What do teenagers think is safe Internet behavior? And what would they advice their peers to do and not to do?
Well, a bunch of European 14-17 years old have given a lot of thought on the subject, and on the Safer Internet Day in Brussels a few weeks ago, they presented their ideas. I went to the press conference, and wow, it was so interesting to hear their opinions. This is the generation that have been immersed with digital culture from the very start, instant messaging and social networks are just as natural for them as running water from the tap. Often they know much more about digital behavior than their parents.
The European Commission and the Safer Internet project (which was recently granted additional funding until 2013) invited multinational group of young folks, and here are some of their suggestions:
- No “Top 10 tips” on Internet safety! It’s not an ineffective way of learning. The teens want Internet awareness campaigns at schools, discussions and shorter films (none of the European teens from 11 different countries, including Sweden, have had Internet safety presentations at school).
- Teach the teachers more about Internet safety, so they can teach it in class.
- Internet hotlines (to get advice for example on cyber bullying). The teens want it to be easy to report abuse, for example on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
- Moderators in social networks should get better training. They should specifically be looking out for “grooming” (when adults are befriending the child in order to sexual abuse it later)
- It should be compulsory to read safety advice before creating a profile in a social network.
- It should be easier to remove unwanted pictures.
- Profiles in networks such as Facebook or MySpace should be private by default. In that way, you have to think when you change your profile from private to public.
- Someone to talk to at school about cyber abuse and bullying. It can often be embarrassing to talk to friends and family about this.
- More web sites for help or youth forums where you can search advice on issues related to the Internet.
- A highly visible red report button on all social networks.
Even though this generation has gotten the digital culture in with the breast milk, they still need and want some advice from adults, especially when it comes to images.
I think it is interesting to note that the European teens want schools to become much more active on this topics. Clearly, Internet safety and digital behavior is also something that should be part of the schools’ agenda for this age group. I’m sure parents can do a better job in advising their teens, but that requires that they put more effort into understanding the digital environment the teens are surround with.