are being released in the US in the 2 nd half of ‘09 and first half of ’10, SJMercury News reports ( Last year, venture capitalists invested about $590 million in virtual worlds, and Helsinki-based Habbo for tweens and teens makes "close to $100m a year" (source: a VC in a new documentary on the subject out of the Netherlands <>). Seeing VWs as an important sector its economy going forward, Chinese government commissioned its own VW , now in business, where users can buy anything they see as virtual goods, then order them as real-world clothing and objects (previous source). Global virtual goods market (a subset of the virtual economy) is estimated at $5 billion, 80% coming from China, South Korea, and Japan and only $200-400 million from US. /
  • SO HERE ’S WHAT WE KNOW NO ABOUT YOUTH RISK ONLINE.... These were the key findings at Harvard ’s Berkman Center Task Force, which I served on in 2008 – the results of a full review of the youth-risk literature in North America (and a good deal of English-language research in Europe). Report:
  • SO, REMEMBER WHAT I SAID ABOUT THE ONLINE RISK SPECTRUM REFLECTING THE RISKS OF “REAL LIFE”? WELL, HERE’S THE SPECTRUM OF ONLINE SAFETY. When we look at it this way, we start to consider the rights and freedoms of online life, the context of the new online safety that kids can relate to.
  • I hope that when I showed you earlier what young people are doing online, you saw that most of it is normal adolescent behavior and development, and THAT is mostly good. And it ’s all tied into their OFFLINE lives, their social groups and school life. But HERE ’s where the Internet does affect what’s going on – what it brings to the table that’s NEW. [talk about list] [ “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics”] We would add Disinhibition, a huge factor because of its effect on empathy because of a lack of body language, voice inflection, and facial expression to help the writer or producer understand the impact of his or her speech – why it ’s easy to be mean and hurtful. It points to the great need to help youth understand that those are human beings with feelings behind the profiles, avatars, screennames, and text messages.
  • [READ QUOTE]. Here ’s why this is important – why it’s wrong for so-called online-safety experts to be always sending the message that young people online are potential victims. Because the research shows that a big risk factor is their own behavior. HERE ’S THE CHART.... [next slide] [See also: “Digital risk, digital citizenship” <>.]
  • [HERE ’S THE BAR CHART:] SEE THE BREAKDOWN HERE: aggressive behavior toward peers, embarrassing peers – but then not just peer-to-peer behavior but also the behavior associated with predation or sexual victimization. Interestingly, sharing personal information in blogs or SN profiles – which is what standard online-safety messaging has been telling kids NOT to do for years – isn ’t itself inherently risky. “ The researchers’ conclusions : Talking with people known only online ("strangers") under some conditions is related to online interpersonal victimization, but sharing personal information is not. Engaging in a pattern of different kinds of online risky behaviors is more influential in explaining victimization than many specific behaviors alone. Pediatricians should help parents assess their child's online behaviors globally in addition to focusing on specific types of behaviors.” THIS IS THE INDIVIDUALITY FACTOR – The basic message, here, is that people need to talk with their children about how they ’re socializing/behaving online.” To be relevant, the messaging can’t come from dire stories in the news media or law enforcement – that’s like saying “be careful, be afraid about what can happen in your social life.”
  • Here ’s what you never hear from online-safety experts. [READ QUOTE & DATA, then...] Dr. Rosen ’s definition of “appropriate response” is: “ Telling the person to stop, blocking the person from commenting on their profile, removing themselves from the situation by logging off, reporting the incident to an adult or to site.” That’s what the vast majority of kids do. An earlier study by CACRC found that most solicitations are from peers or young adults, not so-called predators, and can be characterized as flirting . Dr. Rosen also found that fairly low numbers of social networkers were very or extremely upset by such behavior... sexual solicitation (19% upset) harassment (22%), and/or unwanted exposure to sexual materials (20%) Rosen study in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, August 2008: "The Association of Parenting Style and Child Age with Parental Limit Setting and Adolescent MySpace Behavior" <>.
