Many laws and federal regulations apply to youth and online social technology. Learn the rights and responsibilities of teens, the relevant laws, and what teachers and librarians need to know in order to implement them within your school. Explore approaches to teaching students about their role as responsible digital citizens.
Our young people are active users of social technology.
- More than three-quarters of young people aged 13 to 24 indicated having used a social network in the past week (MTV-AP, 2009).
- Sixty-six percent had sent or received messages on MySpace, Facebook, or other social networks (MTV-AP, 2009).
- Over half of all teens check social networking sites more than once daily (Common Sense Media, 2009).
- More than half of young people state that they had never thought about the risk of getting into trouble with the police for their social network activities (MTV-AP, 2009).
They have technology. Now we want to help our students make good choices about its use. However when we get preachy, we lose them.
Social Technology: Rights and Responsibilities
Rights and Responsibility
Rather than creating a culture of fear, we need to help young people make good choices.
- First Amendment right to access information and interact online
- American Library Association "Minors and Internet Interactivity" (2009)
- “the rights of minors to retrieve, interact with, and create information posted on the Internet in schools and libraries are extensions of their First Amendment rights” (2009, p. 1).
Minors, the Internet, and the Law
When designing programs for young people, educators must adhere to the laws and regulations associated with Internet and minors
- Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA). This 1996 law prohibits types of digital pornography. In 2002, non-obscene images of teens is permitted
- Children's Online Protection Act (COPA). This 1998 law prohibits materials deemed "harmful to minors." Restricts children under 13 from having social network accounts without parental consent. This element was ruled unconstitutional. Individual sites may make this requirement, but it's not a law.
- Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). This 2000 law states that schools with computer must have" technology protection measures" (i.e. filters) in place for minor students (under 17) to receive discounted services.
- Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA). The 2008 states that those receiving federal funds must be "educating minors about appropriate online behavior."
- Terms of Service Contracts (ToS). Contracts aren't laws, but policies of individual websites. Encourage teens to read it. Google's states that you may not use the service if you are "not of legal age to form a binding contract" which is unclear. Violation generally means termination of use.
Intellectual freedom includes the right of students to seek and use information from all points of view and to express ideas and information without undue restrictions.
- First Amendment Rights. Students have First Amendment Rights.
- CIPA and Filtering. Filters should not inhibit access to information and ideas. If they do, they should be reviewed. Example: National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer page.
- Social Networks and Activism. From joining Facebook causes to endorsing political candidates, social networks serve as an important platform for free speech. More than half of teens have joined an online cause (Common Sense Media, 2009). Example: National Wildlife Federation links to Facebook page. Encourage students to evaluate "causes" and determine their authenticity.
- Free Speech Cases. Most courts have upheld the right of teens to speak freely online. However nearly half of young people haven't thought about the risk of getting into trouble at school for something said online (MTV-AP, 2009). Example: Commenting on the school policy related to body piercing.
- Harassment, Hate Speech, & Cyberbullying. More than half of teens used a social network to complain or make fun of a teacher and thirty-nine percent later regretted it. Thirty-seven percent have made fun of other students (Common Sense Media, 2009). Harassment includes a wide range of offensive behaviors that upset, disturb, or threaten. Cyberbullying is a particular type of digital harassment.
- Free Speech and Personal Responsibility. There's a fine line between defamation laws and the right to free speech. Free speech doesn't allow teens to make false statements about a principal or share altered images of ex-friends. Teens need to be aware that colleges and employers "cybervet." In other words, they check out what people have been doing online.
- Online Bias and Hate Crimes. Young people may become involved with bias-motivated online activities. The Matthew Shepard Act (2009) adds gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities to the federal definition of hare crime. These are felonies.
Honesty and the Law
Young people are legally responsible for their words and actions. It's easy to hide behind web pseudonyms. However deceptive activities can lead to serious consequences. Twenty-six percent of teens have pretended to be someone else online; eighteen percent have pretended to be an adult; and sixteen percent have posted false information about others (Common Sense Media, 2009).
- Dishonesty. Many preteens lie about their age to avoid age restrictions at websites like Facebook. Fifty-six percent of teens have posted fake information on their profile (Lenhart, 2007).
