Online Child Safety: Thinking map

Posted in child protection, child safety by coda on February 12, 2010

This is an excellent site that enables educators to map critical thinking skills onto lessons.

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Digital Citizenship and Child Safety

Posted in child protection, child safety, internet safety by coda on December 16, 2009

The Pew Research Center has produced two reports that focus on the behaviour and values of teenagers in the digital age. Sexting is the first subject covered:

As texting has become a centerpiece in teen social life, parents, educators and advocates have grown increasingly concerned about the role of cell phones in the sexual lives of teens and young adults. A new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 4% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging, a practice also known as “sexting”; 15% say they have received such images of someone they know via text message.

The second looks at the way teenagers interact with mobile phone technology:

Teenagers have previously lagged behind adults in their ownership of cell phones, but several years of survey data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that those ages 12-17 are closing the gap in cell phone ownership. The Project first began surveying teenagers about their mobile phones in its 2004 Teens and Parents project when a survey showed that 45% of teens had a cell phone. Since that time, mobile phone use has climbed steadily among teens ages 12 to 17 – to 63% in fall of 2006 to 71% in early 2008.

In comparison, 77% of all adults (and 88% of parents) had a cell phone or other mobile device at a similar point in 2008. Cell phone ownership among adults has since risen to 85%, based on the results of our most recent tracking survey of adults conducted in April 2009. The Project is currently conducting a survey of teens and their parents and will be releasing the new figures in early 2010.

We went back to our databanks in light of the intriguing findings about adult mobile phone use in two of our recent reports, and to help lay the ground work for our current project on youth and mobile phones. This memo is the result of our data mining.

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Creating Responsible Mobile Phone Use Through Design

Posted in child protection, child safety, Uncategorized by coda on December 14, 2009

Cyberbullying – or bullying through the use of information communication technologies – is an example of how deviant cultures can increasingly become the norm when information asymmetries lead to society having to assume disproportionate costs. Innovative designs in technology can go some way to arresting or minimising the scale of peer victimisation. It is with these thoughts in mind that I turn to the latest attempt to use designs in mobile phone to minimise the threats of cyberbullying. I am of course talking about Bully Stop. By downloading a piece of software onto the phone, parents, in particular, are provided with readily accessible tools. Here is an example of what this piece of kit does [taken from the website]:

Parents can now:

a. monitoring children’s calls and text messages;

b. view the details of mobile phone use and history;

c. filter and control access; and

d. alert services.

I hope to try this software and assess whether the claims made by the company are well founded. The company is well aware of one possible shortcoming – namely, the range of mobile phones that are compatible with the software. Presently,  Bully Stop works on Nokia and Samsung Symbian S60 phones. It is hoped that there will be Bully Stop versions for Sony Ericcson, Motorola, Andriod, and iPhones not too long. For the moment, this is an exciting innovation and I hope meet up with the innovators in due course.

One downside – I am not at all sure about citing statistics from 2000.

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Magid: Treating kids on the Web in a new way

Posted in child safety, web 3.0 by coda on December 3, 2009

I enjoyed reading Larry’s feature about online child safety and protection policies. He echoed the rhetorical “turn” in the recent Family Online Safety Institute Conference which focused on the theme of “Building a Culture of Responsibility: From Online Safety to Digital Citizenship.”

There has been very little discussion or debate, at least in relation to the analysis of current child safety and protection policies from an empowerment perspective where children become the primary actors in negotiating the issues of safety and responsible use of communication technologies. This observation by Larry, must strike a chord with many:

When I said that the Internet safety field is 16 years old, I’m dating it from the publication of the first widely disseminated Internet safety booklet and set of rules which, I confess, were written by this columnist. Back then, I came up with some assumptions like “that 12-year-old girl might be a 40-year-old man” and “posting personal information can lead to harm,” but I wrote that material long before we had research to show that these and other early assumptions weren’t actually the case.