  • [READ QUOTE] From a CACRC update we had been watching for since 2006: “Trends in Arrests of Online Predators,” by Wolak, Finkelhor & Mitchell at Crimes Against Children Research Center at U. of New Hampshire, March 2009 <>

Going even further, USATODAY <> later cited the view of study co-author Finkelhor that “ongoing studies show that being on a social network site doesn’t create risk of sexual victimization.” And, despite all the news about thousands of registered sex offenders being booted off MySpace, there hasn ’t been a single prosecution of an offender for contact with a minor on a social network site. If there had been, it would’ve been in the news. [One reporter who blogged about RSOs on MySpace had a screenshot of a so-called offender’s profile in her article. I looked at it carefully and found that it hadn’t been updated since it had been established – there had been no activity on the profile; it was dead. Anyone can grab a photo off a sex offender Web site and create a profile because anyone can create a profile with any photo. News reporters really need to understand the facts before reporting so-called news and misleading and scaring the public.
  • So here ’s the question that has been on a lot of parents’ concerned minds [read it]....
  • That chart ’s from the University of New Hampshire, using data gathered at Cornell University. From 1990 to 2005 – the period of time that the Web was born and grew most rapidly – there was a 51% decline in overall child sexual exploitation – the chart ’s showing that : out of every 10,000 US minors, 23 were abused, with that no. going down to 11 in 2005. NCANDS = National Child Abuse & Neglect Data System at Cornell University [<18 per 10,000 children is less than 2/10 of 1%, I think] AND THE TREND IS CONTINUING....
  • When they added in the latest figure (2008), the downward trend in overall child sexual victimization )which would include Internet-related cases) continues, with a 6% decline from 2007 to 2008, making the overall decline from 1992 58%. “ Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008” <> More on the long-term picture at CACRC site <>
  • Dr. Christopher Ferguson at Texas A&M wrote, “The research on current youth is pretty clear that this generation of young people is actually one of the psychologically healthiest on record (since at least the 1960s).” “ All [the above] compared to scores from 15-20 years ago when it might have been reasonable to worry greatly about youth.“ / See also: * “ ‘ Juvenoia, ’ Part 1: Why Internet fear is overrated ” * Net-related ‘ juvenoia, ’ Part 2: So why are we afraid?
  • THESE ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MOST EGREGIOUS CASES, THE LIFE-CHANGING ONES: Though kids who ’d experienced cyberbullying said they’d felt sad, upset, violated, depressed, hated, stupid & put down, annoyed, and exploited, they ALSO felt the bullies were stupid, pathetic, bored, and didn’t have anything better to do ( which doesn’t sound like they were completely devastated by the bullying, right? – 55% indicated that being cyberbullied had “no negative effect” on them. HOWEVER , these “attitudes of dismissal” were particularly common in cases of harassment rather than cyberbullying. -- “Victimization of Adolescent Girls” – Amanda Burgess-Proctor, Sameer Hinduja, and Justin Patchin <> “ Cyberbullying better defined” <> 2009 ISTTF report, pp. 19-20 "With all three types of threats (sexual solicitation, online harassment, and problematic content), some youth are more likely to be at risk than others . Generally speaking, the characteristics of youth who report online victimization are similar to those of youth reporting offline victimization and those who are vulnerable in one online context are often vulnerable in multiple contexts (Finkelhor 2008).
  • The numbers are all over the map. Some studies found only about 5.9% of teens had been cyberbullied, all the way up to 72% . But MOST were in the range of 15% to 35% of teens experiencing this kind of bullying. It ’s important to see that it’s way under-reported . Kids say that’s because they feel they’re supposed to work these things out themselves, also that they fear getting an adult involved can make things even worse. It ’s also important to see that it’s about child development, not technology. Cyberbullying is not a problem because of computers and the Internet. It’s a behavioral problem. The anonymity of the Internet CAN make it worse, though. Blurry line because kids don ’t make that big distinction between online and offline . They just socialize or argue or gossip or whatever – online or offline doesn’t matter. So the environment we ’re mainly talking about is SCHOOL, not the Internet We need to be careful too about using only the word “cyberbullying.” It’s our adult word, not theirs [tell about how Louisa said nobody cyberbullied at HER school, but girls sure were mean to each other online!].
