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Ressources for Parents and Teachers (ISL Talks on Social Networking) [en]

Ressources for Parents and Teachers (ISL Talks on Social Networking) [en]

[fr] Quelques liens, points de départ pour mes deux conférences plus tard dans la journée (parents et enseignants, au sujet des adolescents et des réseaux sociaux comme Facebook).

I’m giving two talks today at the [ISL](, one for teachers and another for parents, about teenagers and social networking (that the request was specifically for “social networking” makes me happy, because we’re finally moving away from the whole “blog” thing). I think we’re moving away further and further from the “internet as library” metaphor, and the “internet as city/village” image is the one that most people are starting to have.

I have already gathered many links with useful information all over the place, but I think it’s a good thing to collect some of them here for easier access. If you’re reading this not long after I posted it, you’ll find a whole series of quotes in [my Tumblr](, too.

**General starting-points**

– my bookmarks tagged [teens](, [youth](, [fear](, [digitalyouth](, [edublogging]( (click on “related tags” at the top right of each page to explore more)
– search Wikipedia for [Bebo](, [Facebook](, [MySpace](, etc
– search [digital youth on Google]( for educational resources and research
– visit [Facebook](, [MySpace]( or [skyrock]( to explore or create a profile there

**Fear of sexual predators**

This is by large the most important fear linked to teenagers and the internet. Thankfully, it is much exaggerated and no more of concern than fear of predators *offline*. Three starting-points:

– [Predator Panic: Reality Check on Sex Offenders](
– [MySpace Banning Sex Offenders: Online Predator Paranoia]( (contains relevant quotes and figures from [a 2007 research presentation]( one can view/read in full online)
– [My Advice to Parents](

**The real issues**

You’ll see that these are much less “newsworthy” than sexual predators.

– privacy (in the sense of revealing too much about yourself or in an inappropriate context, which leads to embarrassement or social problems) — a look at Facebook privacy settings
– permanence of online media
– weakness of anonymity
– misunderstanding of how online interactions affect communication and relationships (“chat effect”, flame wars…)
– [slide-show of a presentation I gave]( about the kind of mischief teenagers get upto on blogs (what I managed to lay my hands on, with screenshots — no fear, it’s pretty mild)
– intellectual property (copyright)
– necessary to move away from a model of “education through control” as everything is available at a click of a mouse (age-restricted content like porn, shopping, gambling)
– rumors, hoaxes and urban legends (use []( to debunk them)
– bullying and many other unpleasant online phenomenons are also offline phenomenons, but sometimes less visible to adults; the core issue does not change — if these problems are addressed properly offline, then they will also be online
– [cyberaddiction]( is not common at all, despite what some articles might want to have you believe — unhealthy usage of the computer usually is not the problem in itself, but an element of a larger problem which needs to be addressed
– the jury is still out on [gaming]( — though it’s clearly not healthy to be spending *too* much time immersed in interactive virtual worlds when you’re learning to get to grips with reality, it seems that participating in multi-player online games [can have a significant positive impact]( on ability to work in teams and solve problems creatively

**Other links or comments**

– [Notes of round table discussion with 4 International School teenagers from the Geneva region](
– [blog of “web2.0-enabled” educator Ewan McIntosh](
– [blog of danah boyd, PhD researcher on youth and digital spaces](
– tip for teachers present in social networks where students are: make “public” part of profile “school-compatible”, don’t send out friend requests to students, but accept incoming ones (people outside the teaching sphere have similar issues between “personal life” and “business)
– the computer is not the only device which gives access to the living web
– [should parents spy on their kids online? (Facebook)](
– a good book for parents: [Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online](
– beyond teenagers, into business (there are many, but two pointers): [How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications](, and [The Cluetrain Manifesto](, a book that gives you the bigger picture

I will probably add to this article later on, following the requests made during the talks. If you want to suggest a topic or ask a question, feel free to do so in the comments.

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Reading the Ofcon Report on Social Networking: Stats, Stranger Danger, Perceived Risk [en]

Reading the Ofcon Report on Social Networking: Stats, Stranger Danger, Perceived Risk [en]

[fr] Le Daily Mail remet ça aujourd'hui, abasourdi de découvrir que les adolescents rencontrent "offline" des étrangers d'internet. Il va donc falloir que j'écrive le fameux billet auquel j'ai fait allusion dernièrement, mais avant cela, je suis en train de lire le rapport sur lequel se basent ces articles alarmés et bien-pensants.

Ce billet contient quelques commentaires sur la situation en général, ainsi que mes notes de lecture -- citations et commentaires -- du début de ce rapport de l'Ofcon.

I don’t know if I’ll get around to writing about the [teen cleavage scare]( before the story goes completely cold, but in my endeavour to offer a balanced criticism of what’s going on here, I’m currently reading the [Ofcon Social Networking Report which was released on April 2]( and prompted this new wave of [“think of the children” media coverage]( The Daily Mail is at it today again, with the stunning and alarming news that [teenagers are meeting “strangers” from the internet offline]( (big surprise). I find it heartening, though, that the five reader comments to this article as of writing are completely sensible in playing down the “dangers” regularly touted by the press and the authorities.

Here are the running notes of my reading of this report. I might as well publish them as I’m reading. Clearly, the report seems way more balanced than the Daily Mail coverage (are we surprised?) which contains lots of figures taken out of context. However, there is still stuff that bothers me — less the actual results of the research (which are facts, so they’re good) than the way some of them are presented and the interpretations a superficial look at them might lead one to make (like, sorry to say, much of the mainstream press).

Here we go.

> Social networking sites also have
some potential pitfalls to negotiate, such as the unintended consequences of publicly posting
sensitive personal information, confusion over privacy settings, and contact with people one
doesn’t know.

Ofcon SN Report, page 1

Good start, I think that the issues raise here make sense. However, I would put “contact with people one doesn’t know” in “potential pitfalls”. (More about this lower down.)

> Ofcom research shows that just over one fifth (22%) of adult internet users aged 16+ and
almost half (49%) of children aged 8-17 who use the internet have set up their own profile on
a social networking site. For adults, the likelihood of setting up a profile is highest among
16-24 year olds (54%) and decreases with age.

Ofcon SN Report, page 5

This is to show that SNs are more popular amongst younger age groups. It makes sense to say that half of 8-17 year olds have a profile on SN site to compare it with the 22% of 16+ internet users or the 54% of 16-24 year olds. Bear in mind that these are *percentages of internet users* — they do not include those who do not go online.

However, saying “OMG one out of two 8-17 year olds has a profile on a SN site” in the context of “being at risk from paedophiles” is really not very interesting. Behaviour of 8 year olds and 17 year olds online cannot be compared at all in that respect. You can imagine a 16 year old voluntarily meeting up to have sex with an older love interest met on the internet. Not an 8 year old. In most statistics, however, both fall into the category of “paedophilia” when the law gets involved.

> 27% of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites say that they have a profile on a site

Ofcon SN Report, page 5

I’d like to draw you attention on the fact that this is 27% of 8-11 year olds **who are aware of social networking sites**.

> Unless otherwise stated, this report uses the term ‘children’ to include all young people aged 8-17.

Ofcon SN Report, page 5

I don’t like this at all, because as stated above, particularly when it comes to concerns about safety one *cannot* simply lump that agegroup into a practical “children”, which plays well with “child abuse”. In the US, cases of “statutory rape” which might very well have been consensual end up inflating the statistics on “children falling victim to sexual predators online”.

> Although contact lists on sites talk about ’friends’, social networking sites stretch the
traditional meaning of ‘friends’ to mean anyone with whom a user has an online connection.
Therefore the term can include people who the user has never actually met or spoken to.
Unlike offline (or ‘real world’) friendship, online friendships and connections are also
displayed in a public and visible way via friend lists.
> The public display of friend lists means that users often share their personal details online
with people they may not know at all well. These details include religion, political views,
sexuality and date of birth that in the offline world a person might only share only with close
> While communication with known contacts was the most popular social
networking activity, 17 % of adults used their profile to communicate with
people they do not know. This increases among younger adults.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7

Right. This is problematic too. And it’s not just the report’s fault. The use of “friend” to signify contact contributes to making the whole issue of “online friendship” totally inpenetrable to those who are not immersed in online culture. The use of “know” is also very problematic, as it tends to be understood that you can only “know” somebody offline. Let’s try to clarify.

First, it’s possible to build relationships and friendships (even loves!) online. Just like in pre-internet days you could develop a friendship with a pen-pal, or kindle a nascent romance through letters, you can get to know somebody through text messages, IM, blog postings, presence streams, Skype chats and calls, or even mailing-list and newsgroup postings. I hope that it will soon be obvious to everybody that it is possible to “know” somebody without actually having met them offline.

So, there is a difference between “friends” that “you know” and “SN friends aka contacts” which you might in truth not really know. But you can see how the vocabulary can be misleading here.

I’d like to take the occasion to point out one other thing that bothers me here: the idea that contact with “strangers” or “people one does not know” is a thing worth pointing out. So, OK, 17% of adults in the survey, communicated with people they “didn’t know”. I imagine that this is “didn’t know” in the “offline person”‘s worldview, meaning somebody that had never been met physically (maybe the study gives more details about that). But even if it is “didn’t know” as in “complete stranger” — still, why does it have to be pointed out? Do we have statistics on how many “strangers” we communicate with offline each week?

