As part of Safer Internet Day’s One Good Thing campaign, I interviewed Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz about Jerry the Bear, a plush talking toy designed to help children with type 1 diabetes manage their condition.
As part of Safer Internet Day’s One Good Thing campaign, I interviewed Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz about Jerry the Bear, a plush talking toy designed to help children with type 1 diabetes manage their condition.
This article first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
About 11 years ago, the European Commission established Safer Internet Day, an annual event that focuses on making the Internet a better and safer place. It takes place on the second day of the second week of February, which means it falls on Feb. 11 in 2014. Over the years there have been sporadic events in the United States supporting the same goal, but there hasn’t been a lot of coordination in this country.
That’s about to change.
ConnectSafely.org, the nonprofit Internet safety organization that I co-direct, was asked by the European Commission to coordinate Safer Internet Day activities in the United States. With support from Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and a variety of government agencies, nonprofit groups and companies, we’re planning an event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11, along with local events throughout the country.
This year’s theme is “Let’s create a better Internet together” because the folks in Europe who coordinate events globally realize that improving the online experience for both kids and adults isn’t just about dealing with dangers. It’s also about recognizing and encouraging all of the great ways people use the Internet and mobile technology to make the world a better place.
Here in the United States, we’re doing this by creating a “one good thing” campaign and asking people to go to SaferInternetDay.us to let us know what they are doing or have done. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be as simple as letting us know that you had a conversation about safety at home or school or that you used the Internet to help mobilize people to clean up a local park. It could be a report about something kind you tweeted or how you used your mobile phone’s camera to document a problem that needed to be addressed.
And it doesn’t have to be your good thing — you can tell us about someone else if you want. You can write us a post, send a video or upload a file. If it’s positive, we want to hear about it and share it.
All of the good things will be reported on the site and many will be tweeted or posted to our Facebook page. Selected ones will be featured in a video to be shown at our Capitol Hill event and our YouTube channel.
The reason we’re doing this is because “goodness” can be infectious. We keep hearing about an epidemic of cyberbullying (actually there isn’t one), but we’d much rather be talking about an epidemic of kindness because that’s exactly what is happening right now. Sure, there are some people using the Internet to do mean things, but there are millions of people in the United States and around the world using the Internet and mobile technology to do amazing things to help their communities, schools, nation and the world.
There are plenty of examples of “good things” people are doing. Kevin Curwick, a high school football player from Osseo, Minn., for example, has started a “nice it forward” campaign on Twitter (@OsseoNiceThings), where students just say positive things about other students. The idea, according to Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center, is spreading to other cities. “Showing compassion in a public forum sends a message to those who are being targeted that they are not alone and that at least some students at the school are on their side and appreciate who they are and what they do,” Patchin wrote in his blog.
And then there’s Pink Shirt Day in Canada. A ninth-grade boy in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. When two seniors heard the news, they went to a discount store and bought 50 inexpensive pink T-shirts that dozens of students wore to school. What started out as a kind gesture turned into a movement and “Pink Shirt Day” is now celebrated throughout Canada and beyond.
The project doesn’t have to solve a big problem. It could be as nice as just bringing a smile to people’s faces like CaliforniaChristmasLights.com, which helps bring holiday cheer to people in Silicon Valley.
It can even be a commercial enterprise. Christopher Gandin Le used to work for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and now heads up Emotion Technology — a company that focuses on public health and suicide prevention. AbleRoad is a company that connects people with disabilities with accessible places to live. StartSomeGood.com helps social entrepreneurs, change-makers and nonprofits rally their community and raise funds.
I could fill pages with great examples, but I would love to hear more. If you or someone you know is using tech to make the world a better place, send me an email or tell us about it at OneGoodThing.us. We’re especially interested in what young people are doing, but also want to hear about adults who are using their skills and technology to benefit the world.
By Justin W. Patchin
Justin is co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.
