Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fear-based Spin

Although I have an earlier blog post about the Internet Safety Technical Task Force report, I came across an article that I must vent over.

To recap, the ISTTF report was published as an official statement of the Task Force regarding their opinions and recommendations regarding online safety for minors, and how to approach this issue going forward. Their main points were (see pages 4 & 5 of the Executive Summary):
1. The use of the internet by adults to abduct minors is very rare. Adult predation cases that incorporated the internet typically involved "post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity." Random abduction is essentially unheard of.
2. "Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors
face, both online and offline." In other words, researchers, policy makers, and other concerned adults should focus on bullying, not predators, when striving to improve online safety.
3. "The Internet increases the availability of harmful, problematic and illegal content, but does
not always increase minors’ exposure."

So, imagine my dismay when I see an article whose headline reads: "Study Proves American Teens are at Serious Risk." This article cries: "Abuse, bullying, hatred and pornography crowd the internet; and no where are they more prevalent, or more dangerous, than on sites geared towards teens." Huh? Did I miss something here?

Unfortunately, I did not. For this is no article, but a press release disguised as news written to promote an online safety service. Too bad the author of the release didn't see the Task Force recommendation that the Attorneys General NOT "endorse any one technology or set of technologies to protect minors online." (p. 6).

Hopefully parents and other adults will notice and act accordingly.

No comments: