If you don't tell your children you love them
- they'll find someone online who will. - Moorhead MN police officer
I have appreciated and strongly recommended the work of Anne Collier and Larry Magid ever since reading their fine book My Space Unraveled: A Parents' Guide to Teen Social Networking back in 2006. I also read Anne's NetFamilyNews blog religiously.
Happily, Collier and Magid have just updated their parents' guide - and have made the new publication a free 32-page download. A Parents' Guide to Facebook should be required reading for every parent and educator.
One of the strengths of Collier and Magid's work has been discriminating between hyped dangers and real risks online. By disaggregating the numbers behind the headlines, adults can get a more accurate picture of who is in danger and what put them there. Here's a sample:
Youth-risk research has recently made five important findings:
- Young people who behave aggressively online are more than twice as likely to be victimized online, so children’s own behavior in Facebook or any social site is key to their well-being on the social Web.
- The most common risk young people face online is peer harassment or aggression – in other words hurtful, harassing, or defamatory behavior.
- A child’s psychosocial makeup and environment (for example, home and school) are better predictors of risk than any technology that the child uses, so...
- Not all children are equally at risk online, and the children who are most at risk online are those who are most at risk in “real life,” or offline
- Although, for the vast majority of youth, online social networking is largely a reflection of offline life, it can also amplify, perpetuate and widely distribute real-life problems or conflicts – very rapidly. Something posted in anger or on impulse is extremely difficult to take back, so it has never been more important for users (of any age) to think before they “speak,” post, or send a text message.
While scary predators get the headlines, it's cyberbullying and thoughtless postings that impact the widest number of students and which kids deal on a daily basis. This should tell us something about where to focus our training efforts.
I also appreciate the detailed, step-by-step instructions of setting up Facebook privacy settings that form a large part of this publication. Not only should we be working with our children/students in making good choices about who sees what, we ought to examine the settings on our own personal social networking sites too.
Thanks, Anne and Larry, for this important work.