You are on page 1of 20

Youth Safety

on the social Web

Anne Collier
• Editor,
• Author, MySpace Unraveled
• Co-Director,
What IS the social Web?
--A/so known as 'Web 2.0/--
• User-produced, youth-driven
• Multiple devices
• Multimedia
• Uploadable, downloadable
• Difficult to control
• 55% of US 12-to-17-yr-olds use it

_ Sociallaing Starts Here=

-It's the users' Web, and it's more interactive, or social, than ever (see latest Pew
Internet & American Life study <>)
-Accessible in more places on growing numbers of devices.
-While we grownups are still mostly downloading (consuming information), kids
seem to be more interested in uploading.
-Tim Berners-Lee, the Web's inventor, said recently that first the Internet was
about connecting computers; Web 1.0 was about connecting documents; and
now it's about connecting what those documents are about - interests, activities,
research, hobblies, etc. Teenagers say it's about relationships, socializing.
-Pew/Internet study 1/07
<http://www. pewi nternet. org/pdfs/PI P_ SNS _Data_Memo _Jan _2007 .pdf>:
More than half (55%) of US 12-to-17-year-olds use
social sites, 48% at least daily
66% of teens who have created a profile limit access
to it, and the majority of them know the difference
between a public and a private profile
70% of older girls (15-17) have used a social site vs.
54% of older boys; among 12-to-14-year-olds, more
boys (46%) use these sites than girls do (44%)
91 % of all social-networking teens say they use the
sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently
and 82% to stay in touch with friends they rarely see
in person (e.g., those in another state)
72% use the sites to make plans with friends, 49%
to make new friends.
SN not going away
Notjust MySpace! Facebook,
YouTube! Hi5! LiveJournal! Orkut",
• 1OOs, maybe 1,000s, of social sites
• Corporations adopting SN in workplace
• "Niche" sites - hikers, travelers, sports
fans ...
• Increasingly mobile - phones, gameplayers
• Global - Korean, Japanese, Swedish,
Estonian, Indian, Canadian ....
___.__ .• c .....•.... --." .. -0 •••••••••••••••• w .•....... w .....•..••.•.. ~

Smart SocJaJizlngStarts Here~

--Top sites among US youth: MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Xanga, LiveJournal, and
MyYearbook. More than 7 dozen listed in Wikipedia (FBI had a list of 200 June '06 - conservative
no.!) < ng_ sites>
--Teen-specific SN sites (compared to MySpace)
<> Social sites
"nichefying" and multiplying like rabbits <> (suspect none
of these will replace MySpace, Xanga, etc. - they'll be added to the mix - sites for sports fans,
families, alternative sports athletes, professional networking, hikers, travelers, shoppers, gamers,
--Corporations are building social networking into workplace knowledge-sharing ... "IBM is building
social networking tools into its collaboration software" - CNET
<>; "Social
networking goes to work" <>.
"Oil companies are social networking online, investment banks are posting to Web 'wikis," and
Tupperware is mashing up Web applications to analyze data" (San Jose Mercury News
<> .]
--Global social networking: Cyworld, all over Asia, and with 90% of Korean teens and 20-
somethings, launched this past summer in the US <>;
Connectee, Estonia's No.1 social-networking service; - 90%+ Swedish high
school students use it, so it just launched UK; Orkut, owned by Google, has most of its users in
Brazil; SaffronConnectcom is a South Asian music-focused social site out of Mumbai, India; HiS,
based in San Francisco, is very popular in India; Bebo, also based in San Francisco, is No.3 in
the UK, after MySpace and Piczo (YouTube is tied for 3rd with Bebo). Mixi, "Japan's MySpace"
went public in Sept., valued at $1.8+ billion <>; Nexopia, home-grown, is NO.1 in
western Canada and MySpace in eastern Canada.
Not just teens I of course
• 52% of MySpace users are 35+
(teens are 12%)
• Organizations on MySpace:

Rock for Darfur I World Wildlife Fund I Greenepeace I

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline I Oxfam I Human
Rights Watch I Save the Children ...

16,042 groups about philanthropy, 93,286 about

religion, 25,335 groups about politics ...


