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Heartbreaking US data on LGB youth risk

LGB youth risk, cyberbullying

Twice as many LGB students have been cyberbullied

Asking U.S. 14-to-17-year-olds about their sexuality for the first time since the first Youth Risk Behavior Study in 1994, the Centers for Disease Control researchers found that youth who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual are far more likely to experience depression, bullying and other forms of violence than their straight peers, reported (the survey didn’t ask students if they identified as transgender or queer).

Earlier studies have shed light on this harsh reality, but what’s different, here, is that the YRBS is “the gold standard of adolescent health data collection,” as the New York Times put it, and a senior CDC official told the Times that he found the data “heartbreaking.”

Here are key findings from the study: Read more

Share Button inclined: App huge with younger users just may’ve replaced Instagram as kids’ starter app. This is an educated guess. I remember a few years ago my friend Trudy Ludwig, the award-winning children’s author, observing that, based on all the elementary schools she visits throughout the U.S., Instagram was huge with 4th and 5th graders. Don’t get us wrong, we know the official minimum age of these apps is 13. The reality, however, is quite different. Younger kids, especially girls, were cutting their social media teeth on Instagram.

musicallyNow, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s, the social app for making 15-sec. DIY music videos (usually lip-syncing selfie videos). A year ago it first hit No. 1 in Apple’s App Store, according to

My friend, author and cyberbullying researcher Sameer Hinduja just tested and wrote up a great primer on – which he writes now has 80 million users, 10 million of them uploading videos a day. Parents, definitely check out Sameer’s thorough review. He’s seeing very young users in it. He was “amazed as to how many ‘Musicals’ [videos] were made by children who looked like they were 8.”

Safety in creativity

The more focus, or purpose, a digital environment has the safer it is, like quests in a game or – in’s case – producing little videos (see my 7 properties of safety in a digital age). In this case, there are 2 elements of purpose: music itself and creating something (social producing, not just social networking). I love what Sameer wrote about this: Read more

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Online harassment 2016: Fresh data

I get a lot of press releases in my email in-box. This one about harassment in social media truly surprised me because it was balanced, cited data responsibly, did not appeal to people’s fears and represented clear understanding of today’s media environment.

The survey of Americans 18+ – a project of Craig Newmark, founder of and, and social impact consultants Rad Campaign – indicates that we, all of us social media users, need to work harder. We’ve made hardly any headway in bringing down online harassment, but we have made a teeny bit. The survey found that 22% of Americans have either been “bullied, harassed or threatened online” themselves or know someone who has been, down 3 percentage points since the partners’ last survey in 2014.

From poll by craigconnects, Rad Campaign & Lincoln Park Strategies

From poll by craigconnects, Rad Campaign & Lincoln Park Strategies

The number is higher for younger adults than older ones – and it hasn’t gone down at all. In both surveys, nearly half (47%) of millennials (ages 18-34) reported experiencing or knowing someone who has experienced bullying, harassment and threats online. Interestingly, the figure is much higher than for teens. Now, this survey’s figure is for those who’ve experienced a wide range of social cruelty or know someone who has, so it could be that it maps well to the latest data from the National Academies for teens, and teens are having similar experiences. The National Academies researchers found that 7-15% of youth have experienced cyberbullying, which is a subset of overall harassment online (for more, see this).

Here are other key findings in this new survey:

  • Sexual harassment down – from 44% in 2014 to 27% this year.
  • Political harassment up: Not surprising in a presidential election year, political harassment “almost doubled from 16% in 2014 to 30% this year.”
  • Mostly not strangers: “72% of millennials are harassed online by someone they know.”
  • Mostly not anonymous – 61% know their harassers.
  • Worse for people of color: Hispanics (34%) and Asians experience (34%) more harassment than black (22%) or white (19%) people.
  • Women more than men – 55% to 45%, respectively (with women more than 4x as likely to experience sexist harassment than men) – but the number of women who’ve been harassed is slightly down from 2014 and slightly up for men.
  • Tinder has the most work to do. “Tinder users report the highest levels of online” at 62% of daily users (three-quarters of whom are millennials. But Tinder is not alone, of course.
  • Harassment via email has increased – up 5% from 2014 to 25%.

