Just a few short years ago, a young person could do something they might or might not later regret, but there was no photographic evidence of it. There were no pictures nor videos of embarrassing situations to end up in a place where the entire world could see it at any point. More to the point, parents, future employers, and future spouses or even future children, would never see it. This is no longer true.
The question is how do we modify the behavior? We (educators, parents and advocates) talk about it constantly. Most of the time, if the people in these situations would think, just for a second, about possible consequences, a crisis can be averted.
We hope that this wouldn't happen to our own kids, but someone's kids are posing for these pictures. I talk a lot on this blog about a variety of ideas, but I am curious about your ideas.
How would you (or have you) talked to your teens and young adults about how to avoid these very embarrassing situations? What would you tell your 18 year old self if you had the chance? I may feature your tips in a future post.
The two stories featured were a young girl who sent a topless picture of herself and a boy who forwarded a picture of his girlfriend from his cell phone. She ended up having her picture sent to everyone in not only her school, but other schools as well. He was convicted as a sex offender and is facing those consequences (including not being able to get a job or even live with his father because of the proximity to a school). Neither person was anyone I would think would even think of doing anything like this. Both described that 'they didn't think' anything bad would happen and certainly would never have done it had they thought about consequences. I could see myself in both of these young people.
The entire episode is available online. I re-encourage you to watch it with young people in your life. It is an important topic that might lead to helping them think about consequences.
Once you watch it, post your thoughts about the documentary in the comments. Do you see yourself, or your kids, in those featured?
The program started by talking about how effective (or not) people are at multi-tasking. I was in full agreement. I kept thinking how crazy the people were who said "they can read email, pay attention to a lecture, and search the web at the same time." Then I had to laugh at myself. I was watching this documentary with my laptop open checking mail and starting to write this post.
After I put my laptop away and started paying closer attention to the message, I was really impressed with the information.
They said that there are two categories of people in the digital arena, digital natives and digital immigrants. Among the natives, there was a deep look at the possibility of Internet addiction and the observation that multi-tasking is rampant and unproductive, the social aspect (looking mainly into massively multi-player online role playing games such as World of Warcraft), and how this technology has transformed warfare.
Regarding which camp I fall into - I think I fall squarely into the immigrant category. I have worked very hard to learn about different kids of technology, but it is not easy for me. I often end up asking people (generally young people) who are natives for help. Do you think you fit into the digital native category, or the immigrant? If you are a native, do you share your knowledge? If you are an immigrant, do you seek to learn more? How?
It is playing on PBS periodically, so I'd recommend watching it. Check your local listings for when it will be on in your area.
How to keep our families safe while using technology is just one of the challenges . Enough.org has some shocking statistics on their web site. This is just a small sampling:
- Every second, $3,075.64 is spent on pornography
- 79% of youth unwanted exposure to pornography occurs in the home
- Child pornography has become a $3 billion annual industry
- 20 percent of teens have engaged in cyberbullying behaviors, including posting mean or hurtful information or embarrassing pictures, spreading rumors, publicizing private communications, sending anonymous e-mails or cyberpranking someone.
- 14 percent 7th-9th grade students reported that they had communicated with someone online about sexual things
- 30 percent of teenage girls polled by the Girl Scout Research Institute said they had been sexually harassed in a chat room. Only 7 percent, however, told their mothers or fathers about the harassment because they were worried that their parents would ban them from going online"
Enough Is Enough has developed a program called Internet Safety 101. Holly Hawkins, the Director of Consumer Policy & Child Safety (and one of our very own bloggers ) calls the program "a truly unique teaching series designed to bring Internet safety education into the busy lives of parents and other caregivers." She has witnessed how this program has really empowered parents and teachers regarding online safety.
I am not sure it is ever going to be possible to make the Internet 100% safe for all members of the family - but I do think that through education and empowerment, we can make it a safer place for everyone.
One of the disconnects between kids and adults is that kids are being raised with the technology, so it is simply part of their world. Many adults have begun to use technology regularly, but in many cases there is a definitive line between online and offline. The youth are flowing easily between on and offline and in many ways, there is no difference. They are just two sides of the same coin.
The Door That's Not Locked campaign addresses the incorrect perception of some adults that the door is closed to knowing how to protect their kids because they need to know more about the tool than their kids to keep them safe. This comprehensive site is designed to educate teachers and parents with age specific tips and information, regardless of where the starting point is.
Do you feel like you know how to protect your kids and teens online?
The issues of one country rarely match the issues of another as closely as they do regarding children's online safety. Regardless of where you live, the desire of parents to keep kids safe online are only matched by the desire of the kids and teens to be independent and free to use the Web without hassle.
In the U.K., Safer Internet Day is being marked with an awareness campaign, "Think B4 U Post". As a part of the campaign, they have several suggested activities that translate into any nation, any area, any neighborhood. Here are a few more.
- Tell the young people you know about why they should think before they post anything online. Then have them tell two friends. Repeat.
- Host a parent's get together about online safety. There are a lot of resources available on this blog and on saferinternet.org that can help get you started. Training someone else is a great way to learn yourself.
- Help your kids make a video about "Think B4 U Post" using their own examples.
- Encourage local stores that sell technology to highlight safety features on the things they sell, no matter who the customer is.
What are some other ways you can commemorate this day?
This article from YourSphere talks about this very problem, but poses a different solution. Instead of blocking them - use them as tools in teaching. This is a solution that I've suggested before - and I still believe in it.
When I hear from teachers, they say that if they can't get to a web site they need to use for teaching, there is always a student on hand who can help them get there. This is suggesting that we are preventing access to these sites for the wrong group. Why wouldn't we want to harness the good things social networks have to offer and include them in the curriculum, instead of pretending they are these dark caves that should be avoided?