It seems to me that *because this is on the internet*, strangers are perceived as a potential threat, in comparison to people we already know. As far as abuse goes, in the huge, overwhelming, undisputed majority of cases, the abuser was known (and even well known) to the victim. Most child sexual abuse is commited by people in the family or very close social circle.

I had hoped that in support of what I’m writing just now, I would be able to state that “stranger danger” was behind us. Sadly, a quick [search on Google]( shows that I’m wrong — it’s still very much present. I did, however, find [this column which offers a very critical view of how much danger strangers actually do represent for kids]( and the harmful effects of “stranger danger”. Another nice find was this [Families for Freedom Child Safety Bulletin](, by a group who seems to share the same concerns I do over the general scaremongering around children.

> Among those who reported talking to people they didn’t know, there were significant
variations in age, but those who talked to people they didn’t know were significantly more
likely to be aged 16-24 (22% of those with a social networking page or profile) than 25-34
(7% of those with a profile). In our qualitative sample, several people reported using sites in
this way to look for romantic interests.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7

Meeting “online people” offline is more common amongst the younger age group, which is honestly not a surprise. At 34, I sometimes feel kind of like a dinosaur when it comes to internet use, in the sense that many of my offline friends (younger than me) would never dream of meeting somebody from “The Internets”. 16-24s are clearly digital natives, and as such, I would expect them to be living in a world where “online” and “offline” are distinctions which do not mean much anymore (as they do not mean much to me and many of the other “online people” of my generation or older).

> The majority of comments in our qualitative sample were positive about social networking. A
few users did mention negative aspects to social networking, and these included annoyance
at others using sites for self-promotion, parties organised online getting out of hand, and
online bullying.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7

This is interesting! Real life experience from real people with social networks. Spam, party-crashing and bullying (I’ll have much more to say about this last point later on, but in summary, address the bullying problem at the source and offline, and don’t blame the tool) are mentioned as problems. Unwanted sexual sollicitations or roaming sexual predators do not seem to be part of the online experience of the people interviewed in this study. Strangely, this fits with my experience of the internet, and that of almost everybody I know. (Just like major annoyances in life for most people, thankfully, are not sexual harrassment — though it might be for some, and that really sucks.)

> The people who use social networking sites see them as a fun and easy leisure activity.
Although the subject of much discussion in the media, in Ofcom’s qualitative research
privacy and safety issues on social networking sites did not emerge as ‘top of mind’ for most
users. In discussion, and after prompting, some users in the qualitative study did think of
some privacy and safety issues, although on the whole they were unconcerned about them.
> In addition, our qualitative study found that all users, even those who were confident with
ICT found the settings on most of the major social networking sites difficult to understand
and manipulate.

Ofcon SN Report, page 7-8

This is really interesting too. But how do you understand it? I read: “It’s not that dangerous, actually, if those people use SN sites regularly without being too concerned, and the media are making a lot of fuss for nothing.” (Ask people about what comes to mind about driving a car — one of our regular dangerous activities — and I bet you more people than in that study will come up with safety issues; chances are we’ve all been involved in a car crash at some point, or know somebody who has.) Another way of reading it could be “OMG, even with all the effort the media are putting into raising awareness about these problems, people are still as naive and ignorant! They are in danger!”. What will the media choose to understand?

The study points out the fact that privacy settings are hard to understand and manipulate, and I find this very true. In doubt or ignorance, most people will “not touch” the defaults, which are generally too open. I say “too open” with respect to privacy in the wide sense, not in the “keep us safe from creeps” sense.

This brings me to a comment I left earlier on [an article on ComMetrics about what makes campaigns against online pedophiles fail]( It’s an interesting article, but as I explain in the comment, I think it misses an important point:

>There is a bigger issue here — which I try to explain each time I get a chance, to the point I’m starting to feel hoarse.

>Maybe the message is not the right one? The campaign, as well as your article, takes as a starting point that “adults posing as kids” are the threat that chatrooms pose to our children.

>Research shows that this is not a widespread risk. It also shows that there is no correlation between handing out personal information online and the risk of falling victim to a sexual predator. Yet our campaigns continue to be built on the false assumptions that not handing out personal information will keep a kid “safe”, and that there is danger in the shape of people lying about their identity, in the first place.

>There is a disconnect between the language the campaigns speak and what they advocate (you point that out well in your article, I think), and the experience kids and teenagers have of life online (“they talk to strangers all the time, and nothing bad happens; they meet people from online, and they are exactly who they said they were; hence, all this “safety” information is BS”). But there is also a larger disconnect, which is that the danger these campaigns claim to address is not well understood. Check out the 5th quote in the long article I wrote on the subject at the time of the MySpace PR stunt about deleting “sex offenders'” profiles.

>I will blog more about this, but wanted to point this out here first.

Yes, I will blog more about this. I think this post of notes and thoughts is long enough, and it’s time for me to think about sleeping or putting a new bandage on my scraped knee. Before I see you in a few days for the next bout of Ofcon Report reading and commentating, however, I’ll leave you with the quote I reference in the comment above (it can’t hurt to publish it again):

Now, on the case of internet sex crimes against kids, I’m concerned
that we’re already off to a bad start here. The public and the
professional impression about what’s going on in these kinds of
crimes is not in sync with the reality, at least so far as we can
ascertain it on the basis of research that we’ve done. And this
research has really been based on some large national studies of
cases coming to the attention of law enforcement as well as to large
national surveys of youth.

If you think about what the public impression is about this crime,
it’s really that we have these internet pedophiles who’ve moved
from the playground into your living room through the internet
connection, who are targeting young children by pretending to be
other children who are lying about their ages and their identities and
their motives, who are tricking kids into disclosing personal
information about themselves or harvesting that information from
blogs or websites or social networking sites. Then armed with this
information, these criminals stalk children. They abduct them.
They rape them, or even worse.

But actually, the research in the cases that we’ve gleaned from
actual law enforcement files, for example, suggests a different
reality for these crimes. So first fact is that the predominant online
sex crime victims are not young children. They are teenagers.
There’s almost no victims in the sample that we collected from – a
representative sample of law enforcement cases that involved the
child under the age of 13.

In the predominant sex crime scenario, doesn’t involve violence,
stranger molesters posing online as other children in order to set up
an abduction or assault. Only five percent of these cases actually
involved violence. Only three percent involved an abduction. It’s
also interesting that deception does not seem to be a major factor.
Only five percent of the offenders concealed the fact that they were
adults from their victims. Eighty percent were quite explicit about
their sexual intentions with the youth that they were communicating

So these are not mostly violence sex crimes, but they are criminal
seductions that take advantage of teenage, common teenage
vulnerabilities. The offenders lure teens after weeks of
conversations with them, they play on teens’ desires for romance,
adventure, sexual information, understanding, and they lure them to
encounters that the teams know are sexual in nature with people who
are considerably older than themselves.

So for example, Jenna – this is a pretty typical case – 13-year-old
girl from a divorced family, frequented sex-oriented chat rooms, had
the screen name “Evil Girl.” There she met a guy who, after a
number of conversations, admitted he was 45. He flattered her, gave
– sent her gifts, jewelry. They talked about intimate things. And
eventually, he drove across several states to meet her for sex on
several occasions in motel rooms. When he was arrested in her
company, she was reluctant to cooperate with the law enforcement

David Finkelhor, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

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MySpace supprime les profils de 29'000 "délinquants sexuels" [en]

MySpace supprime les profils de 29'000 "délinquants sexuels" [en]

Il y a quelques jours, on a attiré mon attention sur [cet article de la BBC](, qui rapporte que le site [MySpace]( (une sorte de super-[Skyblog]( d’origine américaine) a supprimé de son site les profils de 29’000 “délinquants sexuels” (“sex offenders”).

J’ai écrit deux billets à ce sujet en anglais, qui ont reçu pas mal de couverture dans la blogosphère anglophone. J’ai aussi été interviewée par la radio BBC World suite à mon message leur signalant ma réaction.

– [MySpace Banning Sex Offenders: Online Predator Paranoia]( (liens vers ce billet chez d’autres blogueurs: [cosmos Technorati](
– [Parents, Teenagers, Internet, Predators, Fear…]( (liens vers ce billet chez d’autres blogueurs: [cosmos Technorati](
– [interview BBC World]( (je parle à la minute 34, le sujet commence à 29:30)

Ces deux billets comportent un résumé bref en français que je reproduis ici pour plus de commodité.

