For Data Privacy Day (1/28), let’s take a look at students’ data privacy – as in the data on their cellphones and whether school administrators have the right to search the devices. The ACLU says they don’t. It called out a school board in Tennessee for violating the constitutional rights of students by implementing a policy that allows school officials to search digital devices kids bring to school and “to monitor and control what students post on social media sites,” Wired reports.
As for citizens of all ages, the Center for Democracy & Technology cites “a very important appellate court ruling … US v. Warshak, which says that email should only be accessed with a warrant,” and “not just email, but also texts and private social networking posts.” But that’s just one appellate court decision, so CDT is calling for an update to the relevant federal law, Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Student privacy vs. school safety in Illinois
But lawmakers in Illinois apparently believe students don’t have that privacy right on school grounds. They passed a law that allows an elementary or secondary school to “request or require a student to provide a password or other related account information in order to gain access to the student’s account or profile on a social networking website if the elementary or secondary school has reasonable case to believe that the student’s account on a social networking website contains evidence that the student has violated a school disciplinary rule or policy” – as long as the school has notified students and parents that this kind of request could be made. The law, which went into effect a year ago this month, doesn’t mention cellphones but it’s safe to say the passwords to “social networking websites” would include passwords for accessing students’ social media accounts on any device used at school. Read more
Don’t believe anything you hear about sexting causing an increase in teen pregnancy. There is no way it can be true. How can I say that? Because teen pregnancy in the US has plummeted since 2007.
The biggest decline is among women under 20 (far left). [See the full-size chart at Vox.com.]
“For five years now, America’s teen birth rate has plummeted at an unprecedented rate, falling faster and faster. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of babies born to teens annually fell by 38.4%,” writes Sarah Kliff in Vox.com
, citing research by Demographic Intelligence. But that research firm isn’t by any means the finding’s only source. The federal government published it last June (2013 figures are the latest available), and the teen pregnancy decline made it into President Obama’s State of the Union address last week.
Teen abortions down too
“This drop occurred in tandem with steep declines in the abortion rate,” so abortions aren’t the explanation, Kliff points out. She looks at every possible theory you could think of for how this decline across all 50 states came about to show how stymied public health officials are in looking for an overriding explanation. Please see Kliff’s article for all the theories she surfaced and why they don’t cut it – yet, at least. Read more
You may’ve heard the term “doxxing.” It’s where online harassment can spill over into the offline kind, increasing risk of harm to whoever’s being targeted, regardless of age, race, gender, etc. The form it usually takes is public exposure of the target’s personal information – street address, phone number and other records – and, as we’ve seen in the news lately, it’s “often accompanied by threats of violence, sexual assault or murder,” reports Ken Gagne in Computerworld.com.
“Many women gamers and developers, as well as those who support them, have lately come under attack from online trolls,” Gagne adds, referring to another term you may’ve heard of late (especially if there are gamers at your house): “#gamergate.” Harassment associated with doxxing can be unnerving, often traumatizing, because harassers know where the target lives or how to reach him or her offline. Some targets have moved house or left jobs because of it. Gagne does a great job not only of linking to background info on all this but also of showing you how to make your personal information a whole lot less public. It’s a hassle, but he writes that, in “an hour or two,” you can get your personal info deleted from the 11 most commonly used databases of that info (like those old white pages, except with worldwide information available worldwide – there’s even one called “White Pages”). Read more
One of the central stereotypes of (or maybe urban legends about) us, our tech and our time is people filling every free or empty moment doing something on a screen – texting, playing a game, posting a photo, listening to a tune, checking email, reading a book, etc., etc. It makes us feel guilty or critical because it’s typically associated with lack of self-discipline or situational awareness. Remember the phrase “continuous partial attention” and how much, when first used in the last decade, it worried us? We certainly worry about “too much screen time” on our children’s part, because everybody from pundits to pediatricians almost always refers to it negatively. We sometimes characterize this monolithic thing called screen time as an “addiction,” or at least a waste of time.
So consider this: a University of Pennsylvania creative writing class entitled “Wasting Time on the Internet.” “Although we’ll all be in the same room, our communication will happen exclusively through chat rooms and listservs, or over social media,” writes its professor, Kenneth Goldsmith in The New Yorker. “Distraction and split attention will be mandatory. So will aimless drifting and intuitive surfing. The students will be encouraged to get lost on the Web, disappearing for three hours in a Situationist-inspired dérive, drowsily emerging from the digital haze only when class is over. We will enter a collective dreamspace [the Surrealists’ ideal state for making art, he writes earlier in the essay] an experience out of which the students will be expected to render works of literature. To bolster their practice, they’ll explore the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting, through critical texts by thinkers such as Guy Debord, Mary Kelly, Erving Goffman, Raymond Williams, and John Cage.” Read more
It isn’t the first time research has found that “parental control” is not the best way to keep children safe online and on phones. “Rather than restricting or monitoring internet use, parents should let their children discover the net, both good and bad, themselves,” the BBC cites a new survey as saying.
It’s encouraging to see news stories like this; they’ve been rare over the past decade+, so it feels like we may be reaching a tipping point where the public discourse about youth online safety is becoming balanced and research–based.
This survey, of more than 2,000 14-to-17-year-olds in the UK and published by the Oxford Internet Institute and The Parent Zone, reminds me of several earlier ones, especially…
- A 2010 report by Britain’s education watchdog Ofsted that looked at 37 schools, finding that highly controlled school environments did less to keep students safe in the long run than giving them opportunities to take responsibility for their own online safety
- EU Kids Online’s finding that risk-taking and resilience development go hand-in-hand (as do risk and opportunity) online – see this on the latter in their 2011 report and this on their groundbreaking January 2013 report on resilience.
- The US’s 2008 national task force at Harvard’s Berkman Center finding that a child’s psychosocial makeup and (home and school) environments are better predictors of online risk or safety than any technology the child uses.
Survey’s conclusions Read more