Monday, October 22, 2007

UK Cyberbullying Study

An article in the Cambridge Evening News cites a study from the Department of Children that "showed a massive one third of 12 to 15-year-olds had been victims of cyberbullying."

Used that quote to show that the word 'massive' was that of the reporter. I have to say that I disagree with the findings of the study and the use of the word massive. I disagree because it he uses the word massive to describe a statistic citing a 33% cyberbullying rate, what would he use to describe an 80-90% rate?

For quite a while, we at WiredSafety have been saying that the statistics are much higher than studies show, and at the risk of covering old territory, I'll explain my position.

There are two factors at work. The first is that many kids simply don't realize that they are being cyberbullied, because it is so pervasive that some kids just look at all but the worst instances as a normal part of online life. Unless the bullying is to the point where it is having a significant impact on their lives, they think it's something that happens to everyone.

Instead of simply asking kids have you ever been cyberbullied, we have to define all the different kinds of cyberbullying attacks and ask whether they have ever experience them. We are in the process of preparing a new free software tool that will do just that. I'll let you know when it's available.

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posted by Art @ 6:38 PM   2 comments

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is There More to This?

My focus has always been Cyber Safety through Information Literacy. As a result, I've come to the decision to expand the scope of this blog to include other educational issues that are in some ways related and that are, hopefully, of interest to the public.

Part of that decision was prompted by my desire to comment on a short article in today's paper. It might well be a subject for my Truth, Lies, Rumors, and Rumbles blog, but since Internet Safety can't be taught in isolation and this article seems to typify the same kind of paranoia that drives some scholastic decisions about Internet access, I felt that this blog has to take on more than a strict Internet Safety theme.

In Cape May county a 7-year-old was suspended as a result of the school's zero tolerance policy on guns. His crime? Well, it was drawing a stick figure shooting a gun.

In a statement that could well turn this incident into a Saturday Night Live news item, his mother stated that the gun was actually a water pistol.

Humor not withstanding, the idea of suspending a student for drawing a stick figure is ludicrous. Now if there was some sort of history and this incident was a culmination, that might be a mitigating factor, but even then I would question the action.

The job of schools is to educate students. This incident clearly calls for education, not suspension. Punishing a 7-year-old for drawing a picture of something he sees on a daily basis in the news, on TV, and in the movies is ridiculous. Heck, what would have happened if he drew a picture of the now famous Dick Chaney hunting incident. Would he be in juvenile hall?

Using the incident as a teachable moment would have been a far more productive solution. Finding a reading selection that teaches the students about the dangers of guns and discussing it with the class would have been a better course of action.

What next? Will we see a story about a boy who gets suspended for using his hand as a gun and gesturing the actions of committing suicide, only to have his mother tearfully explaining that her son has a nose picking problem.

How about exercising a little common sense when dealing with second graders?

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posted by Art @ 8:24 AM   2 comments

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Latest PEW Study Offers No Surprises

The topic of the latest PEW Internet & American Life Project report is Teens and Online Stranger Contact. Among the non-surprises were the facts that teens who create social profiles or post photos online are more likely to be contacted online by people they do not know and that girls are more likely to have unwanted encounters than boys.

It states, "Teens who use social networking sites to flirt are more likely to be contacted by people they do not know once other factors are controlled for, although a similar effect is not seen in teens who use social networking sites to make new friends."

My first impression was, "Doh!" It brought to mind Senator Proxmire's Golden Fleece Award a few year back that was given to a study that found out why toddlers fell off tricycles. They spend $300,000 to find out it was a lack of muscular coordination.

While this kind of information about teens is hardly in the same class as the Golden Fleece Award, it did cause me to reflect further on the accuracy and interpretation of the study. On one hand, it along with other findings in the report, reinforces my contention and other emerging studies that teens are generally safe online and that the profile of a teen who is not safe online is very similar to a teen that is not safe off-line.

On the other hand, the study doesn't seem to address the role of chat-rooms in stranger contact. It seems to me that the same teens who use social networks to flirt and encounter strangers, may well use chat-rooms. If the survey didn't address this issue and didn't differentiate between where stranger contacts were made, it's possible that stranger contacts attributed to social networking sites are actually attributable to chat-rooms.

I'm not sure that this is really something that I am concerned about, unless the message is lost that kids who want to be safe are generally safe and that kids who indulge in risky behavior put themselves at risk.


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posted by Art @ 3:32 PM   0 comments