It’s going to take all stakeholders – companies, users, interest groups – to turn this around. “Social media networks are not being very successful stopping this problem from the top-down, but they can’t do it alone,” Newmark is quoted in the press release as saying. “It’s up to all of us as users to do our part to report bad actors and to encourage civility.”

And we will, led by young people, the power users, I believe. As we adults change our rhetoric and messaging, see them as stakeholders rather than potential victims, allow them agency and teach them the literacies of the digital age (media and social literacy as well as digital), they will take digital citizenship to the next level – for example, with #icanhelp. As digital leaders, they will “be the change” they want to see online. So many of them already are modeling digital leadership for their peers online. We need to acknowledge and support that.

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When Pokémon GO really gets epic

You may’ve noticed this: More than the usual number of people with phones in their hands have been bumping into things and each other lately. That’s because of Pokémon GO, which market researcher MFour announced the other day had passed Twitter as the U.S.’s No. 1 app. “Fully a third of U.S. Android smartphone users 13 and over have downloaded the augmented reality game that’s become the talk of the nation,” they reported.

It's actually not a zombie takeover (Pokémon GO play in the Netherlands)

It’s actually not a zombie takeover (Pokémon GO play in the Netherlands)

Posted on July 6 when the app was released, the official Pokémon GO video already zoomed past the 4 million view mark this past weekend. reported Saturday that the game’s now available in 26 countries (not yet in Canada or Asian countries), and “Nintendo shares surged another 10% on Friday.”

Weird things are happening. For example, The Verge caught on camera “a literal stampede” in New York City’s Central Park Saturday night. “When a Vaporeon showed up, people ran and jumped from their cars to capture the creature.” [On the same page there are some “advanced tips” on video for Pokémon GO players, such as, “All you care about is the points” and one about the little features like Razz Berries (available at Level 8) that make it easier to catch Pokémon.]

What’s the deal with the stampedes? Read more

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Learning about ‘The Class’: Researchers on their year in middle school

There is no way a book about spending a year in the life of a middle school class – its 28 students’ home, school and digital experiences – could be reduced to a single theme. But one main takeaway from The Class, by UK researchers Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green, may surprise and sound familiar at the same time: the old saying that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Book cover of The ClassAnd “things” in this ethnically and economically diverse school community in north London both change and stay the same in so many different ways. Kids change, technology changes, but school changes little; families are all different and change along with their members, but family roles and traditions not so much, and these students’ families come, many very recently, from cultures in Africa, South Asia, eastern Europe and the Middle East where tradition is strong.

Of course we know, and this book bears out, that home, school and digital are completely intertwined for people growing up these days. But except in quiet, personal ways for some of the young people themselves, the digital part doesn’t change things much at all. It’s embedded but it certainly doesn’t connect home and school. For a few of the students, services like Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook were tools for growing their self-knowledge by expressing themselves and connecting to communities of shared interests. But for the most part, social media was just another way to connect – evenings, weekends and other times between the face-to-face interaction that means the most to them – and really just with close friends and family.

Decidedly not obsessed with social media

Interesting, in light of all the angst and hyperbole around keeping up with rapidly changing technology that we (or at least the news media) assume has so much influence on our kids, right? Actually, The Class shows, the influences on these kids haven’t changed much at all, and they’re virtually all non-digital. Family, ethnic and school cultures topped the list. Digital was “neither all-determining nor irrelevant,” the authors write.

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Transformational – not just transactional – Net safety & citizenship needed

Little football player (via CC Search)

Little football player (via CC Search)

A couple of years ago I listened to a heart-rending interview on NPR with Joe Ehrmann, former NFL football player and founder of Coach for America. I’d been the mother of a hockey player for more than a decade and was moved by Ehrmann’s call for transformational rather than transactional coaching. Like many parents, I found myself wishing there’d been more of that in our family’s experience. But my interest was more than personal. I’d been following developments in Internet safety even longer than I’d been a hockey parent, and the coach’s message showed me what had been missing in online safety education too.

Since the beginning of the field, about two decades ago in the U.S., the messages have been transactional: Do this (think, post, pause, block, monitor, etc.) and you or your kid will be able to stay safe, avoid danger, know what’s being posted, protect a reputation, get into college, keep your job, etc., etc.), right?

