Fear-based Spin

Although I have an earlier blog post about the Internet Safety Technical Task Force report, I came across an article that I must vent over.

To recap, the ISTTF report was published as an official statement of the Task Force regarding their opinions and recommendations regarding online safety for minors, and how to approach this issue going forward. Their main points were (see pages 4 & 5 of the Executive Summary):
1. The use of the internet by adults to abduct minors is very rare. Adult predation cases that incorporated the internet typically involved “post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.” Random abduction is essentially unheard of.
2. “Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors
face, both online and offline.” In other words, researchers, policy makers, and other concerned adults should focus on bullying, not predators, when striving to improve online safety.
3. “The Internet increases the availability of harmful, problematic and illegal content, but does
not always increase minors’ exposure.”

So, imagine my dismay when I see an article whose headline reads: “Study Proves American Teens are at Serious Risk.” This article cries: “Abuse, bullying, hatred and pornography crowd the internet; and no where are they more prevalent, or more dangerous, than on sites geared towards teens.” Huh? Did I miss something here?

Unfortunately, I did not. For this is no article, but a press release disguised as news written to promote an online safety service. Too bad the author of the release didn’t see the Task Force recommendation that the Attorneys General NOT “endorse any one technology or set of technologies to protect minors online.” (p. 6).

Hopefully parents and other adults will notice and act accordingly.

Internet Safety Technical Task Force Carries a Strong Message

It takes great news like this to awaken me from my holiday slumber. The Internet Safety Technical Task Force is releasing their report which concludes that ““actual threats that youth [online] may face appear to be different than the threats most people imagine.” The New York Times headline reads: Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown.

I feel both happy and vindicated. Happy, because this is an accurate assessment of the experiences of youth online. Vindicated because I set up this blog and have been making presentations with this message for several years now.

Larry Magid, who served on the Task Force, summed it up beautifully by saying: “While the task force found that youth risk from predators is a concern, the overwhelming majority of youth are not in danger of being harmed by an adult predator they meet online.”

Instead, according to the Task Force report, the focus of our online safety efforts should lean towards better understanding — and preventing — cyberbullying.