  • From an excellent piece by Los Angeles middle school language arts teacher Kathie Marshall in Teacher magazine <> describing how she turned a serious bullying situation (students creating a “gang” and bullying non-members) into not only a “teachable moment” but a series of lesson plans involving critical thinking, research, writing, etc. “ We learned, too, that bullies who don’t outgrow or change their ways suffer long-term consequences: alcohol use, smoking, inability to make friends, and poor academic achievement.” They may be popular in m.s., but “older bullies are not. Most interesting to students was the statistic that by age 24, 60 percent of adult bullies have a criminal conviction .”
  • These signs are important for parents to be aware of, but let ’s hope it doesn’t get this far before their child has talked with them about the problem. [See “Online harassment: Not telling parents” ). See also ’s “Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying” .]
  • There are all important but very general – certainly each incident is unique and needs caring individual treatment – a full, nonconfrontational, child-caregiver discussion that looks at the situation ’s circumstances. A school counselor I spoke with several years ago would find out all the parties involved, get them in a room, and do bully-victim reverse role-playing ( empathy training ). In families and schools, some of these incidents can be turned into TEACHABLE MOMENTS (maybe anonymized?) for all parties ’ benefit.
  • Video from Bulgaria ’s “Think B4 You Post” campaign <> Shows how universal youth online risk is (you don ’t need to speak Bulgarian to get the message!). [Very dramatic 10.5-min. UK version (CEOP) here <>]
  • Despite a lot of scary news coverage, it ’s important to know that a recent study [by Pew/Internet in DC] found that 96% of teens DON’T send sexting messages.... “ Teen sexting: Troubling, but don’t overreact” “ Sexting: The new ‘spin-the-bottle’?” “ Teaching about sexting: Social Web lesson plan” “ Sexting overblown? Yes and *no*” “ Fla. teen a registered sex offender for sexting”
  • Here ’s the data picture after several studies. The AP/MTV survey released in Dec. (12/3/09) – was about digital abuse , not just sexting, as the headlines implied. Digital abuse is defined as ”spreading lies, violation of trust, and digital disrespect” – what we really need to focus on in online safety going forward. This is about trust and respect – for self and others. The 50% figure you may've seen in some headlines refers to the percentage of youth who have experienced "digital abuse from the mild to the extreme.” The MTV/AP study also found that 45% of sexually active youth report being involved with sexting (another confirmation of the ISTTF finding that those most at risk offline are those most at risk online). Pew – which looked only at sexting as photos shared on phones – also found that 1) older teens are more likely to engage in sexting, 2) there was no gender difference, 3) more intense cellphone users are more likely to receive sext messages, and sexting is higher among kids not on family cellphone plans (e.g., who pay for their own phones or have stealth phones a boy or girlfriend gave them). How young people view sexting is complex & individual: those who ’ve engaged in it see it as everything from "hot” ... and "trusting”... to "uncomfortable”... and "slutty," and those who don't engage in it call it "gross," "uncomfortable," and "stupid.” [The explanation for Pew ’s lower (4%) figure may be that it focused solely on images on cellphones because that’s the scenario where child porn law kicks in.] , links to Cox/Harris Interactive survey 12/09 AP/MTV study on digital abuse that includes sexting: (links to study exec summ) 12/09 Pew study
  • I mentioned the legal consequences, though laws, prosecutors and juvenile judges are slowly getting up to speed on this, but here are some serious non-legal consequences.
