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The Web: Risks and Rescues

March 21, 2007

I believe that (most) technology is neutral; it’s how people use it that makes it good or bad. It is curious that humans pay more attention to the relatively few predators than to the far larger problem of bullying, which is growing in our culture, not just online. Look at some of the most popular reality TV shows for examples.

Link courtesy of Stephen Downes –,
From –


Now let’s look at a very different number deserving of parental attention: peer harassment, or cyberbullying. Compare the figure of 100 adult-to-minor predation cases in 2005 to 6.9 million “cases” of teen-to-teen cyberbullying. The latter number comes from a 2006 study by criminology Profs. J.W. Patchin and S. Hinduja which found that 33.4% of US teens have been victimized by cyberbullying (see “Bullies Move Beyond the Schoolyard”). According to Jupiter Research, there were 20.6 million US teens online by the end of last year. One third (33.4%) of 20.6 million suggests 6.9 million incidents of cyberbullying. These are the best figures we have on the noncriminal, peer-to-peer side of the social Web’s risk spectrum, but are actually much better numbers (based on sound research methodology) than the 100 cases of sexual predation compiled from news media stories. The CACRC researchers tell me they’re starting work on a study that will update and vastly improve on that 100-cases figure, but it won’t be publicly available for over a year.

I find it interesting too, that I’ve never seen the positives of social networking highlighted before either:

[And consider one more notable number on the positive side of social networking: MySpace is the source of more than 100,000 visitors a year to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Web site. It’s the hotline’s single biggest source of referrals… .]

So the web is neither good nor evil; it is simply a communication channel for humans.

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