Jacobs School Experts Advise Teens During First Youth Summit for Online Safety
The Youth Summit was sponsored by Microsoft, in collaboration with UCSD, i-SAFE America (an Internet safety training program), and TakingITGlobal (a global online community for young people). The event was designed to provide teens with the skills they need to help them safely navigate the Internet, and the program was largely interactive. Improv sketches and breakout projects involved the teens themselves in creating online-safety skits, billboards, songs, public-service announcements and more. (The winning team did an American Idol-type skit called Inmate Idol, with High Tech High student Tyrone Lee singing "He Stalks" to a William Hung-style rendition of "She Bangs.")
The researcher noted that information can be vulnerable because of the way a software program is designed or implemented, either on a PC or the web server. "If you go to a library and use a high-speed connection to start instant-messaging a friend about something private, another person in the same library could be listening to the radio waves coming out of your computer," said Kohno. "So even if you do everything reasonably within your power to protect your safety, things can still go wrong, and the problem may be in the software program itself."
Griswold's ActiveCampus project is experimenting with location-based messaging, digital graffiti and other new wireless capabilities based on location awareness. But he warned that along with the new opportunities come new risks. "You'll be able to find your friends, take advantage of nearby shopping opportunities, and all sorts of great things like that," Griswold told the students. "But that also means you may be at risk not just from online stalking, but from stalking in the physical world. And the time of transition from cyber to physical threat is not a matter of hours or days but a matter of seconds."
According to some of the experts, teens use technology differently than do adults, who generally view computers as tools for business, rather than as a social enabler. As a result, teens approach interactions with fewer defenses, which makes them more vulnerable to online threats. "It is an interesting paradox; while teens are vulnerable, they also are very savvy users of technology," said Susan Koehler, senior director of consumer safety at Microsoft. "With the right knowledge and awareness, they have the potential to be a huge part of the solution when it comes to making the Internet safer."
The only grumbling from students during the event came when they heckled a representative from the Motion Picture Association of America, who participated in the panel discussion to warn against online piracy. A related poll -- with students using an electronic system that tabulated the votes instantly -- showed that 82 percent of the students have downloaded music or movies from the Web.