> MySpace exclut de son site 29’000 “sex offenders” (des gens qui ont été accusés de crimes sexuels) enregistrés. C’est problématique d’une part car suivant l’Etat dans lequel elles ont été condamnées, ces personnes enregistrées peuvent être coupables de choses aussi anodines que: relations homosexuelles, nudisme, uriner dans un lieu public, faire l’amour dans un lieu public, etc. D’autre part, je rappelle les chiffres provenant d’une récente étude sur les crimes sexuels impliquant des minteurs, qui vont à l’encontre de l’idée qu’on se fait habituellement de ce genre de cas. En agissant ainsi, possiblement poussés par la paranoïa ambiante, MySpace contribue à cette paranoïa. Je regrette que la presse joue systématiquement le jeu de la peur et ne se fasse pas l’avocate d’une attitude moins paniquée face à la question des prédateurs sexuels en ligne. (En résumé: les enfants courent plus de risques hors ligne qu’en ligne, et probablement bien plus à chaque fois qu’ils montent dans une voiture ou traversent la route…)

Stephanie Booth, MySpace Banning Sex Offenders: Online Predator Paranoia

Conseils aux parents (après mon interview à la BBC ce soir au sujet des “sex offenders” bannis de MySpace):

  • pas de panique, les prédateurs sexuels tels que nous les présentent les médias ne sont pas légion, votre enfant ne court pas des risques immodérés en étant sur internet;
  • dialoguez avec votre enfant; intéressez-vous à ce qu’il fait en ligne;
  • souvenez-vous que fournir des informations personnelles n’est pas un très grand risque; par contre, s’engager dans des relations de séduction avec des inconnus ou des amis adultes en ligne l’est.

J’ai écrit relativement peu en anglais à ce sujet jusqu’à maintenant. En français, lisez Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins, De la “prévention internet”, les billets en rapport avec mon projet de livre sur les adolescents et internet, et la documentation à l’attention des ados que j’ai rédigée pour

Stephanie Booth, Parents, Teenagers, Internet, Predators, Fear…

Donc, en faisant ma tournée sur [technorati, pour voir qui a mentionné dans son blog l’article de la BBC](, je suis tombée sur [un billet en français qui se réjouissait de la nouvelle]( Mon long commentaire à ce billet devenant trop long, j’ai décidé de le faire ici, sur mon blog, et du coup, de parler un peu de cette histoire pour mes lecteurs francophones:

> Bonne nouvelle signée MySpace qui vient de supprimer 29.000 profils de délinquants sexuels américains errants sur son espace qui compte 80 millions internautes. La suppression a été effectuée grâce à son partenariat avec le bureau de vérification Sentinel Tech Holding Crop qui développe une base de données nationale de délinquants sexuels. La législation américaine facilite cette tâche car elle permet de consulter librement les fiches de ces déliquants sur le site du ministère de la justice…

M/S, MySpace a les yeux sur les délinquants sexuels

Comme je l’explique donc dans [ma réaction à l’article de la BBC]( **ce n’est pas une si bonne nouvelle que ça**. Ce sont les états qui définissent ce qu’est un “délinquant sexuel”, et suivant où, on peut être sur une de ces listes pour avoir montré ses fesses en public. De plus, les profils supprimés seraient ceux où l’adresse e-mail fournie correspond à celle qui se trouve dans le dossier des délinquants sexuels. Vous pensez vraiment qu’un “pervers à la recherche de victimes” (et encore, voir plus bas pour ma réfutation de la forme qu’on donne au problème) serait aussi bête?

Aussi, la problématique des prédateurs sexuels sur internet est dramatisée et déformée par les médias. Tout d’abord, on perd de vue que la grande majorité des crimes sexuels sur mineurs impliquent la famille ou des amis proches de la famille (et non des inconnus ou “connaissances” provenant d’internet). Les cas faisant intervenir internet sont une minorité, et sont plus de l’ordre “relation de séduction d’ados” que “duperie et enlèvement d’enfants”. On peut légitimement se demander si une telle action de la part de MySpace est vraiment utile (il s’agit en fait plus de sauvegarder leur image), et si on n’est pas en train de se donner bonne conscience tout en évitant de faire de la prévention utile, mais quelque peu plus complexe (puisqu’il s’agit d’aller plonger dans la façon dont les adolescents vivent l’éveil de leur sexualité et de leurs premières relations amoureuses). Voir à ce sujet [De la “prévention internet”](, billet qui, au milieu de mes grands questionnements, aborde cette question.

Mon ami [Kevin Anderson](, journaliste américain vivant à Londres, a écrit un excellent billet au sujet de toute cette histoire suite à un interview assez frustrant qu’il a donné à la BBC: [‘Think of the children’. Yes, but also think about the journalism]( Entre autres, il en appelle à la presse, qui couvre systématiquement ce genre d’événement selon l’angle “mon Dieu, ça grouille de pédophiles sur internet, enfin on fait quelque chose, mais est-ce suffisant?”

> I am taking an issue with the format and the journalistic assumptions made. Yes, there is a problem here, but it’s not the one that is being shouted in the headlines. The facts don’t support the sensationalist story of a predator lurking behind every MySpace profile or blog post. As Steph points out in her posts, the threat to youth isn’t in them having blogs or being on social networks. The problem is one of emotionally vulnerable teens being preyed upon by opportunistic adults. It’s more complicated and less emotive than saying: Keep the paedos off of MySpace.

Kevin Anderson, ‘Think of the children’. Yes, but also think about the journalism

Après mon interview à la BBC il y a deux jours, j’ai envoyé à quelques (3-4) journalistes romands de ma connaissance un e-mail contenant un appel à une couverture plus “réaliste” que “sensationnelle” de cette histoire. Voici à quelques variations près le message que j’ai envoyé:

> Vous avez peut-être entendu parler du fait que MySpace a “viré” de son
site 29’000 personnes se trouvant sur les listes de délinquants
sexuels tenues par les Etats aux USA. J’ai écrit une assez longue
réaction à ce sujet (en anglais) et me suis également faite
interviewer par la BBC.

> En deux mots:

> – la définition de “sex offender” est problématique (dans certains
états, on peut finir sur ces listes pour avoir montré ses fesses ou eu
des relations homosexuelles)
– une telle action de la part de MySpace (pour sauver leur image,
principalement) est problématique d’une part car elle renforce la peur
(peu justifiée) ambiante autour des prédateurs sexuels en ligne, et
d’autre part car c’est une mesure peu utile car elle est déconnectée
de la réalité des “problèmes/agressions à caractère sexuel” que
rencontrent les ados en ligne.

> [liens vers mes deux articles]

> Je ne sais pas si c’est votre rayon ou non et si ça vous intéresse,
mais si vous connaissez quelqu’un qui serait susceptible de couvrir
cette histoire sous cet angle (un angle qui manque cruellement dans
les médias “traditionnels”) n’hésitez pas à leur dire de prendre
contact avec moi (+41 78 625 44 74).

Deux réponses intéressées à ce jour (une personne en vacances qui a retransmis le mail, et un quotidien local pour qui ce n’est peut-être pas évident de couvrir un tel sujet international). Je réitère donc ici mon appel: y’a-t-il une publication romande qui veuille relever le défi?

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Parents, Teenagers, Internet, Predators, Fear… [en]

Parents, Teenagers, Internet, Predators, Fear… [en]

[fr] Conseils aux parents (après mon interview à la BBC ce soir au sujet des "sex offenders" bannis de MySpace):

  • pas de panique, les prédateurs sexuels tels que nous les présentent les médias ne sont pas légion, votre enfant ne court pas des risques immodérés en étant sur internet;
  • dialoguez avec votre enfant; intéressez-vous à ce qu'il fait en ligne;
  • souvenez-vous que fournir des informations personnelles n'est pas un très grand risque; par contre, s'engager dans des relations de séduction avec des inconnus ou des amis adultes en ligne l'est.

J'ai écrit relativement peu en anglais à ce sujet jusqu'à maintenant. En français, lisez Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins, De la “prévention internet”, les billets en rapport avec mon projet de livre sur les adolescents et internet, et la documentation à l'attention des ados que j'ai rédigée pour

**Update:** [radio stream is up]( and will be so until next Wednesday. MySpace piece starts at 29:30, and I start talking shortly after 34:00. Use the right-facing arrow at the top of the player to move forwards. Sorry you can’t go backwards.

I was just interviewed by [BBC World Have Your Say]( (radio, links will come) about the [MySpace banning sex offenders]( story. (They didn’t find me, though, I sent them a note pointing to my blog post through the form on their site.) Here’s a bit of follow-up information for people who might just have arrived here around this issue.

First, I’m often asked what advice I give to parents regarding the safety of their children online (the BBC asked this question but I didn’t get to answer). So here’s my basic advice, and a few things to keep in mind:

– don’t panic — the media make the whole online sexual predator issue sound much worse than it is; (they might even be more at risk offline than online if they’re “normal” kids who do not generally engage in risky behaviour, given that most perpetrators of sex crimes against minors are family members or ‘known people’)
– **talk** with your kids about what they do online; **dialog is essential, as in many educational situations;** show interest, it’s part of their lives, and it might be an important one; start early, by introducing them to the internet yourself, rather than letting them loose on it to fend for themselves from day one;
– keep in mind that sharing personal information is not the greater risk: engaging in talk of a sexual nature with strangers/adult friends is, however <insert something about proper sexual education here>;

I regularly give talks in schools, and I speak to students, teachers, and parents — all three if possible, but not at the same time, because the message is not the same, of course. When I talk to parents, I see a lot of very scared/concerned parents who understand very little about the *living internet* their kids spend so much time in. But they read the mainstream media, and they’ve heard how the internet is this horrible place teeming with sexual predators, lurking in chatrooms and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, on the look-out for their next victim.