  • LOTS of reasons. They range from developmentally normative adolescent behavior ... to malicious intent ... to criminal intent. E.g., “Revenge porn” in – “ Homemade porn uploaded by ex-girlfriend or (usually) ex-boyfriend after particularly vicious breakup as a means of humiliating the ex or just for own amusement ” E.g., “Truth or Dare” – remember that classic middle school rite-of-passage sort of game? Rosalind Wiseman of Queen Bees & Wannabes tells of how, up until a few years ago, when 7 th and 8 th grade girls played it at slumber parties, there were no serious consequences, but now – when it’s “I dare you to take a naked photo of yourself and send it to the boy you like” and the girl does it because of all that peer pressure from their homies – the consequences can be very serious! Note that the boys only get involved later. My blog post: Annie Fox interview of Rosalind Wisemand “ Sexting: The peer pressure factor ” <>
  • A survey specifically on sexting and cyberbullying earlier last year (sponsored by Cox Communications) found sext messages went to a diverse array of recipients.
  • 90% of teens surveyed who ’d sent sext messages said “nothing bad happened” as a result, so It’s helpful to keep in mind that – though the potential impacts can be horrendous (from serious emotional harm to sex offender registries) – the vast majority of incidents had little impact, thank goodness. At the conference, someone asked if kids always knew if something bad happened. I ’m not sure the research went into that, but I think they would know. It would get back to them if the consequences were bad.
  • The APA Task Force on Zero Tolerance (2008) carefully reviewed the research literature and concluded: “ Schools with higher rates of school suspension and expulsion appear to have less satisfactory ratings of school climate, less satisfactory school governance structures, and to spend a disproportionate amount of time on disciplinary matters. Perhaps more importantly, recent research indicates a negative relationship between the use of school suspension and expulsion and school-wide academic achievement (p. 855).” From Dr. Patti Agatston: Sue wrote about this in our book.  Her main point was that 1 in 5 students report regularly bullying others with some frequency, so it doesn't make sense to suspend every fifth child from our schools.  She also writes about how threats of severe punishment would discourage youth and adults from reporting.   So you can cite our book if you like but I don't have a specific research study for you. But I can tell you anecdotally that Georgia had a three-strikes-you ’re-out policy for bullying and so administrators found every possible way they could to record aggressive actions without putting it under the bullying policy.  So our bullying discipline reports were almost nonexistent despite the fact that the Olweus bullying surveys showed fairly high rates of bullying in some of our schools.  I am skeptical if the new law will change that since they still have kept the suspension/expulsion piece in it, although perhaps the required reporting/investigation piece will make a difference.
  • 2 nd bullet: Program launched this fall (2010) is Net-safety professional dev ’t for educators because Illinois requires all public schools to teach online safety in grades 3-12 (and teachers didn’t know what to teach) Mary Anderson, a sr advisor to Gen ’l Madigan told me that, for cyberbullying, their office is really wanting to stress peer mediation over punishment or certainly prosecution for cyberbullying.
  • What does the school community need to focus on? Citizenship, both digital and real-world. Because so much of our children ’s time is spent in school, school is the 2 nd most important environment (after home) for them to learn and practice good citizenship online and offline. Here ’s what the OSTWG, which I had the honor of co-chairing, wrote to lawmakers: “We need to recognize that, by far, the most common risk to children stems from their own actions and those of their peers and that many of these risks are not new. It is the delivery mechanisms which are [new]. While technology can be used to amplify or facilitate bullying, for example, it is not the cause of the problem. In addition to sending a message that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated, work needs to be done starting in Kindergarten or earlier on “digital citizenship” – or rather a renewed effort to teach citizenship online and offline – encouraging children to respect themselves and others. This baseline (or “Primary”) online-safety education cannot take place in a vacuum – or only in a single sphere of youth activity – but must promote movement toward greater civility not just among young people but also parents, educators, youth workers and other role models..... The government can’t legislate civility, but it can encourage it. This will not be an easy fix but, like cutting down on smoking, racism, sexism and other social ills, it can be accomplished through awareness-raising over time.”
