Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bullying is Incredibly Destructive

As I was watching some Parry Aftab YouTube videos (the leader of Wired Safety) I stumbled across this video. It is incredibly powerful and sad. It very simply and effectively shows a string of kids in a series of still photos taken during happier times of their short lives. To think that all these sweet kids killed themselves after being bullied is heartbreaking.

Reading the connected comments is a whole other story. As an adult who survived adolescence with, what I figure is a common mixture of, pride about how I handled some situations and shame how I handled others, it makes me uncomfortable to read the comments of what I assume are mostly young people.

There are the heartless and cold "only losers get bullied" statements.

There are the bravado "I was bullied from 7th-12th grade. Even after high school people have messed with me even to this day. But I learned to take all the things they say about you and find something to release it and make yourself a much better, tougher person. I did this by working out in a gym and ran into a few kids from high school, some that gave me shit, and they just stared in awe like they couldn't believe it. I just walked by as if they were dirt under my shoes. Not saying a word or nothing" statements.

Neither gives me much comfort, or illuminates a path out of the darkness of bullying. It's likely most kids experience, at some point, both sides of the exchange--they have bullied someone, and they have been bullied. In this day and age when cyber-bullying has provided a larger platform and audience for this behaior, it may be important for parents and educators to think about this when trying to guide kids away from the incredibly destructive behavior of bullying -- on the play ground or online.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

5600 -- Really? Facebook Only Identifies 5600 Sexual Predators' Accounts

The sincerity of social networking sites regarding Internet safety can be questioned after the latest news from Facebook. See this TechDirt post:

During a week of taking a public relations beating and a subsequent user rebellion over claiming perpetual ownership rights to the content posted by its users, Facebook followed MySpace's lead to identify and remove known, convicted sexual predators from its site. What's curious is that out of Facebook's 100+ million subscribers only 5600 were registered sexual predators. By contrast, MySpace found over 90,000 -- this also seems really low when compared to their number of subscribers, which they put at 200+ million.

5600 -- Really? That's about as believable as Alex Rodriguez's partial-kind-of-not-so-much-yeah-I-was-young-and-dumb (hey it worked for Michael Phelps) explanation of his steroid use. One has to ask several questions:

  • How hard did Facebook really look?

  • How committed is Facebook to Internet safety?

  • Is Facebook really concerned about the safety of their users?
We should probably commend the social networks for however reluctantly beginning to take small steps towards making their product safer. However it clearly further identifies the need for parents to protect their kids online.

YouDiligence ( helps parents with this daunting task. YouDiligence doesn't rely on the honesty of sexual deviants to identify themselves. It works even if false identities are being used. YouDiligence scans the content itself of what is posted on kids pages, helping parents identify suspicious and troubling posts. Parents have the control to customize the search criteria that's used to alert them to troubling posts by their children and others on their children's sites. Once an issue is identified, YouDiligence emails the parent an alert in real-time.

BSOT = Be Safe Online Tonight

Friday, February 20, 2009

Using Social Networks to Share a Story

With all the issues of cyber-bullying and online predators dominating the news the last couple of weeks, two high school sports stories really stuck out to me this week that are from opposite ends of the spectrum. They have nothing to do with either cyber-bullying or online predators -- instead they are examples of how we shouldn't and should use social networks to share a story. The first story, unfortunately, did make the rounds on social networking pages, and the second story, which could likely win an ESPY this year, has yet to be seen online except in the media.

The first story comes out of the state high school basketball tournament in South Caroline. A video was posted on a social networking site of a huge brawl after a hard foul near the end of the game. The stands emptied and players and fans on both teams were involved in a 20 minute plus melee, the footage was posted on several social networking sites, and ultimately made it into the mainstream media.

The second story is of an act of sportsmanship and character that makes tears well up in your eyes. The short version is a Wisconsin high school basketball player's 39 year old mother unexpectedly died of cancer. He showed up to his game over 2 hours away to play after saying he wouldn't be there. He walked in after the game began and asked to play. Knowing the situation, the other team stopped the game, let him get dressed and come to the court. His coach had not put his name in the score book, so upon entering the game, he would be assessed a technical foul. The other team argued they didn't want the call, but the referee insisted. After gathering his players and asking which one wanted to take the shots, a senior guard raised his hand. He looked at the coach and said, "You know I'm going to miss, right?" the coach nodded. He took his spot at the free throw line and took the ball from the referee and twice took shots that barely made it past his arms -- obvious intentional misses. This received a standing ovation from the crowd, all of whom knew what the situation was.

