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Millennials’ top 10 apps at the turn of the year

Youth digital research firm YPULSE’s “most clicked article of 2015” didn’t hold a lot of surprises, but it might be useful to note teens’ and millennials’ top picks here at the turn of the year. Facebook owns three of the Top 10 apps: Instagram (No. 1), the Facebook app (2nd) and Whatsapp, which appears to tie with YouTube and the Weather app for 7th place, and Google two of them (its search app and YouTube). I say “appears” because I’m basing this on the graphical word cloud in the Ypulse’s article for the public (like most market research firms, it charges fees for its reports, blogging only the highlights). Snapchat and the Google app were tied for 3rd. Twitter‘s No. 4, with Yahoo’s Tumblr next and Spotify the music app apparently close behind it.

Listen to a lively audio snippet (embedded in this New York Times piece of a focus group with 8th graders showing how they make social media services their own (e.g., how these teens make Instagram more like Snapchat by making their own IG photos disappear!). Read more

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A prosecutor’s good decision in teen sexting case

This is a catch-up blog post bookmarking real progress in the handling of teen sexting in the United States – and unusually good reporting on it from CNN. Thankfully, none of the reported hundreds of middle school and high school students in Cañon City, Col., who were accused of sexting will face criminal charges. That’s important because Colorado is one of 30 states whose prosecutors have to rely on child pornography laws in sexting cases because they still don’t have laws that address sexting, and child pornography laws can criminalize the very people they were designed to protect: minors. The district attorney who investigated the Cañon City case, Thom LeDoux, underscored how harsh these laws can be for adolescents when he told reporters that it didn’t even matter if any of the students’ image-sharing was consensual. “There is no distinction [between consensual and nonconsensual] according to Colorado state statutes,” he said.  Read more

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A gazillion ways to communicate, socialize, etc.: Fun!

Apologies to email subscribers, who already received this. It got lost in the transition from one Web hosting service to another. I hope to have all these bugs screened out in the first couple of weeks of 2016! [Happy New Year, BTW!] Here’s what I first posted a couple of weeks ago….

As I read through the first 12 or so paragraphs of Sam Slaughter’s article in the New York Times Style section, I thought, oh brother, yet another clever article that’s #fashionably_grumpy_about_social_media. Especially when I got to, “It’s enough to make you pine for the good old days of typewriters and calligraphy.” Great. More hand-wringing (and the hand-wringing is only growing, which makes me wonder why we don’t stop wringing and start being the change IN our digital spaces, e.g., with counterspeech)….

Then I was pleasantly surprised to see Slaughter quoting a New York University media professor making the point that even letter writing was individual and contextual, letters getting finely customized with “applications” like perfume, fingerprints, pressed flowers, and – I would add – people’s personal seals, inks, papers, penmanship, doodles, etc. So now we have digital nuance, context, creativity, right?

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Counterspeech: New online safety tool with huge potential

It's a tool for users, upstanders and activists of all ages successfully in several countries at least.

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Finally defining digital citizenship: Help from top researchers

Much-needed clarity and simplification from U.S. experts in youth online risk and safety

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Real help for kids dealing with cyberbullying

IBPAIt was an epiphany that turned into a theme for me at the annual conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association this week. It was a theme by the third day, when I heard keynote speaker Carlotta Walls-Laprier say, “I knew who I was.” She, one of the Little Rock Nine (the African American students who made history in 1957 as the first to attend then-all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.), was responding to an audience member who asked how she dealt with the racism and kept from “hating the haters.” She gave credit to her parents for raising her to know that “I couldn’t hate another person.”

WallsLaNier“I knew who I was.” That powerful statement was very similar to the insight – more like floodlight – that came from hearing Emily Lindin, director of the new documentary Unslut, respond to almost the same question from the audience at the film’s screening on the first night of IBPA. Lindin, a survivor of sexual bullying in high school, started The Unslut Project to create a support community for targets of sexual shaming and raise awareness of its impacts.

