Category Archives: Teachable Moment

Illinois Legislation on Social Networking

Legislation proposed in Illinois that would directly impact the use of social networking sites by teens.

The Synopsis As Introduced:

Creates the Social Networking Website Access Restriction Act.

Provides that an owner of a social networking website must obtain and maintain in a database the written permission of the parent or guardian of each minor who is allowed access to the social networking website.

Provides that an owner of a social networking website must give each parent or guardian unlimited access to the webpage profile of the minor under his or her supervision.

Provides that an owner of a social networking website must implement procedures for verification of the age and information of anyone having a webpage on the social networking website.

Provides that an owner of a social networking website must also verify the status of the parents or guardians who have granted permission to a minor to host a social networking website.

Prohibits registered sex offenders from hosting or accessing a social networking website.

Provides that operators of a social networking website must allow the parent or guardian of the minor unrestricted access to the profile webpage of the minor at all times.

Amends the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Provides that a knowing violation by an owner or operator of the Social Networking Website Access Restriction Act is an unlawful practice within the meaning of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Student Investigation

These resources can help students investigate:

  • The reasons behind this legislation and the legitimacy of the those reasons.
  • The viability of the age and identity verification of minors.
  • The concerns associated with age and identify verification approaches.
  • Strategies teens might use to avoid such restrictions and the possible negative impact of those strategies.
  • Strategies teens use to protect themselves on social networking sites.

Reasons for Legislation

Representative Tom Cross has introduced this legislation. He is the House Republican Leader.

What are his reasons for introducing this legislation? How valid are those reasons? You can call or email the representative to ask for his reasons. Also look for the names of representatives who have signed on as co-sponsors. What are their reasons for supporting this legislation? Are any of these elected representatives in your district?

It is likely that Rep. Cross will respond that he has concerns about online sexual predators on social networking sites. Rep Cross might raise concerns about the fact that MySpace has removed 90,000 registered sex offenders from the site. He might also raise concerns about cyberbullying.

The Crimes Against Children Research Center has research resources you can consult for more insight into the problem of online sexual predators and cyberbullying:

Internet Predator Fact Sheet

Read this article to find an important fact about the 90,000 registered sex offenders (hint: last paragraph).

Age and Identity Verification

MySpace entered into an agreement with the state attorneys general to set up a task force to investigate the effectiveness of age and identity verification to protect minors online. The Berkman Internet Safety Technical Task Force was formed to do this. The Berkman Task Force released a report in January 2009.

This blog provides excellent analysis of the Berkman Task Force report and links to many other comments:

Here is a letter that has already been sent to Rep. Cross about this legislation by the American Electronics Association. Are the statements made in this letter accurate?

Questions to Ask

How would social networking sites be able to establish the age and identity of Illinois youth?

How would social networking sites be able to verify which adults have custody of which minors in Illinois?

How effective do you think requirement would be? Can you describe two ways that teens could easily bypass this requirement?

What strategies do you think parents should use to protect children and teens online?

What strategies do teens use to protect themselves on social networking sites?


Prez O’s Blackberry ~ Teachable Moment

Great story on CNET. Prez Obama gets to keep his Blackberry. Thank goodness. As far as I am concerned going without a Blackberry would be like trying to quit smoking. Not that I know about the smoking bit – having never started. Am totally addicted to my Blackberry.

Note the following from the article:

Gibbs didn’t offer details, but the contours of the compromise seem to be: official, work-related e-mail messages will be subject to the Presidential Records Act and the possibility of eventual disclosure. But strictly personal communications–with family, for instance–will be exempt.

This makes sense. As we reported last week, federal law explicitly exempts from disclosure any “personal records” that do not relate to the president’s official function.

Those include electronic records that are “of a purely private or non-public character” and don’t relate to official duties; the law lists diaries, journals, notes, and presidential campaign materials as examples. Similarly, the Freedom of Information Act prevents files from being released if the disclosure would significantly jeopardize “personal privacy.”

This provides a great Teachable Moment for students. Students must learn to distinguish between personal/social online activities and professional/educational. Most school acceptable use policies provide that students should use the Internet in school for “educational activities only.” This limit should not be for class assignments only. Just like students were able to explore personal interests in the school library, high quality online activities that are outside of class assignments should be allowed. Does this extend to checking MySpace? In most schools this does not. Classwork, high quality research = educational. MySpace = personal/social.

One reason it is important for students to learn this distinction is that when they enter the work world, their use of their employer’s interactive technologies should be limited to professional, employment related communications and activities only. Employers are allowed to monitor their employees use of interactive technologies and many employees have been fired because they were engaging in personal online activities, including really inappropriate online activities, during work time.

Suggested class discussion and activities:

  • Have your students make a list of the kinds of activities that Prez O might engage in using his Blackberry, especially the kinds of communications. Put these into to lists: Presidential and Personal.
  • Then create a list of the kinds of online activities your students engage in, both in school and out. Put this into two lists: School and Personal.
  • Discuss issues of privacy. What level of privacy should Prez O expect for his Blackberry communications? Yeah sure, really private communications do not have to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. But what are the risks? How much privacy can Prez O expect in any of his electronic communications? None! Any electronic communication that Prez O sends or receives is where? On someone else’s electronic device. Just like every one of your student’s electronic communications.
  • Have your students write their personal guidance for Prez O for how he should handle the situation where he will be using his Blackberry for both Presidential and Personal communications. Have your students write their guidance on how much privacy he should expect in any of these communications.

As soon as I get my head above water with an overload of work projects, I am going to create a new blog that will provide ongoing Teachable Moment suggestions. All best. Nancy