Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Internet Safety... The Song Remains the Same

   As seems to often be the case in the fall, I'm doing a number of Internet Safety talks lately.  Maybe it's the tie-in with October US Cybersecurity month, and I did some posts celebrating that.  Maybe it's that fall makes us think about back to school (though maybe safety should be a "hotter" topic in the summer when kids have more free time!).

   I've been presenting to groups about Internet Safety and related topics for over 12 years.  I've got a few events coming up at work, so I'm updating my material.  I've got a number of talks on these "consumer" issues.  You can see my slides on my slideshare page.  I regularly update my material.  But what's really amazing to me is that the core, key messages have substantially remained the same.

   For example, I recently did a presentation and blog post on bullying.  The biggest change in online bullying in the past few years has been the news media attention.  But what happens, how it happens and options for victims, unfortunately, hasn't changed much.

   As I talk with people about these issues, and research and update my presentation material, I think there are 3 main areas in which things have substantially changed.
  1. The rise and expansion of social media.  In the early 2000's, we were talking about things like email, Chat like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and web surfing.  Xanga.com was around, but MySpace and Facebook weren't even invented until around 2003!  And, needless to say, there's been an explosion of social media sites with the latest trends favoring pictures and video.  While kids had the ability to share too much information since the beginning, social media sites really drove the norms.
  2. Technology.  In particular... mobile technology.  I used to recommend that families keep their computer (singular) in a common place like the family room or kitchen so kids' use could be seen.  While that is still good advice, most families have more than one computer.  And most teens, and many younger kids, carry a powerful computer with them wherever they go... their smartphone.  While we still have options available for monitoring, and good communication is key, portable devices are really a game-changer.
  3. Kids get it.  During my Internet Safety talks of the mid-2000's, we used to play a little game.  It was a live demo in which I would bring up a social media site, typically MySpace.  The game was to see how few clicks it would take us to get to some inappropriate content (like kids/teens sharing too much personal information or posting pictures parents would wish they didn't).  When I first started doing this demo it would only take a few clicks.  Then, by around 2008, it took more.  Then I would just save a few URLs of TMI pages.  Then I gave up the game altogether!  It's not that we can't still find inappropriate content, or examples of kids sharing far more than parents might want.  But kids are doing a much better job of protecting their information online.  Of course, kids, teens and young adults - actually digital natives in general - do have different ideas, definition and expectations of privacy compared to their parents!
    One final thought... another thing that has changed is that the oldest digital natives - people who do not know of a time without pervasive digital media and technology - are now having their own kids and showing up at Internet Safety talks!  But some things don't change and their kids still know more about technology!

   What surprises you about changes in our online world over the past decade?  What do you think has changed, or has not changed?

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