  • What IS citizenship? Artist, writer, and SUNY Buffalo instructor) A.J. Patrick Liszkiewicz recently wrote about its most basic definition (READ IT). This was confirmed by two psychology professors writing in the NYT: “ Our research on child development makes it clear that there is only one way to truly combat bullying.... As an essential part of the school curriculum, we have to teach children how to be good to one another, how to cooperate, how to defend someone who is being picked on and how to stand up for what is right.” <> [See also: “Digital risk, digital citizenship” <>.]
  • Media literacy and digital citizenship are melting into each other now – because media are behavioral, or social and digital citizenship occurs in media. The critical thinking of media literacy and citizenship includes questions such as: what are the impacts of my speech, actions, and productions (like blogs and videos) on fellow community members, classmates, and the community itself – not just on me?
  • For too long – for 15 years, since the beginning of online safety – we ’ve been doing Internet safety from the outside-in. Looking at the worst cases – usually criminal activity, since it was police delivering the messages for a long time – and creating education messaging base on those really bad public cases and news shows like “To Catch a Predator,” which had nothing to do with how kids use the Internet. Kids are more likely to get struck by lightning than have a stranger abduct and hurt them. So we need to work from the inside-out – the kid out, just as we do in the rest of their lives, and that means we need to keep those lines of communication open and talk with them about their technology use just like everything else. THANK you!
  • How Safe Are Our Kids Online?

    1. 1. How Safe Are Our Kids Online? (and what does ‘safe’ mean , anyway?) Anne Collier Co-director, Editor,
    2. 2. Net safety as we know it is obsolete <ul><li>Negative and fearful </li></ul><ul><li>One-size-fits-all </li></ul><ul><li>Young people as potential victims </li></ul><ul><li>Technology as problem & solution </li></ul><ul><li>New media a problem too </li></ul><ul><li>Not relevant to “beneficiaries”: kids!! </li></ul>
    3. 3. A living Internet <ul><li>Content is behavioral and... </li></ul><ul><li>Updated in real time by users </li></ul><ul><li>Mirrors real life </li></ul><ul><li>Embedded in “real life” </li></ul><ul><li>Everywhere (not just on computers in controlled spaces) </li></ul><ul><li>Same risk spectrum </li></ul>
    4. 4. Students ’ perspective ‘ Joe’s Non-Netbook’ Science Leadership Academy Philadelphia
    5. 5. What we now know from...
    6. 6. What are they doing in there? <ul><li>Good or normative… </li></ul><ul><li>“ Social producing” </li></ul><ul><li>Learning social rules </li></ul><ul><li>Designing profiles (self-expression) </li></ul><ul><li>Exploring identity </li></ul><ul><li>Writing blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Writing software code </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing/producing music </li></ul><ul><li>Producing & editing videos </li></ul><ul><li>Discussing interests </li></ul><ul><li>Social/political activism </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping in touch with friends long-term </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assessment </li></ul>
    7. 7. What else are they doing in there? <ul><li>Neutral or negative… </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking validation </li></ul><ul><li>Venting </li></ul><ul><li>Showing off </li></ul><ul><li>Embarrassing self </li></ul><ul><li>Damaging reputation </li></ul><ul><li>Pulling pranks </li></ul><ul><li>Getting even </li></ul><ul><li>Threatening </li></ul><ul><li>Harassing </li></ul><ul><li>Bullying </li></ul>
    8. 8. Online socializing reflects ‘real life’ <ul><li>82% of teens 14-17 use social sites now, 55% of 12-to-13-year-olds –Pew, 9/09 </li></ul><ul><li>91% use social sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently (usually school-related) –Pew, 9/07. </li></ul><ul><li>82% to socialize with friends they rarely see in person (friends & relatives out of state). </li></ul><ul><li>72% to make plans with friends. </li></ul><ul><li>49% to make new friends. </li></ul><ul><li>17% to flirt. </li></ul>Source: Pew Internet & American Life survey 9/09 & 1/07
    9. 9. 2 types of social networking <ul><li>Friendship -driven (84% of 15-25 YOs in a qualitative study at Harvard School of Education) </li></ul><ul><li>Interest -driven (80% involved in “at least one such online community”) </li></ul>Source: Digital Youth Project, November 2008 ...on all devices, fixed and mobile:
