I Should Be Terrified?

Oh dear, in the continuing saga that is the politicization of the issue of internet safety here in Australia, our Federal minister has been out and about spruiking using what would otherwise appear to be some very broad interpretations, (dare I say misrepresentation), of data related to online predators. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald we are being asked to believe that

“Over half of 11 to 15-year-olds surveyed who chat online are contacted by strangers.” 

Now if such statistics were to be taken at face value then we are being stricken by one of the worst plagues of predatory behaviour ever and should lead to us all questioning very deeply the efficacy of working with our students in such spaces.  Delving a little deeper though reporter, Michael Duffy, discovered that in fact the definition of stranger encompassed anyone who was “a friend of a friend” and even took in spam which though generally annoying is hardly life-threatening.  Duffy goes on to postulate that.

“…….what is going on here is an attempt to create fear by playing on parental ignorance of the internet, particularly social websites.”

All of this flies in the face of the evidence of a range of reports such as those which formed the basis for Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee discussion on Youth Online Victimisation from May 3 2007.  It makes for interesting reading or viewing as four of America’s foremost academic researchers on child online safety talk about their research and answer questions in a panel presentation. When you read of reputable studies such as

“………. the seminal work on the youth internet safety survey from 2000 and 2007 that Dr. Ybarra and Finkelhor participated in basically shows that from 2000 – well, unwanted sexual solicitations, however that’s defined, as you define it, have gone down in that time, from 2000 to the followup study in 2007. “

you are left wondering what an appalling age it must have been BI or more likely what appalling politics are at play here.  Highly reputable agencies such as NetAlert deserve much better than this.

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2 Responses to I Should Be Terrified?

  1. I too John, found myself listening to that first quote (“over half of 11 to 15…”) on the TV ad recently and was appalled – not at the statistic, but how it has been used to strike fear into listeners. Now I don’t for a second discount the potential dangers of the Internet (just like any other environment, for that matter), but I get the strong impression that someone feels that parents are not already conscious enough of this topic.

    I have a possible “alternate script” for the ad rolling around my head, but perhaps voters may not feel the government’s doing enough to address this matter by releasing an ad that says “good parental supervision is the best way of protecting your children online.”

    Frankly, isn’t it a bit sad that they have to launch such a scare campaign to flog a free Internet filter?

  2. johnp says:

    Hi Rob,
    As an ABC viewer I must admit that I have yet to have the pleasure of viewing “those ads”, (I should get more commercial methinks 🙂 ). The thing that annoys me the most is that a great institution in NetAlert is being manipulated for political purpose. Again least it be said that the opposition has got it any better on everything I have read, they appear to be just as misguided in their prognostications.
    I guess it just holds to the old adage that there is more mileage in fear than there is in good news.

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