Now in the final stages of a PhD program and speaking at school screenings around the country, having been featured on ABC with Katie Couric, CNN with Brooke Baldwin, NPR, Al Jazeera America, and many other news outlets, Lindin told the audience member that what got her through that time was learning how to define herself rather than let other people’s opinions define her. She elaborated on this in an email to me:

Healing from ‘slut’ shaming

emilyAt the time, I didn’t know how to think about the steps I was taking to overcome sexual bullying. I’m not even sure I understood that was what I was doing – I was just trying to cope however I could. But what worked for me was identifying what I liked to do, what I was already somewhat good at doing, and throwing my energy into getting better at it. For me, it was singing. In that way, I was able to redefine myself rather than letting my peers define me, as I had been doing throughout middle school. Instead of ‘the school slut,’ I became a singer, someone who was pretty good at musical theater, an academic, and – most importantly – a KIND person. I practiced kindness. Over the course of about a year, I redefined myself according to what I wanted to be. And eventually, other people caught on and stopped defining me as a ‘slut,’ as well.

And this is crucial: She continued, “But even if they hadn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered that much, because I had redefined myself in my own mind. I had stopped internalizing and depending upon their opinion of me.”

How we can help

That, parents and educators, is true safety and well-being in all contexts, digital and physical, right? We can help our children grow resilience and emotional health by helping them… Read more

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10 tips for digital citizens’ parents

Actually, parents are digital citizens too. If they spend any time in digital spaces. At least for as long as we residents of this networked world are still putting “digital” in front of “citizenship.” I suspect that won’t be for very long, but we’re here, now, in an interesting, global discourse about what citizenship means now in an increasingly networked world – especially for youth, the people who will be running it – so let’s run with it.

REDNATICOne corner of that discussion is here in Buenos Aires this week. I’m speaking at the First Regional Conference on Digital Literacy & Citizenship of REDNATIC, a growing network of online-youth-serving nonprofit organizations from all over Latin America and a great model for other regions of the planet. The conference is being hosted by, Argentina’s leading nonprofit organization in youth digital literacy.

In an email interview, Buenos Aires’s big daily newspaper Clarin asked me for 10 tips for parents of digital citizens. So, since they’re in Spanish there, I thought I’d share the English-language original with you here:

  • Remember that digital citizenship can’t just be digital. Our digital social experiences and activities are embedded in and reflect our offline social lives. So be clear that what you’ve always taught your children about being a good human being applies to the digital part of their lives too.
  • Know that digital citizenship isn’t just a kid thing. We can’t expect our kids to be good digital citizens if we aren’t modeling good citizenship ourselves (its elements include civility, social literacy, community engagement, accountability, respecting others’ rights and perspectives). “Do what I do” is so much more powerful than “do what I say” in any aspect of parenting.

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About CNN’s ‘Being 13’: Let’s be fair

I know this isn’t parents’ or educators’ default thinking or we wouldn’t be seeing excellent advice like this, but our children are very smart where social media’s concerned. CNN made a big thing in the promotion around its documentary and study “Being 13” about a girl saying about her selfies, “don’t judge [but], maybe 200 sometimes if I really can’t get a right one.” What professional photographer wouldn’t take a gazillion photos in a photo shoot? And why wouldn’t a person of any age want to put his or her best foot forward, photographically speaking?

being13Of course they’re curating

And why did the teenager in question say right up front “don’t judge”? Could it be because we grownups so often do default to thoughts like, “that child shouldn’t be posting photos of herself”? Which would be like our mothers or grandmothers saying, “why do you look in the mirror so much?” It’s also a little like making a blanket decision about a child’s behavior without knowing anything about the child. Posting selfies, like just about everything in social media, is:

  • Individual – in terms of all aspects of who you are, including where you are in your life
  • Situational – where you are at a particular point in time, emotionally and environmentally
  • Contextual – where you are physically and culturally – at school, work, a party, a country, a digital environment, etc.

