Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies Report

After last weeks CyberSafety workshop for parents, I wondered if the message was too overwhelming as there are indeed a lot of nasty and disturbing activities taking place online and in video games. I listened and thought of how important the word no is to helping young people stay safe until they can fully learn how to protect themselves online and offline. The video game scenes I saw disgusted me and I see no benefit to the world in learning to kill something for points. I encourage all parents and even students to talk and take time to think about how any action you take online could impact you for a long time.

Parents play a valuable role in helping their children grow up to be safe and happy adults. We promote CommonSense Media at our school as a resource for parents and students.

I am happy to see the report just released from The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard is the report from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Below are some excerpts and my thoughts. I encourage everyone to take a look at the report as it is a good starting point for framing where we are and what we all need to be doing. There are also great resources on the site for parents and educators.

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was created in February 2008 in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced in January 2008 by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace. The scope of the Task Force’s inquiry was to consider those technologies that industry and end users – including parents – can use to help keep minors safer on the Internet.

I think the information will allow all of us who are involved in helping students learn how to protect themselves in the online world a reason to practice a degree of moderation in how we explain the dangers of being online. This is not to say there is no danger, but that in many ways the dangers are often overblown by media stories.

Some of the findings that I have often believed to be true based on personal experience with my students are the following.

Minors face risks online, just as they do in any other public space in which people congregate. These risks include harassment and bullying, sexual solicitation, and exposure to problematic and illegal content. These risks are not radically different in nature or scope than the risks minors have long faced offline, and minors who are most at risk in the offline world continue to be most at risk online.

My contention is that the risks for youth are as much online as offline and in fact, I think there is more risk offline for some of the students I teach.

Sexual predation on minors by adults … This research found that cases typically involved post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

I believe this will help us to bring balance to how we tell students that there are predators online who will get you. This at times seems much like the boogie man stories I learned in my youth. I no longer wonder if there is something under my bed. It does not lessen the need to keep the area under my bed clean, but I do not expect to see a boogie man.

Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face, both online and offline.

I know this is a fact as it is an issue we deal with often at school. This is an area where every adult and student must have a zero tolerance. We have a saying: O. U. C. H. Our Unkind Comments Hurt.

Minors are not equally at risk online. Those who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies.

I was talking last week with a colleague about how school seems very similar to when I was in school. We all need to be aware of students who are acting out as they are in need of assistance.

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