help me find innovative practitioners who address online safety issues

I need your help. One of our central conclusions in the Internet Safety Technical Task Force Report was that many of the online safety issues require the collective engagement of a whole variety of different groups, including educators, social workers, psychologists, mental health experts, law enforcement, etc. Through my work on online safety, I’ve met a lot of consultants, activists, and online safety experts. Through my work as a researcher, I’ve met a lot of practitioners who are trying to engage youth about these issues through outright fear that isn’t grounded in anything other than myth.

Unfortunately, I haven’t met a lot of people who are on the ground with youth dealing with the messiness of addressing online safety issues from a realistic point of view. I don’t know a lot of practitioners who are developing innovative ways of educating and supporting at-risk youth because they have to in their practices. I need your help to identify these people.

  • I want to know teachers. Who are the teachers who are trying to integrate online safety issues into their classroom by using a realistic model of youth risk?
  • I want to know school administrators. Who are the school administrators who are trying to build school policy that addresses online safety issues from a non-fear-driven approach?
  • I want to know law enforcement officers. Who are the law enforcement officers who are directly dealing with the crimes that occur?
  • I want to know people from social services. Who are the people in social services (like social workers) who are directly working with at-risk youth who engage in risky behavior online?
  • I want to know mental health practitioners. Who are the psychologists and mental health practitioners who are trying to help youth who engage in risky practices online? Or who help youth involved in self-harm deal with their engagement with self-harm websites?
  • I want to know youth ministers. Who are the youth pastors and ministers who are trying to help at-risk youth navigate risky situations?
  • I want to know other youth-focused practitioners. Who else is out there working with youth who is incorporating online safety issues into their practice?

I know that there are a lot of people out there who are speaking about what these partitioners should do, who are advising these practitioners, or who are trying to build curricula/tools to support these practitioners, but I want to learn more about the innovative practitioners themselves.

Please… who’s incorporating sensible online safety approaches into their daily practice with youth in the classrooms, in therapy, in social work, in religious advising, etc.? Who’s out there trying to wade through the myths, get a realistic portrait, and approach youth from a grounded point of view in order to directly help them, not as a safety expert but as someone who works with youth because of their professional role? Who do I need to know?

(Feel free to leave a comment or email me at zephoria [at] zephoria [dot] org.)

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28 thoughts on “help me find innovative practitioners who address online safety issues

  1. Anastasia

    Hey danah. I’ve got a couple of speaking gigs booked with teens in Chicago on these topics this coming March. We both have spoken to lots of parents/educators. I wonder if it’s worth just rallying some of the more progressive thinkers/speakers in this space (including those you unearth from this post) and working together on an open-source non-fear based curriculum that educators/internet safety practitioners can use? Maybe MS would even sponsor:) Just a thought….hope you’re well! – Anastasia

  2. Bob Calder

    I address behavior online in class, but the question remains about the effectiveness. Who knows how effective prophylactic measures are when frequency is low.

    I heard you at the AAAS meeting in St Louis and use that story as an example of how people need to think carefully about risk and manage it appropriately.

    I think that critical analysis of risk is probably the thing that distinguishes my delivery from other teachers. I don’t deliver a set of rules or a first aid kit but stress dialog.

    I believe social support from student communities has a strong effect on risky behavior in general when the group is large enough. I should mention that the community in which our school is embedded is very supportive even though the school could be called “inner city” in many ways.

  3. monika hardy

    dilemma: it’s hard to practice online safety in the classroom when there are no means to practice because of blocks.

    possible solution: i got permission to teach a 1-1 class in math. i offered the course to the 120+ kids enrolled in pre-ap algebra 2 at our high school. i advertised it as a class that kids and parents would have to agree to open access. the transparency of their identity is their choice. i explained that when i tried to use web daily in mainstream – most of my time was spent defending everything. (i don’t mind the questioning – but most are too scared to even dabble towards a change of mind.)i believe some of us just need to move forward – create a model of how it can be. maybe when others see that no one died – they’ll give it a go.

    course of action: the 23 (out of 120 – dang) that joined – are pumped and ready to go. some of them have even spent the summer writing grant letters – (we are 9 laptops short.) it’s been so nice watching them defend their ability and desire to spend at least one class immersed in web use.

    my belief: (a lot from reading and following you and many others) is that immersion during class hours – no different than the immersion available to them after school hours – is the best route. we take things as they come. we learn to use a back arrow. we discover how to be safe together.

    i don’t know if this is what you’re looking for. i would love to suggest someone other than myself. from my kids’ perspective – others (who i dearly respect) trying this out – are doing it half-way. the kids are so smart. they are tired of playing games at school.

    here’s the letter the kids just finished

    and here’s the page on my netvibes where we’re creating our web use policies – would love any more insight you have for us..

    danah – your post on being a bad student because you want to research everything, even while people are talking – that’s the environment i crave for my kids. school is dry and they are thirsty. it seems criminal to me that we keep richness from them when they come to school. mostly because of unwarranted fears.