I may be dramatizing a little, but this is basically the state of mind I find parents in. I’ll jump on this occasion to introduce a piece by [Anastasia Goodstein]( [Dangers Overblown for Teens Using Social Media]( I’m quite ashamed to say I only discovered Anastasia and her work about a month ago — we seem to cover similar ground, and I’m really impressed by what I see of her online (for example, she’s actually [published a book about teens online]( whereas I’m stuck-stalled in the process of trying to get started writing mine — in French). She also [reacted to the MySpace Sex Offender Saga](

Anyway, my job when I’m talking to parents is usually:

– **play “tourist guide”** to introduce them to this strange internet culture (my background in Indian culture clearly helps me manage the cross-cultural internet/offline dialogue) — I encourage them to try chatting (find a friend who chats and can help you sign up to MSN to chat with her/him) and blogging (head off to []( and write about random stuff you’re interested in for a couple of months)
– **de-dramatize** the whole “internet predator” thing so they’re not as tense when it comes to having their kids online, or being online themselves, and put forward the positive aspects of having an online life too.

What am I concerned about, when it comes to teens online? A bunch of things, but not really sick old men in raincoats posing as little girls in chatrooms or MySpace profiles.

– their blissful unawareness of how permanent digital media is; photos, videos, text etc. are all out of your control once they’ve left your hands; easy to multiply and distribute, they could very well be there for ever; they also don’t realize that all their digital interactions (particularly webcam stuff) is recordable, and that nothing is *really* private;
– their perception of the online world as “uncharted territories” where all is allowed, where there are no rules, no laws, no adult presence; for that, I blame adults who do not accompany their young children online at first, who do not show any interest in what’s going on online for their kids, and who do not *go online* to be there too; teens need adult presence online to help them learn to become responsible internet citizens, just as they do offline; our fear of predators is resulting in teenager-only spaces which I’m not sure are really that great;
– their certainty that one can evade rules/law/morals by being anonymous online and hiding; we’ve told them so much to stay hidden (from predators), and that one can be anonymous online (like predators) that they think they can hide (from parents, guardians, teachers);
– their idea that what is online is up for grabs (I’m not going to stand up against what the record companies call “piracy” — that’s for another blog post — but I do feel very strongly about crediting people for their work, and respecting terms individuals or small businesses set for their work).

There are other things which are important, but discussed so little, because “online predators” is such a scary issue that it makes everything else seem unimportant: the “chat effect” (why is it easy to “fall in love over chat”?), findability of online stuff (yeah, by parents, teachers, future bosses), what to say and what not to say online (“what am I comfortable with?”), gaming environments like WoW…

One thing we need to remember is that kids/teens are not passive victims. Some teens are actively seeking certain types of relationships online, and when they do, chances are they’ll find them (proof the “catch a predator” operations in which “normal people” or policemen pose as lusty/consenting teens to trap dirty predators… sure it works, but most teens aren’t like that!)

I remember getting in touch with a kid who had an account on Xanga. He had lifted some HTML code from my site, and visits to his page were showing up in my stats. I asked him to remove it (“hey, lifting code like that isn’t cool!”) and he didn’t react. I found his ICQ number and messaged him, and he was outright obnoxious. A few days later, he started messaging me vulgar messages out of the blue (“I want to f*** you, b****!”). We finally trapped him, a friend of mine posing as a Xanga official who scared him a bit so he’d remove the code from his site, and who actually had a long, long talk with him. He was 9 years old.

If you came here via the BBC, leave a comment to let me know what you think about these issues, or what your experience is!

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MySpace Banning Sex Offenders: Online Predator Paranoia [en]

MySpace Banning Sex Offenders: Online Predator Paranoia [en]

**Update:** If you’re a parent looking for advice, you’ll probably find [my next post]( more interesting.

[MySpace has removed profiles of 29’000 registered sex offenders]( from their site.

> In a statement, MySpace said: “We’re pleased that we’ve successfully identified and removed registered sex offenders from our site and hope that other social networking sites follow our lead.”

BBC News, MySpace bars 29,000 sex offenders, July 2007

Sounds like a good move, doesn’t it?

Maybe not so.

First, what is a sex offender? A sex offender is somebody on the state registry of people who have been convicted of sex crimes. A sex offender is not necessarily a pedophile. And in some states… a sex offender might not have done anything really offensive.

Listen to [Regina Lynn](, author of the popular [Wired column Sex Drive]( and the book [The Sexual Revolution 2.0](

> Lately I’ve been wondering if I’ll end up on the sex offender registry. Not because I have any intention of harming anyone, but because it has recently come to my attention that in a flurry of joie de vivre I might have broken a sex law.

> You see, I keep hearing these stories of mild infractions that led to listing on the sex-offender registry alongside child molesters, rapists and abusive spouses. There’s the girl who bared her ass out a bus window in college and pled guilty to indecent exposure — and then couldn’t become an elementary school teacher because of her sex offense. Then there’s the guy who peed on a bush in a park and was convicted of public lewdness, a sex offender because he couldn’t find a bathroom.

> […]

> But sometimes I do skirt the edge of the law when it comes to sex. And if you’ve ever ducked into the bushes for a little al fresco fondling, so have you.

> Unfortunately, even in California, it’s not technically legal to make discreet love in public spaces, even in your truck, even if it has a camper shell with dark windows and Liberator furniture, even if no one can see you without pressing his nose to the glass or hoisting her children up over her head.

> And if a passerby does intrude on your personal moment, it’s no longer a matter of “OK kids, pack it up and get out of here.” A witness’s cell-phone video could be on the internet within five minutes. A busybody might even feel justified in calling the police.

> “If someone saw something that offended them and they wanted to sign a citizen’s arrest, the officer is obliged to take the citizen’s arrest,” says Inspector Poelstra of the Sexual Offender Unit of the San Francisco Police Department, who spoke with me by phone.

Regina Lynn, Could You End Up on a Sex Offender Registry?, April 2007

[Critics of Megan’s Law](’s_Law#Criticism), which requires convicted sex offenders to register with the state, have also put forward that the registries include people it would be rather far-fetched to consider a threat to our children’s safety.

> But the laws have unexpected implications. Consider California, whose 1996 Megan’s Law requires creating a CD-ROM database of convicted sex offenders, available to the public. (The state has had a registry of sex offenders since 1944.) The Los Angeles Times reports that this new database is turning up many ancient cases of men arrested for consensual gay sex in public or semi-public places, some of them youthful experiments of men who went on to long married lives. One man, arrested in 1944 for touching the knee of another man in a parked car, was surprised when his wife collected the mail containing an envelope, stamped “sex crime” in red ink, telling him he needed to register as a sex offender. Many of these men are going through humiliating confrontations with long-forgotten aspects of their past, and complicated and expensive legal maneuverings to get themselves off the list. “It’s a real concern,” says Suzanne Goldberg of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which works on legal issues involving gays. “These laws have the potential to sweep in more people than they should. Laws requiring registration of people engaging in consensual sex are far beyond the pale. Those requirements can have devastating effects on people’s lives.”

Brian Doherty, Megan’s Flaws?, June 1997

These concerns about indiscriminate lumping together of “sex offenders” in the light of the online predator paranoia were already raised in January when MySpace handed over a database containing information about sex offenders to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, on [Violet Blue::Open Source Sex]( and [Sex Drive Daily]( *(As an aside, I now find myself wondering if this post is going to get me blacklisted by internet security filters left and right… How ironic that would be.)*

> These are state registries, and depending on the state you’re in, you’re a “sex offender” under Megan’s Law if you get caught urinating in public, mooning, skinny dipping, or if you get busted having consensual sex in public. Think of how lopsided these charges must be in homophobic states. Also, it’s a lesson in what sites like MySpace can and will do with personal information. I’m definitely an advocate for speeding up natural selection when it comes to rapists and pedophiles, but I worry about what could happen to individuals and personal privacy when a questionably informed company casts a wide net, and turns it over to anyone who asks.

Violet Blue, MySpace and the Sex Offenders, Jan. 2007

In addition to that, we need to totally rethink the views we have on how sexual predators act online. The old pervert lurking in chatrooms is more a media construct and a product of [the culture of fear]( we live in than a reality our kids are likely to bump into, [as I said recently in an interview on BBC News]( “Watch the short video.”). Remember kids are way more likely to be abused by a person they know (family, friends) than by a random stranger. I’ll assume you don’t have the time to read through [the whole 34-page transcript]( of the [panel danah boyd participated in]( a few months ago, so here are the most significant excerpt about this issue (yes, I’m excerpting a lot in this post, but this is an important issue and I know people read better if they don’t need to click away). Here is what Dr. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against
Children Research Center and the codirector of the Family Research
Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, has to say:

> Now, on the case of internet sex crimes against kids, I’m concerned
that we’re already off to a bad start here. The public and the
professional impression about what’s going on in these kinds of
crimes is not in sync with the reality, at least so far as we can
ascertain it on the basis of research that we’ve done. And this
research has really been based on some large national studies of
cases coming to the attention of law enforcement as well as to large
national surveys of youth.

> If you think about what the public impression is about this crime,
it’s really that we have these internet pedophiles who’ve moved
from the playground into your living room through the internet
connection, who are targeting young children by pretending to be
other children who are lying about their ages and their identities and
their motives, who are tricking kids into disclosing personal
information about themselves or harvesting that information from
blogs or websites or social networking sites. Then armed with this
information, these criminals stalk children. They abduct them.
They rape them, or even worse.

