• by Anne Collier

    • Youth Safety on a Living Internet,” the title of the just-released report of the Online Safety & Technology Working Group (OSTWG), is significant. It says a lot about the state of youth Internet safety because it says a lot about the state of the Internet now. This is not just technology or even “content” we’re talking about, as we all know. It’s behavior, or sociality, every bit as much as content

    • New meaning of “content.” We’re talking about behavioral as well as informational content. It’s basically impossible to block behavior happening in real time the way filtering software blocks content: It’s like trying to isolate a single behavior from ongoing social interaction and/or a single child’s part of a social circle’s activity.

    • Embedded in real life. Young people’s social lives are both online and offline. Here’s what this means for “parental control” tools and Net-safety education: 1) for the former, it means that blocking or deleting something online doesn’t usually solve whatever’s going on between the people involved – in kids’ case, digitally enabled 24/7 school drama; and 2) because online risk isn’t something new and separate from “real life” risk, online-safety education loses relevance to youth if treated as something separate from their offline lives or a special course added to school curricula, as we have handled it to date.

    • Risk spectrum matches real life. Because the Internet mirrors and serves as a platform for virtually all of human life, it mirrors the full spectrum of offline risks, not just the few featured in popular TV shows or covered in news reports focused on the most extreme outcomes.

    • The Net’s everywhere.

    • It may be filtered on computers at school, but much less on the cellphones a rapidly growing number of students take with them to school

    • Constantly changing.

    • These dynamic conditions mean that 1) once-and-for-all, one-size-fits-all solutions don’t exist, 2) it’s tough to regulate or legislate behavior, and 3) we need a very large “toolbox” with a diverse array of “tools” for protecting kids at different developmental stages and in different situations

    • Good citizenship is protective.

    • Because media is now an environment where behavior occurs, just as in our physical environment, we ruin it for ourselves and others with mean, degrading behavior (see a 2007 finding in Archives of Pediatrics that aggressive behavior increases the aggressor’s risk)

    • In a social-media environment, children produce too much too fast to stay safe while avoiding the responsibility of protective behaviors such as civility and critical thinking.

    • New media literacy training too.

    • Media literacy has always developed that filter for information consumed and is needed more than ever. The much needed new part is critical thinking about what’s outgoing, about what we text, post, share, and upload as much as what we consume.

    • More social media in school

    • Henry Jenkins said youth are engaged in four activities “central to the life of young people in participatory culture: circulating media, connecting with each other, creating media, and collaborating with each other.” He told us that it’s crucial for them to be engaging in these activities in school so that all youth have equal opportunity to participate in what is now more participatory culture than merely participatory media, and so that school can play a guiding role in their use of new media as much as that of traditional media. Young people are “looking for guidance often [in their use of new media] but don’t know where to turn,” Jenkins said.

    • “Youth Safety on a Living Internet” – in pdf

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