  4. monika hardy

    hey – you gave me these names several months ago: vicki davis, brian crosby. i would add to that – karl fisch and will richardson might find you more. clay christensen’s book was huge to me for what i’m doing – maybe he knows some people. there’s got to be stuff going on at high tech high and new tech high: nappa.

    i’m so glad you’re doing this. we need to make a change – or public ed will no longer be – i’m thinking. and rightly so.

  5. Lonnie Stonitsch

    I co-chair a non-profit group in New Trier Township outside of Chicago that brings in well-known speakers for parents of kids in grades preK-12. I partner with schools (administrators, PTO/As), other non-profits, social service agencies. Over the last several years I have closely watched how the issue of online safety has been addressed to parents, both via the schools and from other programming bodies. The vast majority of the messaging to parents is extremely skewed and inaccurate, is totally fear-based, and typically amateurish, with no hard science or data behind it. When you (danah) ask about who is serving/addressing/working with “at-risk” youth, I pause, because it is my perception that very, very few individuals in my community could even accurately define who is at-risk, much less then go about connecting and helping them. For many, many parents, every single child with an Internet connection is at-risk, whether from online “predators” (of course, lurking everywhere) or gaming addictions or early exposure to pornography and uber-violence.

    So here’s my question, and I think the answer: WHO IS AT RISK? Bottom line, if your child is at-risk offline, your child is at-risk online. Risk is real, but the notion that every child/teen online is morphing into a wanton, character-less, cruel shell of their “normal” self is simply, simply wrong. This is why your work is so very very important to bring to the attention of parents, and educators. Parents need to understand the social milieu of SNS, to appreciate the brilliance and dexterity with which kids thread their way through networked publics, to understand youth media culture as it truly is, not as they perceive it through the parent Mist of Naivete, Scorn and Not-How-I-Grew-Up.

    I have sat in many audiences listening to various speakers (sometimes, the only credentials are “Mom-on-a-Mission”) rail against the Internet, offering take-aways for parents to put on the fridge with “10 Ways to Protect Your Child Today” type stuff. I have seen audiences full of parents become extremely fearful and agitated during a presentation (“white-knuckle programs,” I call them), murmuring, their voices full of anxiety and stress during the Q&A sessions.

    I heard a speaker this past spring from Common Sense Media tell an audience that 47% of kids ages 6-9 own a cell phone (lie), and with the “dangers” of cell phones (mobile messaging, photos, IMing, etc), that’s a huge problem — but then I looked around at the audience, with some of the most affluent people in America, gathered in the expensive private school atrium, and I knew that exactly one child had a cell in that age group — and if any group would equip their children with cell phones, it would be this demographic. It’s all BS, cooked up who knows where, but driven with a flaming sword of righteousness that leaves Crazy in its wake. When I challenged her on many of her PowerPoint’s unattributed “facts,” she remarked that she had to tell the “guys” back at Common Sense media to update her PP presentation, that it was a few years old. Unbelievable, truly. 100 people in the audience, all scribbling these “facts” on their handouts quick as rabbits, ready to go home and fill a Hefty bag with everything of their child’s that requires an outlet. She told us that 25% of online 12-year-old girls have exposed a body part online to a stranger — WHAT??!!

    I also edit a online Calendar of area parent programming, and hold periodic meetings of the programmers, usually around 25-30 people. I made clear my intention to NEVER program to this sensibility, that frightening and misinforming and LYING to parents was abhorrent. Rather, I began researching high-quality people who were research-based, thorough, fact-driven, insightful, digital-culture-aware, and I began selling them both to my own Board and to the other programmers who sought my advice. I presume that the previous poster Anastasia is Anastasia Goodstein, and I know she is appearing at Glenbard West HS on March 4 upon my recommendation to Gilda Ross, the head programmer there. And danah, without revealing too much at this exact moment in time, you are my absolute first choice as a voice that MUST be heard amidst this cacophony, and I look forward to that fantastic day.