Based on those factors and what app you’re using, sometimes posting selfies is totally spontaneous (as it often is in Snapchat); sometimes it’s highly curated (as it often is in Instagram). Read more

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Online harassment, bullying: Wisdom from someone who’s been there

To mark National Bullying Prevention Month, here – in addition to some fresh research on bystanders further down – are some simple but powerful insights from someone who has been and continues to be subjected to severe online harassment and is now helping other victims recover from it….

CC licensed

CC licensed

“I’m a game developer, I’m a systems thinker so I can see patterns in behavior,” said Zoe Quinn, who, at the XOXOfest 2015 conference, shared some behavior patterns she’s picked up on as a target of sustained online abuse associated with last year’s hashtag storm called #gamergate (as The New Yorker described it, her main “crime” and a big reason for all the harassment was Depression Quest, a free game she created to help people deal with depression). Quinn is also leveraging all she’s learned to help run Crash Override Network, which she co-founded to support victims of large-scale online abuse. With thanks to Kevin Marks for his notes from her talk, here are some observations from Quinn that anyone interested in bullying prevention might find helpful or confirming:

  • Upstanding is influential. “I talked to 300 former trolls and asked why they stopped. They said someone they looked up to said it wasn’t cool.”
  • Dehumanization’s the problem. “Another thing that got the trolls backing off,” she said, “is humanizing the target, not making [the target] a caricature.” This reminds me of deeper psychological insight from MIT Prof. Sherry Turkle in the New York Times last week: that when there’s a disconnect with ourselves, we can disconnect with and marginalize others.
  • Filling a void. Wise adults have been saying this to young bullying victims for years, but Quinn adds a fresh insight about the online kind: The cruel behavior is “not really about the target, it’s about belonging to the group that is attacking.”

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A prime minister & a professor: True connecting in a digital age

Two messages in two media – video and text – by a prime minister and a professor got me, and I’m sure many others, thinking about the good, not-so-good and necessary connecting we human beings are doing on digital devices now, at both international and personal levels.

ModiZuckI haven’t heard a politician from any country speak of using social media the way India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi did at Facebook headquarters today. Back in 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did speak of using the Internet “to create norms of behavior among states [countries],” but Prime Minister Modi seems to be doing just that and then some, sending birthday wishes to fellow prime ministers in their own languages (Chinese and Hebrew) and hearing back from them in his own, Hindi, he told his audience at Facebook and – through livestreaming – in India and a lot of other countries.

Geopolitical but personal

This is a very humanizing kind of diplomacy – a kind so needed in our world now. Modi spoke of the world as a family and social media as a catalyst for keeping the family in touch with one another. It gives new meaning to the term “digital citizenship,” a meaning that might be meaningful for US parents and educators to bring into discussions at home and school. Though not without sectarian controversy (that followed him right to the Facebook campus), this is a politician with an approval rating possibly never reached by an American one: 87% by the end of his first year in office (see Wikipedia).

He was a “chaiwallah” as a little boy, a train station tea seller from a very poor, uneducated family, according to Foreign Policy, and he said at Facebook that social media helped him educate himself in a way that humans could never before learn about the wider world. He added that he first went on Facebook not to campaign but to find out what this social media thing was all about and now he sees it as a tool for “the government and the people to have daily bonding.” He said he urges government leaders around the world to try to get on social media because “it would benefit them greatly…. You’ll be able to have a good government if you have many channels of real-time information” from the people. So this politician sees social media as a tool for self-actualization, governance and diplomacy as well as politicking. [He also visited Apple, Google and Tesla Motors on his visit here to northern California, CNN reported.]