Transformational goes better with social Read more

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Handling toxicity: Insights for parents & teachers from Riot Games

There’s real wisdom for parents, coaches and educators – not to mention gamers, athletes and social media users – in this business story about what toxic behavior does to a team. The game in question? League of Legends, a 30 million-player “team-based game” along the lines of Capture the Flag “or, more aptly, ‘destroy the enemy base’,” according to Google’s re:Work’s description. The game company itself, Riot Games, ranks high on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work For list, re:Work says.

riotgamesWhen you read this, think game play if you’re a gamer (or coach) or school climate if you’re an educator: Riot figured out that, “if a new player encounters toxic behavior in their very first game, they are 320% less likely to come back again.” That’s not a typo, but even if it were 32%, that’s a lot of people who don’t want to go back to the game, as it would be of students not wanting to go back to school. [Important: This is toxic behavior as defined by the community, not its creators or managers.] “Research has shown that having a toxic teammate in the workplace can bring down the performance and morale of an entire team,” re:Work cited Harvard Business School research as finding. All of Riot’s employees play League of Legends and have an in-game profile, which is a little Big Brother-ish sounding, right? But keep reading.

Here’s the part that I think parents and educators will find useful: what the company found out about the toxic in-game behavior and how it handled the people who engaged in it. Four things: Read more

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Major update on bullying, cyberbullying in the U.S.: Study

Depending on the survey, bullying's decreasing or flattening out. Orange: School Crime Supplement of Nat'l Crime Victimization Survey; Blue: School-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey; Red: The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey; Green: Nat'l Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence [Source: Nat'l Academies]

Depending on the survey, bullying’s decreasing or flattening out. Orange: School Crime Supplement of Nat’l Crime Victimization Survey; Blue: School-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey; Red: The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey; Green: Nat’l Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence [Source: Nat’l Academies]

Bullying. Why haven’t we solved this social problem yet? Because, according to an important update from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine, bullying is one very complex problem.

“Composition of peer groups, shifting demographics, changing societal norms, and modern technology are factors that must be considered to understand and effectively react to bullying in the US,” wrote the authors of “Preventing Bullying through Science, Policy & Practice” released this month. Not much is left out of that equation, and possibly the most complex part is that it’s a “group phenomenon, with multiple peers taking on roles other than perpetrator and target. Peers are a critical factor because they influence group norms, attitudes, and behavior,” according to the report. Each of those peers has his or her own personality, gender identity, psychosocial makeup, abilities and/or disabilities, family environment and other factors, right?

Cyberbullying seems to have peaked in 2011: Gold: School Crime Supplement of Nat'l Crime Victimization Survey; Blue: School-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey; Red: The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey; Green: Nat'l Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence [Source: Nat'l Academies]

Cyberbullying seems to have peaked in 2011: Gold: School Crime Supplement of Nat’l Crime Victimization Survey; Blue: School-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey; Red: The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey; Green: Nat’l Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence [Source: Nat’l Academies]

But we’re learning a lot – and, since the arrival of cyberbullying, likely faster than ever before in the history of social aggression. We have better definitions, a better handle on the scope of the problem and better knowledge of what we still don’t know and need to study.

So new clarity comes with this report. It also reflects greater than ever consensus across many fields working with youth – education, law and policy, pediatrics, neurobiological development, criminology, technology and clinical and developmental psychology.

Here’s just a sampler, just a dozen insights from this major update on bullying and cyberbullying: Read more

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Everyday superheroes: Parents & caregivers

It probably wouldn’t occur to most moms, dads, foster parents, aunts, uncles and other caregivers that #WhatMakesASuperhero is just the right hashtag to mark Mother’s Day (and next month, Father’s Day). But a beautiful little video about five-year-old Cammie and her aunt-turned-foster mother Camellia shows how small things are superpowers to a little child.

