I’m telling you for the last time

Stealing a title for a certain comedian's performance, I wish this would be the last time but I know it won't.

If you asked anyone who's ever presented at a conference about web 2.0, Read/Write Web or whatever you want to call it, they will tell that the most common type of question or comment from teachers goes something like this:





"Yah, but what about posting kids pictures online? Aren't you concerned about their safety?"

This question can often bring an important conversation about learning to a grinding halt. As tired as I am of addressing this issue, I realize it will continue to be an issue until we hammer the research and facts at people at a relentless pace. Well that's one way to handle it anyway. I also realize I work in a school district that has a very enlightened view of this thanks to the work of many teachers who have been doing cool and important things with kids for a while now, but I'm still frustrated with the lack of knowledge folks have about this issue and the influence of traditional media that fosters the endless and needless hysteria. This is a ridiculous barrier to great learning and opportunity.

Miguel found another piece of research that debunks the myth of online predators once again.

Read it. Now.

Here are a couple of key selections from this research:

  • 99% of victims of Internet-initiated sex crimes were 13 to 17 years old…none were younger than 12 *why include this point?
  • Posting personal information online does not, by itself, appear to be a particularly risky behavior.
  • Social networking sites such as MySpace do not appear to have increased the risk of victimization by online molesters.
  • Patterns of risky online behavior make youths vulnerable. (risky behaviour defined as making contact with strangers and engaging in sexual talk)
  • There is no empirical evidence that posting personal information, by itself and independent of engagement in a pattern of online risky behavior, puts youths at risk for sexual victimization. Further, millions of youths use social networking sites safely, and we have not found evidence that these sites are more risky than other online venues popular with youths. Rather than focusing on types of online sites or noninteractive pursuits such as posting information, prevention messages should focus on online interactions because Internet-initiated sex crimes come about through direct communications between offenders and victims. This includes educating youths about the specific kinds of Internet interactions that are most associated with victimization, such as talking online about sex to unknown people. At the same time, judicious online contact with unknown people is not harmful or dangerous (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2002; Wolak et al., in press).

I"m still waiting for some evidence to refute this position. So I'm telling you for the last time, until Tuesday when I present again.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42274165@N00/2078377117/http://flickr.com/photos/lworcel/504844880/

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  • Dean thanks for sharing the research. Because this is such an emotionally charged issue, it is necessary to present the data.
    There remain many credible organizations that are presenting the data about the tragedies that happen to some children through online encounters. What is missing is this type of research that speaks to cause.

    Other ways are through other sites that point to safe use strategies, such as Josie Fraser’s.

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  • You’d think then that school divisions would be more likely to allow walled-garden-style social networking sites (if it was simply a matter of protecting students from predators). That’s obviously not borne out in the real world, as more and more districts block sites like Facebook (semi-walled) and do not allow installations of networking applications like Skype and Elgg. I get frustrated attempting to explain the educational value of a site/application I want to use to the IT folks, and all the more so because I don’t think I should have to. Unfortunately, in some instances, I’m out in front of the curve from the IT people, and more so from the rest of the staff (it helps that I teach CPT), so they don’t see the potential/value in some of the things I’m trying to do.

  • Great post, Dean! I am passing the APA article around to all those in my sphere of influence!

  • Ian,

    Some of those issues are not borne out of fear as much as a security concern. We’ve had some struggles with Skype as well. Our IT have installed it for teachers who are using it on a regular basis but are not willing to include in as part of a regular build.

    The Facebook issue is another one and again, the issue is more about teachers seeing it as not only non-educational but a distraction. Blocking is the easy way to deal with this.

    I certainly encourage you to advocate for the use of the tools as essentials for learning. I’m confident you’ve already thought this through and now need to be patient and relentless at the same time in challenging the status quo.

  • I don’t understand how the first bullet point, “99% of victims of Internet-initiated sex crimes were 13 to 17 years old…none were younger than 12,” supports the position that posting kids’ pictures online is safe. I agree with you that posting pictures online is not dangerous and the media has successfully scared the public about this, but let me play devil’s advocate . . .

    Yes, it’s good that none of the victims were under 12 but 99% of Internet sex-crime victims were still underage. So, having teenagers post pictures online isn’t a good idea.

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  • My response to David’s point

  • Thanks. I feel honored to get a video response.

    Again, I agree with you; I just wanted a clarification as want to have a well reasoned response in case I receive a similar question.

