Saturday, April 21, 2007

Teens smart enough to stay safe online

Three good articles about how teens are smart enough to stay safe and how schools and educational organizations are using social networking to assist teens:

Teens, Privacy, and Online Social Networks by Pew Internet

  • 55 percent of online teens have profiles online; 45 percent of online teens do not have profiles online.
  • Among the teens who have profiles, 66 percent of them say that their profile is not visible to all Internet users. They limit access to their profiles in some way.
  • Among those whose profiles can be accessed by anyone online, 46 percent say they give at least a little and sometimes a good deal of false information on their profiles. Teens post fake information to protect themselves, but also to be playful or silly.
  • Most teens are using the networks to stay in touch with people they already know, either friends that they see a lot (91 percent of social networking teens have done this) or friends that they rarely see in person (82 percent).
  • 49 percent of social network users say they use the networks to make new friends.
  • 32 percent of online teens have been contacted by strangers online -- this could be any kind of online contact, not necessarily contact through social network sites.
  • 21 percent of teens who have been contacted by strangers have engaged an online stranger to find out more information about that person (that translates to 7 percent of all online teens).
  • 23 percent of teens who have been contacted by a stranger online say they felt scared or uncomfortable because of the online encounter (that translates to 7 percent of all online teens).

Usually the worst thing adults can do to teens is to treat them like they are not smart enough to figure things out on their own. They are also creative in how they protect themselves either blocking or giving misinformation. Most of them can spot a creep online too.
Don't Tell Your Parents: Schools Embrace MySpace Robert Andrews 04.19.07 (WIRED)
Broadly, Elgg represents a shift from aging, top-down classroom technologies like Blackboard to what e-learning practitioners call personal learning environments -- mashup spaces comprising feeds, blog posts, podcast widgets -- whatever resources students need to document, consume or communicate their learning across disciplines.

So a bottom up approach to learning seems to be more effective. It becomes a better learning environment because of the change in format depending on the students' desires.
Why MySpace Is SafeSpace (
Lisa Lerer, 04.03.07

How do you think parents should protect kids online?
We need to basically teach our kids proper online safety and proper online etiquette so that they learn to make smart decisions online. I use the analogy of how we've addressed other types of safety issues in the past through significant government campaigns or public private partnerships. We need that same campaign for online safety and instead we are burning millions of dollars in litigation campaigns. I prefer education not regulation, a strategy of talking to kids about these issues and getting them to understand proper online behavior.

And the original article:

Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions
by Adam Thierer∗

Moreover, what is almost completely overlooked in the current debate over social networking is that many social networking communities have developed effective self-policing strategies. Those self-policing strategies come in both formal and informal varieties. Many online communities adopt formal policies about how to report abusive or offensive behavior. Others allow site users to tag certain content or pages as inappropriate or offensive. Site administrators can then take appropriate action, including removing troublemakers from the site or even reporting them to law enforcement authorities. Site administrators have enormous reputational incentives to self-police their own networks because most social networking sites depend on advertising revenue, and they risk losing advertisers if they don’t maintain a positive standing.

There is incentive to be safe, to protect others, and even from the organizations themselves there is incentive to create a safe environment.

It seems there is a great need to join the conversation. I know that the best way to talk to a lot of our teen computer users is to go on myspace. If we had a profile and all these users as our friends, we can bulletin them about library events. Just like with text messaging services like Twitter, we can talk to them on their cell phones, the major medium in which they communicate. If we don't start showing up in this arena, we just don't exist to this growing population.

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