What do you think about including social networking in the classroom?
The answer (in exactly 140 characters) is:
Twitter is a micro-blogging site that is asking you to share what you are doing right now with your friends and the world in 140 characters.
Why? This video from Common Craft answers this question:
The people on the ground in Haiti are communicating via Facebook status messages, Twitter and other social networking sites. They are reporting where they are, the status of those around them and asking for specific needs (food, water, medicine).
I think this is a powerful example of how the Internet and social networks have made a very positive difference in the world. Another example is that you can donate to the Red Cross online to help the victims.
Do you have any stories like this?
Viruses are spread through programs and platforms that are most commonly used because of the law of numbers. Cybercriminals know that the more chances you have to spread the virus, the higher the impact it will have. So they attack things that "everyone" uses. This is a big reason why Windows PC's have a higher rate of viruses over the Mac. Does this mean you should toss your PC? Not at all! It does mean that we should take everything said online with an extra grain of salt.
McAfee, a popular antivirus software company, said: "Cybercriminals have long picked on Microsoft products due to their popularity. In 2010, we anticipate Adobe software, especially Acrobat Reader and Flash, will take the top spot." in its report (PDF).
Many of the apps and games found on social networking sites are created using Flash. The popularity of those apps and games combined with the popularity of social networking sites makes it a perfect place to target, if you were a hacker.
How can you protect yourself?
- -- Make sure your virus software is up to date. Most software that is available has regular updates available from the company's website. All of the virus protection software that I am familiar with has an option to automatically update the software every time there is an update. I like this option - takes out an extra step for me to do. If you think you may have downloaded a virus, run a virus scan.
- -- Don't trust everything you read online - even if it looks like it is from your friend. If you get a random request from a friend asking to do something unusual on your profile (or email, or anywhere else), question your friend. It is possible your friend's profile was compromised and the hacker sent the request (in hopes you will help further disburse the virus they are spreading)
- -- Report things that are viruses or you think might be a virus. Most social networking sites have a way to report violations. The companies normally work to get the viruses added to virus databases which, in turn, protect future people from that virus.
- -- Many companies offer similar things, but AOL does have a good product suite for safety and security, including free parental controls, free spam control, and free to paying members and discounted to everyone else, there is McAffee security suite.
When looking at the Internet's road from 2000 to 2010, it is amazing how much has changed. In 2000...
- -- Google existed (it started in 1996), but was hardly a verb in the American lexicon.
- -- If you wanted to share your home videos, YouTube wasn't an option until 2005.
- -- Social Networking was happening via profiles, online chat rooms and message boards, but "Social Networking" didn't happen until the middle of the decade. Now people have multiple social networking sites.
- -- In 2000, media was defined as the newspapers, broadcast news and other forms of "news" we always knew. During this decade there was a new media created, Blogs. There are several blogs that are considered equals to the traditional media. There is even a woman named 26th most influential woman in media, who got there by blogging. That's it. Blogging. According to Wikipedia, as of 2007 there were 112,000,000 blogs.
- -- Speaking of Wikipedia - it didn't exist until 2001. It is a free encyclopedia that is created by anyone who wants to contribute to it. Because anyone can contribute or edit any article, it is hard to use it as a soul source of information - but it is generally a good place to start. In my circle of friends it is considered enough of a source to settle an argument.
Everything Internet related changed so quickly in this decade that I wonder what the world will be like in another 10 years. Do you have any predictions?
At the end of the school year, she sent a nude picture of herself to a boy she liked. Sadly, it found its way around not only her school, but another as well. The school officials found out and her parents found out. Her school suspended her for the first week of the following school year, and her parents grounded her for the summer. But the worst punishment came in the form of continued tormenting from other students. Eventually, she felt the only option was to end her life.
This kind of story is tragic, but can also serve as a conversation starter between teens and parents. Just asking teens what they think about the story and unintended consequences can be a good way to open the dialog on what might be a difficult discussion to have with teens.
How have you started conversations about sexting?
The Internet has introduced a myriad of new words, phrases and even acronyms into the lexicon; LOL, OMG, social network, tweet. I am not surprised that this year's word references social networking and the act of removing someone from your list of friends on your social networking profile. I am constantly surprised at how much the Internet has infiltrated society.
The act of unfriending is one way you can help prevent cyberbullying. If your social networking profile is private (only visible to friends), taking away the ability to be taunted via your social network certainly aids in the removal of the bullying online. You can also block communications by blocking email from either that user or from all unknown users. You can block Instant Messages from a single, multiple or all unknown users. If the cyberbully doesn't have a way to communicate with you, it is pretty hard to be abused.
Have you ever unfriended someone? Why? What other methods have you used to curtail cyberbullying?
For example, there were people from the Girl Scouts, Attorneys General, the Chief Technology Officer from the White House, a Member of U.K.'s Parliament, representatives from all the major Internet companies, the non profit groups working toward online safety in many ways, child psychologists and pediatricians, and so many more.
I will be posting a lot about what I learned there, but one thing struck me and I had to share it. During one of the presentations, we were introduced to YouTube's Safety Center, including this video. I love the simple message and how it was done using keyboard characters.
Which safety campaigns have you loved in the past?
For those who are under 18, you will have to wait for Microsoft to finalize the parental controls to allow you to do the same. They say it will be a few weeks.
The Xbox (and many other gaming systems) have had the ability to connect to the Internet for a while. It now seems the online world and offline world are blurring that much more. What do you think about this functionality?