This is the kind of story that needs to be shared on social networking sites -- it shows character and leadership. Let's hope that whoever had their cell phone or camcorder rolling at this point in the game will post it sometime soon. It surely will receive serious consideration for an ESPN ESPY award. For now, we have the story:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Peers are a larger group than Predators

A good article appeared in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Biggest online threat is peers, not predators . It is a balanced view of the ongoing debate between internet safety experts. Some experts are focused on the dangers posed by predators, and some are focused on cyber-bullying and child development issues. The following quote is something that we stress all the time here at YouDiligence:

Morris-Reichenbach says parents need to step in to closely monitor their children’s online activities and help their children make good decisions in cyberspace.

“Parents need to tell their kids: ‘You send something, you post something to a friend, and you have to live with it being out in cyberspace forever. If you have any doubt, don’t do it,’ ” she said.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Parents Should be Concerned about Internet Safety for Kids

This item from Indiana today where police arrested a 28 year old man who had repeatedly had sex with a 14 year old girl he met on MySpace.

This news only reinforces the fact that sexual predators troll social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace looking for unsuspecting victims, especially children. It is a parents' right to protect their children from harm, and many parents need help to make the internet safer for their kids.

YouDiligence makes it easier for parents to know who their kids are interacting with online, and alerting them to risky internet activity on their children's social networking accounts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Larry Magid, the Internet Safety Guru, Discusses State Attorneys' MySpace Report

Larry Magid who is connected to the organization ConnectSafely.Org has written an interesting response to the State Attorneys General report about MySpace kicking 90,000 sexual predators off their site. Check it out: Magid Article

One of Magid's comments that sticks out is:

"Online safety groups and public officials should be spending our time educating families on how to avoid real risks that affect most kids-- like bullying, harassment and unwanted exposure to inappropriate material."

He says we should focus on the above issues and points out:

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is one of several safety organizations that no longer condone the use of the phrase "stranger danger."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fallout Continues From Michael Phelps' Multi-Million Dollar Bong Photo

The second and third tier consequences are flowing in from Michael Phelps now famous pot smoking lapse of judgement. The latest? As reported in this New York Times article, he has been suspended for 3 months from competition and he is losing one of his primary sponsors because he did not project the image that Kellogg's wanted for its kids cereals.

Parents, kids, and college athletes all have a lot to lose if their indiscretions are posted online or in the paper as it was in this case. Parents have the added responsibility of helping protect their kids from posting similarly damaging photos, videos or comments on the Internet for anyone in the world to see. It can impact their futures, and they need to look no further than the most recent American sports hero to see how quickly the tide can turn. YouDiligence helps parents protect and manage the online reputations of their kids.

BSOT = Be Safe Online Tonight

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Facebook Impostors Raise Internet Safety Concerns

Here is another story about the dangers of social networking and Internet safety. People posing as someone else, and then getting the real person's friends to send money to the impostor. This is the ultimate cyber-bullying.

At UDiligence, (YouDiligence's product for college athletic departments) we have run into this problem when protecting the online reputations of student-athletes. We have found a number of "poser" pages that were put up in malice, intending to damage the reputations of the athletes.

Two of the instances involved female soccer players, who had MySpace pages that they didn't create, but that said very graphic and sexually explicit things about them. UDiligence notified the school and helped get the pages taken down, saving the long term reputation issues for the athletes, who were graduating and looking for jobs.

BSOT = Be Safe Online Tonight

A group of State Attorney General's offices release MySpace Sex Offender Report: Are they moving to Facebook?

A group of State Attorney General's offices released a report the other day stating MySpace had purged 90,000 accounts of people who are in the sex offender database.

It is good that MySpace is tring to be proactive in this regard. Tech Crunch has a blogger, Erick Schonfeld, that has been covering this topic for the last month. He wrote a very interesting post that suggests many of these booted MySpace predators might have migrated to Facebook.

This makes perfect sense for the predators. What predators want is a large population, because there is a larger pool of potential victims to choose from and it is easier to not stand out when there is a crowd. When we started YouDiligence, we recognized that MySpace and Facebook were the two dominant players in the social networking space, and that our service would be most beneficial on these two sites.

