Proposed OWL 7-9 Add-on Session on Relationships and the Internet

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UNIT FIVE: Relationships

A WORD TO THE LEADERS

The benefits of the Internet are many. It’s a great place to hang out--for having fun, for keeping in touch, for information, for education, for hobbies.

Sometimes young people think that because they’re in a physically safe place, the Internet is safe for them, and that the rules of “real life” don’t apply. They can need help taking their morals and values to the Internet. They need to develop their instincts about who is good for them and who isn’t. They need help avoiding and reacting to the dangers so their online experience is safe and enriching.

The list of bad things that happen online is long, as it is in real life. Drug deals are set up. Young people are exposed to inappropriate material which may be sexually degrading, violent or hateful. A young person’s angry and deviant thoughts find an online home that nurtures and escalates them. Predators target youth and set up meetings. Young people are offered money to take off their shirts for a web cam. Would-be predators send explicit images to youth to desensitize them. Schoolmates, rivals or strangers can bully and intimidate young people online, seemingly without repercussion. Scammers try to get passwords, credit card numbers, or other information that will allow them to make a purchase at someone else’s expense. They try to entice youth to call a 900 number.

With social networking sites, young people’s private diaries and deepest intimacies are online, along with their pictures and those of their friends. Young people need help realizing that ‘digital is forever’ and available more widely than they intend. Careful attention to privacy settings can limit the visibility of personal information, but few people fully understand the settings or keep up with changes in site privacy policies.

We now know that most young people who are online give out some personal information, and we need to encourage them to be restrictive about that. We know too that there is a connection between a youth’s behavior and his or her chances of becoming a victim. Being rude or nasty online, embarrassing or harassing others, and talking about sex with someone they don’t know are factors that greatly increase their own risk. We have an opportunity to remind youth that how they interact with people can have an impact on how they are treated. We can help them avoid and deal with risk and danger, and use the Internet safely and fully.

SESSION GOALS

  • Youth extend their values, morals and behavior to life on the Internet. They recognize the consequences of their online behavior.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  • Youth can articulate ways to keep themselves and their friends safe while they enjoy the many benefits of their online communities.
  • Youth can recognize and react appropriately to risky online situations.

SESSION–AT-A-GLANCE

This is a 60 minute session, incorporated as the first hour of a regular OWL class. With the two optional activities, allow 90 minutes.

  • Re-entry
  • Question Box
  • Online and Real Life Activities
  • Be Your Own Detective
  • Net-Savvy Detective Demonstration (optional)
  • Porn and Relationships (optional)
  • Summary

MATERIALS CHECKLIST

  • Easel, pad, paper or note cards, pencils.
  • For Online and Real Life Activities, Leader Resource S 1, cut into individual questions.
  • For Be Your Own Detective, Leader Resource S 2, copied and cut into individual scenarios.
  • For Net-Savvy Detective Demonstration, Leader Resource S 3, for each participant (characters on separate pages).

PREPARATION

  • Read this session and decide together how to divide leadership responsibilities.

SESSION PLAN

R&R

1. Reentry

Welcome participants and help them reenter by asking them to share any joys or concerns, or anything happening in their lives that they would like to share

2. Question Box

Answer questions from the Question Box.

3. Online and Real Life Activities

Warm-up Exercise: What’s fun online?

Go around the room and ask people to list all the things they like to do online.

Let each teenager draw an aspect of life and relationships from Leader Resource S 1.

Give these instructions: Compare how you conduct the activity you’ve selected--online vs. in person. Are there different expectations, or a different etiquette? List the pluses and minuses, satisfactions and risks of doing the activity online compared to in real life. (Model reporting on one activity if you like.)

Give teenagers 3 or 4 minutes to work independently and make notes for their presentation. Have them each then report on their topic, noting benefits and risks of online activity.

