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Thursday, December 03, 2009

New study on 'digital abuse' & youth

New national sexting numbers that have sparked headlines all over the Web about higher-than-ever sexting rates among US youth actually show that 90% have not sent naked photos to someone. Sammy, a San Francisco 16-year-old cited in the Associated Press's coverage and one of the 10% of youth who have sent "sexts," told the AP that he probably wouldn't do it again knowing that sexting could bring felony charges. I think all the above says a lot about the importance of 1) educating teens about this (see ConnectSafely's tips for starters ) 2) reporting surveys accurately, and 3) applying some critical thinking to breaking news. [In CNET's coverage, co-director Larry Magid points out that the MTV/AP study of 1,247 14-to-24-year-olds "confirms what many Internet safety experts have been saying for the past several months: Young people are far more likely to experience problems online from their peers or from their own indiscretions than from adult predators."]

Here are some highlights from the AP/MTV survey:

  • The 50% figure you may've seen in some headlines refers to the percentage of youth who have experienced "digital abuse from the mild to the extreme," including spreading lies, violation of trust, and digital disrespect.
  • 30% have been involved in some type of naked photo-sharing.
  • 10% have actually sent sexting photos, females more than males (13% vs. 9%, respectively)
  • 45% of sexually active youth report being involved with sexting.
  • Young people have complex views of sexting, calling it everything from "hot" and "trusting" to "uncomfortable" and "slutty," and those who don't engage in it calling it "gross," "uncomfortable," and "stupid."
  • In the "dating abuse" area, 22% say their significant others check up on them too often (see other interesting data in that category).
  • 76% say digital abuse is a serious problem for people their age
  • 51% "say they have thought about the idea that things they post online could come back to hurt them"; and only 25% have given at least some thought to the idea that what they post could get them in trouble with the police and 28% in trouble at school.

    There's lots more interesting data, so please click to the pdf summary at for more.

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  • Not just digital natives & immigrants!

    It makes sense that news media reports about how youth use technology are both produced and consumed through adult lenses. Many news reporters grew up in a very different (mass media) environment, as did a lot of parents, educators, and other news consumers. So we're seeing and participating in a distorted picture of social media and how youth use them if we're viewing young people's use through the traditional news media and our own mass-media lenses. While our children are playing, learning, and socializing with what, to them, is like a new toy or convenience tool, we are slowly grasping the social, economic, policy, educational, etc. implications of a major media shift.

    Still, even though there is a generational divide between those who grew up with mass media and those growing up with networked media (realtime, multidirectional, user-produced, etc.), a new paper in FirstMonday, "The digital melting pot: Bridging the digital native-immigrant divide," suggests that it's best not to take the metaphor too far. I agree. Digital immigrants/natives is a huge generalization: among other things, it fails to acknowledge how very individual media and tech use is for people of all ages. It also, by definition, says "the immigrant can never become a native, which may serve to excuse individuals without tech skills" from even trying to gain them and understand new media from the inside, according to the paper's author, Sharon Stoerger. She prefers the term "digital melting pot" because it "refers to the blending of individuals who speak with different technology tongues.... The focus of the melting pot is on the diverse set of technological capabilities individuals actually have, as well as the digital skills they might gain through experience." Two years ago, Prof. Henry Jenkins (then at MIT, now at USC) used the term "digital multi-culturalism," writing in his blog that "I worry that the [digital natives/immigrant] metaphor may be ... implying that young people are better off without us and thus justifying decisions not to adjust educational practices to create a space where young and old might be able to learn from each other."

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    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    NY predators deleted from Facebook, MySpace

    The state of New York has made it easier for social network sites that work with it to deleted sex offenders registered in that state. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo this week announced that two sites that do use the state's database to check for predators, MySpace and Facebook, have purged the profiles of more than 3,500 sex offenders - "Facebook was able to identify and disable the accounts of 2,782 registered sex offenders" and MySpace 1,796 accounts, co-director Larry Magid reports in CNET. New York has a law that "bans many registered offenders from using social-networking sites while on parole or probation and requires all registered offenders to disclose their email addresses, screen names, and 'other Internet identifiers.' That data is provided to social-networking sites to run against their rolls" (some states just fax over a list, Facebook says, making it difficult to identify the offenders in sites with hundreds of million profiles). MySpace says there has never been a case reported of a registered sex offender deleted from the site being prosecuted for illegal contact on the site. Cuomo praised both sites for their work in this area, adding that many other social network sites are slow to cooperate. "As always, it's important to put this news into perspective," Magid writes. "It only involves registered sex offenders, which of course,is a good start, but it only includes people who have been caught and convicted. And, while the companies do their best to ferret out registered offenders who try to hide their identity, there is no way to know how many people succeed in eluding them. Also, we know of very few children who have been sexually molested by someone they met on social-networking sites or any Internet sites. The vast majority of child sex abuse victims know the offender from the real world.... And, based on conversations with security officials at social-networking companies, I am not aware of any cases where a registered sex offender has been convicted of using the site to aid in harming a child he or she met on that site."

