Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sue Scheff: Online Safety - Online Fool - Be Safe while your surf!

It is October, which starts National Cyber Safety Awareness Month. Take the time to be an educated parent - you will have a safer child while they surf online!

Online Fools
“With 70-thousand videos a day being uploaded to YouTube, it’s kind of hard to stand out. So the kids find they have to keep pushing the envelope - to do something more outrageous - to be able to get attention from that.”

– Steve Harmon, Chair, Division of Learning Technologies, Georgia State University

A new study finds that what kids do online and what parents think they’re doing are not always the same. One example: 29 percent of parents say their kids make fun of teachers online, but almost twice that many kids say they complain and ridicule teachers.

For instance, teacher baiting: students pick a fight with a teacher and record it on their cell phones. The video is then posted to the Internet.

In one such video, a clearly enraged male teacher screams, “When I tell you to stop talking, that means stop whistling and stop acting like an idiot!!”

Kids today are using their cell phones to record all kinds of pranks.

“I remember one time in the wrestling room actually, doing a little exercise that was kind of weird- and somebody actually videotaped it and put it on YouTube. So yeah, that was kind of embarrassing,” says Nathaniel, 18.

On sites like You Tube and eBaum’s World there are videos of heinous wrecks, intentional and otherwise. One boy shoots himself in the face with a paintball gun. Another wipes out after attempting a huge jump on his bike.

Underage drinking is also a popular theme. “I’m going to chug a pint of Jack Daniels out of this here beer bong,” announces a boy who’s made a home video from his college dorm room.

Many kids will try anything to become famous on video-sharing websites.

“With 70-thousand videos a day being uploaded to YouTube, it’s kind of hard to stand out,” says Steve Harmon, the Chair of the Division of Learning Technologies at Georgia State University. “So the kids find they have to keep pushing the envelope - to do something more outrageous - to be able to get attention from that.”

He says parents should remind kids that, besides their friends, teachers, employers and college admissions staff might watch their videos.

“Kids don’t have a good sense that what they put on YouTube is public,” says Harmon. “They feel like they are alone in their room with a computer - and so whatever they upload is private.”

And for kids who think they can post embarrassing video of others and remain anonymous?

“It’s really pretty easy to track down who loaded something up to YouTube if you have any sort of sophisticated search mechanism,” explains Harmon, “And even worse than that, though - kids like to talk about what other kids are doing. So in a local setting, even though the kid thinks what they’ve put online is known only to them and their closest friends, all the other kids know about it - and they are going to tell.”

Tips for Parents
The vast majority of teens spend time online. According to a recent Harris Interactive Poll, 72 percent of teens have an online social-networking profile, 73 percent use cell phones and 91 percent have an email address. But what information are they sharing? Consider these statistics:

■59 percent say posting personal information or photos on public blogs or social-networking sites is “somewhat unsafe” or “very unsafe.”
■7 percent say posting personal information is “very safe.”
■34 percent say it’s “somewhat safe.”
■62 percent say they post photos of themselves.
■45 percent post the name of their school.
■4 percent post their address.
■14 percent post their cell phone number.
Experts say make sure your kids never use their real name or address when posting any material on the Internet. Avoid posting information that would allow a stranger to locate your child. This includes the name of a school or sports team. Also, avoid revealing the city where you live.

Before you buy a video camera, web cam or video phone for your child, take their level of maturity into account. Some children may be too immature to understand the risks involved in posting videos or pictures online. Steve Harmon of Georgia State University also advises it would be difficult to search the web to figure out if your child is posting videos online. There is simply too much content on video-sharing websites. It’s much more productive to talk to your child. Explain the potential downside of posting embarrassing videos online and make sure your kids understand that they lose exclusive control over videos once they are posted on the Internet.

■Federal Bureau of Investigation (Innocent Images National Initiative)
■Georgia State University
■Harris Interactive Poll
■i-SAFE America, Internet safety education group
■Wired Safety, an online safety, education and help group