If your child is online--if your child uses social networking software such as MySpace--is he or she at great risk from being solicited for sex by a predatory adult?
Some parents think so, but as Larry Magid reports
Drawing from several surveys and studies, all the researchers said the risk of a child being forced into sex from an online predator is almost non-existant.
It's in today's Digital Crossroads column, Larry reports on the recent meeting of the Internet Safety Technical Taskforce (ISTT), featuring the research of Michelle Ybarra, Janis Wolak, Amanda Lenhart, and Dana Boyd. Please read Larry's whole column for a detailed and nuanced report on teens, sex, and online behavior.
The impetus behind the task force is to mandate age-verification for internet sites, to protect children from adult predators. But if the problem isn't that children are being approached by adults for sexual purposes--is that the appropriate response?
You should go read Larry's whole column
Larry goes on to write:
The task force's main mandate is to explore age-verification technology that would make it a lot harder to claim you're 14 when you're actually 12 or that you're 17 when you're really 40. Social networks have age restrictions (typically kids have to be at least in their teens) but they now rely on user-supplied birth dates.
Some attorneys general want to see the electronic equivalent of showing an ID at the door. There are companies represented on the task force with tools that might be able to accomplish this including Aristotle, IDology and Sentinel Tech. But Sentinel Chief Executive John Cardillo told me age- and identity-verification schemes typically rely on credit reports and other data that is accessible for most adults but generally not available for people under 17. One could, in theory, access school, birth or Social Security records, but for a variety of good reasons, these databases are off-limits to private entities.
Though the task force has yet to hear from any age-verification vendors, I'm keeping an open mind about the efficacy of the technology. Yet, even if age verification is possible, I still question whether it's desirable. I worry about some teens - including victims and youths questioning their sexual identity - being harmed because they're denied access to online support services that could help them or even save their lives.
Previously at I Speak of Dreams
Debunking Internet Predator Statistics
The DOPA files:
May 11 2006: Step One of the Suburban Caucus: Reduce Freedom
May 12 2006 Opposing DOPA: My Letter
May 12 2006 Opposing DOPA
May 26 2006: Opposing DOPA: Informative Interviews
May 26 2006: Opposing DOPA: Thinking and Un Thinking
July 25 2006: Opposing DOPA: YIKE! DOPA Vote Alert
July 25 2006: Opposing DOPA: More DOPA News
July 27 2006: Opposing DOPA: DOPA Passes House
August 3 2006: Opposing DOPA: Two Great Editorials
August 27 2006: Henry Jenkins on DOPA
Previous Posts on MySpace:
Facebook, MySpace, and the TeWinkle Middle School Case
Suspended for MySpace Parody
Value of Social Networking Software
Instead of Banning, Teach Appropriate Use
Schools, blogs, Xanga, MySpace...What's it all about, Alfie? --A 5-part series:
Part I--Blogging, social networking sites, schools, and risk for teen users
Part II -- Schools Banning Access and Banning Students' Online Presence
Part III--An Overblown Fear: The Internet Predator
Part IV--The Real Risk: Other Students' Cruel, Rude, or Illegal Behavior (or the Poster's Own Cruel, Rude, or Illegal Behavior)
Part V--The Benefits of Blogging, Personal and Educational
Part V--What Should Parents and Schools Do?
Why are some schools preventing students from accessing weblogging sites and "social software" sites from school computers? Why have some schools moved to ban students from having weblogs at all? Should parents be concerned that their children, if they use these new forms of communication, will be targeted by Cyber-Predators? Or is the more pressing problem communication between students, specifically "cyber bullying"?