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Your Digital Kids

Live From the WiredSafety Summit

Parry Aftab is the Pied Piper (Piperess?) of kids’ Internet safety. Long before it was fashionable to invite kids to join in the conversation regarding best practices and safety on the Internet, Parry was not only listening to kids, but she was teaching them to become safe Internet leaders who would influence other kids.

Yesterday, in Washington, DC, and the Senate Building, Parry Aftab held the 9th Annual WiredSafety Summit. The event was hosted by WiredSafety’s Teenangels and Tweenangels—kids from all over the country who’ve taken training classes based on the WiredSafety curriculum.

Corporate sponsors included Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, KidZui, MyYearbook, Facebook, MySpace, and dozens of others. Corporations are particularly interested in working with and promoting WiredSafety kids because kids are the best touchstones for the state of the kids’ Internet. During the Summit, groups of kids tackle issues including gaming, texting, webcams, and social networking, and present their research to the adult audience.

Aftab also uses the Summit to bestow numerous awards for industry, government, and websites. I was honored by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for Online Child Protection, as was my colleague, Linda Criddle of Look Both Ways . Other awards went to the FTC for the work it’s done in creating websites that help you protect your privacy. Microsoft received an award for working on safer gaming environments, KidZui received an Internet Safety and Responsibility Award and awards were given to law enforcement programs as well as TV programs like Nickelodeon’s iCarly.

Some of the findings from the kids’ research with their peers included the following:

  • Texting while driving is something that’s done quite a bit by teens and needs to be addressed, educating them about the dangers.
  • They recommended that privacy policies on websites should be short and clear, and that information they give up on a site to register should not be shared with third parties.
  • Password sharing is a common and unsafe behavior that teens and tweens often engage in (85% of elementary school kids share their password with at least one other person).
  • There’s a shortage of interesting games for girls.
  • Moms are gaming with their kids almost as much as dads.
  • A 15-year-old is probably the highest risk age of the tween/teen population.
  • When kids engage their parents with their online activities, the kids themselves are safer and more careful.
  • Boys post more videos to YouTube than girls do, but both watch them as often.
  • Cyberbullying occurs as early as 2nd grade and peaks in 4th grade.
  • When kids are targeted by a cyberbully, most kids hide it from their parents (unless they surf together or play online games together).
  • Boys tend to be riskier online than girls, by sharing more personal information and meeting offline with people they only know online.