Global to micro-personal

Before that innovative geopolitical view of social media was shared across the world this morning, I read a thought-provoking commentary by MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle about social media at the most personal (and probably the most challenging) level. Read more

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From bystanders to ‘upstanders’ & leaders: How it’s done

This is one way it’s done, anyway – the way #iCANHELP does it. And in more than a decade of writing about solutions to anti-social behavior online, I haven’t seen one as effective, pro-social and pro-student as #iCANHELP. [Disclosure: I’m working with #iCANHELP to pilot a social media helpline for schools this year, so I’m biased, but this is why I’m working with them – besides the fact that 1) co-founders Matthew Soeth and Kim Karr are long-time, well-loved educators with deep experience in California’s decades-old student leadership movement and 2) I believe solutions to problems involving students aren’t really solutions if they don’t involve students.]ICH_horizontal-white

The name #iCANHELP says much more than you’d ever think. It says…

  • “We speak hashtag”: Adults call or email for support; students use hashtags. No backstory or explanation is needed. When something nasty is happening in social media, a student can add that 9-character hashtag to a comment, post or tweet, and help is on the way – from peers and adults. Students are much more likely (or more often) to ask for help because it’s so much easier to use a hashtag than, from their perspective, to start a big discussion that’s likely to be more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Help in kind. The response is appropriate to the problem – not just in that it’s digital and in the environment where the problem happens but also appropriate in terms of impact and emotional investment. The latest research shows that digital harassment has less emotional impact than the in-person kind and a lot less than harassment that’s happening both in person and online, and #iCANHELP gets that. They help with a light touch, and they know to map the response – sometimes counterspeech, sometimes a pile-on of support for the target, sometimes sending multiple abuse reports to the social media service in the background and, when called for, more than one of those – to the situation.
  • Help in the cloud. Support happens right where the problem happens – in the app or service where the anti-social behavior surfaces and support for the target(s) is needed. I’m not saying the whole problem’s in the cloud. It’s usually in “school life” whether during or after school hours, on or off campus, but help feels more helpful when it’s addressing the most visible representations of the problem.

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Digital citizenship’s missing piece

At the end of a long, thoughtful conversation on stage in Chautauqua, N.Y., last fall, public radio host Krista Tippett asked millennial author and commentator Nathan Schneider, “What makes you despair and what gives you hope?” His answer to both parts of the question focused on agency – the capacity to act, learn by doing and make change.

Nathan Schneider

Krista Tippett interviewing Nathan Schneider at Chautauqua

“I think the sense of despair I feel comes from … when people tell each other stories in which they have no agency,” Schneider said, “in which someone else has to do it for us.” This is how our society has approached youth online safety over the past 20 years, treating it as something adults had to make happen for youth, through “parental controls,” surveillance (monitoring software) and fear-laced “consequence thinking,” as Harvard University researchers put it (see this).

On the hope side of the question: “For me, the experiences of hope are often the stories … that we see in the world where people are living that agency and building the kinds of communities we need to resist the injustice that has sunk so deeply into our world,” Schneider continued. “I hope we can … learn to see that dignity that’s in all of us … to hold up those moments when we find our agency and our ability to make change.”

Agency online too

Add “social media” to that statement. We’re all too aware that the injustice in the world turns up in social media too. We know our children are among those seeing the injustice. Can we picture them having the agency and support to make change in social media and their offline communities (many already are, in fact – e.g., see this from the Today Show)?

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iCanHelpline launched!

I’m thrilled to tell you that, after a successful crowdfunding campaign and with support from a number of social media companies and the Digital Trust Foundation,, launched today. A joint project of Net Family News and #iCANHELP, it’s the California pilot for a national social media “helpdesk” for schools.

whitebg_icon_RGB-01Though there are Internet helplines in many countries, none are just for schools. The closest model, and one that’s owed a great deal of credit and gratitude for our great start, is the UK’s Online Safety Helpline for Professionals, based at that country’s Southwest Grid for Learning, which provides all kinds of safety and ed-tech support to the UK’s schools.

The U.S.’s helpline pilot represents a similar blend of expertise in education and Internet safety – with #iCANHELP’s 15+ years in media and student leadership education and NFN’s 15+ years in the field and service on three national task forces and – but the US’s is unique in its focus on student leadership. Students are key to social change in social media, as well as to resolving issues in social media involving them, and that understanding is at the core of #iCANHELP’s work.

