Showing posts with label safe behavior. Show all posts
Showing posts with label safe behavior. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The CRAP Kids Learn in School

Cross-posted on iKeepSafe's Blog

Digital Media Literacy education is primarily a top-down endeavor: adults design curriculum based upon what they think kids should know about the digital world. It’s sort of like Martians deciding what Earthlings need to know about life on this planet. Sure we do our best, but at the end of the day many of us are still trying to sort out the difference between a text, a tweet, and a timeline. Additionally, while we generally cover the risk-prevention/online safety stuff well; we're not so good at imparting the skills that actually empower kids to use their digital tools masterfully.

So why not ask kids directly what it is they think they need to know?  Believe it or not, they will generally give you some very smart answers.  

For example, at the completion of a three-year pilot program in Digital Citizenship, Information Literacy, and Media Literacy at Journey School, what we call Cyber Civics, I asked the kids to tell me which lessons they found most valuable.

The overwhelming answer?  CRAP Detection. Yes I admit, that’s an acronym hard to forget. But it’s also an incredibly useful tool for finding the trees in a forest of online information. In short, CRAP Detection comes from the book, NetSmart: How to Thrive Online (2012) by Stanford University Professor, Howard Rheingold.  It suggests that we evaluate online information based on the following criteria:

Currency -
          -How recent is this information?
          -How recently has the website been updated?

          -What kind of information is included in the resource?
          -Does the creator provide references or sources for data? Or quotations?

          -Who is the creator or author? What are their credentials?
          -Who is the publisher or sponsor? Are they reputable? 
Purpose/Point of View -
          - Is this fact or opinion? Is it biased?
          - Is the creator/author trying to sell you something?

The second two things the kids liked learning about most were Copyright and Plagiarism. Now this was surprising to me, because those aren’t topics you’d think an 8th grader would remember fondly, yet as one student wrote,

“I liked learning about copyright rules so I don’t get arrested or kicked out of high school.”

Here are the other lessons the students liked most:  

“The most valuable thing I learned was to check to see if websites are trustworthy.”

“That every time you post something online it sticks onto your digital footprint like permanent glue.”

“That technology shouldn’t take over our lives.”

“That passwords should be around 8 characters w/symbols and numbers.”

“That people in magazines are photo-shopped and no one is perfect.”

And finally,

“Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents to see.”

Amen to that.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 and Ask Again

By: Piper Graber, Age 14. Piper is the narrator of What Kids Are (Really) Doing Online. Cross-posted on iKeepSafe Blog.

Image is from home page of, account is public (user is not subject of this story).
Last month my mom wrote on this blog (see below) about an incident that happened in my 8th grade class surrounding, a website that lets users pose and answer questions anonymously:  

A student in our class was the recipient of a cruel post on In this case, the victim was smart, and shared this information with a trusted adult. Their teacher turned this unfortunate situation into a terrific learning opportunity by addressing the situation in class, and also alerted the parents. The parents responded largely by advising one another to have their kids drop the site.

This post is a follow-up:

After spending a good part of my last week of school discussing a “bullying” situation that happened on, I was shocked when I saw a post on Instagram by the same girl who was bullied. She posted, “Ask me questions” with a link to her re-opened account.

After my initial disbelief, I decided to click on the link and see for myself if she really had reopened her account. Lo and behold, she had. I was angry and upset that she decided to ignore all the advice given by her teacher and classmates after three long days of discussing the incident. After all, we had all come to the conclusion that given her situation, it would be best for her to discontinue her account on Her mom even sent emails around to all the parents of the class assuring everyone that her daughter would never use that site again (and suggesting that we shouldn’t use it either).  

So I decided to “ask” her this question:

“Why would you put yourself in the same situation after making such a big deal about being bullied the first time around?”

Thoroughly puzzled by her motives, I was anxious to see the answer she would give me, but the answer I received was not quite what I was looking for. Instead she responded eloquently: 

Go  (blank) a (male’s private parts).”

Now the thing I’d like to point out here, is that the device did not make her respond the way she did. In fact, it did not force her to respond at all. This was a result of her own thinking skills. So before you blame the tool, remember it’s not the phone’s job to raise your child. It’s yours.