    10. 10. Social networking’s progression <ul><li>Hanging out – casual socializing </li></ul><ul><li>Messing around – collaborative tinkering with info, ideas, media </li></ul><ul><li>Geeking out – using media the way artists use their media; more “professional” </li></ul>
    11. 11. <ul><li>Cellphones are mobile computers with... </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile Facebook & MySpace </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Photo- & video-sharing </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Web browsing </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Texting </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Even less adult supervision </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>GPS & ‘social mapping’ </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Mobile phones will be the “ world’s primary tool for connecting to the Ne t” by 2020–Pew. </li></ul>Mobile social tools
    12. 12. Teens prefer texting <ul><li>Texting : 54% of all teens text daily </li></ul><ul><li>Social networking: 26% daily </li></ul><ul><li>1/2 send 50+ texts/day (1,500/mo.) </li></ul><ul><li>1/3 send 100+/day (3,000/mo.) </li></ul><ul><li>Most prolific: Girls 14-17 (100/day) </li></ul><ul><li>Least prolific: Youngest teen boys (20/day) </li></ul>
    13. 13. In other words... © 2010 Columbus Dispatch
    14. 14. Virtual worlds too <ul><ul><ul><li>Global VW population: over 1 billion and half are under 16 – Kzero/10 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>10-15-year-olds the biggest sector (468m) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>15-25-year-olds are No. 2 (288m) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>12/09 FTC report : Little explicit content in child VWs, moderate-to-heavy in teen & adult worlds </li></ul></ul></ul>
    15. 15. What we now know <ul><li>Harassment & cyberbullying = most common risk </li></ul><ul><li>Not all youth are equally at risk </li></ul><ul><li>A child ’s psychosocial makeup & environment are better predictors of online risk than any technology he/she uses </li></ul><ul><li>No single technology can solve youth online risk </li></ul>
    16. 16. Types of Online Safety <ul><li>Physical safety – freedom from physical harm </li></ul><ul><li>Psychological safety – freedom from cruelty, harassment, and exposure to potentially disturbing material </li></ul><ul><li>Reputational and legal safety – freedom from unwanted social, academic, professional, and legal consequences that could affect you for a lifetime </li></ul><ul><li>Identity, property, and community safety – freedom from theft of identity & property </li></ul>
    17. 17. The ‘ Net effect’ <ul><li>How the Internet does change the equation... </li></ul><ul><li>Permanent searchable archive </li></ul><ul><li>Anything can be copied & pasted from anywhere, to anywhere </li></ul><ul><li>High potential visibility </li></ul><ul><li>Invisible audiences: you never know who ’s watching </li></ul><ul><li>Blurry line between public and private </li></ul><ul><li>“ Disinhibition” or anonymity: No visual cues, less empathy </li></ul>Source: danah boyd: Taken out of Context, 2008
    18. 18. What else we know <ul><li>...from youth-risk research: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Youth who engage in online </li></ul><ul><li>aggressive behavior by making rude or nasty comments or frequently embarrassing others are more than twice as likely to report online interpersonal victimization.&quot; </li></ul>
    19. 19. 3.4X “ Posting personal information does not by itself increase risk.” --Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 2/07
    20. 20. Teens ’ response to strangers <ul><li>&quot;For all Internet problems, the vast majority of MySpace teens either had appropriate reactions or ignored the behavior. ” </li></ul><ul><li>– Prof. Larry Rosen </li></ul><ul><li>92% responded appropriately to sexual solicitation </li></ul><ul><li>90% to harassment </li></ul><ul><li>94% to unwanted exposure to sexual materials </li></ul>
    21. 21. As for predators in social network sites... “ There is no evidenc e predators are stalking or abducting unsuspecting victims based on information they posted in social sites.” – Crimes Against Children Research Center, March ’09
    22. 22. Question Has the growth in young people ’s use of the Internet correlated with a rise in sexual abuse against children?
