Listen to the new Summer Online Safety Tips Podcast

As president of the Safe Internet Alliance, Linda Criddle recently hosted a podcast to discuss Summer Online Safety Tips with Kim Sanchez of Microsoft and Holly Hawkins of AOL.

For most kids summer affords more free time – and with working parents, much of that time for teens is spent on their own.

But unlike past generations, with today’s technologies that does not mean they are unsupervised. Parents and children leverage cell phones and computers to create new forms of connectedness and are likely to be in touch more frequently throughout the day. They connect via calls and texts to cell phones, through IM and 4% of parents even communicate with their kids through their social networking sites.

In fact, a majority of adults say technology allows their families to be as close or closer than their families were when they grew up according to research conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Despite fears that technology use would pull families apart, 25% say their family is closer because of their internet and cell phones, more than twice as many who say they have grown apart.

That doesn’t mean these technologies don’t have pitfalls, but the majority of parents and teens are positive about the opportunities they provide.

A few hot Internet-risk topics primarily catch the media’s attention to talk about, and then other areas that don’t get the attention they perhaps deserve. This podcast looks at some of the risks most often overlooked.

Read on to see the stats we cited and questions we asked. Or, go to Safe Internet Alliance Web site to listen to the podcast, or read the Safe Internet Alliances blog on the podcast. Check out press coverage of the event on PC Advisor Parents urged to discuss online safety with kids, PC World Parents Need to Talk to Kids About Internet Use, Experts Say, or search for more articles generated by the discussion online.

Here are the Questions we asked the panelists:

  1. Each of you (MSFT and AOL) bring tremendous knowledge about what youth are doing online – with hundreds of millions of users, your insight provides a sample size and perspective that traditional research can only dream about.
    What internet safety issues do you feel are most pressing for youth, particularly during the summer months?

    1. What is your perspective on the evolution of internet risks for youth? What dynamics are the biggest factors in driving the changes?
  2. Cox communications just released research conducted by Harris Interactive that indicated teens are conflicted over online safety. It found that most teens surveyed were aware and concerned about the risks of putting personal information out in the open. In fact, 59% say having personal information or photos on a public site is unsafe, and 26% say they know someone who has had something bad happen to them because of this. Still, 62% of teens post photos of themselves on blogs or social networking sites and greater than 40% name their school or the city in which they live. To be clear, the research did not ask whether these teens social networking sites were set to public or private – which makes a huge difference in terms of safety – but we know many teens do have public profiles that share too much information.
    How can parents, websites and internet safety organizations be more effective in driving safer practices? Do you have recommendations for each group?
  3. The Harris Interactive research also indicated that 19% of teens go online via their cell phone. Of those, 19% say their parents are unaware that they do so. 80% of teens whose parents do know they go online via their cell phone, say they are not given any limits or controls.

  4. Do you think enough focus has been placed on newer risk areas like cell phones, and does the risk increase in summer months when they may not have the same in-person contact with school friends and more idle time?
    1. Sexting – sending sexual images to others via their phones – has certainly made the news in the last year, and Harris’s research says 19% of teens surveyed have engaged in sexting. 60% of teens who sent sext-messages, say they send photos to their boyfriend/girlfriend, a shocking 11% say they have sent sext-messages to someone they don’t even know.
      1. What are your thoughts on this, and do you equate sexting on phones to the same sort of highly sexualized behavior many are doing through their webcams and computers?
  5. One risk that is rarely discussed is how friends expose other friends – I’m not talking about cyberbullying here, just the typical comments friends share. We’ve all seen sites where the owner made a conscious choice to protect their personal information, but friends without thinking left comments exposing their phone numbers, full names, locations, schools, ages, photos, and more. Pew and the American life project’s research indicates that 83% of social networking users have added comments to a friends picture, 77% post messages to friends pages or wall, 66% post comments on a friends blog, and 54% send bulletins or group messages to all their friends
    1. Does social networking chat increase in the summer between teens, and do you see outing others personal information as a problem? If so, how do we get the message about respecting others’ privacy boundaries matters? That ‘friends don’t expose friends’ information’?
  6. As we round out this call, I want to give time to each of you to share final thoughts about summer internet risks and teens, and about the resources AOL and Microsoft provide for teens, parents, and others to start the discussions on safety in positive, proactive ways.
  7. Do you have thoughts about what The Safe Internet Alliance could do to help drive solutions and socialize those solutions to stakeholder groups?

Again, to learn how these questions were answered and follow the full discussion, go to Safe Internet Alliance Web site to listen to the podcast. Or read the Safe Internet Alliances blog on the podcast, check out press coverage of the event on PC Advisor Parents urged to discuss online safety with kids, PC World Parents Need to Talk to Kids About Internet Use, Experts Say, or search for more articles generated by the discussion online.

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