Welcome to the first entry of my WordPress blog. My goal is to raise awareness regarding what risks today’s youth can be exposed to on the Internet and suggest methods of reducing these risks.
The Internet is a fantastically powerful tool. Its ability to rapidly disseminate information is unparalleled. However, as with any tool, proper handling is necessary for safety. The Internet exposes users to anyone from financially motivated cybercriminals to online predators. Regardless of age, all users need to be educated on safe online behavior (i.e., setting rigorous passwords, protecting online information, visiting safe websites, etc.). Parents need to be aware of what’s out there in order to make informed decisions and protect their families. I want to help the adults who have no idea what “tweet” means or webcam “flashing” (see definitions below).
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 93% of teens ages 12 – 17 go online (63% visit every day). There is some evidence that very young children (5 – 7 year olds) are getting on to social networking sites aimed at teenagers and adults. While American youth are more technically savvy than their elders, they are not necessarily more sophisticated. A recent literature review draft (Risky Behaviors and Online Safety: A 2010 Literature Review) listed 5 categories of particular concern:
- Online Sexual Solicitation of Youth
- Internet initiated sex crimes involving minors
- Online harassment and cyberbullying
- Youth access to problematic content (porn / violent content)
- Youth generated problematic content (includes sexting)
There are no easy solutions, but knowledge can help us develop strategies to protect our youth and empower them to help themselves and each other. In the coming weeks, I will review various online topics such as ChatRoulette, Social Media, Facebook privacy, etc., defining basic issues and discussing some of the suggested coping strategies. I hope parents and caregivers will share their strategies for protecting their youth and teaching their kids to protect themselves. Namaste.
Sexting – Sending sexually explicit pictures or messages over mobile phones
Tweet – A message posted on the Twitter website limited to up to 140 characters.
Webcam Flashing – Individual exposes him or herself to someone online through a web camera. The image can be recorded and distributed.