    23. 23. SA Sub 1990-2005* Rate per 10,000 Children (<18) Source: NCANDS / Finkelhor & Jones, 2006 51% Decline ( during the period of the Web ’s existence) Answer: No Confirmed cases of child sexual abuse
    24. 24. Source: FBI & CACRC, 2009 & ‘10 The trend continues <ul><li>“ Substantiated cases of child sexual abuse declined 58% from 1992-2008.” </li></ul><ul><li>Latest data : Child sexual abuse in 2008 was down 6% from the previous year. </li></ul><ul><li>The 2008 figures “add to an already substantial positive long-term trend, especially for sexual and physical abuse.” </li></ul>
    25. 25. As for other risk factors... “ Youth violence is way down , as is teen pregnancy , smoking , alcohol and drug use , suicides , and high school drop-out rates – whereas civic engagement has improved along with youth taking more AP classes in high school. Standardized educational achievement scores have either remained steady or improved slightly.  Aside from obesity, perhaps, most trends in youth behavior are moving in a positive direction.” – Prof. Christopher Ferguson, Texas A&M
    26. 26. What is cyberbullying? <ul><li>Willful repeated aggression </li></ul><ul><li>Associated with real life </li></ul><ul><li>Power imbalance (sometimes anonymity) </li></ul><ul><li>Not just harassment, conflict, or drama </li></ul><ul><li>Bully & target often switch roles </li></ul>Sources: UNH CACRC, ‘07; Agatston, Kowalski, Limber, ‘09; Burgess-Proctor, Hinduja, Patchin, ‘09
    27. 27. More cyberbullying facts <ul><li>Studies all over the map: from 5.9% of teens cyberbullied to 72% (most 15%-35%) </li></ul><ul><li>Only 10% report to adults </li></ul><ul><li>Developmental more than technological problem </li></ul><ul><li>Blurry line between online and offline </li></ul><ul><li>The main environment is school, not technology </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cyberbullying” is an adult term </li></ul>Sources: UNH CACRC, ‘07; Agatston, Kowalski, Limber, ‘09; Burgess-Proctor, Hinduja, Patchin, ‘09
    28. 28. Causes of bullying/cyberbullying <ul><li>Desire to dominate peers </li></ul><ul><li>Need to feel in control </li></ul><ul><li>Deficient sense of remorse </li></ul><ul><li>Refusal to accept responsibility </li></ul><ul><li>Family and/or parental problems </li></ul>
    29. 29. Signs of cyberbullying <ul><li>Loss of friends </li></ul><ul><li>Depression </li></ul><ul><li>Anxiety </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of sleep </li></ul><ul><li>Doesn ’t want to go to school </li></ul><ul><li>Secretive about online activity </li></ul>
    30. 30. What to tell kids facing cyberbullying <ul><li>Don’t react (usually the bully wants) </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t retaliate (could get you in trouble too – or just you) </li></ul><ul><li>Block the bully </li></ul><ul><li>Save the evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to a friend or trusted adult </li></ul><ul><li>Work together to find solutions </li></ul>
    31. 31. ‘ Sexting’
    32. 32. ‘ Sexting ’ defined <ul><li>Nude or sexually explicit photo-sharing or text messages </li></ul><ul><li>Usually via cellphones, but possible via other devices and Web </li></ul><ul><li>Illegal when involving minors </li></ul><ul><li>Overzealous prosecutors have charged teens with production, possession, distribution of child pornography–felonies </li></ul>
    33. 33. How common is sexting? Earliest study reported that 20% of US teens had sent a sexting message. The latest study found 4% had. Received: 15-17% Forwarded: 3% Sources : Harris Interactive/Cox/NCMEC 5/09; AP/MTV 12/09; Pew 12/09 Sent: 4-10%
    34. 34. Possible non-legal consequences <ul><li>Emotional or reputational damage </li></ul><ul><li>School discipline </li></ul><ul><li>Invisible viewership – can be forwarded to anyone </li></ul><ul><li>Potentially searchable on the Web, possibly forever </li></ul>