And taking away the shoe isn’t going to stop your child from walking.

So my advice is this: When it  comes to digital tools and your kids, don’t just ask once, but ask and ask again. Here is a helpful list of things to ask your child:
  • If you can’t take the heat of a potentially cruel statement online, should you be using that app or website in the first place?
  • Do you ever post anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see?
  • If something cruel has happened to you before online, have you taken steps to make sure it won’t happen again (like blocking anonymous questions on
As a daughter, I would rather have my mom ask me these questions and even ask to look at my social network accounts with me, rather than going behind my back, or worse, not asking me anything at all. So remember, just ask, and ask again.

Unfortunately in this case my peer didn’t get a chance to be in the Cyber Civics classes in 6th and 7th grades where we talked about all this stuff. Too bad, because then she wouldn’t be asking for more trouble on

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Prepare or Protect? A Question About

What is it with parents and the knee jerk reaction to technology?

Here’s an example… someone is mean to our child on _______________ (fill in the blank with today’s most popular app/social networking site). We response by either,

a) taking the device away, or
b) demanding they delete the offending app and/or social networking site from their device.

Problem solved.

But is it, really?

This all-too-common scenario played out in our Cyber Civics class last week. The offending site was In case you aren’t familiar with it, is a service that lets users pose and answer questions anonymously. It’s integrated with other popular social networking sites like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, which means responses are posted on those sites too. What kids like about is its anonymity. However it’s this very feature that potentially makes it fertile ground for cyberbullies. In fact, has fallen under a lot of scrutiny recently due to allegations that activity on the site has led to a half dozen teenage suicides. Meanwhile, the number of people who use the service has swelled to 50 million in just a short period of time.

Just the thought that this site might be responsible for teen suicide is enough to make us want to protect our children from it. However, when it comes to technology, or anything for that matter, it’s our job not just to protect, but also to prepare our kids.

A student in our class was the recipient of a cruel post on In this case, the victim was smart, and shared this information with a trusted adult. Their teacher turned this unfortunate situation into a terrific learning opportunity by addressing the situation in class, and also alerted the parents. Parents responded largely by advising one another to have their kids drop the site. While this is certainly a valid option — part of being a digital citizen is realizing we have choices, and those choices influence what survives in the marketplace — it might not be the wisest long-term solution.

This is best explained by’s news Ann Collier:

So there’s always going to be a site that everybody’s going to love to hate, and we’re not helping children develop the self-respect, empathy and resilience that will truly protect them by getting caught up in an endless frustrating game of whack-a-mole. It also doesn’t help our credibility with our kids and – even when sites show little or no corporate responsibility – the sites aren’t the root problem.

If it’s not today, then it’s going to be something else tomorrow (or yesterday, like Vine). It’s time for us to face the fact that technology isn’t going anywhere. In order to be resilient digital citizens our kids need be prepared with strategies that enable them to thrive in the digital world.

That’s what our Cyber Civics classes are intended to do — prepare kids to be wise and capable users of the tools. Asking them to shoot the messenger, so to speak, doesn’t achieve this goal.

This unfortunate incident provided an excellent opportunity to investigate how to use the site wisely.  For example:

  • Users can choose to prevent anonymous questions by going to their privacy settings and selecting, “Do not allow anonymous questions.” 
  • In the event you observe someone violating the “Terms” of the site (you and your child can read these together), such as the rule prohibiting “pornographic, obscene, offensive, threatening, harassing, libelous, hate-oriented, harmful, defamatory, racist, illegal or other wise objectionable material or content,” you can (and should) do something about it. Report the incident by clicking on “report as” which appears below every question, answer and comment. On mobile apps you can tap the flag button.
  • Or you can directly contact a guy named Eric, whose link is found on the site.

Although leaving the site is certainly a respectable option, learning (and teaching) how to be a proactive user might be a better solution. Or writing about what you don’t like about on other social networks, as many of the victim’s classmates did, is also a terrific way to demonstrate proactive behavior. Bad conduct happens online and off.  Doing something about it instills, in the words of Ann, “ self-respect, empathy and resilience.” 