Wisconsin Sexual Predator on Facebook

The day after MySpace announced that they had removed more than 90,000 sexual predators with accounts from trolling their social network, this story appears out of Wisconsin. An 18 year old male faked being a girl and then solicited and blackmailed teenage boys into having sex with him by claiming he would expose nude photos of them if they didn't comply.
If ever there was a case that shows how YouDiligence could have helped parents protect children, this is it. YouDiligence searches kids pages for words that predators and cyber-bullies use, and alerts parents by email when it finds a match on their kids' MySpace or Facebook pages.

BSOT = Be Safe Online Tonight

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Social Networking & College Athletic Scholarships a Double Edged Sword

This story in February 1's Rocky Mountain News suggests there are a number of specialized college athletic recruiting social networking sites that are popping up across the country that are selling themselves as a way for high school athletes to connect with college coaches -- and maybe more importantly it signifies a trend where creative athletic programs and coaches are embracing social networking as a viable mechanism to reach high school athletes. One of the sites that isn't mentioned in the article, but is gaining traction nationally is:

It has always been a challenge for high school athletes who are not in the "revenue" sports of football and men's/women's basketball to get noticed if they are not in the top 200 recruits nationally of their sports. Likewise it has always been a challenge for the coaches at small colleges and in non-revenue sports at Division I schools to get to the far corners of the country to see athletes on very small recruiting budgets.

In years past, parents have tried to fill this void by spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars putting together DVD highlight reels of their kids' athletic performances. They sent these tapes to dozens or even hundreds of coaches in hope they might look at their video over the 1000+ other vidoes that had come in.

With the economy shredding recruiting budgets for almost every level of college sports, it has hit smaller colleges and non-revenue sports even harder. This has forced coaches to seek out and even embrace technology as their friend - learning about and using the technology like social networking that is available -- within NCAA and NAIA guidelines -- to connect to the lesser-known athletes from small to previously unheardof high schools.

It is a win-win for the athlete and the coach. There are a lot of talented high school athletes who never played beyond the 12th grade because they never had the chance to be seen by a recruiter or a coach. Now they can, and it seems so far, everyone wins.

Now, while these recruiting social networking sites are designed to specifically enhance a high school athlete's chance to connect with college coaches, other social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are being used by college admissions offices as a litmus test as to whether or not they want to accept some students into their freshman class. Parents, don't be fooled, most high schoolers have a MySpace and/or Facebook page.

For the parents of athletes who are working so hard to get your kids recruited, don't let the latter happen to you. YouDiligence is a service that alerts you by email to potentially troubling posts on your kid's MySpace and Facebook pages -- the very things that college admissions offices are looking for. Now you can protect your kids' reputation by having them remove potentially problematic posts before collegiate admissions officers get to see them. The first month is free --

BSOT = Be Safe Online Tonight

Using Facebook to Apologize & YouDiligence to Protect

For those who have yet to see the photo that surfaced in the London tabloids of American Olympic hero Michael Phelps taking a hit off of a marijuana bong, here is the link to the story and the photo.

It's amazing that this took place in November and it is just now getting out. Phelps has quickly admitted his mistake, apologized and said it would never happen again. Interestingly, he chose his Facebook page as the primary release point for his apology. This is a real sign of the times, and since he has nearly 2 million fans on Facebook, it was a sure way to reach his most loyal supporters quickly, and a testament to the efficacy of social networking.

Here is what his agent at Octagon came up with for him, and is posted on his Facebook page:

I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23-years-old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public – it will not happen again.

Parents of tweens and teens across the country are shaking their heads right now because this, on a much smaller scale -- but a more important one to them -- is the very thing they are afraid of happening to their child. They are worried about what their kids are doing and are worried that someone may post similarly damaging party photos of their kids on a MySpace or Facebook page for the entire world to see and the subsequent damage to the reputations such photos might have on their kids.

We developed YouDiligence to help parents protect their kids from negative exposure on social networking sites -- exposure that can ruin the kid's reputation.

If you are worried about what your kid is posting to a social networking site, you should subscribe: The first month is free and it may just keep your kid from posting things -- like the photo of Michael Phelps -- which might impact the decision of an admissions officer at the college they hope to attend.

BSOT = Be Safe Online Tonight
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