Shocker: No Easy Tech Fix To Keep Kids Safe Online

from the surprises dept

After spending a year (and who knows how much money) researching the topic, a study commissioned by 49 state attorneys general has determined that there’s no simple technological way to protect kids online. They needed a year to figure out that there’s no magic bullet, or piece of software, that could keep kids out of trouble? Other shocking conclusions from the report, according to the WSJ: the things kids have to deal with online, like bullying and harassment, are — gasp! — pretty much similar to the things they have to deal with offline in the real world; and “a combination of technologies, in concert with parental oversight, education, social services, law enforcement, and sound policies by social-network sites and service providers, may assist in addressing specific problems that minors face online.”

The paper says the report is a boon not only to common sense, but also for sites like MySpace, which have contended throughout the scrutiny they’ve received from the attorneys general that it was impossible for them alone to make kids safe. So the politicians got to grandstand, but now hopefully they’ll listen to the report and grasp the fact that several different parties — including parents, of course — have a role to play in helping to protect children, and it’s not simply these evil social-networking sites putting our kids at risk. It’s also worth noting the report came from the Berkman Center at Harvard, which previously noted that as internet use has grown, the number of sexual offenses against children has fallen, providing a nice voice of reason to counteract the politician- or media-induced moral panics that don’t do anything to actually protect children.

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Comments on “Shocker: No Easy Tech Fix To Keep Kids Safe Online”

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Xiera says:

Though an interesting concept, the idea of allowing parents to have sites block their children’s email addresses may not be as effective as they think. Sure, it will help in some cases, but all it takes is one kid to realise that you can just create a new email address and not tell your parents, and pretty soon we’ll have people whining that email service providers are to blame.

Overall, though, I think this is something to be very happy about.

Ben Leichtling (user link) says:

Shocker: No easy tech fix to keep kids safe online

I’m sorry the headlines on this article allow people to draw the wrong conclusions, like “Threats exaggerated.” It’s a mistake to base decisions on comparisons stating that cyberbullying isn’t much worse than other bullying. Or that it’s important to state that there’s no easy solution. What a waste of time and money.

Cyberbullies and predators on social networking sites will be with us forever. Of course we’ll find some software to help, but you can never guarantee safety in the real world. Wanting absolute safety is the wrong approach.

And of course there’s no easy solution. No one is really dumb enough to think there’s an easy solution. No amount of software will make the internet any safer than giving your money to Bernard Madoff or crossing the street.

Don’t pay attention to the pseudo-science of the report. We must pay attention to our individual kids and teach them that “friends” on social sites aren’t really friends, they’re merely virtual acquaintances. Dealing with virtual people is much more difficult than dealing with people face-to-face. And we all know how difficult that can be.

There are no safe environments. That was the message I always got from reading the great hero stories when I was growing up. And each tale challenged me to prepare myself for similar dangers.

Schools and the real world have never been safe. I remember a biography of Harpo Marx (remember the Marx Brothers). He went to school for one day. The kids threw him out the window (first floor). He came back in. They threw him out again. After the third time he didn’t go back in. And never did again.

Schools and social networks are testing grounds for the real world. And the real world is not and should not be safe. Facing risks and danger helps us develop good sense, good character and the qualities necessary to survive. Imagine growing up on a farm, in an wilderness village or in the middle ages. Not safe. I grew up in New York City. Not safe. Millennia ago we had to learn what a saber-toothed tiger’s foot prints looked like and how long ago they were left. The world still requires survival skills, even if different ones.

Parents have the responsibility to monitor and guide children and teenagers. Of course kids will object. How many of us thought our parents were right when they tried to limit what we wanted to do? We must be wise enough as parents to know best and strong enough to stand up to the kids’ anger.

Bullies are not all the same, but their patterns of behavior, their tactics, are the same. That’s why we can find ways to stop most of them. Sometimes, fighting is the key to success. If we don’t stop bullies, they’ll think we’re easy prey. Like sharks, they’ll just go after us more.

When children learn how to stop bullies in their tracks, they’ll develop strength of character, determination, resilience and skill. They’ll need these qualities to succeed against the real world bullies they’ll face as adults.

Disclosure: In addition to having six children, I’m a practical, pragmatic coach and consultant. Check out my website and blog ( I’ve written the books, “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” and recorded a 10-CD set of these books.

Best wishes,

TimP says:

Sex Offenders and Face Book

I do not get it. If a person is convicted of a mail fraud crime, they are not prohibited from using the mail. But yet even though many on the sex offender registry are on it because the crime they did had nothing to do with a computor or a child, they can not use a socal network. If a judge ordered them not to do so, well then ok. But for those in office and those who are just trying to get the public to think they are trying to protect us to say hay you are a convicted sex offender who has done your time, but I am going to tell you that you CAN NOT use a social web sight, that sounds like not the country that I thought we lived in. It sounds like a comunist country to me. But no one cares because these are just sex offenders and I think when they were convicted the country took away all of the rights they have for the rest of the life they live on earth. If it did not then maybe we can do it for the judges and become more like the germans did to groups. It is time we all stopped letting this happen as soon it will be your rights and then my rights that someone just takes away because they want to. Maybe because I am a protestent. Or maybe because they do not like gray hair. Who knows it may because they just want to get more publicity.

Michael Cafareli (user link) says:

It’s unfortunate that the report gives some parents a false sense of security about some of the serious dangers children encounter when surfing the Internet without any blocking or monitoring software. As a parent of four children, I know and have experienced some of the dangers sexual predators pose for unsuspecting children. That is why I created, a one stop holistic website that provides parents with the tools necessary to educate and protect their children online.

I do agree that software alone is not the answer. We as parents need to recognize the value of technology and the dangers it presents as well – and this should encompass television, mobile phones and the Internet. While our children have grown up in this digital age and may be technology well informed, they are naive and if we don’t start teaching them at a young age about the dangers online we are in for a rude awakening.

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