Make sure these points are made in the course of discussion:

  • The Internet offers life-enhancing activity, for communicating, getting information, handling many transactions.
  • Take your values with you online. Take your good instincts. Take your integrity. Youth who embarrass or harass others online are much more likely to be targeted as victims. Youth who make nasty comments are more likely to be bullied and exploited. Talking about sex with someone you don’t know is likely to put you in a risky situation.
  • Digital is forever. If you, or a friend, posts something about you (pictures or words) online, recognize that teachers, parents, predators, “enemies,” college admissions counselors, future employers, and boyfriends and girlfriends—past and present- may view it. (Has anyone heard of Snapchat? It automatically deletes photos or videos a few seconds after they are delivered and viewed.)
  • Private messages may not stay private. The intended recipient may later decide to share them, or his phone or computer may be used by someone else.
  • People aren’t necessarily who they say they are online.
  • Anyone, including thieves and predators, can build an identity online.
  • One person may appear in many different identities, gleaning an “appropriate, innocent” bit of information in each persona, putting them together to win your trust.
  • As in real life, there is physical danger and there is psychological danger. Some things might not hurt you physically but might make you uncomfortable. Trust your feelings.
  • You have a right to be safe and comfortable, as do others. There are ways to protect yourself, and help available if you feel threatened.

Be Your Own Detective

Divide into groups of 3-5. Each group will pick a volunteer to leave the room, while communication to them is created. A leader can leave the room with them, and help them prepare together to interpret the ‘online’ messages they will get when they return. Ask them to discuss what clues they will use to know whether the person communicating with them is young or old, male or female, well motivated or trying to use them. Have them plan what information they will divulge and what they won’t.

Each group of remaining team members will have a scenario from Leader Resource S 2. They will be given 5 minutes to plan and write several messages to the person who is outside of the room, consistent with their assigned persona and intention.

The absent teens will return to the classroom, and situate themselves with their back to the others, as if facing a computer screen. Their team members will read aloud the messages and questions that have been prepared for them, allowing the recipient to respond as if in an Instant Message (IM) conversation. At the end of the short “IM” session, let the recipient try to guess the age, gender, and intention of the person who wrote to them. Have them mention any words that built their confidence or set off alarms. Note how well their instincts served them, and whether they gave out information unwisely.

Make sure the following points are made:

  • Information that may put you or your friends at risk by making you or them findable by a stranger includes:

name, address, school, teams, jersey #, phone #, hobbies, homeroom, outside lessons, favorite hangouts, pictures, (remember the school year book) information about friends, chat about where and when to meet, what you’re doing this weekend, etc.

  • Finding a new friend online is risky; social networking sites like Facebook are better used for keeping up with people you know in person.
  • Chatting with an unknown person about personal problems is risky; it makes you vulnerable to exploitation and coercion. Talk with someone you know and trust about personal problems.
  • Physically meeting someone you’ve “met” on the Internet is especially risky, even if you take a friend. You may think you’ve been stood up when instead you’ve been watched.
  • Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t like to see repeated. Instant Messages can be copied into email, forwarded, posted on blogs, sent to other people.
  • Talking about sex online, with someone you don’t know in person, puts you at highest risk for predation.
  • Online games like World of Warcraft can be great fun, and joining up with other users is part of the appeal. Since sharing personal information is risky, most players do not ask for or volunteer such information. Be suspicious of anyone who does.
  • People who would molest or exploit teenagers go to where teenagers are, where they can stalk their prey undetected. That used to be chat rooms, and now it's Massively Multiplayer Online games.
  • If someone asks you to call a 900 telephone number, asks for a credit card number, or asks for your password, they don’t have your interest at heart – those are all common ruses to take money from you.
  • If someone tries to turn you against your family, friends, or school, they don’t have your interest at heart.

Net-Savvy Detective Demonstration (alternative to above)

If time permits, this exercise can drive home some of the points in Be Your Own Detective. We tried it once and found the resulting discussion interesting, but participants felt it duplicated the earlier activity. Next time, we'll just do this one.

