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Threat level orange

The sign just outside the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport has read "Threat Level Orange" for as long as the sign has been up - I'm guessing about five years. I wonder if the message even registers on anyone anymore.

I thought about that sign and its message of fear after reading this great response to an early blog post, "Fear-Mongering": 

Thank you, Doug - and Nancy - for this timely post. "Fear mongering" is exactly the term I would use to describe the US Attorney's Project Safe Childhood video, which you can view or download at Since I teach an Internet Safety workshop for my district, my boss gave me a copy to review. He attended an evening workshop the US Attorney's Office did last month at one of our high schools during which this video was shown. Fortunately, it was poorly attended or I think many students would have lost their parent permission to use the Internet while at school.

In a nutshell, the video is about Internet predators and has little to do with how to teach our students to use the Internet safely, effectively, and ethically.

I think a much better resource is the What You Need to Know video from, which introduces parents to the benefits and realities of Web 2.0.

Thanks for starting the conversation! - Gail Dresler

I watched both videos that Gail mentions. Wow, what a difference in treatment of Internet dangers. These clips are representative of the approaches taken:

from US Attorney's Project Safe Childhood video


from What You Need to Know video from ikeepsafe


Just a quick disclaimer: I am of the opinion that the easiest way to tell if the current administration and its ilk are lying is to see if their lips are moving. That they use irrational fears, whether of terrorists or child molestors (everything except global warming), to keep in power. You've been warned.

The Department of Justice video lumps all pedophilia, all child porn and all predation directly to the Internet. No statistics, no recognition that there is a difference between the Internet as causation or distribution of crimes against children, no attempt to gauge the scope of the problems. Agreed, that even one pedophile or child pornographer is one too many, but watching the DOJ video gives the impression that these dangers are omnipresent. At what point, as with the "Level Orange" hyperbole of airline safety, does the public simply tune-out?

The iKeepSafe materials, take a rational, positive, and, I believe, more effective approach to keeping kids safe online. Unlike the DOJ production, there are actually ideas about what parents can do to help protect their children, and more importantly, how they can help teach their kids to be safe, indpeendent of parental supervision.

I encourage you to watch both videos. And be aware that there may be fear-mongers who may be more interested in their own importance than in children's safety working within your community.  The opportunities and skills offered by the Internet are too important to kids to have these folks scare the bejeesus out of parents and school administrators who will attempt to block instead of teach.

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Reader Comments (3)

Great comparison! Reminds me of Bill Nye's quote; "The more you find out about the world, the more opportunities there are to laugh at it."

I despise fear mongering and the sort of pessimistic, negative view they have on things. Good to know that there are proactive alternatives to what our DOJ is doing. :-)

October 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJames Keltgen

Funny you should post this. I just got asked the following questions from the school's newspaper.
1.Is a program like Facebook safe for kids? Why?

2.What measures are taken to protect kids and prevent online predators?

3.Are online predators as big a threat as they are made out to be?

4.Do you feel that it is fair for school administrators to look at students' facebooks sites and punish them in school if they have inappropriate pictures or comments?

You can see my responses at


November 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHank Thiele

Hi Hank,

I thought your response was "fair and balanced." Nicely done. I would recommend Collier and Magid's book MySpace Unraveled: A Parent's Guide to Teen Social Networking_ as well.

(I also scanned your site and enjoyed your rejoinder to my Teacher's Technology Manifesto!)

Thanks and all the best,


November 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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