From Vroom's vid about Cammie & her mom

From Vroom’s vid about Cammie & her mom

The video is part of the Vroom project and app for early child development. The app, developed “on the premise that every child is born with enormous potential, and every parent can help them realize that potential,” gives parents and caregivers little activities that “turn everyday moments into brain building moments.” For example, when you’re out running errands with your child, have him or her be the keeper of the list and check off errands as they’re accomplished; or when you leave the house or apartment, put your child in charge of turning off all the lights; or when waiting for a bus or a light to turn green, make up a story together about someone you see nearby.

So if you have a little child at your house, know that simple, conscious connecting is powerful: eye contact and curious, open-hearted questions about what a child’s seeing and doing during play in digital and physical spaces (see this page for more “Brain Building Basics”). An example I love came from media professor and grandfather Stephen Heppell in the UK (I wrote about that here). Listening to him taught me how to turn videogame play into experiential learning for both parent and child.

So happy Mother’s Day to all parents and caregivers, all superheroes to the world’s children! My hat’s off to you.

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Behind the scenes of safety & free speech in social media

For a must-read article for anyone interested in safety and free speech online, some of the social media industry’s most seasoned content moderators – the apps’ and sites’ safety managers and free speech decisionmakers – went public for the first time.

“Their stories reveal how the boundaries of free speech were drawn during a period of explosive growth for a high-stakes public domain, one that did not exist for most of human history,” write Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly, the authors of the piece in

Content moderators’ stories – and this article – reveal a lot more, including how hard it is for human beings, much less the software that supports their work, to decide for users representing all ages, languages, cultures and countries…

  • What “safe” means for a community that includes children and many other protected classes
  • What “free speech” means online and whether it’s different there
  • What’s “newsworthy” – what violent or graphic content should be allowed to stay visible because its viewing could change the course of history
  • When content has crossed the line from artistic to harmful.

You’ll see how all this works behind the apps and services billions of us use – the sheer scale of the work and the toll it can take on the mental health of the people doing it. And that last point is so important.
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Not defaulting to default thinking about social media

Ok, full disclosure: I know my antennae are up when I read the news. I’ve been questioning reflexively negative pronouncements about social media for years. But the reason is all the fear about the impact of social media on our children, not to mention the human race, that has been swirling in the air for a decade now. Negativity has become our default, and I don’t think that’s good for us, our parenting or our children.

twitterlogoTake for example two articles I happened to pick up and read one after the other in yesterday’s New York Times. In the first article, Bob Mould, a guy whose whole career is about being creative, in one breath says the Internet has “given everybody a way to express themselves,” then defaults to: “But sometimes I fear that people don’t actually get together physically.” That’s a default thought from the 1990s, when “everybody” was “surfing the Web” anonymously and isolating themselves in dark rooms lit by a single screen.

tinderThe next article was actually about social media, specifically Tinder, the dating app. It was refreshingly neutral overall, pointing out the non-default observation that, “while some use [it] to find one-night stands, others have found spouses.” Yay! We find a journalist reporting that social media use is actually very individual – a reflection of the user and his/her life right then. Reporter Brooke Lea Foster led with a married couple who met on Tinder: Read more

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Messaging apps rule: What’s interesting about that for parents

This statement stopped me in my tracks when I was reading about how messaging apps now reign supreme in social media: “‘Ask and you shall receive’ has become the new customer experience.” I’ll tell you why that gave me pause in a moment. First a look at what’s being reported about mobile messaging.

whatsapp“The top four messaging apps—WhatsApp and Messenger (both owned by Facebook), WeChat and Viber—have nearly 3 billion users alone,” reports Ad Week, with Facebook’s two representing more than half of that. So, at 3 billion users worldwide, just the top 4 mobile messaging apps have surpassed all “social networking apps” by half a billion users.

The one-stop-shopping trend

messengerParents already may have noticed how much they’re in use! Kik and Snapchat may not be in the Top 4, but certainly in teens’ Top 10, along with FB Messenger or Whatsapp (people, much less younger ones, hardly limit themselves to just one!). And where all this is going is not only texting and not even only audio and video chat as well. All this is going to one-stop shopping, figuratively and literally – from one place for all kinds of communication to one place for a whole lot of other stuff, of course including shopping (it already is in Asia – see this).

viberSo back to that statement, “‘Ask and you shall receive’ has become the new customer experience.” As an interest group in many countries and with the help of researchers, parents are just beginning to get past reflexive fear of social media to more nuanced, less lizard-brain/fight-or-flight thinking about this global new-media environment in which our children are growing up. Read more

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Our humanity, not our tech, is the key to fixing online hate

To mark Safer Internet Day 2016, let’s take stock of what we’ve learned so far and what we can do with the knowledge we’ve gained so far about online hate….