There’s no shortage of daily headlines that point to the conclusion that many teens are using technology carelessly and maliciously. Cyberbullying, especially, has been thrust to the forefront of parental concern, often being characterized as occurring at “epidemic” levels. But the reality is that those stories represent only a small part of what most teens are doing in cyberspace.
The truth is that most teens do not mistreat others online. We’ve surveyed nearly 15,000 middle and high school students from throughout the United States over the last decade and, on average, about 13% of those told us that they had cyberbullied others at some point in their lifetime. Our results mirror the consensus of other research as well. We recently reviewed forty-two academic articles that were published in peer-reviewed journals and on average about 15% of teens had cyberbullied others. Taken together, that means that 85% have not! This is good news!
Read the full post at A Platform for Good
SafeKids.com’s Larry Magid is moderating a session on Capitol Hill today (the Rayburn Building) called “Are the Kids Alright? Assessing the Impact of 20 Years of the Internet on America’s Youth” The even is sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus and the Internet Education Foundation.
Since the dawn of the Internet constituents have asked their representatives about the effect technology is having on their children and whether there ought to be something done about it. Yet over the last fifteen years a great deal solid empirical research has been devoted to what effect, if any, the Internet has on young constituents. We’ve asked three of America’s leading experts to explore this question for your office. Please RSVP below.
Date: Friday, November 8, 2013
Time: 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm. Program begins promptly at 12:00 pm, check-in starts at 11:40 am. (Box lunch will be served)
Location: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2237
RSVP: RSVPs are appreciated. RSVP@netcaucus.org
Twitter: @NetCaucusAC #NetYouth
Twenty years ago, in response to parental concerns about their kids using the emerging Internet, technology journalist Larry Magid wrote a parental education pamphlet called Child Safety on the Information Highway. The first of its kindChild Safety has since been updated many times over to address the wave after wave of concerns about the impact of the Internet and digital technology on a generation of America’s children.
On Friday join Larry Magid for a luncheon discussion with some of the nation’s leading youth and technology researchers as they present “Are the Kids Alright? Assessing the Impact of 20 Years of the Internet on America’s Youth“. Magid, co-director of ConnectSafely.org, will discuss what he has learned over the past 20 years about whether parental and Congressional concerns about youth Internet usage are founded. Researcher Amanda Lehnart (Pew) and Lisa Jones (UNH) will discuss their research into teens and child use the Internet and its net impact. If your constituents have ever questioned the impact of new Internet technology on their children you should attend this luncheon for answers.
This widely attended educational briefing is hosted by theCongressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (ICAC), part of a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization. Congressional staff and members of the press welcome. The ICAC is a private sector organization comprised of public interest groups, trade associations, non-profits, and corporations. The ICAC takes no positions on legislation or regulation. Rather, it’s a neutral platform where thought leaders debate important technology issues that shape legislative and administration policy in an open forum. We vigilantly adhere to our mission to curate balanced and dynamic debates among Internet stakeholders. Our volunteer board members ensure that we dutifully execute that mission. More information on the ICAC is available at www.netcaucus.org.
Washington, D.C., November 6, 2013–Safer Internet Day, which has been celebrated throughout the world for the last 10 years, is about to get a big boost in the United States.
ConnectSafely.org has been appointed by INSAFE and the European Commission as the US host for the annual celebration, which happens on the second Tuesday of each February (this coming one: Feb. 11, 2014).
A well-established campaign that’s now marked in more than 100 countries, Safer Internet Day gained official recognition in the US in late 2012, when the Department of Homeland Security signed a joint agreement with the European Commission to work together to make the Internet better for youth.
The theme of this coming year’s event is “Let’s create a better Internet together.”
ConnectSafely’s plan is to make the US celebration of Safer Internet Day a highly collaborative project, with supporters from the Internet industry and partners representing a broad array of youth-serving organizations. We are launching a website (www.SaferInternetDay.us), organizing an awareness-raising campaign and planning an event in Washington DC on February 11.
“Our goal is not just to provide safety advice but to recognize all the great things that people of all ages are doing online,” said ConnectSafely.org co-director Larry Magid. “It’s time for policy makers and the media to realize that the vast majority of young people are using social media and mobile technology safely and responsibly.”