>But actually, the research in the cases that we’ve gleaned from
actual law enforcement files, for example, suggests a different
reality for these crimes. So first fact is that the predominant online
sex crime victims are not young children. They are teenagers.
There’s almost no victims in the sample that we collected from – a
representative sample of law enforcement cases that involved the
child under the age of 13.

> In the predominant sex crime scenario, doesn’t involve violence,
stranger molesters posing online as other children in order to set up
an abduction or assault. Only five percent of these cases actually
involved violence. Only three percent involved an abduction. It’s
also interesting that deception does not seem to be a major factor.
Only five percent of the offenders concealed the fact that they were
adults from their victims. Eighty percent were quite explicit about
their sexual intentions with the youth that they were communicating

> So these are not mostly violence sex crimes, but they are criminal
seductions that take advantage of teenage, common teenage
vulnerabilities. The offenders lure teens after weeks of
conversations with them, they play on teens’ desires for romance,
adventure, sexual information, understanding, and they lure them to
encounters that the teams know are sexual in nature with people who
are considerably older than themselves.

> So for example, Jenna – this is a pretty typical case – 13-year-old
girl from a divorced family, frequented sex-oriented chat rooms, had
the screen name “Evil Girl.” There she met a guy who, after a
number of conversations, admitted he was 45. He flattered her, gave
– sent her gifts, jewelry. They talked about intimate things. And
eventually, he drove across several states to meet her for sex on
several occasions in motel rooms. When he was arrested in her
company, she was reluctant to cooperate with the law enforcement

David Finkelhor, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

Let me summarize the important facts and figures from this excerpt and the next few pages. The numbers are based on a sample of law enforcement cases which Finkelhor et al. performed research upon:

– most victims of “online predators” are teenagers, not young children
– only 5% of cases involved violence
– only 3% involved abduction
– deception does not seem to be a major factor
– 5% of offenders concealed the fact they were adults from their victimes
– 80% of offenders were quite explicit about their sexual intentions
– these crimes are “criminal seductions”, sexual relationships between teenagers and older adults
– 73% of cases include multiple sexual encounters
– in half the cases, victims are described as being in love with the offender or feeling close friendship
– in a quarter of the cases, victims had actually ran away from home to be with the person they met online
– only 7% of arrests for statutory rape in 2000 were internet-initiated

I find these figures very sobering. Basically, our kids are more at risk offline than online. No reason to panic! About this last figure, listen to Dr. Michele Ybarra, president of Internet
Solutions for Kids:

> One victimization is
one too many. We watch the television, however, and it makes it
seem as if the internet is so unsafe that it’s impossible for young
people to engage on the internet without being victimized. Yet
based upon data compiled by Dr. Finkelhor’s group, of all the arrests
made in 2000 for statutory rape, it appears that seven percent were
internet initiated. So that means that the overwhelming majority are
still initiated offline.

Michele Ybarra, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

I digress a little, but all this shows us that we need to go way beyond “don’t give out personal information, don’t chat with strangers” to keep teenagers safe from the small (but real, yes) number of sexual predators online:

> Our research, actually looking at what puts kids at risk for receiving
the most serious kinds of sexual solicitation online, suggests that it’s
not giving out personal information that puts kid at risk. It’s not
having a blog or a personal website that does that either. What puts
kids in danger is being willing to talk about sex online with
strangers or having a pattern of multiple risky activities on the web
like going to sex sites and chat rooms, meeting lots of people there,
kind of behaving in what we call like an internet daredevil.

> We think that in order to address these crimes and prevent them,
we’re gonna have to take on a lot more awkward and complicated
topics that start with an acceptance of the fact that some teens are
curious about sex and are looking for romance and adventure and
take risks when they do that. We have to talk to them about their
decision making if they are doing things like that.

David Finkelhor, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

So, bottom line — what do I think? I think that MySpace’s announcement is more of a PR stunt than anything. This kind of action is the result of the ambient paranoia around sexual predators online, but it also fuels it. If MySpace are doing that, it must mean that we are right to be afraid, doesn’t it? I think it is a great pity that the media systematically jump on the fear-mongering bandwagon. We need more sane voices in the mainstream press.

Here is a collection of links related to this issue. Some I have mentioned in the body of the post, some I have not.

MySpace bars 29,000 sex offenders
Could You End Up on a Sex Offender Registry?
MySpace and the Sex Offenders
Megan’s Flaws?
Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths ([see danah’s post for YouTube video](
– [Video: BBC Interview (Teenagers, Facebook)](
– [Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins]( (quotes are in English)
– [De la “prévention internet”](

*note: comments are moderated for first-time commenters.*

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Not All Switzerland Speaks German, Dammit! [en]

Not All Switzerland Speaks German, Dammit! [en]

Here we go, yet another misguided attempt at localisation: [my MySpace page]( is [now in German](

[MySpace]( now joins [PayPal](, [eBay](, [Amazon](, [Google]( in defaulting to German for Swiss people.

[Switzerland]( is a multilingual country. The linguistic majority speaks Swiss-German (reasonably close to German but quite un-understandable for native German-speakers who have not been exposed to it). Second language in the country is French. Third is Italian, and fourth is… (no, not English) …[Romansh](

You know how linguistic minorities are. [Touchy.]( Oh yeah.

As a French speaker with rather less-than-functional German, I do find it quite irritating that these big “multinational” web services assume that I speak German because I’m Swiss. I’d rather have English, and so would many of my non-bilingual fellow-cititzens (particularly amongst web-going people, we tend to be better at English than German).

Yes, I’ve said that [English-only is a barrier to adoption]( But getting the language wrong is just as bad, if not worse (most people have come to accept the fact that English is the “default” language on the internet, even if they don’t understand it). If I want my Amazon books to be shipped here free of charge, I have to use [](, which is in German, and doesn’t have a very wide choice of French books. [My wishlist]( is therefore on too, which maybe explains why I never get anything from it.

Paypal is almost worse. I can’t really suggest it to clients as a solution for “selling stuff over the internet”, because all it offers in its Swiss version is a choice between German (default) and English. You can’t sell [a book in French]( with a payment interface in German or English.

So please, remember that country != language, and that there is a little place called Switzerland scrunched up in the middle of Europe, caught between France, Italy, Germany and Austria ([Liechtenstein]( is even worse off than us I suppose), and that not everyone in that little country speaks German.

Thank you.

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English Only: Barrier to Adoption [en]

English Only: Barrier to Adoption [en]

*Foreword: this turned into a rather longer post than I had expected. The importance of language and localization online is one of my pet topics (I’ve just decided that it would be what I’d [talk about at BlogCamp](, rather than teenagers and stuff), so I do tend to get carried away a little.*

I was surprised last night to realise that this wasn’t necessarily obvious — so I think it’s probably worth a blog post.

**The fact a service is in English only is a showstopper for many non-native speakers, hence a barrier to wider adoption in Europe.**

But doesn’t everybody speak English, more or less? Isn’t it the *lingua franca* of today that **everybody** speaks? It isn’t. At least not in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and I’m certain there are many other places in Europe where the situation is similar.

Come and spend a little time in Lausanne, for example, and try communicating in English with the man on the street. Even if many people have done a couple of years of English at school, most have never had any use for it after that and have promptly forgotten it. German is a way more important “foreign language” around here, as it is the linguistic majority in Switzerland, and most administrative centers of big companies (and the government) are in the German-speaking part of the country (which doesn’t mean that everybody speaks German, either).

The people who are reasonably comfortable with English around here will most often be those who have taken up higher academic studies, particularly in scientific subjects (“soft” and “hard” science alike).

And if I’m the person who comes to your mind when you think “Swiss”, think again — my father is British, I was born in England, went to an English medium school and spoke English at home until I was 8, conversed regularly with English-speaking grandparents during my growing years, and never stopped reading in English: all that gave me enough of a headstart that even though my English had become very rusty at the end of my teens, I dove into the English-speaking internet with a passion, and spent an anglophone [year in India](/logbook/). So, no. I’m not your average Lausanne-living French-speaker. I’m a strange bilingual beast.

Imagine somebody whose native language is not English, even though they may theoretically know enough English to get around if you parachuted them into London. (Let’s forget about the man on the street who barely understands you when you ask where the station is.) I like to think of [my (step-)sister]( as a good test-case (not that I want to insist on the “step-“, but it explains why she isn’t bilingual). She took up the “modern languages” path at school, which means she did German, English, and Italian during her teenage years, and ended up being quite proficient in all three (she’s pretty good with languages). She went to university after that and used some English during her studies. But since then, she honestly hasn’t had much use for the language. She’ll read my blog in English, can converse reasonably comfortably, but will tend to watch the TV series I lend her in the dubbed French version.

I’m telling you this to help paint a picture of somebody which you might (legitimately) classify as “speaks English”, but for whom it represents an extra effort. And again, I’d like to insist, my sister would be very representative of most people around here who “speak English but don’t use it regularly at work”. That is already not representative of the general population, who “did a bit of English at school but forgot it all” and can barely communicate with the lost English-speaking tourist. Oh, and forget about the teenagers: they start English at school when they’re 13, and by the time they’re 15-16 they *might* (if they are lucky) have enough knowledge of it to converse on everyday topics (again: learning German starts a few years before that, and is more important in the business world). This is the state of “speaking English” around here.