SID2016It has taken a couple of decades but, collectively, we’re definitely getting smarter about online risk and how to avoid and address it. We’re also getting smarter about how people of various ages, cultures and interests experience and create digital spaces, and four important realizations spreading across the world are that…

  • The online risk that affects the most people, regardless of age, is usually boiled down into two words, “online hate” (a just-released survey by the UK’s Safer Internet Centre found that 82% of British 13-to-18-year-olds say they’ve witnessed online hate of some kind and 24% have themselves been targeted, pspychologist and international youth online risk researcher Sonia Livingstone reported in her blog post for Safer Internet Day today).
  • It’s a spectrum of hateful online behavior, or “hate speech,” from what parenting educator Annie Fox calls “social garbage” to online character assassination to relentless, targeted multi-pronged attacks that include doxxing (making private information public) and other speech that threatens physical harm.
  • This hate speech does not only affect youth. It affects all of us – people of all ages – including its witnesses, sometimes called bystanders (“Bystanders are significantly affected by the bullying they witness or hear about, so much so that they may be at an increased risk of self-harming behavior,” wrote Prof. Ian Rivers at Brunel University.
  • Broader wisdom: There is much that all of us, including parents, can learn from what targets of online hate have learned, regardless of their age, and two standout lessons are one gleaned from research in many countries – the vital importance of resilience to everybody’s well-being in this increasingly transparent networked world – and the fact that what we’re learning about online hate is teaching us things about the offline version.

Read more

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Europe’s big step backward for youth rights online, offline

Young people and parents everywhere should know that, where youth rights are concerned, Europe just took a big step backward. Even though every single one of the European Union’s 28 countries has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose Article 12 states that “children” (people under 18) have the right to express their views in all matters affecting them, a European agreement that greatly affects teens has been made entirely without their views or participation. It was reached even without the views of adult experts on child online rights or protection. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is expected to be ratified this month and become law in 2018, was unexpectedly, inexplicably modified in a closed-door meeting called a Trialogue to require anyone under 16 to get parental consent to use online services, SC Magazine reported, in effect moving the so-called social media minimum age up from 13 to 16 for European youth. [Sometimes referred to as “secret EU lawmaking,” Trialogues are private meetings of representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council.]

What a trialogue looks like: Economic Governance trialogue meeting at the Eureopean Parliament, Sept. 2011 (photo by Pietro Naj-Oleari; CC licensed)

What a trialogue looks like: Economic Governance trialogue meeting at the Eureopean Parliament, Sept. 2011 (photo by Pietro Naj-Oleari; CC licensed)

Demeaning treatment

“Children are consistently overlooked by internet governance decisions,” wrote EU Kids Online’s founding researcher and psychology professor Sonia Livingstone. Their intelligence, agency and capacity for leadership online as well as offline are too consistently overlooked too. “At best, they are treated as vulnerable individuals – not the independent rights-bearers of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC].” She cited the international Internet governance body Netmundial as stating that the “rights that people have offline must also be protected online.”

Right before the Trialogue’s decision, Dr. Livingstone had co-authored a paper on the subject. Its title, “One in Three: Internet Governance and Children’s Rights,” had spotlighted the fact that a third of the planet’s Internet users are under 18. The European Union has failed to seek the input of a significant portion of Internet users on one of Europe’s most important Net-related regulatory directives in decades.

Zero transparency

“Children and young people have been ill-served … and I am afraid the [European] Commission must shoulder most of the blame,” wrote another of the paper’s co-authors, UK online child protection expert John Carr in a blog post about his investigation into how the GDPR’s surprise modification about teens came about. “More than anything, [Trialogues in general and the GDPR one last month in particular] show the world that children’s rights as internet users are not being treated with the respect or seriousness they deserve within or by the Commission as well as other key EU institutions.”

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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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