- Libel. Written or otherwise published statements that unjustly convey unfavorable impressions about someone is considered libel. Many teens experience libelous behavior. A quarter of teens found something online about themselves that wasn't true (MTV-AP, 2009). Defamation is illegal. Examples: Alleging someone has a disease, accusing someone of a crime, imputing sexual misconduct.
- Fraud and Identify Theft. Identify theft is pretending to be someone else for personal gain. The Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 can be applied. Six percent of young people have experienced someone impersonating them (MTV-AP, 2009). An eighth graders was suspended for creating a fake profile of the principal.
- Reporting Illegal Activity. Ninety-six percent of young people would report illegal activity.
- Honesty and School Computing. It's possible a teacher, tech coordinator, or librarian could be subpoenaed to testify about a student's computer use.
Intellectual Property and the Copyright Law
Young people need to understand copyright law.
- Copyright Law. Intended to protect developers, teens should get credit for the work they do and give credit for the work of others. Example: DeviantArt is popular with teens such as Hellrapter.
- Copyleft Approach. Copyleft involved removals of restrictions related to distribution of materials. Go to Creative Commons and GNU General Public License to learn more. Many website post options for people who wish to share online. Example: Flickr
- Teens, Derivative Works, and Social Networks. Young people need to be aware of their rights in terms of sharing, citing, and remixing. Example: YouTube, Scratch
Privacy Expectations and the Law
Teens have the right to privacy. Some young people lack the skills to protect their personal information. The 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student education records.
- The Fourth Amendment. The Amendment guards against unreasonable search and seizure. It's difficult to determine a reasonable expectation of privacy online.
- Privacy Expectations. In many cases, users determine the level of access to their online world. Example: Show students how wikis are managed such as wikispaces.
- Images and Privacy. Eighty-one percent of young adults possess a cell phone with a camera. Eleven percent have experienced someone posting embarrassing photos of them without their permission (MTV-AP, 2009).
- Sexting. Sexting involves sending nude, sexually explicit, or suggestive images through a cell phone. Many end up on social networks. A high school senior could end up on a sex offender's registry for posting suggestive images of a freshman.
- Blackmail. Eight percent of young people responded that someone threatened to post things on a social network if he/she didn't meet a demand (MTV-AP, 2009). Blackmail is illegal.
- Balancing Privacy and Socializing. A majority of teens manage their profile to prevent unwanted viewing. False light privacy is the damage to a person based on disclosing information that may or may not be true. Example: Showing a photo that makes a friend look pregnant.
Many adults are concerned about the safety of teens online. Nancy Willard (2006) identified three concerns: (1) brain research reveals that teens are immature and can make poor choices in social situations, (2) many parents don't monitor student activities, (3) dangerous adults are attracted to young people who make poor choices.
- Risks. The risks from outsiders are small. Internet crimes account for one percent of child sexual exploitation. However teens often become victims of same age cyberbullys.
- Safety and Schools. Use websites to help teach young people about Internet safety:
Acceptable Use Policies
Think of these policies as guidelines for "responsible use" rather than a list of what "not to do". These policies should explain what can and can't be done and the consequences for inappropriate behavior.
- Federal Regulations and Policy Recommendations. The policy should contain the Internet Safety Policy required by CIPA.
- Approaches to Policy Maintenance. Regularly update the policy based on new legislation. Focus on the positives. Stress intellectual freedom, safe behavior, and social responsibility. "Instances of inappropriate use of such academic tools should be addressed as individual behavior issues, not as justification for restricting or banning access to interactive technology” (American Library Association, 2009)
- Liability. The AUP is intended to protect students, educators, and the school district. Educators are responsible for reporting activities that could cause physical or emotional injury.
Digital Citizenship: Teaching Ethical Behavior
Educators must promote and model legal and ethical technology practices.
Educating students is part of the standards as well as a requirement of BDIA. More than 3/4 of young people think digital abuse is a serious problem (MTV-AP, 2009).
Promote American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st Century Learner.
Teens must learn to access and evaluate the information found on social networks.
- Standard 1.1.5: Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.
- Standard 4.1.7: Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information.
Standard 4.4.4: Interpret new information based on cultural and social context.
- Standard 2.3.3: Use valid information and reasoned conclusions to make ethical decisions.
