Online safety means empowering AND protecting

The online-safety messages most Americans are getting are still pretty much one-size-fits-all and focused largely on adult-to-child crime, rather than on what the growing bodies of both Net-safety and social-media research have found.

… still focuses on technology not behavior as the primary risk and characterizes youth almost without exception as potential victims.

… fails to recognize youth agency: young people as participants, stakeholders, and leaders in an increasingly participatory environment online and offline.

… is still negative, lacks context, and is largely irrelevant to youth.

To be relevant to young people, its intended beneficiaries, Net safety needs to respect youth agency, embrace the technologies they love, use social media in the instruction process, and address the positive reasons for safe use of social technology.

On,  co-directors Larry Magid and Anne Collier offer insightful (and sane!) resources for educators and parents about being safe in the digital world.

  • Safety Tips & Advice
  • News & Views
  • Slideshows & Handouts

Resources like this can help educators and parents move beyond the hysteria about children and the digital world. It’s crucial that adults find ways to include and guide youth in positive exploration and use of these new tools and technologies. Demonizing and criminalizing normal behavior won’t solve anything and creates a climate of fear that alienates people and stifles discussion.

Resources like make me hopeful that the climate is changing and a new maturity is emerging about youth and digital technology.

New Report Says Adults Need to Get Involved in Teens’ Online Activities

New Report Says Adults Need to Get Involved in Teens’ Online Activities

Yeah, this one is kind of from the “DUH” files, but it’s something worth repeating. We know that teens need adult guidance to navigate new worlds, digital or not. Just because teens feel more comfortable in digital worlds than many adults doesn’t mean they don’t need the help.

When we talk about how “tech savvy” kids are, or how they are “digital natives”, it creates a false sense that adults aren’t needed. Worse, it’s an excuse to ignore the whole thing. (See my post Digital natives/immigrants – how much do we love this slogan?)

Adults bring wisdom and experience of the world, even if they feel a bit like a fish out of water trying to sort out new rules for new media.

But adults need kids too. The typical reaction of adults is to make rules and hand them down to children. This isn’t serving us well here. Adults need to collaborate and communicate with youth to figure out how we all need to navigate these new waters. Teens bring interest, passion, committment, and experience, as well as a different point of view.

In a real collaboration, both sides have things to learn and things to offer. This is certainly true here.