Just the Facts

The hype around safety and privacy on the internet is certainly a battle I, along with many others have been fighting for long while.  Shows like Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” seem to give lead folks to the conclusion that:

Internet/Social Networking = BAD

No one, and I mean no one has been able to link the posting of an image on the internet leading to the type of danger associated with these predators. This discussion that took place for the Congressional Internet Caucus in Washington last month helps shed some light on the real dangers of online activity:

Our research, actually looking at what puts kids at risk for receiving the most serious kinds of sexual solicitation online, suggests that it’s not giving out personal information that puts kid at risk. It’s not having a blog or a personal website that does that either. What puts kids in danger is being willing to talk about sex online with strangers or having a pattern of multiple risky activities on the web like going to sex sites and chat rooms, meeting lots of people there, kind of behaving in what we call like an internet daredevil.

Those are the facts.  Let me repeat, IT IS NOT GIVING OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION  OR BLOGGING THAT PUTS KIDS AT RISK. How about a sign like that in your schools?  No, I’m not advocating being careless or divulging private information unnecessarily or carelessly but want to be clear that the research bears this out. If you’ve got research to diffuse this, let me know.

[tags]internetsafety, privacy[/tags]

4 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • sophie

    Dean I agree completely. We are losing out on valuable teaching tools because many fear the unknown. I know this firsthand as I was one of the fearful. The students sum it up best “We wouldn’t tell a stranger our address in front of 7-11…as if we’d put that info out there for anyone.” We need to give them more credit and simply monitor them like we would in any other situation.
    Technology is their world now and one of the keys to engaging them in learning. We have to STOP the fearmongering and embrace the new learning tools. Sadly, we are missing opportunities.

  • THANK YOU for this eminently sensible post! Even at the university level, the paranoia about students publishing online is at a fever pitch, making students anxious about publishing websites or blogs to promote their educational activities and achievements. I’ve actually been told by colleagues (colleagues from the Library and Information Studies program, who should know better!) that the Patriot Act (!) makes it ILLEGAL for me to have students publish websites and blogs as part of their school work. Incredible. The course management system we use (Desire2Learn) has just introduced a blog tool, but it is useless as a blog tool because it is not on the open Internet and is instead locked down behind an impassable password wall. The Desire2Learn blog documentation explains that it keeps students “safe” from the Internet. We might as well just say it keeps them safe from learning anything about the world and how to participate in the educational world online. It’s like communism during the Cold War – the Internet has now become a kind of catch-all bugaboo to scare people with, to their own detriment. Instead of teaching students how to use the Internet creatively and responsibly in order to promote their own interests and advance their own causes, we are just instilling ignorance and anxiety about it, alas.

  • Laura,
    I’m also less than enthusiastic about “walled gardens” which seem to promote transaparency and networking but in reality simply digitize classrooms but do nothing to connect and extend ideas beyond the local group.

    For those who have experienced the power of networking via blogging or other social networking tools, they would never turn back.

    Those who fear, see the most valuable aspect of the internet as the ability to “look up stuff”. What a waste of an incredibly empowering tool. It’s like viewing an oven only as a tool to warm up food not actually cook or bake.

  • Dean,
    I agree with you 110%! We live in such a fear driven society today and it is such a shame that there are individuals who let their fear of the web hold them back. For myself, as a young educator, I have grown up in a connected/digital society (late 80’s and 90’s). My undergraduate college career (’01-’05) consisted of utilizing online databases (Lexis Nexis, ProQuest, EBSCO), social networking sites (facebook, when it was still accessible only with a .edu email address), digital blackboards, message boards/forums, and web based drop boxes for handing in papers. When it was meal time all that was necessary was to “IM” my peers with a time and meet up at the desired location. This formal/informal networking and communication took place within a form that many of my fellow professional colleagues have limited experience with. I respect their mixed emotions towards the “new” web, but I am not pleased with those who are too stubborn to at least investigate the opportunities for personal enrichment and professional development that awaits them on the internet. The tools for instant collaboration, publication, and exploration are only a click away. I thank you for the great work you do in promoting the positive aspects of the read/write web.

    -M.C.— El.Ed.Tech.Exlpr.

  • Mark me down as another “me too”. I like to talk to students about what they do online. I know that some will view my talking to the students about what they are doing as being a radical idea. ;^)

    Students I have talked to will only add people they know in real life to their friends list, and they will definitely avoid any kind of contact with anyone who seems “icky” (their word, not mine). I think that they understand that all the things we tell them about safe behaviour in the real world also applies online. Adults might fear that ninja pedophiles will jump out of the ceiling the instant a child touches a keyboard, but the kids know better. I suppose that most adults are unfamiliar with the internet, and we often fear what we don’t know or understand.

