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Hi all,

I have been causing some problems for to companies that are trying to get to
your students. The situation is this:

This nation¹s Attorneys General have been promoting the idea of using
digital identification (also called age verification) ostensibly to protect
young people from online predators. While protecting young people is indeed
a very worthy objective, the push for a technology ³quick fix² to this
concern appears to have some very undesirable unintended consequences.

Two companies are now seeking the assistance of schools to digitally
identify students. Both companies are planning to provide demographic
information about students to web sites to enable those sites to engage in
more effective targeted advertising to these young people. This additional
use of student demographic data has not been fully disclosed to school or

There is an Education Week story here:

And a NY Times story here:

I blogged about this here:

There are two new reports on my site. One outlines the
issue of these two companies. The other that sets for a comprehensive
approach for Digital Citizenship and Youth Risk Online.

It is important that you understand that most of what most people think
about online sexual predators is wrong.

These incidents are rare - far, far more young people are sexually abused by
family members and acquaintances.

Predators do not target children - they target emotionally teens who will
talk about sex - or teens who appear to be "seeking.".

They do not track young people based on personal contact information they
post and then abduct them - none of us in this field have been able to find
one documented case of this.

They are not deceptive about age or intentions, although they may pretend to
love the teen - the teens meet with them knowing they are adults and
intending to engage in sex.

The AGs have been pushing this issue very hard. The other contributors to
this techno-panic are media and companies that are trying to create sales by
raising fear. I found a Florida company called Safewave that states on its

"Thousands of children a year are victims of cyber-bullying and online
predators at pandemic levels. Thousands more are exposed daily to
inappropriate and unwelcomed content. By age 14, 77% of children have been
contacted by a predator. Only 25% of those children tell their parents."

This is falt out BS! Actually, the arrests for sexual abuse have been
decreasing during the decade the Internet has grown. I have asked where they
got the 77% - which is ridiculous - and they have not yet responded.

In the late 90's there were a bunch of companies providing "free services"
to schools for the purpose of getting access to demographic data for market
profiling and to try to advertise to captive kids in school.

There is a new business model that is very aggressive right now. This model
focuses on scaring schools and parents about online predators - so the
companies can get demographic data and advertise to kids.

The more they get away with these fear-tactics, the harder it will be to
bring Web 2.0 technologies into schools for instructional purposes.

Please let me know of any other companies out there trying this tactic.


Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research Press)

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the
Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass)

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