Monday, May 26, 2008

Facebook’s New Facelift: Internet Safety

Connecticut’s crusading Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, is back in the news, this time campaigning for Internet safety. Along with other states’ leaders, Blumenthal pioneered steps to make Facebook and MySpace, the two most popular social networking sites among teens and children, safer.

Safety nets ban sexual predators from the sites and curb cyberbullying through vigilance and deleting inappropriate postings. Steps to improve verification of user’s identity and age will limit young children’s use of specifc features on the sites.

Education Week in its May 8, 2008 issue reports that Facebook has agreed to:

“— Ensure companies offering services on its site comply with its safety and privacy guidelines.
— Keep tobacco and alcohol ads from users too young to purchase those products.
— Remove groups whose comments or images suggest they involve incest, pedophilia, cyberbullying or other inappropriate content.
— Send warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult.
— Review users' profiles when they ask to change their age, ensuring the update is legitimate and not intended to let adults masquerade as children.”

Source:
Facebook and States Agree on New Ban (2008, May). Education Week. Retrieved May 26, 2008, from ttp://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/05/08/96330ctfacebooksafeguards_ap.html

Image from: firstfriday.wordpress.com

What are your views on imposing legal sanctions and controls over popular social networking sites among the young? Post your comments.

11 comments:

Meg said...

While I beleive that Internet saftely is important, I just don't see Face Book and My Space taking the time, energy and funding necessary to motitor their sites. There is just too much activity going on in these sites to monitor. How would individuals be held accountable for their actions? Would thier account be turned off? Big Deal. Who says preditors won't find a new site.

Jamie Sacharko said...

I don't know, I feel myspace and facebook are well-organized, socially conscious sites that would work diligently to carry out the safety precautions required of them. Meg, you're right, a predator is a predator and will find anyway that they can to get at their victims. But with the sophistication of how law enforcement can trace the internet and computer access, I think that these individuals can be held more accountable for their actions than just slapping their hands and having their accounts shut off.

Colleen M. said...

I think that Meg and Jamie have a point - perhaps it is just a bit too overwhelming to really govern. I tend to agree, however I do think its important to create restrictions. Although they may just be put in place to ease parents' minds, I think they have the potential to help deter students from abusing the websites and predators from abusing children. Warnings do help and do deter some people from doing what they would have normally done. Additionally, although yes students will continue to see ads for tobacco and alcohol and will no doubt be pressured to participate in them, ensuring they will be off a site they may spend hours on can only help. I would much rather a student or child of mine be chatting with friends online than smoking and getting drunk with them.
One thing not mentioned in this blog is the online "harrassment" that ensues on Facebook and Myspace. I remember reading a recent story in which a teen girl was being taunted by classmates through MySpace and ended up taking her life. Yes, harrassment, teasing and bullying occurs anywhere you go (even inside our classrooms), but do you think there is anything you can do about that in terms of MySpace and Facebook?

michele said...

I also read about the teen that took her own life that Colleen mentioned. Sadly, the bullying that led to this was orchestrated by the mother of one of her peers. I know it will be difficult to police Face Book and My Space but I think that we have to try. Many teenagers spend the bulk of their time on these sites and most do not understand the dangers. I look at it as another environment that my children visit. I wouldn't let them go to a home without supervision or to a mall with no security so if there are ways to make these sites more secure I am all for it. I think the fact that one visits these sites from his/her own home sets up a false sense of security. Yes, some predators will find ways around this but it is still worthwhile for the ones that 9it might stop.

Sherree said...

Everyone has made good points so far. In reality, the sites are too big for intense screening/security. As stated before, once the people that will abuse these sites find the loop holes, they will exploit them (whether they be online predators or students who get around the age screening). There's also really no way to screen for content except for the website's server to search for "bad" words, somewhat how the spam option on your e-mail account works.

I would like to add that I think that the government should step in and continue to attempt to make strides in protecting people, in particular children, on the internet. Some view it as an invasion of free speech rights, but I believe that the government is doing its job of looking out for the best interest of those how can't do it themselves (the kids). Despite all that parents do, these kids are still vulnerable on these sites, and I'm glad that "big brother" is trying to help.

For those of you in the cohort, I almost wish Mike D. was in this class to hear what he would say about this!

Mike said...

I def agree with Meg here. First off how can any website have that type of security. Its just not possible and then what happenes when they claim their website is 99.9% safe and something tragic happens because parents start to trust these websites more and more. I would like to see these sites outlawed to anyone who is not over the age of 18, maybe they should have some sort of way to call or send email messages to parents off anyone under the age of 18 trying to access the website. Also how much money would something like this cost to install, how would it work and how would the government monitor it. There are just to many factors that have not been discussed.
I am however impressed that congress is starting to take a good hard look at these websites which give ample opprtunity to predators to prey on young men and women.

Judy A. said...

Sheree, Who is Mike D.? We do have a Mike D. in our class, and he did respond. The whole issue of Facebook and MySpace, and other social networking sites, has attracted significant research. If any of you are taking an educational research course, you might want to explore this topic further. In addition to 18 as a legal age, as some of you point out, others wonder about First Amendment rights on these sites as well as interstate violations of pornographic material and so forth. A variety of laws come into play. I imagine this topic will not disappear soon, and will only become an increasingly complex sociological issue. It is good to have this debate now, and perhaps we should consider discussing the issue in Blackboard as well. What do you think?

Jen B. said...

Here is my two cents as a mother of two teens using both MySpace and faceBook, a Teacher and a user of MySpace...

There is little that can be done to restrict the age limit of children using MySpace and Facebook...Why do I say this? Because MySpace does have a filter that does not allow anyone under a certain age to become a 'member', however what I see commonly happening is that children do not tell the truth about their age and therefore easily get an account...Case in point, my stepdaughter setup an account through her mother (not my idea) The account states that she is 18, however she is only 15. A website cannot do anything to figure this type of thing out. There is a birth date request field, but as many of us already know fudging a birthday is not a difficult task. I think MySpace and Facebook have done an admirable job in trying to police their sites while still appealling to the masses. There just isn't enough coding available to close all the loop holes.

I hope the makes sense.

Molly said...

Jen...great point. All too often children are endangering themselves by lying about their ages or information on their profiles. I feel that the only way to truly keep children safe is to educate them on the dangers of these sites. If schools are encountering issues related to websites, such as these, teachers and parents might find it beneficial to read articles, have police officers talk to the children, or send notices home to parents about issues related to internet safety.

Not only do we have to make students aware of these dangers, but parents as well. Many parents are ill trained at using networking sites and may not know the dangers their children are putting themselves in.

Sherree said...

Judy-

The Mike that I previously referred to is a guy in the REACH program this year and he is not in our computers course. He is a SS teacher and we sometimes get fired up about such things. Sometimes I take positions just to get him going. The seven of us have just been together way too long... I included him in the comment sort of as an inside chuckle to Jamie, Colleen, and Michele.

Mary Ann Oszurek said...

I agree that internet safety is important, however these sites are so large that it won't be easy to police them. How will the companies keep track of all activity and what will be the consequences for inappropriate material? I think companies say they want to put these protective features in place to ease the mind of parents. I agree with Mike, what if the site says they are offering security, and something happens?
I would like to believe that with advancements in technology it would be easy to track and punish offenders but it doesn't happen, at least not as often as it should. Predators seem to find a way around most security but it wouldn't hurt to have it place.

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