10/5/06 comScore figures:

MySpace and Friendster "skew older," and Xanga has the youngest users. 38.5% of
MySpace users are 35-54 and 18% 55+! 12-to-17-year-olds made up 11.9% of
MySpace's traffic, 14% of Facebook's, just 10.6% of Friendster's (whose minimum age is
16), and 20.3% of Xanga's.
< 019>

Besides 3 million bands, currently on MySpace:

-Rock for Darfur -
-World Wildlife Fund -
-Save The Children -
-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -
-Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) -
oGreenpeace -
-Oxfam -
-Human Rights Watch -
-Human Rights Campaign -
-Surfrider Foundation -
-Do Something -
-RockWorks -
Children are alive today, thanks
to social-networking sites",

Teens Charged In Columbine-Style Plot
Plot R.B~liKll€'dOn.F,,~'vspt1ce Leads ToCh,arges Of lnci1eme:nt To RfO~ Mat4:tng Crln'jJ.niJl lnreslt


Chris Le at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in New York (speaking last spring):
"Our site received more than 128,000 unique visitors from MySpace in the past 12
months," the Lifeline's Christopher Gandin Le told me, referring to the Lifeline's Web site
(as opposed to its MySpace page). Even though MySpace donated 36 million Lifeline ad
placements this past year, only about 10% of those referrals actually came from the
Lifeline's own MySpace profile.

Lifeline coordinates the work of a US nationally funded network of 120 call centers or
hotlines, around the US. The support they give callers is free, confidential, and available
24/7, and they receive 1,300 calls a day nationwide (if someone doesn't answer after six
rings, the call bounces to the nearest crisis center). But they don't only help people in
suicidal crisis. The crisis centers get questions about depression, relationships,
loneliness, substance abuse, and how to help friends and loved ones.
Social networking IS
whatever ...
... anyone wants it to be!

• Alternate reality game + diary + teen's

bedroom + school lunchroom
• A place to learn digital-media skills
• A "hang out"

S1:lJN\~ S_:a:ere·

-A blend of alternate-reality game, teenager's bedroom, locker room, diary or journal

(chronicling ... )
-Group self-expression. In social networking its not just collective, not just self-
expression, but rather self-expression informed by group interaction
-But, as Sherry Turkle at MIT points out, it can go too far when older teens and adults are
finding themselves and their feelings only in relation to the group (that's an early
adolescent thing we need to grow out of)
< 19125691.600> and
What are they doing
in there?

./ Risk assessment
./ "Social producing" ./ Discovering music
./ Learning social rules ./ Producing & editing
./ Decorati ng profiles videos
(self-expression) ./ Discussing interests
./ Exploring identity ./ Social/political activism
./ Writing blogs ./ Keeping in touch with
./ Writing software code friends long-term


Social producing or "creative networking" - doing everything - growing up,

assessing risk, exploring identity, expressing oneself, creating things - as a

Exploring identity is "one of the principal tasks of adolescence" - "Blogs Exposed: The
Private Lives of Teens Made Public," by David Huffaker, Northwestern University
<http://www. soc. northwestern. ed u/g radstudents/h uffaker/papers/H uffaker -2006-AAAS-
Teen_Blogs. pdf#search=%22%22Teen%20Blogs%20Exposed%22%22>

Another task of adolescent development is risk assessment, part of their brain

development - see "Teenage Brain: A Work in Progress" at Nat'l Institute of Mental
Health <>).DanieIBroughton.MD. a
pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic, said we're doing our children a disservice if we try to
remove all risk from their lives.

"Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace," by Danah

Boyd, University of California, Berkeley <>
What else are they doing
in there?

./ Seeking validation ./ Pulling pranks

./ Competing in a ./ Getting even
popularity contest
./ Harassing
./ Venting
./ Showing off
./ Embarrassing

S>;naM; Socil>.)JZing Start<lliere'·

--"Unsupervised online teens & other myths" about some recent studies on teen social
networking, including a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg study

".a iot of what has always been going on, except that now it's a lot more visible.
But I'll come back to this in a moment.

00 you agree that the growth in

young people's use of the Internet
correlates with a rise in sexual
abuse against children?
Figure 1: Estimated Nlllnberot. Substantiated Cases of Sexual Abuse
in the United States, 1990-2000

gj 150,000



Source: Authors' analyses of datalrom1990-2C1lG National Child Abuse anel Negtect Dam
System (NCANDS) reports (U.s, Deptartmel1!of Health and Human Serv;ces,1992-2002),

US research shows that the vast majority of child-abuse cases involve adults the children
know -
according to the California Department of Justice, "90% of child victims know their
offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member. Of sexual assaults
against people age 12 and up, approximately 80% of the victims know the offender."

