As yet another young person finds herself in hot water over pictures posted on MySpace (this time, a 14-year old faces child porn charges after posting explicit photos of herself so that her boyfriend could see), a new organization has emerged to teach kids about responsible, sensible Internet usage.
I stumbled across Webwisekids.org on Twitter and was impressed by their initial forays into viral marketing and their website, clearly directed at the tweens who seem to be getting themselves into so much trouble lately.
Webwisekids.org provides information on everything from E-rate requirements related to Internet access to a game designed to simulate a variety of sticky electronic situations. According to a press release,
More than one million school children in California and across the U.S. will learn how to use cell phones and the Internet responsibly thanks to a new online education game. The game, titled "It's Your Call," launched today in the Los Angeles Unified School District at Sepulveda Middle School in North Hills, Calif... "It's Your Call" is an interactive game that allows users to play out difficult situations in the safety of cyberspace before they live them out in real life. The game offers teens guidance about responsible cell phone behaviors and how to use the devices to enhance their personal safety. Players become a live action character in an interactive movie and are presented with a series of difficult decisions in a slice-of-life context. The teens must make tough decisions and view the consequences of their actions in the video. Regardless of the outcome in the game, users learn important lessons about cell phone safety.
The site also offers information on spyware, piracy, and cyberbullying in a very accessible format: nothing heavy-handed, just a well-designed, straight-forward website encouraging kids to think before they send/post/update/IM.
Would such a program have prevented that 14-year old girl from posting her pictures? Maybe not, but kids need to understand that their actions have consequences. Webwisekids is one tool that we now have to help kids feel a little less anonymous and a little less invincible on the Web.