Change has always been the domain of the young. From the end of the Vietnam War to the Arab Spring, it’s not parents who are out there advocating change, it’s the youth. In the online world, it’s time to get kids, especially the web-savvy ones, to take a stronger role in their own safety and etiquette.
I attended the annual meeting for FOSi (Family Online Safety Institute) a few weeks ago and was gratified that instead of the decades of scare tactics about how much trouble kids can find on the internet, there was a commitment to good research and to working hand in hand with kids instead of trying to hand down ultimatums.
What Kids Know That Parents Don’t: For one thing, they know how much of a mess the Internet really is, and how ill-equipped their parents are to serve as guides. The research FOSi commissioned found that while 84% of parents felt they monitored their teen’s online behavior very closely, a much smaller percentage of teens (39%) actually felt as if they were being monitored closely. The same perception gap was reported when 91% of parents felt they knew about their teen’s activities, while teens reported that their parents were not particularly well informed. Parent’s biggest knowledge gaps were in social networking areas, especially with newer sites and topics like Pinterest, Instagram and mobile apps. Parents and teens both claimed to worry about identity theft, invasion of privacy and a blotted school record. Teens expressed concern that parents didn’t fully understand the ferocity of images that are posted without consent, and “regrettable” comments online.
A Platform for Good: Most of the research underscores that kids are a bit more in touch with the realities of connected living, and learning quickly how to show caution when necessary. That’s real evolution. One of the best things to come out of the sessions was the launch of Platform for Good, where parents, teachers and kids can band together to effect positive change in the world using online connections. In a nice sway from the predictable, the project features high school students that appear in small vignettes teaching parents about what goes on that they ought to know about. They use a little charm, a lot of humor and offer up good honest kid advice on subjects as wide ranging as: mobile apps, setting up mobile phone features, reputation, and gaming.
For parents who don’t know a Pintrest from a pint of milk, an hour on this site goes a long way towards a reality check.
On the Internet, if you’re under thirteen years old, you don’t belong in most places. Sites like Facebook, in particular, have made it abundantly clear that those under the age of thirteen are trespassers, subject to deportation.
But three things are changing the picture and it’s my guess that we’re about to see kid’s web that’s richer and more robust because of it.
- The regulations protecting kids on the Internet have become outdated and are being revisited.
- Developers who want to create great web experiences for kids are stymied by existing regulation.
- Parents have become silent scofflaws allowing their kids to join Facebook and other adult sites even in f the kids are under 13.
The regulation is question is COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, created to curtail the collection of data from minors on the Internet. If you’re going to engage a minor on a web site then parental consent is required.
Enacted in 2000, the law has been around since before iPads and smartphones, apps, social networks and collaborative tools. At a recent industry conference, All conference, FTC Commissioner, Leibowitz, Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC said COPPA was undergoing changes.
The second problem is that the world of kid’s is a god forsaken place for any developer trying to earn a living. By law, kid’s content developers can’t allow kids to share information, track their location, or know very much about what they’re doing without parental consent.
Lorraine Ackerman, who runs the site Moms with Apps, offered that given the instantaneous nature of the mobile environment, this creates an additional friction and should be factored into the sales viability of the app. Many developers play it safe, keeping the kids in a safe bubble. For example, sending a drawing to Grandma or offering personalized/localized activity (let’s say a scavenger hunt) is “walking a fine line”. Developers of kids’ apps, unlike others, have very little feedback on what kids like, what’s working and how to engage them further. Kids app developers forgo many of the analytic tools that other developers use to gauge user engagement. One of the byproducts of regulation is that developers err on the side of safety and refrain from making more engaging kids’ spaces.
And then there’s Facebook. Facebook is making headlines because the company is toying with technology that would allow kids under thirteen to be Facebook members in some sort of parentally supervised area. As Facebook goes, so goes the Internet. According to a study reported by Cnet, Minor Monitor, found that.38 percent of the kids on Facebook are below age 13. That’s over 3.5 million of Facebook’s monthly visitors in this country alone.
Welcome to the perfect storm. Regulation is being revisited. Innovation in the kids marketplace is being stymied. And it’s now possible for social networking technology to let children to talk to Grandma or Aunt Bess, their best friend or favorite cousin, without leaving them exposed to the vagaries of the Internet at large.
Parents should be prepared to take on more of the burden for managing their kids online lives as these forces collide. But ultimately, a web where kids can talk to their friends and family, under watchful eyes, with the proper privacy protection can be a really great web for all of us.
Come on, ‘fess up: Each of us knows someone that’s done something really regrettable on the Internet. Maybe it’s not on the Anthony Weiner scale, but a wrongly-worded email, unintended recipient, infidelity, or a rant about the boss can have huge consequences for kids and adults alike.
At the recent CE Week event, we brought attention to the some of the new issues and the new tools designed to help create a safer (and less regrettable) experience…
- See a demo of whatswhat.me, a program that makes use of facial recognition to keep kids safe inside their community.
- Learn about Ohanarama, the first intergenerational social network for grandparents and their grandchildren.
- Explore WhyVille, a decade-old social network for tweens, and see how they solve problems collectively while having fun.
- Finally, meet Wayne Green from Intel, and find out how Intel views a kid-safe PC as an entire ecosystem. McAfee’s Stanley Holditch shows how education and tools combine to combat internet trouble.
Despite the creative solutions, the plot thickens. Hemanshu Nigam, a former prosecutor with the Department of Justice, leads a riveting discussion about sexting, what it is and why people do it. He’s joined by danah boyd, from Microsoft Research, Jack McArtney from Verizon, and Michelle Chisolm from Sprint, who offer some tremendously important insight on how we need to manage this issue so that we’re not convicting minors for sexting, since they are the very people we seek to protect. This multi-part video explores the youth culture, it’s attraction to celebrity, and how that interplays with the rise in risky Internet behavior. ( part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5).
The outcome of debates like these affect all of us and all of our businesses. A misspent moment on the Internet should never ruin your day, week, or life, and our industry needs to make sure that we’re doing our part to optimize the good outcomes.