A recent article on CNN.com commented on a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, highlighting the fact that most teenagers aren't quite as clueless online as us teachers might think. In fact, while the majority of teens have some sort of online identity,
"The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported Wednesday that two-thirds of teens with profiles on blogs or social-networking sites have restricted access to their profiles in some fashion, such as by requiring passwords or making them available only to friends on an approved list."
Not surprisingly, most were happy to post pictures and use real first names, but were at least aware of issues related to protecting their identities. The study also noted that only 2% posted their cell phone numbers. Of course, 2% of the millions of kids online is still a fairly large number, pointing to the need for additional education and self-policing on social networking sites. In fact, as we teach office productivity, programming, and web design, we also need to teach online safety, etiquette and security to a more general audience. While not every student has an interest in C++, very few are without a MySpace.
I do take some comfort in a question my 12-year old recently asked me. He said, "Dad, what's the weather like in Crotia?" (pronounced Cro-Tee-Uh). I asked him if he meant Croatia and he responded that this was the country he had posted as his home on his online profile. If only his geography were as solid as his online safety skills.