Teens must learn to follow legal regulations and demonstrate ethical behavior associated with social networks.
- Standard 1.3.3: Follow ethical and legal guidelines in gathering and using information.
- Standard 3.1.6: Use information and technology ethically and responsibly.
- Standard 3.1.2: Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners.
- Standard 3.2.2: Show social responsibility by participating actively with others in learning situations and by contributing questions and ideas during group discussions.
- Standard 4.3.1: Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.
- Standard 4.3.4: Practice safe and ethical behaviors
Promote International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students
Standard 5: Digital Citizenship - Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:
- advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
- exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
- demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
- exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.
Develop stand-alone units as well as materials that can be integrated across the curriculum.
- Integrate social technology into a current events lesson.
- Integrate Google Earth, email notifications and other technology into study of Earthquakes. Example: The Did You Feel It page combines maps and community responses.
Social Technology and Moral Development
As you think about talking with students about digital citizenship, keep in mind that students come to your classroom with diverse abilities in dealing with moral dilemmas.
- Stage 1 - Obedience. What solution avoids punishment for me?
- Stage 2 - Self-Interest Orientation. What solutions helps me?
- Stage 3 - Conformity. What solution best fits with social norms?
- Stage 4 - Authority. What solution best fits with the laws of society?
- Stage 5 - Human Rights. What solution best addresses human rights?
- Stage 6 - Universal Human Ethics. What solution addresses fundamental human principles?
How will you deal with the different developmental levels?
Information, Choices, and Action
Read more about Ethical Use of Social Technology: The Decision-making Process (PDF) or click the image below on left.
(Adapted from Annette Lamb, Everyone Does It. Teaching Ethical Use of Social Technology, Knowledge Quest)
Read more about Ethical Use of Social Technology: Instructional Strategies (PDF) or click the image above right.
(Adapted from Annette Lamb, Everyone Does It. Teaching Ethical Use of Social Technology, Knowledge Quest)
Explore the following resources for ideas:
Promote Digital Citizenship
- Model Effective Use. Example: Post booktrailers on YouTube. Explore the Trailee Awards
- Engage Students. Example: Use social networks to promote resources and services. Example: Virtual Presence
- Be Available. Example: Use social networks to increase visibility. Participate in an online book club. Example: Good Reads
- Build Communities. Example: Build a sense of community by creating community programs such as online parenting or nature studies. Example: One Book
- Sponsor Events. Example: Offer programs that focus on ethical behavior such as the availability of public domain resources and sources for creating original music using tools such as Garage Band.
Rather than overemphasizing the negative, focus on preparing young people to be responsible digital citizens. Focus on practical strategies for handling tough situations and the many positive applications of online communication and collaboration.
For many more ideas, go to my website at eduscapes.com
This session is based on two recent articles written by Annette Lamb:
- Lamb, Annette (in press, 2011). Social Neworking: Teen Rights, Responsibilities and Legal Issues. In D. Agosto & H. Abbas, Teens, Libraries, and Social Networking: What Librarians Need to Know. Libraries Unlimited.
- Lamb, Annette (2010). Everyone Does It. Teaching Ethical Use of Social Technology. Knowledge Quest. 39(1), p. 63-67.
Common Sense Media. “Is Technology Changing Childhood? A National Poll on Teens and Social Networking,” Available: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/teen-social-media.
Lenhart, Amanda & Madden, Mary. “Teens, Privacy and Online Social Networks.” Pew Internet & American Life Project (April 2007). http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2007/PIP_Teens_Privacy_SNS_Report_Final.pdf.pdf
“MTV-AP Digital Abuse Study.” Knowledge Works. (September 23, 2009). http://surveys.ap.org/data%5CKnowledgeNetworks%5CAP_Digital_Abuse_Topline_092209.pdf.
Willard, Nancy E. (2006). “A Briefing for Educators: Online Social Networking Communities and Youth Risk.” Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use. http://www.cyberbully.org/cyberbully/docs/youthriskonlinealert.pdf
Wolak, Janis, Finkelhor, Davis, & Mitchell, Kimberly. “Trends in Arrests of Online Predators.” Crimes Against Children Research Center (2009): 1-10. Available: http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV194.pdf