Wired Kids Summit in Washington DC

  Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend the day with Parry Aftab and her TeenAngels at the 8th Annual Wired Kids Summit in Washington DC. It was a beautiful, warm day in Washington (an unseasonal 70 degrees) but it was such a lively program in the Cannon building, no one seemed to mind being indoors.

The adult attendees included Chris Hansen from TV's "To Catch a Predator", Marsali Hancock from our partner organization, IKeepSafe Coalition, and representatives from AOL, Microsoft, Webkinz and others. Each table featured an impressive display of junk food and free takeaway toys from Webkinz and Neopets. My colleagues and I were joined at our table by three young ladies from Parry's teen volunteer group, the TeenAngels. We also met some younger participants, called "TweenAngels". These children perform countless hours of community service, visiting schools with a presentation on internet safety.

During the summit, many of the children presented their own, original and statistically significant research on the attitudes and behaviors of children in their area with regard to the web. I hope to get some of the presentations to review in great details, but some of the key learnings included:

Kids are engaged in far riskier behaviors at very young ages than we might have believed. If you are waiting until your child is 9 years of age to talk about being safe online, you are waiting too long. By the age of 9, many kids are visiting unsafe sites, downloading illegal music and peer-to-peer clients and posting private information online.

Girls are far more likely to put photos on their social networking sites (which we know from other studies increases the likelihood of a contact from a stranger). Girls also spend significantly more time on their social networking activities than boys do. And 1/3 of the kids report they have not finished an important project or assignment because of time spent on social networking.

You can imagine the powerful impact those statistics have in a room of adults who are committed to helping adults and children be safer online. But imagine if the research was conducted in your own school, with your own friends contributing to it? Very effective program.

Parry Aftab is to be congratulated on her far-reaching efforts and passion to help kids develop real life skills in public speaking, presentations, research and community activism. I was particularly impressed by one young lady, Casi, who sat with us at our table and was on a panel of speakers as well. She spoke with us about her own cyberbullying experiences and charmed us with her poise and good manners. I'm sure her parents are just beaming with pride from her every day!

Message Edited by marianmerritt on 05-28-2008 04:51 PM