  • Thanks. I feel honored to get a video response.

    Again, I agree with you; I just wanted a clarification as I want to have a well reasoned response in case I receive a similar question.

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  • Pingback: Risky Online Behavior More Dangerous than Posting Personal Information | Willis Says()

  • Well, I appreciate you saying it again because I get asked about this all the time. Now I have more resources to back up what I say. Thanks Dean.

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  • Jeff Alexander(205)

    After reading this research, and because I’m an avid facebook user without ever having heard of any instances of sexual predators through any of my friends, I think that there is a lot more hype than there should be. Of course there are going to be a few perverts out there who try to take advantage of some young people, but lets face it… there are going to be bad people in any venue trying to use it to their own ends. Instead of blocking out completely great applications that could really help young students network with each other to work on projects together or ask and discuss questions, we should be trying to moderate these types of websites to help protect students. Lets face it… they’re just going to find a way to go to it anyways. If we worked to help make it safer (for instance, having “groups” in facebook to be used as class forums that a teacher could watch over, to make sure only students of that class were invited) than we could use these sites to their potential and keep students safe, all at the same time.

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  • LonnieED205

    Thanks for a great post! I agree that it seems people are extremely paranoid about web 2.0. Myspace has been a great tool for me, as a musician. I still have friends my age (I am 37) that are afraid to create a page because they think that someone will “steal their identity”. I also know parents that will not allow their child to have a myspace but are fine for him to walk to school alone.

    I do believe that these are only early growing pains we are experiencing. People just fear it because it isn’t fully understood yet. People today have problems sharing anything. Even information. Web 2.0 is everybodies. I think people fear that. If I post it, is it still mine all mine!

    It won’t be long before everyone is plugged in and gaining from this new technology.

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  • This post reminded me of a discussion I had with the sports editor of our local newspaper. I was talking about how we at our school were developing rules to protect the identities of our students. However, newspapers, which now have an Internet presence, post full names, pictures, schedules, and even directions to games. When I made this point and asked him if he thought it posed a danger to children, the editor admitted he had never thought of it that way.

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  • Wow, reading through some of the responses, this appears to be a highly charges issue. I am learning more and more of what a hot topic it is by taking your ECMP 355 class. I want to post picutres of some of my family members online, and my dad and sister don’t like it because they believes it will make some members of my family more prone to attacks of some kind. I tryed telling them it doesn’t have a strong connection between more sexual crime and the use of technology but maybe I will have to pass this on them so they can read some more concrete proof. Thanks for blogging about this, even though you may seem it is a tired question.

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  • tanya

    There is a post that “I felt went over the top in terms of etiquette and manners”, titled; I’m telling you for the last time”. I believe that you were referring to the question that I asked at Showcase (although the quote that you included in your post was not completely accurate). It was not my intent to “bring an important conversation about learning to a grinding halt”. I was actually hoping to get information (from someone that I respect and trust) to use when I am questioned for using photos (of my own children) online. I am on your side. Your post made it seem like I was the enemy, against all things good only after posing what I still believe was a fair question. I was very offended by the title of your post – “I’m telling you for the last time”. It implies that this is information that everyone should know & that it is a complete waste of your time to have to discuss it yet again. I have only been on my Web 2.0 learning journey for the past year. I have completed the “Meet the Stars” online course and I have subscribed to your blog for the past year. I am not an idiot (although I did feel like one after reading your rant). I am far behind you in terms of Web 2.0 learning, however I am leaps & bounds ahead of many other educators. If you are indeed “frustrated with the lack of knowledge that folks have about this issue”, I would hope that you would use the fantastic opportunity that you have (via your presentations & via this blog) to teach not chastise.

  • Tanya,

    I apologize if I offended you because that wasn’t my intent. If there was a single incident that triggered this post, it was from a participant who muttered a comment about predators in a very smug way. I don’t recall our specific discussion but certainly I don’t mean to say it wasn’t valid.

    My frustrations comes in that it continues to be the very first question. It’s not that I feel that everyone should be aware but am frustrated by those that are quick to believe false and hyped media reports instead of asking thoughtful questions.

    My blog does offer the occasional rant and while it’s not my intend to offend, it is my intent to “stir the pot”. That said, I appreciate your pushing me on my approach and I certainly will take into consideration your thoughts. I’m glad you posted as this is the purpose of the blog, not simply to agree with me but to help me learn. Thanks.

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