    I remember reading a study online some time ago (sorry – don’t have the address, title or author. But I did read it … really). The author pointed out that the data about child sexual and physical abuse shows overwhelmingly that children are abused by adults who are in a position of power or authority over them. Parents, step-parents, boy/girlfriends of parents, guardians and coaches were some of most frequent abusers. Hardly any teachers were abusers – an interesting statistic considering the frequency of child-teacher contact and the degree of authority that teachers have over students. I don’t think online sexual predators even made the list. Perhaps one of the sources of the “internet predator” scare is that the media will spend a great deal of time when there is one case of an internet predator actually harming a child. Sadly, abuse by parents or similar authority figures doesn’t even make the news.

    Teachers, parents and other adults of the world – just relax! The kids, as The Who informed us so long ago, are alright. It’s the adults that make me worry!!

  • I am beginning to think that to change attitudes we really need to invite parents into the blogging world. When a parent can look at their own child’s blog profile page, they can assess how safe ‘their’ kid is being online.
    The transparency of the internet can help us rather than hinder us if a collective “WE” make the effort to share our successes – even if the media chooses to highlight the horrors.
    For district that have issues with publishing student work… don’t let being in a ‘walled garden’ stop you! Having students engage (appropriately) with each other online is still far better than just using the internet as tool to ‘look things up’. For two years now I have run a private blogging component as part of an 12 day school project. In this short window of time, I don’t open the blogs to anyone beyond the class, but I see students engaging in online learning conversations, with each other, into the wee hours of the night. They are learning more than I could ever give them in class alone, without the blogging component of the project.
    I love this metaphor Dean, “It’s like viewing an oven only as a tool to warm up food not actually cook or bake.” I think that as we begin to build a delicious cookbook, we will provide others with recipes they are willing to try… despite the fear mongering that seems to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths these days.

  • I’ll add my voice to the chorus, as well. Let me also add a couple of additional resources that folks may be interested in. The first is the most recent edition of Cable in the Classroom’s Threshold (produced in partnership with the George Lucas Educational Foundation), which focuses exclusively on digital ethics issues as they relate to K-12 schooling. In particular, be sure to check out the “Weaving a Web of Responsibilities” graphic – all online at: http://www.ciconline.org/thresholdsummer07. One other resource that may be helpful, especially in talking to parents, is this new website: http://www.pointsmartclicksafe.org/

  • This is a great conversation and I appreciate both the thoughts shared here as well as the additional resources. Dean, I really appreciate this distinction, because many of my recent talks about “internet safety” have focused on disclosing personal information. In many if not all of those discussions, I don’t know if we even talked about the “s” word (sex.) Yet if discussions about sex are what put kids at risk, we absolutely should know this and share this.

  • Wes,

    It seems to me that most conversations about internet safety lead most to consider the worst case scenario of sexual harm. Perhaps we need to make clearer distinctions on the impact of revealing personal information. I’m not advocating a total release of personal information but we ought to be more specific in exactly how we handle this.

    The more one blogs and participates in the digital world and its many communities, the more of ourselves we reveal, that’s natural, as natural as it is in our offline lives. The difference is that conversations that take place in digital “staff rooms” are now open to the public. I recognize this and try to conduct myself accordingly. I’d show anyone photos of my family, I”m not worried about that in the same way I wouldn’t be worried if our family was featured in a national publication like a newspaper or magazine. I realize now that I live a public life under the same scrutiny, but to a much lesser degree than other public figures.

    Everyone must decide their own comfort level, but we need to dispel myths about the exploitation of information shared freely in a digital world.

  • Thanks for this post, Dean. I am participating in a technology conference for the National Writing Project called Tech Matters in Chico, CA. I copied and pasted it in its entirety (with credits and links) into our conference blog (kept behind closed doors, sorry). There was a continued discussion about safety and the fear of using Web 2.0 tools because of this. I challenged them to read your post, visit it on your site, and comment amongst the others. Hopefully they will take me up on the offer, but who knows.

    Again, Thanks so much for the links and information.

  • Here’s a very interesting article about Dateline NBC: http://tinyurl.com/2xkjtw I always regretted by sensationalization and never watched it, but I figured if the program was really catching sexual predators preying on children, it was doing some good. Well, if this article is true – and to me it has the ring of truth – what they were really doing was entrapping men by putting up decoys that were acting in ways that no “child” ever would.

  • Pingback: uberVU - social comments()

  • Pingback: Langwitches Blog » links for 2009-10-31()

  • Pingback: Podcast 35….Conferences Aren’t Working | Ideas and Thoughts()

  • Pingback: Moving at the Speed of Creativity | Podcast180: Conversations about Digital Social Networking and Internet Safety()