Friday, July 9, 2010

Intern Guest Post - Kanthimathy palani Velayutham - Growing Up Digital

Research Outline
Topic: Kids and Online safety
Date: 07/09/2010
Research by:  Kanthimathy palani Velayutham
TEASER/TITLE: “Growing up Digital”
Technology offers extraordinary opportunities for all of society including children and young people. The internet allows for global exploration which can also bring risks – the online world paralleling but in some ways also diverging from the offline world, and video gaming offers a range of interactive experiences to children, but some of these are designed for adults. However, the generational divide between parents and children when
it comes to new technology often means that adults are less clear about their role in enabling children to manage ‘virtual world’ and online risks in the same way that they manage risks inherent in the offline world.
·      Cyberbullying – Rates of cyberbullying increased with age including students in grades 4-8, teenagers, middle school students, etc.
o   In a survey of 1500 students, it was found that 42% have been bullied, 35% have been threatened, 21% received mean or threatening e-mails or other messages, 43% of U.S. teens experienced some form of cyberbullying.
·      Trafficking - According to United States State Department data, an estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year
o   approximately 70% are women and girls
o   up to 50% percent are minors.
·      Gang recruiting – Parents are concerned, and should be, about kids being recruited by gangs as early 4th, 5th and 6th grade. Most children do not wish to join but many admit they feel pressured to do so.
·      Addiction – Individuals who are addicted to technology find it difficult to control the amount of time spent online and their time spent surfing the web significantly interferes with their daily lives, ability to work or go to school, and social relationships.
·      There are still relatively unknown social impacts of texting vs. talking vs. in person
·      The Technology Industry should provide additional measures such as reporting of suspicious behavior on the internet and constant vigilance of activities online.

·      Parental supervision is strongly urged. 

o   Actions should include:  (1)  blocking access to several sites on the internet, (2)  monitoring the kids when they spend time online, (3)  putting a time limit for children who are addicted to internet, and (4)  using tools and software to block harmful content.

·      Digital literacy education, which includes educating children about the pros and cons of technology, should be implemented as early as 4th to 6th grade.

·      Reduce availability to internet

·      Restrict access to gaming, porn and social networking sites

·      Increase resilience of children to gangs, bullying, and other dark side activities of the net

Internet dangers come in many forms of children.
I am highlighting a few of those dangers.
BULLYING: Victims of bullying are often fearful of telling others about being bullied because they fear that the bullying may actually become worse if they tell.
  •  40-50% of victims are afraid of telling others that they are being bullied.
  •  Victims of cyber bullying are often also afraid to report to adults about being cyberbullied, as they also fear that adults will over-react and take away their mobile phone, computer and/or Internet access. This is something that is increasingly unthinkable for the “Always On” generation as not being online means not being able to socialize or communicate with their peers, and this fear of exclusion is paramount in the lives of most adolescents and teens.
TEXTING AND KIDS: Text messaging was intended to be a good thing. After all, it's quick, relatively cheap, and private. On a train for instance, text messaging isn't nearly as annoying as talking on your cell phone.  However, there are also negatives to text messaging.

The primary negative to text messaging, in my opinion, is a safety issue. Messaging while driving a car is even more dangerous than talking on the cell phone.

  • 56% of teenagers admit to talking on their cell phones behind the wheel
  • 13% admit to texting while driving.
  • In 2007, driver distractions, such as using a cell phone or text messaging, contributed to nearly 1,000 crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers.
  • Almost 50% of all drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 are texting while driving. Many states have made talking on a cell phone without the use of a head set while driving a phone illegal. 

INTERNET ADDICTION: The internet addicts are more likely to have a more severe degree of depression than their casual web-surfing counterparts.
  • David Greenfield found that 5.7 percent of those who participated in a survey met his criteria for compulsive Internet usage. He believes that “the psychoactive nature of the Internet” is expressed by addicts who experiences time distortion, accelerated intimacy and decreased inhibition. He admits that “there is something strong and powerful” about Internet addiction, and that most affected areas seem to be marriages and relationships.

GANGS TARGETING KIDS: There are more than 20,000 gangs, with collectively over 1 million members in the United States. Gangs are present in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories, according to the Attorney General’s report to congress on the growth of violent street gangs in suburban areas.
Gangs, like organized crime rings, have taken to the Internet as a facilitator in sending messages to associates throughout the U.S. and other countries – including deported gang members, deliver threats, assert territorial boundaries that used to be scrawled as graffiti across buildings, fences, and signs, brag, and conduct ‘business’. Gang business includes drug trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution, weapons trafficking, smuggling illegal aliens across borders, murder, theft, fraud, armed robbery, auto theft home invasions, gang rapes, and more.
Gang recruitment has stepped up in regard to use of the internet technology. Gangs are using Myspace, Facebook and Youtube as a means of recruiting kids.

TRAFFICKING AWARENESS: Websites like Craigslist and Facebook have been hotbeds of child trafficking around the world, allowing one of the world's most heinous crimes flourish virtually unchecked. Craigslist has been under fire by law enforcement officials across the nation almost since its inception due to the effortlessness by which it connects sex offenders to its victims.

There are many contributing factors that are leading to the growth of child trafficking. One main cause of this pandemic is stemmed from the sex entertainment industry. Many victims of human trafficking are forced to work in this industry or prostitution. The primary factor is the demand for pornography from pedophiles and others who are constantly craving more. Some consider pornography the number one driver of child sex exploitation. Oftentimes, children are forced to act out scenes in hard-core movies for paying customers.
There are measures that adults can take that will help children grow up to be responsible internet citizens.
CYBERBULLYING WARNING SIGNS: Cyber bullying may be conducted by sending phone text messages, images and emails, as well as through online discussion groups and personal web pages. Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.
Cyberbullying, like other forms of bullying, is about human relationships, power and control. Those who bully others are trying to establish power and control over others that they perceive to be “weaker” than them. Those who bully want to make victims feel that there is something wrong with them, but victims should know that there is NOTHING wrong with THEM. It is THE BULLIES who have the real problems. Cyberbullying does not provide any tangible feedback about the consequences of using information technologies to cyberbully others. Cyberbullies do not have to own their actions, as it is usually very difficult to identify cyberbullies, so they do not fear being punished for their actions
Another negative to text messaging is that it's so impersonal and a tool of choice for cyberbullies. Unfortunately, some people carry it to such an extreme that it takes the place of other contact such as the phone or in- person conversation.

INTERNET OVERUSE WARNING SIGNS: Internet use might drain your brain and sap away your time, but those who prone to bad feelings and deep depressions may actually be looking to the internet for solace and fulfillment. The links to social media sites, gaming groups can provide isolated and ostracized individuals with the kinds of connection, belonging, and sexual gratification that may be missing in their everyday offline lives. The sense of satisfaction that comes along with these internet indulgences likely feeds a negative cycle where more time spent online means less physical activity and less social contact, increasing the vulnerability to depression.

HOW TO PREPARE CHILDREN TO BE GOOD DIGITAL ADULTS: Using technology for learning in ways that are relevant, meaningful, challenging, safe and hands-on is not an easy task. It requires a rethinking of curriculum and pedagogy as well as the spatial and temporal boundaries of education. It necessitates a reevaluation of learning in areas of engagement, individualization, and collaboration. Schools are continually updating their curriculum for digital literacy to keep up with accelerating technological developments. This often includes computers in the classroom, the use of educational software to teach curriculum, and course materials being available to students, online. 

  • Nearly 700 sixth graders at Stevenson Middle School Stevenson will be given new netbooks that serve as a fully functioning mobile computer smaller than a laptop, to use both at school and at home. Parents also will be trained in how to use and care for them and to provide online educational resources.
Besides engaging with technology, parents and teachers need to build more constructive relationships with children. Open dialogue, which requires a level of trust between adults and children, seems to be the key tore solving many issues surrounding the use of technology in schools today.
Digital, connected technology is important in our daily lives, whether it is a teenager accessing her social network on MySpace or adults using communications tools as part of their jobs. Most of us cannot imagine a world without computers or the Internet.

Digital tools will not have a real impact on teaching and learning until educators build more genuine relationships with both kids and technology. Only if we create both can we genuinely prepare our children for challenges of the 21st-century world.
  • Talk to your kids:
  • Children should be reminded regularly to never give out or share their passwords, personal information such as phone number, address, personal identification numbers (PIN), etc.
  • Children should be taught to question and not believe everything they read online.
  • Children should never send a message to others when they are angry
  • Young people don’t have to be “Always on”. They should be encouraged to turn off, disconnect, and unplug, at least for a while.
  • Awareness and education are the keys to the prevention of cyberbullying!



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