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Friday, March 07, 2008

UK: Less homework & TV

Homework and TV-watching are both losing out to social networking among British 15-to-19-year-old media consumers, a new survey found. Citing the 2008 "Digital Entertainment Survey," The Guardian reports that "21% of teenage girls and 10% of teenage boys watch less TV than more because they are using social-networking sites," and "nearly a third of 15-to-19-year-olds are doing less homework.

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India: Support, advice from social sites

In India, a "small but growing number" of the millions of users of Orkut and Facebook are using the social sites for advice and support, reports. "Social-networking sites are increasingly taking the shape of the new age online 'agony aunt'," kind of the British term for a "Dear Abby." Sify sites the experience of Sarath, who is looking out for a kidney donor for himself and turned to a social site for advice about the process. "The popularity of such networking sites turning out to be the agony aunt can be gauged from the hundreds of help communities that have been set up, be it from complex issues like kidney transplants, blood cancer to much smaller issues like teenage heart breaks," Sify adds. What I hope Indian and all other young people do is think critically about the responses they get and seek out second and third opinions online as much as they would offline (see, too, and interesting blog post, "How will rural India deal with social networking?" - especially the bold comments at the bottom about the place of mobility and diversity of personal relationships in social networking). The negative side of seeking advice online, of course, is when at-risk youth get reinforcement for destructive behaviors such as cutting, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. One credible, immediate source of help might be the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which coordinates the work of hotlines nationwide for people with questions about depression, relationships, loneliness, substance abuse, and how to help friends and loved ones, as well as suicide (see also "The social Web's 'Lifeline'").


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

JuicyCampus: Is there an upside?

Is it that the online gossipmongers think it's just a joke?, where students can "slime" each other, may have one upside: The site could be a good talking point for parents and teens to discuss what is and isn't ethical treatment of peers online. "The content on JuicyCampus is identical to the banter heard in dorm rooms for centuries. But now the whole planet can listen in, including those being maligned, even as the speakers' identities are better protected than ever," the Washington Post reports. The site does not take responsibility for its content and is probably protected by the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which courts to date have found to shield Internet service providers from liability for the content that users post. "If the offending post is about you, too bad," the Post adds, quoting site info as saying, "JuicyCampus does not remove content. We encourage you to shift your point of view...." It mentions one University of Virginia student who'd been "named on the site as sexually promiscuous" and who didn't really want to know who named her as such but does worry "that having her name on the site could jeopardize the job she just landed with a government agency. She wishes the site didn't exist but says nothing can be done...." [See also "Window on cyberbullying" and "Public humiliation on the social Web."]

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Just how risky is the Net for kids?

That's the question dad and tech writer David Pogue looks at in a recent column of his at the New York Times. He writes about a past writing assignment on the subject, but now he looks at the kid-danger question in a new light: "As my own children approach middle school, my own fears align with the [PBS "Growing Up Online"] documentary’s findings in another way: that cyberbullying is a far more realistic threat. Kids online experiment with different personas, and can be a lot nastier in the anonymous atmosphere of the Internet than they would ever be in person (just like grown-ups). And their mockery can be far more painful when it’s public, permanent and written than if they were just muttered in passing in the hallway." Hear, hear! More helpful perspective can be found at the blog of author Nancy Willard here. [See also "Growing Up Online: Discussion Needed," linking to the PBS show, which can be viewed in full online.]

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Trend afoot: Cloud socializing

We all know that kids socialize and share media on computers, phones, Xbox Live, etc. They don't think much about the delivery device. Pretty soon neither will we. The New York Times reports on "pocketable" and "cloud" computing, pointing among other things to Adobe's new AIR software that will help "merge the Internet and the PC, as well as blur the distinctions between PCs and new computing devices like smartphones.... But," it adds, "most people may never know AIR is there. Applications [sub in "socializing"] will look and run the same whether the user is at his desk or his portable computer, and soon when using a mobile device or at an Internet kiosk." I'm subbing in "socializing" because that's how mobile everything teens do online will be. They already make nearly no distinction between devices or online and offline. We're all just going the way of the online teen. The mobile Internet has only begun. Now think about filtering or monitoring software in this context. It can be useful, but how much control does it reliably give parents when online socializing is wherever the Internet is, wherever kids are? I'm not trying to discourage, just offer a reality check. Increasingly, the only safeguard as mobile as online teens, is the software between their ears. But loving, engaged parenting can be very flexible and spontaneous too and (most important for teens - though they'd be reluctant to admit it), parenting is there running in the background when it's most needed.

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