"Online victims tend to be teens with troubles offline, such as poor relationships with
parents, loneliness and depression."
--Dr. David Finkelhor, Crimes Against Children Research Center at UNH
News stories Incorrect. data

All Children Vulnerable to Online Predators

"t'''''f'''''? ,""", "I FW(),."" ·i""·'T I
• Homeland Se-curit)fPressAide
HeIdi Charged April 6, 2006 - Between the arrest of Brian DO'lle,
• Teen Tells How HeVVas: Lured
deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland
Into: ChildFn-rn Security, and the testimony of a child pornography victim
.......•.•...• .! Capitol Hm{ the dange-rsaf online predators have
t' been major news this week
: Authorities s;ry that's a good thing, and that parents can
~1;;5. MilltatyEffortin
: learn an important lesson from the headlines - any
Afghanistan: Is It Working?
t child/even overach1Eversfromhealthyhome.sican be
i • VIDEO'" soldiers Send Their
Greetings ! fUfedinto the underworld of childporpography from
, online predators:;
• 'V1D£O~rS:Y-oufCornmute
Killing yOU? I STORY

My co-director, who's a sociologist looked closely at the numbers in the original

study and found that the correct number is actually.
They can't be molested
on the Internet

• A misconception in the US
• Youth more informed than adults
• Not a single case of abduction
• At risk offline = at risk online

Pew/I nternet 10/2007 study < O/teens-stranger-

contact -new-study. htm I>:

-Only 7% of online teens have ever had an interaction with a stranger that made them
feel scared or uncomfortable - though nearly a third (32%) "have been contacted by
someone with no connection to them or any of their friends.
·"Stranger contacts" = comments left on photo-sharing sites and requests to become
friends at social-networking sites, BUT ...
'Pew found "no statistically signif assoc, between stranger contact and having a public
'It's possible that teens see some level of unwanted contact as "a relatively minor 'cost
of doing business' in this
'The behaviors "associated with high levels of online stranger contact" are:
Having a social-networking profile
Posting photos online
Using social sites to flirt
Talking about sex with strangers online

'Pew also reported that "there is no consistent association between stranger contact and
the types of information posted in a profile"

'See also" Social-networking dangers in perspective"

< http://www. connectsafely. org/ arti c1es--advice/ commentaries---staff/soci al-networki ng-
dangers-in-perspective. html>,
Flirting does
encourage contact
"Teens who use social-networking sites to
flirt are more likely to be contacted by
people they do not know."
--Pew Internet & American Life Prqject

• 170/0 of all SN teens use the sites to flirt

• 290/0 of boys 15-17 VS. 13% of girls 15-17

From Oct. '07 Pew study <


BUT - note that the child's intention is the key thing. The study found that "teens who use
social-networking sites to flirt are more likely to be contacted by people they don't know
although a similar effect is not seen in teens who use social-networking sites to make

This finding is consistent with another emerging fact in online-safety research - that it's
the teens who are seeking out risk in life in general who are more at risk online (see
"Profile of a teen online victim" <>).

Flirting data: Pew/Internet January 2007

<http://www. pewi nternet. org/P PF/r/198/report_ di spl ay. asp>
Predators not the only risk

• Damaged reputation • Impersonation

• Emotional hurt • Permanent archive
• Self-created child • Inappropriate content
porn • PC security
• Negative validation • Cyberbullying ...
• Defamation

oDamaged reputation - photos, videos, and information young

people post that can affect the views of future employers,
university admission officials, people they meet in future, ete. CAN
olt's almost impossible to delete what's posted online, and there's
the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine,
o The case of two young teens in Florida whose convictions for
trafficking in child porn were upheld by a state court of appeals,
o The wrong kind of validation for eating disorders, substance
abuse, gang activity, self-harm""
oImpersonation, defamation, ete. can be forms of cyberbullying,
which we'll look at more closely in a moment.
o Pornography
oPotential for hacking, downloading malicious software
Cyberbu Ilyi ng

