May 14, 2007

Briefing Panelists Debunk Online Safety Myths

On May 3, I participated in a congressional briefing at the US Capitol titled “Just the Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths.” Organized by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Council, the panel featured David Finkelhor and Michelle Ybarra, two of the most well-respected quantitative academic researchers on this topic, as well as danah boyd, probably the most knowledgeable quantitative and ethnographic researcher on youth and social networks.

The main point of the panel was to stop the misinformation and obfuscation around the issue of online child victimization, and to focus on the facts and observations that had emerged from our collective research.

The bottomline? There are some teens who are victimized online, but their number is small, and they are most often the risk-takers, the troubled and alienated teens who were out online looking for sympathy, respect, or love. Many of the victims knew exactly what they were getting themselves into, and were often non-compliant with law enforcement when caught with the perpetrator. So instead of telling kids to keep their information private, instead we need to focus on further understanding who are the victims and how best to reach them.

CICAC has made a transcript, video and audio podcast of the event available on their website.