“We plan to celebrate all the great things young people are doing to make the Internet a better place – or the world a better place with the help of the Internet,” said co-director Anne Collier, “so we’re asking them to tweet about, talk about it in a short video or podcast, post about it on Facebook or send us an email via SID@ConnectSafely.org. “On February 11, we hope families will talk over dinner about how they’re making the Internet better,” added Collier. “And we’re encouraging parents to listen to and learn from their kids.”
“We are delighted that ConnectSafely will lead the US celebration of Safer Internet Day in February,” said Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOS). “The Day is well established in Europe and elsewhere and it’s time we get behind this effort here in the States.”
Microsoft is the “anchor” supporter with additional support from Google, Facebook, Sprint, Trend Micro and Twitter. The steering committee is made up of the leading non-profits in the Internet safety space, including Committee for Children, Common Sense Media, Family Online Safety Institute, iKeepSafe, Internet Education Foundation, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Cyber Security Alliance.
The announcement is being made today at the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference in Washington DC.
ConnectSafely is a non-profit organization offering research-based resources about online well-being and digital literacy for parents, teens, educators, advocates and policymakers. Find us at ConnectSafely.org, Twitter.com/ConnectSafely and Facebook.com/ConnectSafely.
By Larry Magid
Washington, DC: Every fall around this time, people from the tech industry, government, non-profit groups and academia gather in Washington for the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) annual conference. Over the last few years, the conference has dealt with a wide variety of issues including cyberbullying, reputation management, security and keeping kids away from inappropriate content. Although “family online safety” can apply to just about anyone, many of the sessions focus on young people’s use of connected technology.
This year’s theme is Connect, Share, Empower. And, as the theme implies, the conference organizers are bullish on the positive aspects of the Internet and mobile technology. FOSI is a membership organization made up and funded by tech companies including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and others. As co-director of ConnectSafely.org, I am on FOSI’s advisory board and will be moderating a panel on creating trust in social networks and virtual worlds at this year’s conference. ConnectSafely also receives support from some of these companies.
ID theft, fraud and how kids are protecting themselves
One of the first sessions at this year’s conference will be a research report on teen identity theft, fraud, security and steps teens are taking to protect themselves. One thing many people may not realize is that young people – including preteens – are subject to identity theft because most have perfect credit records. Some teens only find out their ID was stolen when they apply for their first student loans or credit cards. Teens are subject to the same security issues as adults but there are some special situations that affect teens and kids like bogus fan sites that plant malware on their device. I recently co-authored a free booklet on this issue called A Parents’ Guide to Cybersecurity, that you can download at ConnectSafely.org/security.
Likely good news about teens
And – though I’m writing this ahead of the conference – I’m pretty sure that the researchers will have some positive things to say about what teens are doing to protect themselves. A study conducted earlier this year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society found that “few teens embrace a fully public approach to social media,” and many teens “take an array of steps to restrict and prune their profiles.” Sixty percent of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings. The study also found that teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know; 74 percent of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list.
Internet of things
One session will focus on “the Internet of things.” That refers to the fact that there are now millions of devices online that are exchanging information between themselves. It could be a soda machine phoning home to report that it needs to be refilled or a connected car interacting with the dealer’s computer over a possible malfunction. Eventually we will have devices implanted in our bodies that send diagnostic data to medical facilities and receive remote commands.
Even though humans may not be in the loop when it comes to thing-to-thing communications, we are often affected by them so there are plenty of privacy, security and safety implications. Former Vice President Dick Chaney was reportedly concerned about terrorist hacking his pacemaker – as occurred to a fictional VP in an episode of the TV show Homeland. It’s not such a preposterous idea. In June, the Federal Drug Administration put out a warning that “there is an increased risk of cybersecurity breaches, which could affect how a medical device operates.”
The conference runs Wednesday and Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC.
