Risky Behaviors and Online Safety: A 2010 Literature Review

I’m pleased to announce a rough draft of Risky Behaviors and Online Safety: A 2010 Literature Review for public feedback. This Literature Review was produced for Harvard Berkman Center’s Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative, co-directed by John Palfrey, Urs Gasser, and myself and funded by the MacArthur Foundation. This Literature Review builds on the 2008 LitReview that Andrew Schrock and I crafted for the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. This document is not finalized, but we want to make our draft available broadly so that scholars working in this area can inform us of anything that we might be missing.

Risky Behaviors and Online Safety: A 2010 Literature Review

It’s been almost two years since the Internet Safety Technical Task Force completed its work. As a co-director of that project, I coordinated the Research Advisory Board to make certain that we included all of the different research that addressed online safety. When we shared our report, we were heavily criticized as being naive and clueless (or worse). Much of the criticism was directed at me and the researchers. We were regularly told that social network sites would radically change the picture of online safety and that we simply didn’t have new enough data to understand how different things would be in a few years. Those critiques continue. As researchers who were actively collecting data and in the field, many of us are frustrated because what we see doesn’t match what the politicians believe. It’s been two years since we put out that first Lit Review and I’m glad to be able to share an updated one with all sorts of new data. Not surprisingly (to us at least), not much has changed.

What you’ll find is that researchers have gone deeper, getting a better picture of some of the dynamics and implications. You’ll also find that the overarching picture has not changed much. Many of the core messages that we shared in the ISTTF report continue to hold. In this updated Lit Review, we interrogate the core issues raised in the ISTTF report and introduce new literature that complements, conflicts, or clarifies what was previously said. We bring in international data to provide a powerful comparison, most notably from the reports that came out in the EU and Australia. And we highlight areas where new research is currently underway and where more research is necessary.

This Literature Review does not include information on sexting, which can be found in Sexting: Youth Practices and Legal Implications. It also does not include some of the material on self-harm because we are working on a separate review of that material (to be released soon).

As I said, this is a draft version that we’re putting out for public commentary and critique. We will continue to modify this in the upcoming months. If you think we’re missing anything, please let us know!!

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4 thoughts on “Risky Behaviors and Online Safety: A 2010 Literature Review

  1. Gardner Campbell

    I’m looking forward to reading this draft. Thanks for sharing it. Its appearance is particularly timely, given the series of NY Times articles on cyberbullying that began in today’s issue.

  2. Donal O' Mahony

    Hi Samantha and danah

    Thanks for your draft literature review which I read today. I am a secondary school (High School) teacher here in Ireland and have come across some of the issues raised from the papers you both included.

    I am reflecting on the whole are of character education (in a positive open sense) in encouraging students who use social-software to take responsibility for their online lives. I encourage my own school students to blog (as part of their history class), have taught netiquette, issues around safety, in particular tagging but am not convinced I am doing my best fot them.

    You write in relation to the role of parents “In general, the authors found that empowerment strategies were met with support from both parents and children…”p36. danah, you wrote on page three …”we should be looking for solutions that have the highest potential of impact. Our collective goal must be to help youth and to empower them to help each other”.

    Part of the “solution” resides around empowering students, helping them have agency over their actions – there is a huge contardiction in what we present as (digital) educators encouraging the use of social-software and the lack of education around values that also needs to be “taught”.

    I am also not sure that programmes like I-SAFE, Missing and HAHASO (P37/8) are the only approach. They are part of the answer but not the whole story. There is need for more empahsis on personal responsibility to manage reputation and character in the online space.

    The issue you are dealing with is much larger than schools as social-technologies evolve ever so quickly and creatively developed by people / companies who give little attention to their consequent use by teenagers – thanks for throwing some more light on the subject.

  3. Amy Shields Dobson

    Thanks for posting this danah- am just getting through it and its a great resource. Just wondering if the ACMA ‘click and connect’ reports from Australia might have some more data for you about some of these issues?

  4. Anne Collier

    So hear you on character education, agency, and responsible use, Donal. That’s what I’ve come to see as fundamental “online safety” education, too, thanks to following research from danah and others over the past decade. One finding cited in her last lit review for the task force she co-directed in 2008, was the 2007 one that youth who engage in aggressive behavior online are more than twice as likely to experience online victimization, which suggested to me that civil, responsible use mitigates risk.

    Recent experiences co-chairing another task force and participating in a huge education technology conference over here indicate to me that a phrase we’re now using in online-safety circles over here – “digital citizenship” (are you seeing it much where you are?) – may be taking root. We called for the teaching of it from early childhood as a national priority in our report to Congress last month. And it was the subject of at least four sessions at the tech ed conference I mentioned above. Small signs in a big country, but progress, I think. My own blog post about the task force report explains why I believe online-safety education comes down to what you’re talking about. There are other things we need to model and teach, but not separate from children’s everyday lives and core curriculum, and nothing more important than how to treat one another online or offline. What makes the phrase “digital citizenship” work – for me, anyway (who knows yet if it’ll have any meaningfulness for youth) – is what artist and writer A.J. Patrick Liszkiewicz wrote, interestingly in a clever article about the social game Farmville: “The central task of citizenship is learning how to be good to one another.” Same goes for the digital kind. I am hoping against hope we can keep it that simple (but also hard, of course) and not turn “digital citizenship” into rocket science (yet another specialty course added to the curriculum). Would love to get thoughts from Ireland on this.

    danah, gratz on getting that second lit review done!

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