Pass out copies of the two characters in Leader Resource 3, in such a way that half the participants get IMtheOne and half get KidNextDoor. Instruct the youth to read through the instructions for the character they got (but not the other one). Ask for two volunteers to participate in a demonstration of online interaction. Be sure to pick volunteers with a flair for drama and presentation, as this scenario will only be conducted once. After two volunteers are selected, instruct them to sit in chairs facing opposite directions, as though using computers with voice chat. These roles will be of the same gender, but it could be either two male or two female characters. Once the volunteers are selected, allow only the audience to read the directions for both characters.

After giving the volunteers a few minutes to mentally plan their conversation, ask them to begin their voice chat, as though online. The chat should be no longer than 5 minutes. Ask the audience for feedback on how the volunteers did at balancing fun and safety on the Internet. Specific questions might include:

  • What are some of the specific risks KidNextDoor should consider?
  • - What bad things could happen in the mall food court?
  • - What bad things could result from the video conference?
  • What was IMtheOne arrested for, again?
  • If it's so dangerous to meet new people online, why are Internet dating services so popular these days, even among senior citizens?
  • Boys may not think of themselves as likely targets for stalking, sexual assault, or rape. Do boys need to worry about Internet predators as much as girls do?

Porn and relationships

Easy access to explicit images on the Internet has changed the dynamics of sexual discovery for our youth. Ask for a show of hands for how many youth have seen porn online, intentionally or otherwise. Ask what some of the advantages of easy access to explicit material might be. Ask about the costs and risks. The information in Leader Resource S 5 may help to formulate good leading questions. This guided discussion should take 10 to 15 minutes.

Possible questions to ask:

  • How many of you have stumbled on porn on the Internet?
  • Do you think there should be more restrictions on porn?
  • What benefits are there to viewing porn?
  • What are the drawbacks or risks?
  • What impact could the use of porn have on a relationship?
  • Do you know what “sexting” is?
  • Did you know that youth under 18 who share picture messages of their own body parts can be prosecuted for child porn trafficking?
  • What forms of “cybersex” can you think of?
  • What is the difference between porn and cybersex?
  • What is the difference between porn and art?

LEADER RESOURCES

Leader Resource: Session S 1

Online and Real Life Activities

keeping up with old friends

meeting a new friend who shares your interests

expressing yourself, showing your individuality and creativity

trying out different aspects of your personality

flirting

talking about sex with someone you don’t know very well

getting closer to someone you know

sharing deep feelings with another person

sharing photographs of yourself

arranging a “blind date” – planning to meet someone you don’t know

exploring risqué or forbidden topics, pictures or games

buying things, entering contests, participating in surveys

getting out of a personal situation with someone because you’ve begun to feel uncomfortable

recognizing when a friend or acquaintance is good for you and when they aren’t

handling someone who is trying to bully, harass, or coerce you

reacting when someone sticks explicit images under your nose that you didn’t ask for or want

paying a stranger for sexual intimacy

learning what reproductive body parts of each gender look like

role playing games (exploring dungeons, defeating monsters)

Leader Resource S 2: Be Your Own Detective

  • Group #1

You are a thirteen or fourteen year old girl or boy (same age and gender as the person who leaves the room and will receive your communication). You noticed from her/his Facebook page that s/he plays chess online, and so do you. None of your personal friends or family members play chess. You’d like to talk to someone who shares your interest and maybe play online together. You are going to IM with this person through Facebook.

  • Group #1 (person who leaves the room)

You are to play yourself, with this addition: You like to play chess. You have a Facebook page that talks about chess but doesn’t reveal much personal information.

  • Group #2

You are a nineteen-year-old, male or female (same gender as the person who leaves the room and will receive your communication). You are trying to get this information from the person you are IMing with:

  • full name plus any of the following:
  • a credit card number, online password, social security number, parents’ name

Your intention is to buy a special and expensive video game online without spending your own money. You’ll have to win their trust somehow.