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    'What's print?': Navigating the media shift

    Tech educator Bud Hunt in northern Colorado looks at what "print" means now in the context of requiring students doing research to look a little deeper than the top five-or-so search results in Google. Is a newspaper article a "print source" now that newspapers are on the Web, along with magazines, encyclopedias, and full-blown research studies? He asks them for primary sources now.

    BTW, I point out a lot of stories that illustrate the giant media shift we're experiencing. I think that's important to do because we adults need to understand how our kids' media environment is very different from the one we grew up in. I feel we need to understand that so we can be patient with ourselves, understand why we're so unsettled by digital media tools such as social networking, be open to the emerging positives of social media, and see what hasn't changed. And what hasn't changed? The need for the life literacy that caring adults have always shared with youth. One word for that kind of literacy is "parenting"; some other terms for it are "wisdom" and "street smarts." There's a new inter-dependency that I think is lovely: They need our street smarts, we need their tech smarts. Working from that inter-dependency can teach all parties involved good things like self-respect, mutual respect, and collaboration.

    But back to life literacy (a subset of it is the social literacy needed online as well as offline): I'm seeing others saying similar things about its vital role. At the recent Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg, a representative from Germany's Education Ministry pointed to the need for what I'd call the 3-legged stool of the new online (and offline) safety: "technology skills, media skills, and life skills." I think the reason why Swedish psychologist Pauline Ostner said at the same Forum that "youth are looking for ways to communicate more and better with their parents and teachers about their Internet use" is because they're trying to make sense of it all – what's happening in the social drama of adolescence mirrored or even amplified online. I think if we want to parent and teach kids, we can't afford not to understand this media shift and work with our kids to figure out together what it all means and how to navigate adolescence as well as social media and technologies. But I'd love to get your thoughts on this – pls comment here or email me via anne[at]

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    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    'How to bully-proof yourself on Facebook'

    Here are some great social-networking-specific tips from Facebook's director of public policy, Europe. There's just one key point missing, I think, because of the 2007 finding that "youth who engage in online aggressive behavior by making rude or nasty comments or frequently embarrassing others are more than twice as likely to report online interpersonal victimization" (see "Digital risk, digital citizenship" and Archives of Pediatrics). That essential tip is: "Be nice." Kindness is contagious too (check out the last three anti-cyberbullying tips at [See also "A different sort of back-to-school tip: Kindness."]

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    Peer mentors fight bullying

    From the Good Idea Department: In a program called "CyberMentors," London-based nonprofit Beatbullying is training students 18-25 to mentor younger students online in dealing with bullying, the BBC reports. "Under the scheme, senior cyber-mentors, who all come from colleges or universities, support the work of younger cyber-mentors" right in social network sites. The BBC doesn't say, but presumably there will be a marketing campaign that lets young people know how they can contact mentors through MySpace or Facebook. cites figures from the UK's Anti-Bullying Alliance showing that "around 20% of schoolchildren aged 10-11 have been bullied on the Internet within the last year." Here's a review of the concept from US cyberbullying expert and professor Sameer Hinduja, who also blogged recently about how to help youth suffering from Asperger's Syndrome in cyberbullying situations. [See also Professor Hinduja's amazing collection of resources on cyberbullying; "'Cyberbullying' better defined"; "A new, holistic anti-bullying program for schools"; and, for more on peer mentoring, my "Social norming & digital citizenship."]

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    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Tiny computers, er, phones proliferating

    What does this say about kids 'n' tech? Well, what we've been saying for some time: that their social lives, informal learning, media-sharing, social producing, and creative networking are getting increasingly mobile and 24/7. The media- and tech-enabled part of their lives are in their pockets, wherever they are. [It's one reason why they don't wear wristwatches - have you noticed that?] But here's some evidence: Acer – the world's 2nd-largest computer maker after Hewlett-Packard, according to Forbes – is "joining the stampede into mobile phones," where the grass is very green. "Worldwide sales of mobile phones – an estimated 1.1 billion units this year, including 150 million smart phones – far exceed the expected sales of 280 million personal computers." Forbes adds that smart phones earn "gross profit margins of 30% or more, compared with the 3% or 4% for the low-cost computers that compose much of Acer's business." I think this is a solid sign that Web 3.0 – the mobile Web – is here!

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    A new 'TV Guide' to children's 'television'

    For those of us not using search engines to find TV shows on the Web and wishing for a TV Guide of the Web, as Adam Thierer over at put it, there is now a TV Guide of the Web: What distinguishes it from regular search engines is it's a search engine for full-length shows – not trailers or snippets. You can browse by category too; e.g., you'll find Looney Tunes or "Leave It To Beaver" in the Kids category (and you'll also find "Leave It To Beaver" a great talking point for a family or classroom media or history discussion). This is not commercial-free television, but it is free, anytime, whatever-you-want television unaided by TiVo. It's also the way our kids will be watching TV more and more, unrestricted by the no. of TV sets in the house. [See also "Is There Really Any Shortage of Good Programming Options for Kids?" from Thierer, linking to his paper " “We Are Living in the Golden Age of Children’s Programming" in PDF format.]

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