A service or tool which is not available in French faces a barrier to adoption in the *Suisse Romande* on two levels:

– first of all, there are people who simply don’t know enough English to understand what’s written on the sign-up page;
– second, there are people who would understand most of what’s on the sign-up page, but for whom it represents and extra effort.

Let’s concentrate on the second batch. An *extra effort”?! Lazy people! Think of it. All this talk about making applications more usable, about optimizing the sign-up process to make it so painless that people can do it with their eyes closed? Well, throw a page in a foreign language at most normal people and they’ll perceive it as an extra difficulty. And it may very well be the one that just makes them navigate away from the page and never come back. Same goes for using the service or application once they have signed up: it makes everything more complicated, and people anticipate that.

Let’s look at some examples.

The first example isn’t exactly about a web service or application, but it shows how important language is for the adoption of new ideas (this isn’t anything groundbreaking if you look at human history, but sometimes the web seems to forget that the world hasn’t changed that much…). Thanks for bearing with me while I ramble on.

In February 2001, I briefly mentioned [the WaSP Browser Push]( and realised that the French-speaking web was really [“behind” on design and web standards ressources]( I also realised that although [there was interest for web standards](, many French-speaking people couldn’t read the original English material. This encouraged me to [blog in French about it](, [translate Zeldman’s article](, [launching]( the translation site []( in the process., and the [associated mailing-list](, followed a year or so later by [OpenWeb](, eventually became a hub for the budding francophone web standards community, which is still very active to this day.

([What happened with the Swiss Blog Awards]( is in my opinion another example of how important language issues are.)

Back to web applications proper. [Flickr]( is an application I love, but I have a hard time getting people to sign up and use it, even when I’ve walked them through the lengthy Yahoo-ID process. [](, on the other hand, exists in French, and I can now easily persuade my friends and clients to open blogs there. There is a strong [French-speaking WordPress community]( too. A few years ago, when the translation and support were not what they are now, a very nice little blogging tool named [DotClear]( became hugely popular amongst francophone bloggers (and it still is!) in part because it was in French when other major blogging solutions were insufficient in that respect.

Regarding WordPress, I’d like to point out the [community-driven translation effort]( to which everybody can contribute. Such an open way of doing things has its pitfalls (like dreadful, dreadful translations which linger on the home page until somebody comes along to correct them) but overall, I think the benefits outweigh the risks. In almost no time, dozens of localized versions can be made available, maintained by those who know the language best.

Let’s look at teenagers. When [MySpace]( was all that was being talked about in the US, French-speaking teenagers were going wild on [skyblog]( MySpace is catching up a bit now because it [also exists in French]( [Facebook]( In English, nobody here has heard of it. [Live Messenger aka MSN]( Very much in French, [unlike ICQ](, which is only used here by anglophile early adopters.

[Skype]( and [GMail]([GTalk]( are really taking off here now that they are available in French.

Learning to use a new service, or just trying out the latest toy, can be challenging enough an experience for the average user without adding the extra hurdle of having to struggle with an unfamiliar language. Even though a non-localized service like Flickr may be the home to [various linguistic groups](, it’s important to keep in mind that their members will tend to be the more “anglophone” of this language group, and are not representative.

**The bottom line is that even with a lot of encouragement, most local people around here are not going to use a service which doesn’t talk to them in their language.**

***9:52 Afterthought credit:***

I just realised that this article on [why startups condense in America]( was the little seed planted a few days ago which finally brought me to writing this post. I haven’t read all the article, but this little part of it struck me and has been working in the background ever since:

> What sustains a startup in the beginning is the prospect of getting their initial product out. The successful ones therefore make the first version as simple as possible. In the US they usually begin by making something just for the local market.

> This works in America, because the local market is 300 million people. It wouldn’t work so well in Sweden. In a small country, a startup has a harder task: they have to sell internationally from the start.

> The EU was designed partly to simulate a single, large domestic market. The problem is that the inhabitants still speak many different languages. So a software startup in Sweden is still at a disadvantage relative to one in the US, because they have to deal with internationalization from the beginning. It’s significant that the most famous recent startup in Europe, Skype, worked on a problem that was intrinsically international.

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Please Make Holes in My Buckets! [en]

Please Make Holes in My Buckets! [en]

[fr] Tour d'horizon de mes différents "profils" à droite et a gauche dans le paysage des outils sociaux (social tools). Il manque de la communication entre ces différents services, et mon identité en ligne s'en trouve fragmentée et lourde à gérer. Ajouter des contacts en se basant sur mon carnet d'adresses Gmail est un bon début, mais on peut aller plus loin. Importer ses livres préférés ou des éléments de CV d'un profil à l'autre, par exemple.

[Facebook]( is [Stowe](’s fault. [Twitter]( was because of [Euan]( [Anne Dominique]( is guilty of getting me on [Xing/OpenBC]( I can’t remember precisely for [Flickr]( or [LinkedIn]( or — OMG! — [orkut](, but it was certainly somebody from [#joiito]( The culprits for [](, [DailyMotion]( and [YouTube]( “Even got there early enough to grab ‘steph’ — now I get password reminders almost everyday, great…”) have disappeared into the limbo of lost memories. [Kevin]( encouraged me to [sign up for a good dozen of blogging platforms](, open a [MySpace account](, and he’s probably to blame for me being on [Upcoming]( As for [](, I’ll blame [Matt]( because he’s behind all that.

Granted, I’m probably the only one responsible for having [gotten into blogging]( “Story here, abbreviated version.”) in the first place.

Let’s get back on track. My aim here is not primarily to point an accusing finger to all my devious friends who introduced me to these fun, [addictive](, time-consuming tools (though it’s interesting to note how one forgets those things, in passing). It’s more a sort of round-up of a bunch of my “online selves”. I feel a little scattered, my friends. Here are all these buckets in which I place stuff, but there aren’t enough holes in them.

Feeds are good. Feeds allow me to have Twitter, [](, Flickr, and even stuff in my blog sidebar. It also allows me to connect my blogs to one another, and into Facebook. Here, though, we’re talking “content” much more than “self”.

One example I’ve already certainly talked about (but no courage to dig it out, my blog is starting to be a huge thing in which I can’t find stuff I know it contains) is contacts or buddies — the “Mine” in [Stowe’s analysis of social applications]( I have buddy lists on IM and Skype, contacts on Flickr and just about every service I mentioned in this post. Of *course*, I don’t want to necessarily have the same contacts everywhere. I might love your photos on Flickr and add you as a contact, but not see any interest in adding you to my business network on LinkedIn. Some people, though — my **friends** — I’ll want to have more or less everywhere.

So, here’s a hole in the buckets that I really like: I’ve seen this in many services, but the first time I saw it was on Myspace. “Let us peek in your GMail contacts, and we’ll tell you who already has an account — and let you invite the others.” When I saw that, it scared me (“OMG! Myspace sticking its nose in my e-mail!”) but I also found it really exciting. Now, it would be even better if I could say “import friends and family from Flickr” or “let me choose amongst my IM buddies”, but it’s a good start. Yes, there’s a danger: no, I don’t want to spam invitations to your service to the 450 unknown adresses you found in my contacts, thankyouverymuch. [Plaxo]( is a way to do this (I’ve seen it criticised but I can’t precisely remember why). Facebook does it, which means that within 2 minutes you can already have friends in the network. Twitter doesn’t, which means you have to painstakingly go through your friends of friends lists to get started. I think [coComment]( and any “friend-powered” service should allow us to import contacts like that by now. And yes, sure, privacy issues.

But what about all my **profile information**? I don’t want to have to dig out my favourite movies each time I sign up to a new service. Or my favourite books. Or the schools I went to. I mean, some things are reasonably stable. Why couldn’t I have all that in a central repository, once and for all, and just have all these neat social tools import the information from there? Earlier today, [David]( was telling me over IM that he’d like to have a central service to bring all our Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenBC/Xing, and MySpace stuff together. Or a way to publish his CV/résumé online and allow Facebook to access it to grab data from it. Good ideas, in my opinion.

I’ll mention [OpenID]( here, but just in passing, because although in my dreams in used to hold the promise of this centralised repository of “all things me”, I don’t think that it’s what it has been designed for (if I get it correctly, it is identity **verification** and doesn’t have much to do with the **contents** of this identity). [Microformats]( could on the other hand certainly come in handy here.

So, please, make more holes in my buckets. Importing Gmail contacts in sticking feeds here and there is nice, but not sufficient. For the moment, Facebook seems promising. But let me use Twitter for my statuses, for example, or at least include the feed somewhere (I can only include one feed, so I’ve included my [suprglu one](, but it has a huge lag and is not very satisfying). Let me put photographs in my albums directly from Flickr. Talk with the profiles I made with other similar services. Grab my school and work info from LinkedIn and OpenBC. Then make all this information you have about me available to republish how I want it (feeds, feeds, feeds! widgets! buttons! badges!) where I want it.

Also, [more granularity]( Facebook has a good helping of it: I can choose which type of information I want to see from my contacts. I can restrict certain contacts from seeing certain parts of my profile. I’d like fine control on who can see what, also by sorting my people into “buddy groups”. “Friends” and “Family” as on Flickr is just not enough. And maybe Facebook could come and present me with [Stowe-groupings]( of my contacts, based on the interactions I have with them.

Share your wild ideas here if you have any.

