There is a lot of debate lately about how to protect children and teens from the dangers of the Internet and social media.
Adults want to try to figure out how to censor it, monitor it and control it – all in the hopes of preventing youth from abusing it or getting hurt by it.
But Perri Klass put forth an intriguing idea in his recent New Youth Times piece “Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall.” He argues that maybe social media is neutral and it’s what is done with it that makes it hurtful or helpful. He goes on to write about how the current debate we are having about Internet and mobile technology is the same debate our parents had about TV. And his main question was what if, instead of condemning it and trying to keep children and youth away from it, we used it to engage them further in educational and outreach efforts.
The reality is that teens have and are going to use the Internet and technology. Yes, they can be hurt when using it, but that’s not always the case. Technology is neutral. Like many things it can be used for both bad and good. So why not try and use it correctly instead of fighting it?
What if adults decided to use it to engage youth instead of just trying to protect and control?
What if adults talk with youth about the bad and the good parts of the Internet and new technologies?
What if adults allowed youth to use it as a tool to help themselves and others?
Based on this very idea, the Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Vice President, held a contest called “Apps against Abuse.” In an effort to address teen dating violence, they asked for proposals for different applications for mobile phones to educate and help youth who are in questionable situations. Teens, parents, college students, and companies responded with hundreds of app ideas. These are the two winning applications:
- Circle of 6: This iPhone app makes it quick and easy to reach your circle of supporters and let them know where you are and what you need. It takes two touches on the screen to get help. The app uses text messaging to contact your circle, uses GPS to locate you when needed, connects to reputable domestic violence organizations, and asks contacts to take a pledge on Facebook to stop violence before it happens.
- On Watch: On Watch is an iPhone app that lets you transmit critical information by phone, email, text, and social media to your support network. You can check in with friends, call 911 or campus police with two touches of a button. Users can also set countdown timers that send messages and GPS information automatically if events or activities don’t go according to plan, and connect to sexual assault, dating violence and domestic abuse hotlines.
This is just one example of how government and private organizations are taking something that is part of youths’ everyday lives and using it instead of controlling it. Below is a list of a variety of ways technology and the Internet are being used to engage, educate, and empower youth to know about and deal with teen dating violence in their schools, friendships and communities.
Boston Score Card – http://www.td411.org/sound-relationships-nutritional-label.pdf
This resource shows that music can be a source of positive or negative energy. It shares how you can evaluate the “nutritional value” of your music to help have a positive influence on your relationships’ health.
TD4-1-1 APP and Website – http://www.td411.org/index-3.html
This site shares information about relationships – why some work and some don’t, how to read signs in a relationship, and how technology is used in relationships.
Online Privacy Safety Tips – http://www.vaw.umn.edu/documents/nnedv/onlineprivacysafetytipspdf.pdf
This is a guide to using the web safely and how to protect your privacy.
Technology and Teen Dating Violence – http://www.vaw.umn.edu/documents/technologytdv/technologytdv.html
This site provides tips on how to safely use technology and how to use it to protect yourself if you are a victim of abuse.
A High-Tech Twist on Abuse: Technology, Intimate Partner Stalking, and Advocacy http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/commissioned/stalkingandtech/stalkingandtech.html
This site shares background on technological stalking, what advocates can do to help survivors cope, and technology safety planning tips for survivors.
The Office of the Vice President and the White House Office of Science and Technology Request for Apps Against Abuse
- http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/01/announcing-winners-apps-against-abuse-technology-challenge This challenge called for entries for mobile technology that help prevent teen dating violence and connect teens to needed resources.
This is a link to the winners of the Apps Against Abuse challenge.
Love is Not Abuse http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lina/id443740581?mt=8
The Love Is Not Abuse (LINA) application provides a rare insight for parents into what it feels like for their teen to be a victim of digital dating abuse.
This app brings awareness about teen dating violence & electronic victimization; it gives information about how to avoid abuse and in finding help when it’s needed.
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