Years ago, I stopped giving out that type of advice but others continue to perpetuate myths about Internet dangers. What made me feel good about this conference is that all of the panic messages were off the table. What we talked about instead is how we can help adults better understand how kids actually use technology and how we can work with kids to better manage risk.

Larry, describes, what I would term, the first generation Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 attitudes towards enhancing the safety of children in the online environment. Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 can be seen as metaphors which describe the attitudes of adults and policymakers towards the risks facing children in the online environment:

when Internet safety gatherings typically focused on ways adults could put up walls to protect children against predators, pornography and other dangers.

Web 3.0, I think represents the maturing process, an evolution in the way we now think about children and how they interact with social media and the strategies for negotiating the digital threat landscape. There is a wonderful insight Larry shares with us:

One theme at the conference was “one size doesn’t fit all.” Most kids are actually pretty savvy about keeping themselves safe from serious harm, but others — who are taking big risks — need more serious intervention. Risk prevention specialist Patti Agatston suggested we consider using health prevention models for Internet safety education — basic safety advice for most youth and intense counseling from mental health professionals for the small minority of young people who are taking extraordinary risks both on and offline.

We know that the World Health Organisation has long advocated an integrated health promotion approach towards preventing and containing health risks. The Ottawa Charter (1986) defines health promotion as:

“…the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realise aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment. Health is, therefore, seen as a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Therefore, health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond healthy lifestyles to wellbeing.

In other words, an integrated health promotion approach is about empowerment, engagement and collaboration in the process of shifting attitudes in the way we manage our health, well-being and lifestyles.

How is this relevant to Web 3.0 and Online Child Safety?

I very much like the idea of a public health model approach to the subject of online child safety. This approach recognises the interrelation between safety and social ends like responsible decision making, critical media literacy and citizenship. Whilst society has an obligation to ensure that appropriate institutional and regulatory infrastructures are in place to support children, I think that the public health model has sufficient rhetorical flexibility in recognising that children, equally, have an obligation to take responsibility in engaging in the process as citizens in our communities. Issues like ‘sexting’ and ‘cyberbullying’ are symptoms of the type of disengagement and disenchantment we sometimes see in society, the media and children. Strategies for promoting citizenship and responsible attitudes towards peers are worthwhile social values not only for children but adults too. I may be reading far more into Larry’s comment – but is it not safe to say that increased regulation and restriction will not lead to increased safety or promote citizenship-type values? Do we want young adults to be nurtured in an environment where suspicion is the norm? It is important to acknowledge that many young people do act responsibly and do manage their online activities without endangering themselves or others.

What I have gleaned from the feature on re-thinking the way we treat kids on the web is that in Web 3.0 we are now beginning to involve children in a public deliberation, where all of us, identify and deliberate on the best way of engaging with the subject of online safety.

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Web 3.0: Online Child Safety

Posted in child safety by coda on December 2, 2009

Anne Collier is a thoughtful and energetic lady – she is heavily involved with matters relating to Online Child Safety. I want to blog a series of posts based on the concept of Web 3.0 that she and Larry Magid are using in relation to online child safety. I am really excited by their project and would like all of you to chime in. Whilst I am an admirer of what my colleagues are doing – I must admit to some doubts about the heuristic value of the linguistic “turn” – Web 3.0. I want to leave this debate for another time. Today, my focus is on Anne’s post, which has the heading:

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child needs to embrace children’s online lives, and Internet-safety education needs to embrace the UN’s new holistic view of children as participants and stakeholders

Anne is right to focus on the Rights of the Child Convention. It is timely.

On 20 November 2009, the international community celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the General Assembly. The Convention, it is safe to say, reflects societal expectation that children merit particular care and attention to their safety and well-being.