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Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins [fr]

Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins [fr]

[en] Citations and some French comments/paraphrasing of danah boyd and Henry Jenkins's interview "MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)". Must-read if your life has anything to do with teenagers.

Je viens de finir de lire ce fascinant interview de [danah boyd]( et [Henry Jenkins]( au sujet des [adolescents et d’Internet](, intitulé “MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA).” Si vous travaillez de près ou de loin avec des adolescents, ou si vous êtes parent d’adolescent, prenez vingt minutes pour le lire. ([PDF pour imprimer.]( Voici les passages qui me parlent le plus, avec quelques commentaires. La mise en évidence est de moi. (Avertissement: tartine ahead.)

Cela fait bientôt deux ans que je fais régulièrement des [conférences dans des écoles](, pour faire de la “prévention blogs” ou “prévention Internet” en général. Ce qui me dérange depuis longtemps, c’est cette idée reçue qu’Internet grouille de pédophiles et est par définition un espace dangereux.

J’ai beaucoup apprécié de retrouver dans les paroles de ces deux chercheurs des choses que je pense ou dis, sans avoir fait autant d’études formelles à ce propos. Jolie confirmation de mon intuition et de ce que j’ai pu déduire de mes expériences directes.

J’essaie souvent, un peu maladroitement, de mettre en avant le rôle de construction sociale que jouent ces espaces sur internet. Voici ce qu’en dit danah:

> These sites play a key role in youth culture because they give youth a space to hang out amongst friends and peers, share cultural artifacts (like links to funny websites, comments about TV shows) and work out an image of how they see themselves.


Une autre thèse que je défends et que ce ne sont pas ces espaces qui créent les comportements “déviants” des adolescents, mais qu’internet nous donne simplement accès, en tant qu’adultes, à des choses qui étaient auparavant cachées. A noter qu’une bonne partie de ces comportements font partie intégrante des processus de socialisation des adolescents, même s’ils ne sont pas plaisants.

> While integrating into cultural life is a critical process that takes place during these years, the actual process is not always smooth or pleasant. Bullying, sexual teasing, and other peer-to-peer harassment are rampant amongst teenagers, as these are frequently the tools through which youth learn to make meaning of popularity, social status, roles, and cultural norms. MySpace did not create teenage bullying but it has made it more visible to many adults, although it is not clear that the embarrassment online is any more damaging to the young victims than offline. […] No one of any age enjoys being the target of public tormenting, but new media is not to blame for peer-to-peer harassment simply because it makes it more visible to outsiders. In fact, in many ways, this visibility provides a window through which teen mentors can help combat this issue.


Le vrai problème, ensuite, est la réaction que vont avoir les adultes face à ces comportements auxquels ils sont confrontés, et qu’ils ne peuvent plus nier.

> Adults are confronting images of underage drinking or sex, discussions of drug use, and signs of bullying and other abusive behavior. […] In many cases, schools are being forced to respond to real world problems which only came to their attention because this information was so publicly accessible on the web. […] Much of the controversy has come not as a result of anything new that MySpace and the other social software sites contribute to teen culture but simply from the fact that adults can no longer hide their eyes to aspects of youth culture in America that have been there all along.


Pour le moment, malheureusement, la réaction la plus répandue semble être une forme de panique morale (“internet c’est dangereux”, “les adolescents ont des comportements criminels sur leurs blogs”). Je me réjouis de lire les conclusions de danah concernant les causes du vent de panique gravitant autour des modes de socialisation de notre jeunesse. Je pense personellement qu’il y a également une autre piste à explorer, et qui tourne autour de ce qu’on pourrait appeler la “culture de la peur”.

> Understanding why moral panics emerge when youth socialize is central to my research.


Les outils de l’internet social sont de plus en plus utilisés dans le monde professionnel. Même si à mon sens c’est plus un problème dans le monde Anglo-Saxon qu’en Suisse (quoique… ça nous pend au nez), les écoles devraient apprendre aux enfants à exploiter le potentiel de ces outils et gérer les risques que peut comporter leur utilisation, plutôt que de les interdire ou les ignorer comme étant “des jeux d’enfants”.

> Social networking services are more and more being deployed as professional tools, extending the sets of contacts that people can tap in their work lives. It is thus not surprising that such tools are also part of the social lives of our teens. Just as youth in a hunting society play with bows and arrows, youth in an information society play with information and social networks. Our schools so far do a rather poor job of helping teens acquire the skills they need in order to participate within that information society. For starters, most adult jobs today involve a high degree of collaboration, yet we still focus our schools on training autonomous learners. Rather than shutting kids off from social network tools, we should be teaching them how to exploit their potentials and mitigate their risks.


De même, si effectivement ces espaces numériques sont terriblement dangereux, il est important que l’école enseigne aux adolescents comment gérer leur présence en ligne, plutôt que de les encourager à l’éviter. La citation qui suit est une allusion directe à la volonté de certaines instances aux Etats-Unis (et ailleurs) de bloquer l’accès aux sites de “réseautage en ligne”, comme MySpace, depuis les écoles.

> Suppose, for the sake of argument, that MySpace critics are correct and that MySpace is, in fact, exposing large numbers of teens to high-risk situations, then shouldn’t the role of educational institutions be to help those teens understand those risks and develop strategies for dealing with them? Wouldn’t we be better off having teens engage with MySpace in the context of supervision from knowledgeable and informed adults? Historically, we taught children what to do when a stranger telephoned them when their parents are away; surely, we should be helping to teach them how to manage the presentation of their selves in digital spaces. The proposed federal legislation does nothing to help kids confront the challenges of interacting with online social communities; rather, it allows teachers and librarians to abdicate their responsibility to educate young people about what is becoming a significant aspect of their everyday lives.


Je vous cite maintenant un long passage dans lequel danah parle de la question des prédateurs sexuels sur MySpace, de la couverture médiatique de ce phénomène (qui contribue à créer un climat d’alarme déconnecté de la réalité), et des chiffres sur lesquels on se base aux Etats-Unis pour justifier l’inquiétude ambiante à ce sujet.

Il y a quelque temps, j’avais moi-même été à la recherche de matière première (chiffres, enquêtes, etc) concernant les prédateurs sexuels sur internet. Depuis des années que je baigne dans la cyberculture, je n’avais en effet jamais rencontré ni entendu parler d’une seule histoire du genre, ce qui me paraissait en décalage avec la frénésie médiatique et les opérations de prévention à grande échelle dont j’étais témoin.

Sans grande surprise, je n’ai pu mettre la main que sur une seule étude (celle-là même dont parle danah) qui fournissait des chiffres alarmants. Mais en regardant de près l’analyse des résultats fournis, j’avais été quelque peu sidérée de voir des choses comme “une fille de 13 ans à qui on a demandé sa taille de soutien-gorge” rentrer dans la catégorie “unwanted sexual sollicitation”, sans précision de l’âge ou du sexe de la personne posant la question. De plus, j’aurais apprécié une étude comparative de la quantité de “sollicitations sexuelles non désirées” dont sont victimes les ados à l’école, dans la rue, ou dans leur club de sports. Dans le troisième paragraphe que je cite, danah fait le même genre de critique.

Elle nous rappelle également que la grande majorité des enlèvements aux Etats-Unis sont l’oeuvre de personnes connues de l’enfant. D’un point de vue statistique, les enfants courent plus de risques en allant aux scouts ou à une sortie de catéchisme qu’en traînant sur MySpace. De plus, elle nous rappelle que la peur des prédateurs, régulièrement utilisée pour priver les jeunes d’espaces publiques (numériques ou physiques), sert aussi à détourner notre attention d’abuseurs statistiquement plus significatifs. Les jeunes courent plus de risques d’être victimes d’abus à leur domicile ou à celui de leurs amis que dans les espaces publics.

Voilà, grossièrement résumé, les arguments principaux de danah boyd dans les paragraphes suivants.

> The media coverage of predators on MySpace implies that 1) all youth are at risk of being stalked and molested because of MySpace; 2) prohibiting youth from participating on MySpace will stop predators from attacking kids. Both are misleading; neither is true.

> Unfortunately, predators lurk wherever youth hang out. Since youth are on MySpace, there are bound to be predators on MySpace. Yet, predators do not use online information to abduct children; children face a much higher risk of abduction or molestation from people they already know – members of their own family or friends of the family. Statistically speaking, kids are more at risk at a church picnic or a boy scout outing than they are when they go on MySpace. Less than .01% of all youth abductions nationwide are stranger abductions and as far as we know, no stranger abduction has occurred because of social network services. The goal of a predator is to get a child to consent to sexual activities. Predators contact teens (online and offline) to start a conversation. Just as most teens know to say no to strange men who approach them on the street, most know to ignore strange men who approach them online. When teenagers receive solicitations from adults on MySpace, most report deleting them without question. Those who report responding often talk about looking for attention or seeking a risk. Of those who begin conversations, few report meeting these strangers.

> The media often reference a [Crimes Against Children report]( that states one in five children receive a sexual solicitation online. A careful reading of this report shows that 76% of the unwanted solicitations came from fellow children. This includes unwanted date requests and sexual taunts from fellow teens. Of the adult solicitations, 96% are from people 18-25; wanted and unwanted solicitations are both included. In other words, if an 18 year old asks out a 17 year old and both consent, this would still be seen as a sexual solicitation. Only 10% of the solicitations included a request for a physical encounter; most sexual solicitations are for cybersex. While the report shows that a large percentage of youth are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences online, there is no discussion of how many are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences at school, in the local shopping mall or through other mediated channels like telephone.