This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
BALI, Indonesia — For the past eight years, Internet “stakeholders” from governments, nonprofit and activist organizations and the technology industry have gathered at the United Nations-sponsored Internet Governance Forum to talk about Internet policy issues such as child protection, free speech, privacy and freedom of online speech. And last week, about 2,000 people gathered in Bali to continue the conversation.
This is the fourth IGF I’ve attended. In previous years, the United States had the moral high ground when it came to issues of openness, freedom of expression and protection against unwarranted privacy intrusions, especially from governments. But Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics has become a major subtext at this year’s conference.
In her remarks at the opening session, Lynn St. Amour, the CEO of the Internet Society, condemned the government’s surveillance as “a cloud over all our efforts” that undermines the trust people have in the Internet.
And in an interview, Thomas Gass, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for economic and social affairs, talked about the need to rebuild trust in the Internet. In addition to his concern about NSA surveillance on U.S. citizens and foreign governments, he worries that other countries will try to set up “similar surveillance systems or protection systems against the surveillance.” Like others who expressed concern, Gass acknowledged that “we know the U.S. is not the only country that has been doing this.”
In a session on big data, Alexandrine Pirlot of Privacy International criticized the NSA for collecting data without a specific purpose or the knowledge and consent of the people who’s data is being collected.
Marie Georges, an adviser to the Council of Europe, warned that if that kind of government surveillance continues, “people will be very afraid to use any kind of information technology.”
Of course, there were plenty of other issues also discussed at IGF, including domain name policies, cybersecurity threats, network infrastructure technical issues and human rights, copyright and intellectual property concerns. However, by design, nothing was resolved. Attendees at the three-day conference don’t make any binding decisions. The IGF is not a governing body, but simply a place for all stakeholders to discuss issues
I was there to speak on a couple of panels on digital citizenship for youth and one titled “Child Protection vs. the Rights of the Child” that explored whether efforts to protect children online might also restrict their rights of free speech.
I organized the workshop because — as a longtime Internet safety advocate — I’ve noticed the adult response to helping keep kids safe often involves some type of monitoring or filtering that can impact children’s privacy or limit their ability to express themselves or access information.
Many schools, for example, block access to social media sites. And while parents and schools may have valid reasons to keep kids from looking at porn, the filters that block porn sometimes also block other types of content as well. And then there is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law that protects kids from revealing personal information to marketers, and keeps kids under 13 from accessing Facebook and other social media sites because the sites allow users to share information.
I’m all for finding ways to keep online children safe, but I thought it worth exploring the extent to which it’s necessary to restrict their freedom in the name of privacy and safety. I’m not arguing that adults shouldn’t supervise or restrict children’s online activities. But when it comes to speech issues, I think it’s worth pointing out that the First Amendment doesn’t have an age test.
Bali, Indonesia — I’m at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF #IGF2013) in Bali where I’m participating in a workshop on child protection vs. child rights. As a child safety advocate, I’ve long argued that young people need “digital literacy” to understand how to safely navigate the online world. That can be protecting their emotional well-being by helping them avoid or deal with cyberbullying but it can also be helping young people understand how to protect their privacy online or to make sure they’re not posting images or other content that could harm their reputation. It also involves teaching empathy and social-emotional learning to help youth better understand how to treat their peers, whether they be close friends or people they only encounter online.
My personal approach to child safety is to start by assuming that “the kids are all right” and — as a default — treat children and teens respectfully by providing them with the tools and information they need to protect themselves and respect others. I’ve long said that the best Internet filter is the one that runs between the child’s ears, and have never been a huge fan of widespread use of parental control or monitoring software, except when parents have seen a real need to use it for their kids. It’s not that I’m against using tools that limit or monitor what kids do, it’s just that I think the tools need to be used thoughtfully, only when necessary, and not be a substitute for good parenting or helping kids develop their ability to do what’s right without external controls.
Yet, there are those who feel that most kids need to be controlled or monitored, and there are plenty of companies selling such tools. Schools too often use control software not only to block porn and sites that advocate violence or drug and alcohol use but often also block social networking sites, YouTube and other media that kids commonly access away from school.