Students as part of the solution

The helpline and #iCANHELP’s work with students online are separate operations. The former works with adults – school and district personnel who call or email for social media help – and #iCANHELP works with students online. As far as their offline work goes, they do on-site training in digital leadership at schools for educators and student leaders. At some point, they may have the resources to fly in and do digital leadership training on-demand, when incidents occur. I hope that day comes soon, because taking advantage of school-wide “teachable moments” can have real impact. Read more

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Social media & what our kids could be teaching us

rachelsimmonsTwo years ago, when “selfie” was named “Word of the Year” and the spontaneous snapping of self-portraits on cellphones was being vilified as yet another example of youth’s narcissism, author and educator Rachel Simmons posted a bit of healthy disruption. She wrote in Slate, “Consider this: The selfie is a tiny pulse of girl pride – a shout-out to the self.” Simmons gets it. She adds, “Some girls are working it, sure, but others have their tongues half out as if to say, I know I look stupid. But I choose to, and I’m beating you to the judgment punch.”

And there’s the core issue right there: judgment. We so want our children to be spared the instant mass judgment that life in a fishbowl lets in. But our generation’s reflexive conclusions about their social photography and superficiality or narcissism look too much like that same snap judgment we want them to avoid receiving and sharing. When aware of that, we can consciously hold space for them to develop the resilience, agency and positive camaraderie that will not only protect them in and out of social media but also support their self-actualization. Simmons says it so perfectly that I’m just going to quote a whole chunk. She starts with the acknowledgement that, sure, “there is plenty that’s troubling about girls’ tendency to use Instagram to celebrate their physical appearance over their accomplishments….

But I worry more about a world of parents and educators that are overly invested in seeing all social media as problematic, and positioning girls as passive targets instead of agents of their own lives. Every girl is different, and context matters. The selfie flaunts the restrictions of ‘good girl’ culture like a badass teenager sitting in the back of the classroom, refusing to apologize for what she says. I, for one, want to sit next to her in detention.

Me too – what an interesting girl to get to know! I think the selfie also “flaunts the restrictions of” (or represents release from) an older generation’s unqualified, uncritical criticism of the media and media practices of youth – a generation that may not want to live as we do in a fast-paced, forward-projecting society that says “think before you post” but rarely slows down enough to do that necessary reflecting (think how we could deflate digital public shaming if the phrase went, “Think before you judge”). I suspect selfies, Snapchat snaps, little Vine videos and live blogging on Meerkat or Periscope are more about presence than ego – living this moment fully, together, and nourishing the camaraderie and community that protect and promote our (everybody’s) interests, including those of each individual in it. Amid all the likes, favorites and follows, something else is going on that, if we allowed them, our kids could be teaching us.

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Social media literacy 101 (for adults)

“I can’t even” possibly know what I’m seeing in teens’ tweets, texts and posts. Not until I ask them. The very fact that I continued that sentence past the close quote demonstrates that. What do I mean? They hide meaning in plain site. Have you heard researcher danah boyd’s term “social steganography”? It means hiding in plain view in social media. She wrote about that way back in 2010, and it’s no less a reality here in 2015.

We adults need context. Witness the “I can’t even” phenomenon. Which, by virtue of the fact that it was covered in the New York Times this past week, probably means it’s no longer a phenomenon. “I can’t even” can be an entire comment on things – whether tunes, posts, pics, people or anything. It’s words for speechlessness – expressing yearning or some other positive high emotion or just high sarcasm. It’s definitely a “you had to be there” kind of thing.