• The risk that affects the most children

• 6.9 million 2005 "cases" of teen-to-teen
• 1 in 3 teens have been victimized by

* From a 2006 study by criminology Profs. J.w. Patchin and S. Hinduja

** Similar findings in Pew/Internet 2007 study

Two recent studies found that about a third of US 12-to-17-year-olds have been
v ictimized by cyberbullyi ng <http://www.netfam ilynews. org/2007 /06/ cyberbullyi ng-i n-us-
fresh-insights. html>
'Extreme cyberbullying'

• 2 cases in New Zealand did not result in

• 1 case in US did lead to a child's death
• Common characteristics

First one reported in NZ's Sunday News (both in NFN
·Two 15-year-old secondary-school students tricked by another girl into believing two
teenage boys whose online profiles she'd created with scanned photos of magazine
models had become their online boyfriends. The scam was discovered by the mother of
one of the victims, when she "found a scalpel under her daughter's mattress and an email
on the teen's computer from her 'boyfriend,' instructing her how to kill herself." The girl
had conducted these online "relationships" with her victims for 10 months, even sending
the victims flowers, teddy bears and T-shirts.
·Second case posted by a mother in the ConnectSafely forum -led to her 14-year-old
daughter's suicide attempt.

·US case just came to light - involved 13-year-old (ADD, weight problems), fictional boy,
a "break-up."

·Common characteristics: deception; manipulation or "social engineering" (no overt

threats, but aimed at destructive behavior); "grooming," involves people the victim knows,
usually peers
Keys to finding solutions

• Understanding that the teenage brain is

"a work in progress"
• Teen behavior the same online, offline
• The Internet is an amplifier
• Collaborative solution-making needed

-Being clear what we're dealing with with adolescents: The teenager's frontal lobe - the
executive part of the brain that does impulse control, reasons, thinks ahead, understands
cause and effect - is in development until his early 20s. From "The teenage brain: A work
in progress," according to the US National Institute of Mental Health
<http://www. ni m h.nih. gov /health/publ ications/teenage-brai n-a-work -i n-progress. shtml >
* At younger ages, amygdala more active (" mediates fear and other 'gut'
reactions). As teens grow older, activity shifts to the frontal lobe.

-Online life is a mirror of offline - same teenage risk assessment and identity exploration,
same behavioral challenges

-BUT the Internet - with its anonymity and because it's increasingly user-driven (or
"youth-driven," as social-Web research shows) - can also amplify those challenges and
the impact of risk-taking (extreme cyberbullying, real-world legal risks, etc.).

-The social Web requires collaborative solution making .... Many types of expertise
are needed. Parents, teachers, online-safety experts, child development experts,
psychologists, specilaists in at-risk teen behavior, pediatricians, law enforcement" public
policymakers, civil rights experts, and Internet and communications companies. All this
expertise is needed.

All this work IS worth it

"The benefits of social networking

"can far outweigh the potential dangers, 11

--Journal of Adolescent Research, 77/07

• "Cognitive and psychosocial development

• "Global political & cultural awareness
• "Perspective, critical thinking skills"


--Social norms, risk assessment, identity exploration - what experts call essential
"informal learning" for adolescents

--Dr. Brendesha Tynes in the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescent Research.
The assistant professor of African American Studies and Educational Psychology at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign further argued that "banning adolescents from
social networking sites - if this were even feasible - as well as monitoring too closely
might close off avenues for beneficial cognitive and psychosocial development that are
available to young people in the online social world," reports the Wilkes University
Beacon (in Pennsylvania) about the study
< http://media.www.wilkesbeacon .com/medi a/storage/paper533/news/2007 /11/ 18/News/O
nline.SociaI.Networking.Benefits.Youth.Study.Says-31 08297 .shtml>. Among the upsides
cited in the article were "beneficial cognitive and psychosocial development"; global
political and cultural awareness (because many social sites have international
memberships); and "perspective-taking, argumentative, decision-making and critical
thinking skills."

See also latest issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

To summarize
The social Web."
• is good and bad for teens
• is a fact of life - not going away
• is user-driven (no control)
Social Web safety requires."
• Growing understanding of benefits, risks
• Multiple forms of expertise
• Collaborative, long-term response

SmarlSoc~ StartsHere"
Thank you!

Anne Collier