A Wider World: Youth, Privacy, and Social Networking Technologies

Via my colleague Jeff up at Traverse Area District Library, comes this article from Tracy Mitrano, Director of IT Policy at Cornell University and the Cornell Director of the EDUCAUSE/Cornell Institute for Computer Policy and Law Program.


There’s a lot here, including:

Quashing technological advances is never the solution. I genuinely enjoy watching my children dive into new technologies such as iPods and online games or my students demonstrating new uses of search tools or network applications. New technologies alarm us for very real reasons but can and must be addressed in ways that do not crush innovation and fun. When use of the Internet led to an explosion in plagiarism, a number of companies turned back to technology to address the problem: Turnitin is a prime example. Notably, policy played a role in that correction too, such as the implied copyright permissions that some schools secured for the use of Turnitin.11 Students’ use of Instant Messenger (IM) during exams to exchange answers, in violation of academic integrity codes, resulted in some institutions prohibiting networking devices during exam periods. In part to avoid these problems, I no longer give in-class exams or generic paper assignments; instead, I require take-home exams e-mailed to me on topics tailored to specific course material. The beauty for me is that the exams are typed, legible, and time-stamped! The advantage to students is that they have time to think through their answers and, because the assignment is tailored to class material, to integrate readings, discussion, and independent thinking.

Don’t crush the innovation or the fun!

Mitrano sums up the article, that includes a look at Facebook, “poking” and teen use of social sites, with the words she shared with her son — it’s advice we could all use as we look at Second Life, other new social networks and whatever the newer technologies will be:

The night before my son Nikko went off to camp, I told him to keep three principles in mind: maintain personal safety; explore all the opportunities the camp had to offer; and remember the golden rule—treat others how you want to be treated. I know that criminals exist, sometimes even in the midst of our most trusted acquaintances. But I pray that I have nurtured my children’s instincts sufficiently that they know whom to trust and how to react to actual threats. By the same token, I hope I have given them the developmental means to engage new worlds, both physical and virtual, with courage and excitement.