    35. 35. Why do some kids ‘sext’? <ul><li>Teen “romance” – expression of shared intimacy with partner </li></ul><ul><li>Flirting or relationship currency </li></ul><ul><li>“ Truth or Dare” (normative game gone very wrong) </li></ul><ul><li>Peer pressure </li></ul><ul><li>Revenge ( “revenge porn”) </li></ul><ul><li>Bullying or intimidation ( “pranks”) </li></ul><ul><li>Blackmail </li></ul>
    36. 36. The sexting messages went to... <ul><li>Boyfriend or girlfriend 20% </li></ul><ul><li>Someone had a crush on 21% </li></ul><ul><li>Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend 19% </li></ul><ul><li>Best friend 14% </li></ul><ul><li>Friends 18% </li></ul><ul><li>Someone I don ’t know 11% </li></ul><ul><li>Classmates 4% </li></ul><ul><li>Someone else 14% </li></ul><ul><li>Declined to answer 3% </li></ul>Source: Cox Communications Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey, 2009
    37. 37. 2% – “Photo was forwarded to an authority figure and I got in trouble.” 1% – “Photo was posted online where many people could see it.” 4% – “The person I sent the photo to threatened to send it to someone else.” 2% – “I accidentally sent the photo to the wrong person.” 2% – “The person I sent the photo to made fun of me.” 2% – “The photo was forwarded to someone I didn't want to see it” Did bad things happen after sexting messages were sent? Source: Cox Communications Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey, 2009
    38. 38. What should a parent do? <ul><li>Have a family discussion, explain consequences </li></ul><ul><li>If happens... </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stay calm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure they stop immediately </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If image received, tell them to delete it! </li></ul><ul><li>Talk about whether appropriate to discuss with other parents & teens involved </li></ul><ul><li>Think carefully before involving police (could implicate your own child) </li></ul><ul><li>More advice at </li></ul>
    39. 39. Whole school approach needed <ul><li>“ Because a bully ’ s success depends heavily on context, attempts to prevent bullying should concentrate primarily on changing the context rather than directly addressing the victim ’ s or the bully ’ s behavior.” This involves “the entire school community.” </li></ul><ul><li>– Yale psychology Prof. Alan Yazdin and Carlo Rotella at Boston College </li></ul>
    40. 40. The Illinois approach <ul><li>New law decriminalizes voluntary sexting between minors (passed spring 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>AG’s office launched statewide online-safety training for educators </li></ul><ul><li>AG’s office promoting restorative justice instead of punishment for cyberbullying </li></ul><ul><li>AG’s office is now developing a P2P mediation program </li></ul>
    41. 41. “ Promote digital citizenship in pre-K-12 education as a national priority.” – Youth Safety on a Living Internet: Report of the Online Safety & Technology Working Group Our report to Congress, June 2010...
    42. 42. The most basic definition “ The central task of citizenship is learning how to be good to one another.” – A.J. Patrick Liszkiewicz
    43. 43. Digital citizenship’s... <ul><li>Goal: Full, constructive engagement in participatory media, society and democrtacy </li></ul><ul><li>Responsibilities (besides respect toward others): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Active critical thinking & ethical choices about </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The content and impact of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What one sees, says, and produces on </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Oneself, others, and one's community. </li></ul></ul>
    44. 44. Net safety from the inside-out <ul><li>3 key takeaways: </li></ul><ul><li>Don ’t let the news scare you. </li></ul><ul><li>Talk with your kid(s) about how they use the Net & phones. </li></ul><ul><li>Keep talking! </li></ul>
    45. 45. Thank you! <ul><li>Anne Collier </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>