  • Group #2 (person who leaves the room)

Just play yourself, but go ahead and converse with this stranger even if you normally would not.

  • Group #3

You are a 39-year-old predator, and you like young girls. You are opportunistic, and you’re trying to meet a young girl online. What you’re going for in the future includes these things:

  • Getting her to send you a picture.
  • Getting her to take off her blouse in front of a web cam.
  • Finding out what school s/he goes to and outside activities so you can stalk her
  • Getting her to talk about sex online with you.
  • Getting her to tell you about her friends.

Your first job is to get close to her and win her trust. Be patient.

  • Group #3 (person who leaves the room)

You are a fourteen year old girl. Mostly just play yourself, but go ahead and converse with this stranger even if you normally would not.

Leader Resource S 3: Net-Savvy Detective Demonstration

IMtheOne <Sammy Hutchinson>

About You

Your name is a play on words, meaning both “Instant Message the One” (implying you are an online god) and “I'm the one your mother warned you about” (a song lyric you like). After being suspended from the state university for drug possession, you are working at Subway and living with your parents. Devout Catholics, they would reject you if they found out you were gay, which you are trying not to be. Your refuge is online gaming, also a good way to meet people. Last year, you took things a bit too far and were accused of stalking someone you met online. You were detained and questioned by police but never charged.

You prefer younger friends and usually say you are 18 (really 22).

Scenario

You first met Jordan playing World of Warcraft, while forming a party to enter a challenging dungeon. You realized that the two of you live in the same area when Jordan mentioned going to a particular concert. You e-mailed a dungeon guide and got Jordan's last name from the one-line “Thanks” reply. Because Facebook displayed Jordan's hometown, and there are only two families in that town with that last name, you have a good idea about Jordan's home address and phone number. Once you found Jordan's public Facebook profile, it showed a lot of information including favorite movies, TV shows, and music.

Today, you are trying out voice chat and waiting for a couple other online friends to show up and join the party. This dungeon is even harder, and voice chat will help with coordination. Meanwhile, it's just you and Jordan, adjusting your computer microphones and passing the time. You've found out that you both hate math class and enjoy Magic The Gathering. You used to be quite good, back in high school, and have a couple decks you no longer play. Maybe Jordan would like to have them.

Objectives (any of these)
  • Get Jordan to meet you in the food court at the local mall
  • Obtain Jordan's cell phone number or home address
  • Become “Real ID” friends in Battle.net(R)
  • Become friends on Facebook
  • Agree to start a Skype video conference after playing WoW

KidNextDoor <Jordan Murphy>

About You

You are an eighth grader who is a bit of a loner and loves to play online games. You haven't started dating, and you don't have a best friend. You wonder if you are gay, which might help to explain why you don't fit in. You like to play Magic The Gathering after school, but you usually lose because you only have a starter deck.

Your sister gave you her old laptop when she left for college, and your parents let you use it in your bedroom. They have some rules, which you generally try to follow so they won't take away the computer: no games until homework is done, no giving anyone your real name or address, no friending anyone you don't know in person.

On your Facebook page, you entered your birth date two years early, so it looks like you are 16.

Scenario

You met IMtheOne in World of Warcraft -- a really nice person who offered to help you through a challenging dungeon. After you provided your e-mail address, IMtheOne sent a handy dungeon guide. The two of you have played a few different times now and are getting to know each other. You are impressed that IMtheOne is in college and seems pretty cool.

Today, you are trying out voice chat and waiting for a couple other online friends to show up and join the party. This dungeon is even harder, and voice chat will help with coordination. Meanwhile, it's just you and IMtheOne, adjusting your computer microphones and passing the time. You wouldn't say anything too personal, but general stuff like how much you hate math class seems OK.