    My guess is that since the Pew and Berkman research is so new, it hasn’t dripped down yet at all to any of the categories that you listed (police, ministers, etc etc). My job: Counter the prevailing fear-based culture of Digital Dread. I have the resources, connections and credibility in my community to make a difference. I am very, very interested (as you can tell, from this diatribe, so sorry for the length!) in any resources that come out of this conversation. I want to do everything I can, with as much intelligence and power and grace as I can muster.

  6. christefano

    Interesting post. I’ve worked extensively with youth in the Boston area on issues surrounding privacy, online identity and intellectual property rights. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you think I can help.

    Recently I’ve been working with inner city youth in Boston (and the Cambridge Youth Program before that) but most of my work has been in the YRUU faith-based community. Much of my experience working is now going into building safe websites for teens and preteens (I wrote a technical case study about one of those sites if you’re interested).

  7. Jenni

    It may be a whole other take on the issues, but pediatricians are another group to get at the table… the Society for Adolescent Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics both have groups working on how to address these issues as a part of “anticipatory guidence” at well child visits.

  8. Nicholas Carson

    Hi danah,
    In child psychiatry we see a tremendous amount of concern among parents, teachers, and clinicians about the risks of online behaviors. We grapple with the fact that youth with mental disorders may be at higher risk for poor outcomes, if only because this is true off-line as well. There’s definitely a lot of misplaced fear.

    At the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry we have a Media Committee that hosts an annual symposium on technology, mental health, and youth. For ’08 and ’09 we’ve been focusing on video games and online social networks.

    I think the “innovation” we offer is to keep our work evidence-based. We review data from the clinical literature on, e.g., effects of VGs on behavior, of social networks on identity development, or of electronic communication on therapeutic relationships. We ground our presentations in research, which allows clinicians to make informed decisions when advising families. We also encourage parents and clinicians to *engage* with the technologies youth are using. This is more of an uphill battle, but some of my colleagues are using video games and websites in treatment sessions to amazing effect.

    We’re holding a symposium this fall in Boston through the New England Consortium of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Thanks for asking about our work.


  9. Kyle Brumbaugh


    I created a course at my former school to address these issues. It was called Global Communications, the goal was to teach students how to be better consumers of the flood of media they have access to on a daily basis. The course is now in it’s 4th year and is still running. I have moved on to a position as a Vice Principal at another school, because the issues you address are very important to me professionally, since I believe that all students need to be connected and learn to function in a society that will force them to learn throughout their lives. I am working toward a similar type of program at my new school and will be integrating some of these same skills into an existing course at our school. We are also in the process of writing a grant to create a Digital Media program at our school and the introductory survey course for 9th graders will be a “Global Communications” type course.

    Kyle Brumbaugh
    Administrative Vice Principal
    Woodside High School

  10. Ruth Elliott

    Hi Danah,

    I am a teacher in Canada who is currently enrolled in an online class learning about Web 2.0 tools. I have posted your request on my blog at to send the other teachers and administrators in my class to your blog. Some of them may be interested in working with you or contributing their ideas.

    What exactly are you thinking of for teachers and administrators? What age group of student are you looking at?

  11. Terry Darr

    I am a librarian at an all boys independent Catholic school and I lead a discussion with seniors called “Living an Online Life” which discusses moral decision making in online environments like Facebook and texting. This connects with getting them to realize they actually have an online identity, why making moral decisions about how to treat people with online communications of all kinds matter and how to handle problems when they do arise.

    Terry Darr
    Loyola Blakefield
    Towson, MD

  12. Paul OBriant

    Hi danah,

    I am the Technology Director for Currituck County Schools in North Carolina. . I am deeply involved in training, selecting filtering and monitoring software, and policy development for online safety for students and staff K-12. In my spare time 🙂 I work with churches on issues of Internet safety. I have spoken at a few state and national conferences for the United Methodist Church to help them understand the issues and protect their publics. I find I’m often trying to find the balance between fear-mongering and developing a healthy appreciation for the real safety issues.

    Keep up the good work.

  13. zephoria

    Btw: thank you all for sending me names and for adding your names here! I’m compiling a list and I will reach out to all of you shortly!