To explore this issue, I organized a panel at IGF titled “Child Protection vs. Child Rights.” Article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.” Yet in the very countries that have ratified this convention, parents and schools are denying young people access to some types of content in the name of protection.
There are no simple answers. There are lots of adults who strongly believe in free speech rights for kids yet at the same time feel it’s necessary to limit their access to certain types of content and media.
Panelists include John Carr, Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety (UK); Janice Richardson, European Schoolnet and Insafe (Belgium); Nevine Tewfit, Ministry of Communications (Egypt); Yannis Li, Dot Kids Foundation (Hong Kong) and Larry Magid, ConnectSafely.org (US). The moderator is Anjan Bose, ECPAT International (Thailand).
Facebook announced today that it’s changing its policy to allow teens to post publicly. Prior to today, Facebook members aged 13 through 17 were only allowed to post to a limited audience that max out with friends of friends.
In a blog post, Facebook said that teens will also “be able to turn on Follow so that their public posts can be seen in people’s News Feeds” As is the case now, followers can only see posts that they’ve been authorized to see.
There will be some who will no doubt question Facebook’s wisdom and motives for allowing teens to share publicly. But I for one am all for it. My reason is simple. Teens deserve the same free speech rights as adults and many teens want to be able to speak out on issues that are important to them.
Free speech and youth activism
One need only look at the work of Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for speaking in favor of the rights of women and girls. She was able to speak directly on this subject, to blog about it, to be interviewed and to make media appearances but – based on the rules that were in place until today, she wouldn’t have been allowed to post about it on Facebook.
Although the First Amendment applies to government, not the private sector, there is nothing in it that says that freedom of speech is only a right for people over a specific age.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (which is law for most countries served by Facebook) is even more explicit. “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.”
“Any other media” clearly includes social media such as Facebook and any arbitrary rules preventing teens from expressing themselves or accessing information expressed by others certainly violates the spirit that convention.
But forget rights for a moment and just focus on dignity. We are trying to teach our children to be good citizens and that includes speaking out on issues that concern them. Whether it’s the treatment of women and girls, the environment, the economy, issues of war and peace or even their thoughts on sports teams or their favorite foods, young people not only have a right to express themselves but, by doing so, they are helping our democracy by engaging in dialog about issues.
The notion that teens shouldn’t be allowed to share publicly is actually something that we’ve mostly been talking about in the age of social media. When I was a kid, my parents were happy when the local paper wrote a story about how I had done something laudable. My own son Will Magid, now a professional musician, performed publicly when he was in high school. Based on the old rules, he couldn’t have used Facebook to post his recordings or videos of his performances to share with the same people who might have been in the auditorium when he performed. Of course there are things teens shouldn’t post publicly on Facebook just as there are things they shouldn’t say to strangers on the street. The good news — based on recent surveys – is that most teens know this.
As a private company Facebook doesn’t have to give teens the right to speak in public but as a forum that has more members than the population of any country besides China and India, it has a moral obligation to allow unfettered speech to all of its members.
Right to privacy and free speech
Having said that, Facebook also has a responsibility to protect the privacy of teens and everyone else, which is why it’s important that teens be made aware that they have control over who sees each of their posts. By default new teen accounts will default to friends only (it used to be friends of friends) but now they can expand or narrow that audience. Both teens and adults need to be aware that if you post publicly, subsequent posts will also be public until you again change the audience. I wish there was the option to have the audience settings automatically revert back to the user’s preferred default so that if you usually post privately and decide to post publicly, the next time it would revert back to private.
Parents, privacy advocates, teachers and anyone else who interacts with teens should do all they can to make sure that young people understand how to use Facebook’s privacy tools and remember that there are consequences to what you post – in some cases even if it’s only shared among your friends
But there are also consequences to keeping people – of any age – from being able to express themselves and I for one am glad that Facebook has finally unshackled its teenage users.
Disclosure: Larry Magid is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support from Facebook