> Although the media has covered the potential risk extensively, few actual cases have emerged. While youth are at minimal risk, predators are regularly being lured out by law enforcement patrolling the site. Most notably, a deputy in the Department of Homeland Security was arrested for seeking sex with a minor.

> The fear of predators has regularly been touted as a reason to restrict youth from both physical and digital publics. Yet, as Barry Glassner notes in [The Culture of Fear](, predators help distract us from more statistically significant molesters. Youth are at far greater risk of abuse in their homes and in the homes of their friends than they ever are in digital or physical publics.


Henry Jenkins nous rappelle que le décalage entre générations de parents et d’enfants pour ce qui est de l’adoption de nouvelles technologies n’est rien de nouveau. Les parents et enseignants sont souvent effrayés par le fait qu’ils ne comprennent pas ce que les jeunes font avec les technologies de communication d’aujourd’hui, et qu’ils ne sont donc pas en mesure de protéger ou superviser les enfants lorsqu’ils les utilisent.

> History shows us a recurring pattern surrounding the adaptation of any new communications technology. Young people are often early adopters: they are more open to new ideas and experiences; they are looking for ways to leave their mark on the world and they are seeking places where they can socially interact with minimal adult interference. Parents and teachers are often frightened by these new kinds of communication technologies which were not part of the world of their childhood: they don’t really understand what their young people are doing with them and they don’t know how to protect or supervise their children while they are engaged in these activities. The situation is thus ripe for moral panic.


Henry continue sur les conséquences désastreuses d’une limitation de l’accès internet dans les écoles et bibliothèques. Cela handicaperait les enfants qui n’ont pas un bon accès internet à la maison et qui n’auraient donc pas l’occasion d’apprendre à utiliser ces outils sociaux s’ils ne sont pas accessibles depuis l’école.

Il ne faut plus maintenant parler de fossé numérique, mais de “participation gap” (décalage participatif — il y a sans doute une traduction meilleure). Les jeunes sont en train d’acquérir d’importantes compétences en réseautage et collaboration qui auront une conséquence sur leur futur professionnel. Ceux qui n’ont accès qu’à un internet filtré n’auront pas cette chance et s’en trouveront prétérités.

> What a kid can do at home with unlimited access is very different from what a kid can do in a public library with ten or fifteen minutes of access at a time and with no capacity to store and upload information to the web. We further handicap these children by placing filters on the Internet which restrict their access to information which is readily available to their more affluent classmates. And now this legislation would restrict their ability to participate in social networks or to belong to online communities. The result will be to further isolate children from poorer economic backgrounds, to cut kids at risk from support systems which exist within their peer culture, and to limit the social and cultural experiences of kids who are already behind in acquiring important networking skills that will shape their professional futures. All of this will compound what we are now calling the participation gap. The early discussion of the digital divide assumed that the most important concern was insuring access to information as if the web were simply a data bank. Its power comes through participation within its social networks. The authors of the law are reading MySpace and other social software exclusively in terms of their risks; they are not focusing on the opportunities they offer for education and personal growth. In protecting children from those risks, they would cut them off from those educational benefits.


Il y a des parallèles à faire entre les activités de socialisation de la génération “parents” dans leur jeunesse, et ce que font les ados d’aujourd’hui. Les activités sont déplacées en ligne, mais au fond, c’est assez similaire. D’après Henry, une des conséquences est la diminution des occasions qu’ont les jeunes d’être entre eux hors du contrôle des adultes. Là, je pose une question: si c’est vrai pour les Etats-Unis, qu’en est-il de l’Europe? J’ai le sentiment que cette problématique est peut-être différente.

> As I suggested above, most parents understand their children’s experiences in the context of their memories of their own early years. For the baby boom generation, those defining experiences involved playing in backyards and vacant lots within suburban neighborhoods, socializing with their friends at the local teen hangout, and participating within a social realm which was constrained by the people who went to your local school. All of that is changing. Contemporary children and youth enjoy far less physical mobility, have less time outside of adult control, and have fewer physical places to hang out with their friends.

> Much of this activity is being brought online. What teens are doing online is no better and no worse than what previous generations of teens did when their parents weren’t looking. The difference is that as these activities are being digitized, they are also being brought into public view. Video games bring the fantasy lives of young boys into the family room and parents are shocked by what they are seeing. Social networks give adults a way to access their teens’ social and romantic lives and they are startled by their desire to break free from restraints or act older than their age.


Il est réjouissant d’entendre que grâce en particulier à la téléphonie mobile, les jeunes sont plus régulièrement en communication avec les membres de leur famille et leurs pairs qu’autrefois.

> Because of mobile phones, current college students report greater ongoing communication with their parents than in previous generations. As Misa Matsuda has argued, networked technologies are allowing today’s youth to maintain “full-time intimate communities.” While the socialization that takes place in digital publics is equivalent to that which occurs in physical publics, new media is allowing youth to be more deeply connected to their peers and their family members, providing a powerful open channel for communication and sharing.


En ce moment, MySpace et les autres outils de réseautage en ligne sont perçus comme des menaces à l’ordre public, dit Henry. Mais on peut regarder les choses différemment et les voir comme un terrain d’entraînement pour nos futurs citoyens et dirigeants politiques. Il mentionne que les jeunes d’aujourd’hui prennent des rôles publics de plus en plus tôt.

Note intéressante: la recherche actuelle démontrerait que les joueurs de jeux multijoueurs en réseau ont des aptitudes importantes pour le travail en équipe, une meilleure compréhension de quand prendre des risques et lesquels, de traiter des sources d’information complexes, etc. J’avoue que ça m’interpelle particulièrement, puisque j’ai personnellement plutôt des inquiétudes concernant les conséquences néfastes que pourrait avoir sur des jeunes en développement le fait de faire une partie de leurs expériences de vie dans un monde dont les règles ne sont pas celles de la réalité. A creuser, donc.

De nouveau, Henry relève que les jeunes n’ont personne vers qui se tourner lorsqu’ils ont besoin de conseils concernant les choix et problèmes éthiques auxquels ils sont confrontés dans ces environnements. Une partie du travail fait pour la Fondation MacArthur consistera à proposer aux jeunes, parents, et enseignants des lignes de conduite éthiques qui les aidera à prendre des décisions informées et sensées au sujet de leur vie en ligne. C’est clairement plus constructif que de mettre des filtres sur tous les ordinateurs publics et de laisser les jeunes se débrouiller seuls avec ces questions.

> Right now, MySpace and the other social network tools are being read as threats to the civic order, as encouraging anti-social behaviors. But we can easily turn this around and see them as the training ground for future citizens and political leaders. Young people are assuming public roles at earlier and earlier ages. They are interacting with larger communities of their peers and beginning to develop their own styles of leadership. Across a range of issues, young people are using social network software to identify and rally like-minded individualism, forming the basis for new forms of digital activism. Current research shows that teens who participate in massively multiplayer games develop a much stronger ability to work in teams, a greater understanding of how and when to take appropriate risks, an ability to rapidly process complex bodies of information, and so forth. At the same time, these teens are facing an array of ethical challenges which are badly understood by the adults around them. They have nowhere to turn for advice on how to confront some of the choices they make as participants within these communities. Part of the work we will be doing for the MacArthur Foundation involves the development of an ethics casebook which will help parents, teachers, and students work through some of these issues and make sensible decisions about how they conduct their online lives. We see this kind of pedagogical intervention as far more valuable than locking down all public computers and then sending kids out to deal with these issues on their own.


Voici, en très résumé, les conseils principaux que Henry propose aux parents. J’y retrouve le conseil que je répète un peu comme un disque rayé, de conférence en conférance: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.

> Parents face serious challenges in helping their children negotiate through these new online environments. They receive very little advice about how to build a constructive relationship with media within their families or how to help their offspring make ethical choices as participants in these online worlds.

> […]

> 1. Communication with your daughter or son is key. Build a trusting relationship through dialogue. It is important to talk with them about your concerns; it is even more important to listen to what they have to say about their online experiences and why these sites are such an important part of their interactions with their peers. […]
2. Create an account to understand how the site works, but not to stalk your kids. […]
3. Ask your kids how they choose to represent themselves and why. […]
4. Talk about private/ public issues with your kids. Help them to understand the consequences of making certain information publicly accessible. Get them to think through all of the possible audiences who might come into contact with their online information. Teens often imagine MySpace as a youth-only world. It isn’t and they need to consider what the consequences would be if their grandparents, their teachers, admissions officers or a future employer read what they said about themselves. […]
5. Talk through what kids should do if they receive unwanted attention online or if they find themselves the victims of cyberbullying. […]

Voilà. J’ai fait un peu plus de traduction libre que ce que j’avais prévu, et peut-être un peu moins de commentaire — mais la plupart des citations parlent d’elles-mêmes. J’espère que vous aurez trouvé intéressant ce que disent ces deux chercheurs, [danah boyd]( et [Henry Jenkins]( A nouveau, je ne peux que vous encourager à [lire l’interview en entier]( si vous travaillez avec des adolescents. Si l’anglais est un obstacle infranchissable pour vous, la [traduction Google]( peut vous aider.

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