No time for snap judgment

“Teenagers may not be able to drive or vote or stay out past curfew or use the bathroom during school hours without permission, but they can talk. Their speech is the site of rebellion, and their slang provides shelter from adult scrutiny,” Times commentator Amanda Hess writes. And they (like all of us) deserve shelter from snap judgment, right? Read more

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Tech likely not the main problem in cyberbullying: Breakthrough study

There are some groundbreaking takeaways (and many more insights) in new research from the University of New Hampshire – “The Role of Technology in Peer Harassment: Does It Amplify Harm for Youth?” – and my headline is one of them. Another one is the answer to the question posed in the authors’ headline: “no,” their data indicates. But before going any further with the takeaways, a bit about the study first:

ccrc2Just published in the journal Psychology of Violence, the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 791 young people aged 10-20. Three things make the research itself groundbreaking: 1) unlike most studies about social aggression among youth, it zoomed in on the incidents rather than the people involved; 2) it compared three types of incidents: in-person, digital and mixed (both in-person and online/on phones); and 3) it’s the first to test a theory that has widely been treated as fact, that digital harassment is worse than the in-person kind (because, the theory goes, it can be 24/7 and distributed instantly and widely). The study also builds on the CCRC’s work to define “bullying” and treats it, with its unique characteristics of repetition and power imbalance, as a subset of peer victimization or harassment (see this about that).

The top 4 takeaways are important for parents and educators to know:

  1. Fresh data: About a third (34%) of youth had experienced harassment of some kind over the previous year, 54% of incidents involved no technology, 15% involved only technology and 31% involved both technology and in-person elements.
  2. The negative emotional impact of digital harassment is “significantly lower” than that of the in-person kind – contrary to that theory I mentioned above. “Compared with in-person incidents, technology-only incidents were less likely to involve multiple episodes and power imbalances,” the authors write, adding: “They were seen by victims as easier to stop and had significantly less emotional impact.” So, no, the idea that tech amplifies harm, is not supported by this data. But the second part of this finding is equally important: that the emotional impact of in-person harassment is significantly lower than that of mixed incidents (those that involve both digital and in-person harassment). However…
  3. The digital part is not likely the main problem in mixed (digital and in-person) harassment incidents, the kind that the study found causes the most distress. “It appears likely that it is less something inherent about the technology itself, and more something about the relational nature of mixed harassment incidents that make them so upsetting,” the authors write, adding that the data suggest that mixed incidents “are marked by more intense, personal, and complex negative interactions that have high emotional salience for those involved.” So because the root of the problem is social rather than technological…
  4. Social literacy is needed to grow safety in social media: “Our research suggests that those seeking to prevent the most detrimental forms of peer harassment might focus less on cyberbullying per se and instead [consider] prevention programs that teach youth to handle negative feelings and to de-escalate tensions,” the authors write. “These skills are the focus of a growing number of social emotional learning programs and comprehensive school-based bullying prevention programs that are increasing in sophistication.” [This is confirming – see my 2013 blog post “All kids deserve the safety & other benefits of social-emotional learning.”]

There are many more important insights from the study. Here are some especially interesting ones: Read more

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For kids’ sake, don’t ‘black box’ social media

For our children’s sake, it’s more important than ever that we not “black box” our media, whether as researchers or as parents and educators. An essay from psychologist and media professor Sonia Livingstone in the new scholarly journal Social Media + Society got me thinking about this.

SocialMediaSocietyJournalDr. Livingstone observes that scholars in disciplines other than media and communications are doing that black-boxing and cautions against it. I think scholars aren’t the only ones tempted not to “go there” where social media’s concerned. Not concerning ourselves with the inner workings of complex things started a long time ago – probably when it got tough to understand how an early machine worked, certainly pre-printing-press – but it’s interesting that we’re now black-boxing media too. In fact, Livingstone says we did it with media back in the mass-media era, homogenizing its audiences. I think by its very nature mass media itself homogenized audiences, and – though comparisons of the two media eras can get too simplistic and binary, as the professor writes – this is a fairly significant difference between mass (top-down, one-to-many) media and social (peer-to-peer, multi-directional, produced-by-anyone) media: social media far from homogenizes its users (if only because they can no longer be called “audiences”).

Idealizing ‘face-to-face’?