  14. Kevin Jarrett

    Hi danah,

    I’m a K-4 technology facilitator (read: teacher in a computer lab) at a small school in southern New Jersey. Although I’ve been teaching “online safety” (the very basics: personal responsibility, community, safe surfing habits) with my students for years, I’ve had more meaningful experience recently with an after-school newspaper/media club with our middle school students, The TBird Times. More information is also available here: It is our school’s first foray into social media, and while it’s gone well overall, it could also have been better and we’re looking forward this year to improving the quality and diversity of our content.

    That said, we have been very successful using the club to help students build their knowledge of the online world while respecting and acknowledging their passions and interests. The Ning platform has been very helpful, but we are looking at other solutions that foster individuality & creativity while giving us the features we want.

    Also, there are many, many great K-12 educators using social media with their students, I’ll do my best to get the word out amongst my network.

    Keep up the great work,

    Kevin Jarrett
    Technology Facilitator
    Northfield Community School
    Northfield, NJ USA

  15. Dan McGuire

    I’ve been using Moodle in my 3rd and 4th grade classroom for two years. I like Moodle because of the safety it provides in addition to all of the various tools that it includes. I’m also in the process of setting up an online learning community for the kids of our church.

    Safety is a huge issue and takes constant vigilance. Communication and awareness are still the keys as they have been since the days of saber tooth tigers- also a threat to kids.

  16. Adrian Hon

    Hi all,

    I’m developing a game for Channel 4 Education in the UK that directly addresses online safety issues in a realistic way. The game is aimed at teens, and puts players in simulated scenarios that tackle things like phishing, privacy, trust, identity, stalking, password security, etc; and all 13 missions are wrapped in a deep story.

    It’s at

    We’ve really made an effort to make the game appealing to teens in a way that is fun, rather than just being ‘educational’; and we’ve also worked hard to make the game realistic (which is harder than you think!).

    We have a beta test running for the first mission, and the rest are launching in September. If you’re interested in playing the beta, just email me at adrian (at) sixtostart (dot) com.



  17. Kitty Wooley


    It would be worthwhile for you to pose this question to Lena Trudeau, Vice President, National Academy of Administration, at (202) 315-5476,, and The Academy has done research and consulting that intersects with all these groups, and Lena sits at the intersection of federal/state/local government and social media.

    Another good source is the Kennedy School’s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, – they may have received a nomination for, or may have awarded, a group that would meet your criteria.

    Best wishes,
    Kitty Wooley

  18. Carole B

    Hi danah

    I work for a local authority in the UK (Herts) who support about 550 schools. We are working with social services and child support, police and child protection to try and develop a united, proactive but measured approach to eSafety. We are really keen to facilitate the teaching of social networking in schools, and offer a variety of filtering options to try and encourage schools to provide a rich, appropriate curriculum. We still have a long way to go, but do look at our website:
    We would love to talk to you – lots of our schools are doing great things, and some have some way to go – but we are all keen to provide the best support we can – would love your help!!

  19. Robyn Treyvaud

    In 2007 the Telstra Foundation in Australia identified cybersafety as the spotlight issue for 3 years. $A3 million has been allocated to support projects that have a community based approach to addressing the issues as well as developing parternships with key stakeholders: youth, law enforcement, education, business, social services and youth workers, local government and the media. I am an educator of 30 years experience and as a specialist consultant in the area of ICT integration and digital citizenship have been asked to be involved in 4 of the 7 funded projects. They are all quite different in their objectives: a community based approach to developing responsible, ethical and resilient digital citizens; evidence based development of parent programs and resources; development of an accredited cybersafety program for schools; online and offline resources and programs for vulnerable children and their carers to develop skills and protective behaviours.
    The groups who are leading each project are quite different. e.g : Edith Cowan University:Child Health Promotion Research Centre; communites across the largest region in north west Victoria; and an independent child welfare organistion. What is so powerful about the collaboration that is taking place bewteen each of them is that we dovetail into each other’s successful pilots and replicate them and tap into the expertise of youth and adults who are identified or identify themselves to be leaders and in some cases pioneers…we are finding many of those too!
    What does success look and feel like in the the early life of these projects? Developing relationships and partnerships with youth is a key indicator; so is harnessing the expertise of adults so that no one group feels solely responsible for solutions; and finally, a commitment and passion for making a difference in the lives of children, young people, their families and communities.
    For accountability purposes each project is documenting and recording their successes and ongoing challenges as well as providing a model for future communites be they here in Australia or elsewhere. In the spirit of collaboration I would be willing on their behalf to share the experiences in more detail with you.
    Robyn Treyvaud

  20. Melissa Gira Grant

    You might already be in touch, but Deb Levine at Isis-Inc ( may have some leads on curricula already in place for teens working with privacy, identity, and safety online. Her focus is sexuality education, and could get you in touch with people focused on gltbq teens.