Now that’s a lesson worth learning. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

10 Tips for the New Year

If your child is like most, he or she is probably starting out the new year as the proud owner of a new digital device. A gift from you perhaps? If so, don’t let the gift-giving end there. Give the best gift of all: 10 TIPS to help them use their new phone, tablet, PC, laptop, or other digital tool wisely and safely:

1. Set Limits. Talk to your child about how to set appropriate limits for time spent with their digital devices. A good rule of thumb is to keep bedrooms device free at night (after homework) and to ban digital tools from the dinner table.

2. Manage Privacy Settings. If you haven’t already set the privacy settings on your own social networking sites, like Facebook, this is something you and your child can do together.  Decide who can see what they post online and how people can connect with them. Chances are you’ll both learn something in the process.

3. Read Privacy Policies. Yes, these can be long, dull and boring; but Privacy Policies are important to read, so try this: It reads privacy policies and user agreement for you and quickly scans them to flag words, statements, and phrases worth your attention.

4. Turn on the “Do Not Track Tool.”  Most Internet browsers have a "Do Not Track" tool to tell sites you don't want cookies installed on your device. In case you didn’t already know this, "cookies" are what websites drop on your computer to track your activities.  You can manage these by tweaking your preferences.

5. Have the Talk (about passwords). According to a Pew Internet Study, 1 in 3 teens have shared a password with a friend. Encourage your child to keep their passwords private and teach them how to make a strong passwords by following simple rules, like combining upper and lower case letters with numbers and symbols (and never include personal info!).  

6. Keep Personal Info Personal and Don’t Chat With or Send Photos to Strangers. The good news is that kids already know this. Research shows that adults actually share personal information more freely online than kids do. So here’s where we can work a little harder to be better online role models.

7. Ask Permission. Requiring your child ask permission before signing up for anything online is a good policy and it goes hand in hand with tip #8.

8. Be Vigilant. Teach your child how to recognize tricks and mechanisms the online world uses to try and access our personal data (like links on emails we don’t recognize). 

9. Respect Age Limits on SNS’s. Data shows that close to half of online teens admit to lying about their age in order to access a website. Just like we teach our kids to be ethical, law-abiding citizens of the offline world, show them how to extend these same behaviors into the online world. And remember that it’s smart to let kids develop the maturity needed to deal with the many ethical decisions that loom in cyberspace.

10. Finally, Give the Gift of Gab. Talk to your child. Chances are you’ll learn something from them about how to use your own devices more safely and wisely!

 Lastly, hopefully your child is lucky enough to learn some or all of these lessons in school. If not, why not advocate for digital literacy, cyber civics, and/or digital citizenship classes in your own school? It's a gift we could be giving to all our kids.

Cross-Posted on iKeepSafe Blog

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Rules for Safe and Respectable Online Behavior (Written by 7th Graders)

                                                                                                    Photo by Nirzhar. Business Portraits
Here’s a question: Who is more apt to post an embarrassing photo online, a 7th grader or his/her parent? If you answered “a 7th grader”… then you’d be wrong. According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center called Reputation Management and Social Media, adults share personal information online more freely than kids. And guess what? They’d really like us to stop.

This past year, in our weekly “Cyber Civics” class at Journey School, I asked a roomful of 7th graders to come up with ten rules for “safe and respectable online behavior.” Here is their list:

  1. I will not post embarrassing pictures of other people on public sites.
  2. I will not post mean comments online.
  3. I will not post any personal information about myself online.
  4. I will not give out any personal information about my friends.
  5. I will not make up fake identities.
  6. I will always ask permission before posting pictures of others.
  7. I will respect a person’s decision if they do not want a picture or video of themselves posted online.
  8. I will think twice (or three times) before putting anything online.
  9. I will not pretend to be another person online behind their back.
  10. I will not post personal stories about my friends online without their permission.
I think these are terrific rules for all of us, young person and adult alike. After all, as tempting as it is to over share personal information on social networks, like Facebook, following these guidelines not only demonstrates respect for the “digital footprints” of our families and friends, it’s also just plain smart. After all, posting that photo of your family frolicking on the beach in Maui also broadcasts to the world that nobody is at home. That’s not so wise. Don’t believe me? Just ask your 7th grader.

(Btw, in case you were wondering, yes the class gave me permission to post this list and to give out the name of their school!)