I’ll get to why it’s more important than ever not to black box media in a minute, but first a couple of other interesting questions Livingstone raises:

“Why is face-to-face communication still prized and practiced in an age of social media? Or, has it also changed, remediated insofar as it now represents just one communicative choice among many? Indeed, are these core dimensions of communication themselves being reconfigured by digital networks in ways that matter? Even, are other dimensions of communication (persistence, share-ability, edit-ability, etc.) now making rival claims?”

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Supreme Court decision & our kids: About context not free speech

Today’s decision by the US Supreme Court sent a clear message about the importance of context for making decisions about what we see online. It was bad news for victims of online harassment and their advocates but good news for parents of kids not thinking about the impact of their online speech and actions.

supremecourt“The Supreme Court ruled in favor of “a Pennsylvania man who posted several violent messages [against his estranged wife] on Facebook and was convicted under a federal threat statute,” CNN reported. But if this ruling comes up in classroom or family discussions, it’s important for parents and educators to tell kids that this decision was not the US’s highest court saying that physical threats in social media is acceptable. What the Court’s saying is that the lower court that convicted the man for his online speech didn’t have enough to convict him “based solely on the idea that a reasonable person would regard” the man’s comments in Facebook as a threat. “The Court held that the legal standard used to convict him was too low, but left open what the standard should be.”

The decision was about legal process not what people can or can’t say online or even how what’s said should be taken by others. It says that courts – and in the case of young people, parents, school administrators and law enforcement – need context. They can’t rely on what any “reasonable person” sees in a post or comment to decide what to do about the post or comment. Read more

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Help us build & pilot a Social Media Helpline for schools! logo

Click here to donate, learn more and spread the word

Hey, everybody! We at NetFamilyNews and iCANHELP would greatly appreciate your help in spreading the word about (and if possible contributing to) our just-launched crowd funding campaign at Indiegogo. We’re in the process of creating a hotline schools can call for help with problems in social media which we’ll pilot this coming school year in California. Please click to our page here.

We’ll help schools navigate sites and apps, report abuse, get to the bottom of an incident that shows up in social media and get content taken down that violates terms of service. This kind of helpline is unprecedented in the US. There are many fine hotlines and helplines in this country, but none are focused on both social media and schools, which deserve help in dealing with cyberbullying and other challenges involving social media. This kind of helpline isn’t unprecedented in the world, however. There are Internet helplines all over Europe and in Australia and New Zealand. Our helpline design is actually modeled on the very successful UK Internet Helpline for schools and other institutions.

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‘Game of 72’: Let’s apply a little ‘social norming’

This is a perfect example of why we need to apply what we know about social norming to social media panics. And in a rare show of levelheadedness from the news media, Global News in Canada helps us get there.

“The Game of 72 – a viral prank urging kids to disappear for 72 hours – is the latest in a series of risky pranks being done by kids and then shared to social media. But the prank, and others like it, may not be as common as many people think,” reports. It certainly acknowledges how scary this prank can be to parents dealing with it, especially those in the UK and France who’ had to – and this is why parents worldwide need to know about it. But not panic, for two reasons:

  1. The acting on it by kids probably isn’t as viral as irresponsible news media outlets would suggest.
  2. The powerful social-norming part of the equation: When we refuse to join in the fear-and-panic mongering, stay levelheaded and spread the facts as best we can, and work to change the perception from “everybody’s doing it” to “most kids aren’t doing this” or “most kids know this is a stupid, hurtful prank,” behavior changes.

“Confirmed instances of the game being played are rare,” continues. “It seems to have started in Europe with the disappearance of some teens in England and France and is believed to have made its way across the Atlantic,” but the piece links only to news over in Europe. Read it, though, because it links to other stupid, hurtful, short-lived “games” that went viral online. I wrote about the Neknomination one here, showing how good can go viral too, because neknomination led to raknomination, the spreading of random acts of kindness. There’s usually a flipside to online problems, but our brains get stuck on the negative side of things, as social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood at University of California, Davis, explained in a recent TEDx Talk.

I’d love to hear of examples of that in Comments below! You can read more about what we’ve learned from the social norms research here.

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