Leader Resource S 4: Informational

From http://www.netsmartz.org, February, 2007

Teen Internet Safety Study

A survey commissioned by Cox Communications and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that Teen Internet Usage and Attitudes about Safety Present Potential Risks but also Opportunities for Education and a Role for Watchful Parents and Guardians.

Online Behavior:

  • Teens have established significant presence on social networking web pages: 61% of 13- to 17-year-olds have a personal profile on a site such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, or Xanga. Half have also posted pictures of themselves online.
    • Older teens (16-17s) and girls especially use the Internet for social interaction, meeting friends, and networking.
  • However, many have also been exposed to the Internet’s accompanying potential risks.
    • 71% reported receiving messages online from someone they don’t know.
    • 45% have been asked for personal information by someone they don’t know.
    • 30% have considered meeting someone that they’ve only talked to online
    • 14% have actually met a person face-to-face they they’ve only spoken to over the Internet (9% of 13-15s; 22% of 16-17s).
  • When teens receive messages online from someone they don’t know, 40% reported that they’ll usually reply and chat with that person.
    • Only 18% said they’ll tell an adult.

Perceptions of Internet Safety:

  • 20% of teens report that it is safe (i.e. “somewhat” or “very safe”) to share personal information on a public blog or networking site.
  • As well, 37% of 13- to 17-year-olds said they are “not very concerned” or “not at all concerned” about someone using information they’ve posted online in ways they don’t want.

Families Talking to Teens about Internet Safety Helps Reduce Some Youth Exposure to Potential Threats and Encourages Safer Online Decisions Among Teens

  • 33% of 13- to- 17-year-olds reported that their parents or guardians know “very little” or “nothing” about what they do on the Internet.
    • 48% of 16-17s said their parents or guardians know “very little” or “nothing”
  • Fully 22% of those surveyed reported their parents or guardians have never discussed Internet safety with them.
  • On the other hand, 36% of youth—girls and younger teens most notably—said that their parents or guardians have talked to them “a lot” about online safety, and 70% said their parents or guardians have discussed the subject with them during the past year.
  • Fewer teens whose families have talked to them “a lot” about online safety have an IM name or pictures of themselves on the Internet, compared to kids whose families have not talked to them at all. More teens who’ve talked to parents or guardians also ignore messages from unfamiliar people, refuse to reply or chat, block unknown senders, and report these occurrences to trusted adults.

Leader Resource S 5: Internet porn and relationships:

Some people enjoy looking at porn to enhance their fantasy life and bring them enjoyment. This can be healthy behavior when it is not used instead of loving relationships. Here are some cautions:

1. Some research suggests that frequently viewing porn actually decreases our ability to be a good lover and consequently decreases the enjoyment of sex.

2. Men in real life aren’t built like and usually cannot perform like those men in the photos. Women in those pictures hardly look or act like woman act in real life. Explicit porn images can set everyone up for disappointment.

3. Porn can teach youth that girls and women as well as boys and men want and enjoy being sexually used, dominated, and humiliated by others. It could encourage a youth to try out the harmful fantasies that porn offers, including the fantasy that women or men secretly want to be taken forcibly. Porn can teach youth to objectify women or men, to treat them as toys who exist solely for their sexual gratification.

4. Porn is often devoid of tenderness, caring, or loving in its images. So it can shortchange youth when used as a model for intimacy within relationships.

5. In a relationship, sharing porn can be a useful discussion starter about the preferences and fantasies of each partner. However, if only one partner views porn, the other may feel resentment or inadequacy.

6. Use of porn can help to postpone or reduce sexual activity, for youth who are so inclined. Porn is so readily accessible that for many people, it is impractical to avoid. That being the case, perhaps judicious use is a better approach than guilt and shame.

Report child porn to National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) CyberTipline® at www.cybertipline.com


Laura Horn, LauraHorn@AOL.com
TJMCUU
Charlottesville, VA
March 2007


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