    I’m also really interested in learning more about what is out there from a broad-based risk reduction POV, vs. a purely individual-level prevention POV. I’m looking at how sexual assault educational curricula have been expanded in recent years — to move from “don’t dress like that” to “watch your drink!” and “walk with friends!” to addressing relationship/partner assault and looking at the sociocultural factors that promote silence around rape. If people out there are doing that work around online forms of bullying, stalking, and abuse, or want support, I’d love to be looped in.

  21. Jenni Swanson Voorhees


    I work with teachers, students, and administrators in my own independent school and in many of those in the Washington, DC area to create an integrated and common-sense approach to addressing these issues. I have shared many materials with other educators doing the same thing on our independent school ning:

    The main thrust of our discussions includes the questions you are asking about many approaches from many different practitioners, but also letting go the scare tactics and approaching the questions with understanding, common sense, and an awareness of all the rapid changes that take place each day in this area! We are using Digital Citizenship as a title for the discussions now, understanding that it’s more than safety, it’s about how you interact and behave.

    Jenni Swanson Voorhees

  22. Child Psych

    I think you are likely to find very few social service or mental health practitioners “on the ground” with youth addressing online safety for three reasons:

    1. Most of us have no idea how to use social media ourselves much less advise the parents and kids we work with. At best, most of us only use the internet for Googling and e-mail. I started a blog earlier this year & most of the professionals I’ve mentioned it to don’t even know what a blog is!

    2. The risks associated with on-line use are way minor compared to the everyday physical risks we front-line folks are still trying to educate kids about–alcohol & drug use, drunk driving, unsafe sex, violence, suicide, child abuse & sexual assault, etc. I can speak directly to the latter having spent 16 yrs+ treating child & adolescent victims of child abuse & sexual assault & participating in community education & other prevention efforts. Internet predators are the one on-line risk we did address, though tangentially, since the incidence is so small compared to the much greater risks of the things I mentioned above.

    3. On the cynical side, with perennial funding problems affecting social services & insurance industry practices negatively affecting mental health services, no one pays any of us to address on-line safety or is likely to.

    Nevertheless, good-luck with your efforts. This is the first time I’ve been to your blog & I’ll be back to further my own education.

  23. Ella Taylor-Smith

    we are kind of tackling this in the HUWY project:
    The idea is that young people hold discussions/come up with ideas about various topics aligned to Internet Governance. In the UK these topics will be 1. Cyberbullying
    2. Child abuse and paedophilia
    3. ID theft, privacy and phishing
    4. File-sharing

    We are supporting them to hold these discussions in their own online spaces (including SN pages) and providing supporting information to engage and inform them. We also provide structured space to publish results and work with policy-makers (elected representatives and relevant government staff) to get young people’s ideas read, used and some feedback provided.

    We are hoping that through this process, young people’s awareness of safety issues and best practice will increase (though this is not our primary aim).

    At the moment, we’re designing the online support, hoping to launch everything before xmas.

    The project’s a pilot, running in Estonia, Germany, Republic of Ireland and UK.

    Get in touch with me directly ( or via the project website if you want to know more or get involved.


  24. heidi

    i’m behind on my RSS reading, so sorry if i’m late on this. librarians would be excellent to tap for this. there was recently discussion on the young adult library services association blog about serving at risk youth…

    i’m sure there are lots of librarians out there developing programs. at my library, i think it’s more about developing relationships with individuals, and providing them with resources and a place to experiment.

  25. Hilary


    Sorry I’m late on posting however maybe better late than never. I’m from the Youth Service in the UK in West Sussex and involved in working towards a social media strategy. We also have a number of work streams going on around e-safety at differing levels throughout the organisation. One of these is through the Social Media group made up of youth work practioners. This group will be undertaking the CEOP Think U Know training and then looking towards how they might be able to implement online saftey messages within their current practice.
    Happy to talk further if it’s of any help.
    All the best

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