To my mind, the Convention already provides the foundation for society’s obligations to children in both online and offline environments. One of the questions, Anne seems to suggest that all of us should seriously explore, is whether, the principles and norms embedded in the Convention, itself formulated in a ahistorical context ought to embrace the environment in which many of the children now populate, particularly those in societies that have developed information communication services and infrastructures.This may appear to be an obvious and logical type of question we should ask and have answered, given the increased role that the Internet and communication technologies play in our lives and those of our children. It is also a very profound question. I am not sure how one could respond in a meaningful way to this question. Anne suggests that we should have a framework for  online children’s rights [the link to Online Safety 3.0 was not working at the time of the post]. These are the right to:

1. Physical Safety (freedom from physical harm)
2. Psychological Safety (freedom from online cruelty, harassment, and exposure to potentially disturbing material)
3. Reputational and Legal Safety (freedom from unwanted social, academic, professional, and legal consequences that could affect one for a lifetime)
4. Identity, Property, and Community Safety (freedom from theft of identity and property and attacks against one’s networks and online communities at local, national, and international levels).

Before one concludes that Anne is somehow advocating a form of “technological determinism” it is worth noting the thrust of the point she is trying to put across:

“What this Internet-safety taxonomy is really saying is that all the rights and freedoms the Convention calls for [for] children need to be transferred online. They must enjoy these rights in cyberspace as well as in the rest of their lives.”

I could not agree more with this statement. There is more.

Derek Wyatt MP, has written a letter to Ban Ki-moon:

“For this reason, and in partnership with a number of interested organisations in the UK and abroad, I have drawn up a petition which calls upon the UN to work in cooperation with legislators and civil society to examine and assess whether the Convention on the Rights of the Child fully addresses the needs of children in the digital age. Please note that it is not our intention to re-open the Convention – rather, we seek clarification that young people should enjoy the same rights and freedoms online as they do offline under the present convention, and that this forms part of a signatory’s reporting obligations.”

You may, if you wish, sign the petition, which provides as follows:

“On behalf of the children of the world, we, the undersigned, ask the United Nations to examine and assess whether the Convention on the Rights of the Child fully addresses the needs and expectations of children in the digital age.”

Anne suggests that we can provide the Convention with a contemporary framework by adding the following words: “online as well as offline.”

I am not sure what these words add, or for that matter, what an online bill of rights might contribute to the question regarding the applicability of the obligations and rights under the Convention to the subject of the child’s safety and well-being in the online environment. In fact the question posed by Anne, and the petition drafted by Derek, is that the answers they and the FOSI seek, is dependent on the application and implementation of the Convention to an important aspect of children’s daily activities. It can be argued that the Convention already extends its framework to the needs and expectations of children in the information society – lack of transparency and enforcement undermines much of the force of the Convention (NB Not unique to the online environment). There are a number of provisions in the CRC that underscore this expectation and the 4 key rights Anne identified earlier. Article 19 of the Convention provides as follows:

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

Signatories to the Convention are regarded as discharging some of their obligations in safeguarding children. For example, Article 35 provides that States shall take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form. Article 33 indicates that States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances. Article 34 provides as follows:

States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent:

(a) The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;

(b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices;

(c) The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

These provisions should not be seen as creating discrete set of rights for the offline environment. Rather, the Convention can be seen as providing an overarching set of normative foundational principles that remains “technologically neutral”. If what I am suggesting is plausible, then the answer to the question that Derek poses in the petition can be answered by asking and answering this related question:

“To what extent do Governments fully reflect, in their laws and policies, the needs and expectations of children as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, appropriate for the creation of a fair and just information society”

Anne and her colleague Larry have got us thinking seriously about advancing the online child safety debate. From what I learnt from her thoughtful post, is that the real governance challenge, it appears is one of developing effective and imaginative strategies and policies, that enable the Convention’s principles to be applied to a range of contexts and issues.

There is a real need, particularly now, to create processes which ensure proper implementation and enforcement of the Convention’s norms and principles. The practical responses and strategies are, needless to say, also dependent on the particular aspects of techno-cultural convergence. For the moment, whilst I share the sentiments of the FOSI project and Web 3.0, I must remain a friendly skeptic.

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