Friday, August 30, 2013

The International StopCyberbullying Youth Summit - Prince Edward Island Nov 9th (working draft)

Charlottetown, Saturday November 9th  8:30am – 5:30 pm, with VIP reception dinner the night before and Island entertainment and activities following the event. 600+ attendees

Run by youth leaders from ten to 18, with invited experts, industry and policymakers. Using UN-expert summit format, with the goal of creating an action plan to address cyberbullying problems by the end of the day. There are three plenary sessions, a luncheon speaker and one keynote. Sponsors and governmental representatives will provide welcome remarks, along with a selected student.

There are three breakout sessions, mixing tracks to address cyberbullying issues from a diverse perspective. These breakout sessions will address questions raised in the plenary and, through a facilitator, report back their findings to help frame the following plenary session.

An exhibit area showcasing student projects and Stop Cyberbullying partners will be set up to demonstrate student approaches to solving the issue. Student musicians, poets, artists and performing artists will be showcased as well.

The plenary sessions will be video conference with schools from within and outside of PEI and Canada to allow remote participation of students worldwide. And a video kiosk will be set up to allow participants to share their thoughts, ideas and recommendations with others. Research conducted by students will be presented and a StopCyberbullying Task Force of volunteers will be created to take the next steps.
Venues:  Confederation Center for plenary, breakout sessions and exhibits/Murphy Center for lunch/additional breakouts.

Participants: digital industry leaders (Facebook, Microsoft and Build-A-Bear Workshop already confirmed). Barbara Coloroso (confirmed), Disney, Webkinz, Google pending. Educators, RCMP, criminal justice experts, wellness professionals, parents, First Nation, digital industry on Island, students (hosting the event and constituting 350-400 of the 600 participant audience). Minister of Ed NS, former Minister of Ed and of Women Ontario confirmed. Inviting big international names in bullying, new Minister of Justice Canada, Sharon Rosenfeldt (founder of Victims of Violence), Rehtaeh Parson's parents (confirmed), Bonnie Bracey Sutton (confirmed). More to come.

Follows in footsteps of NS conference, where Parry Aftab keynoted. This will add youth voices, criminal justice and victimization issues, diversity groups and industry. First of its kind in Canada.
Want Newcomers to cater the lunch with an international buffet, showcasing our diversity.
Evening following the event want Island music, food and experiences (carriage rides, etc.). Island giveaways.

[1] Water and Prince Street Corner Shop has agreed to reopen, after season, to cater the event on their premises.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

If you do nothing else, teach your kids and teens password hygiene!

Password theft or abuse are often the root of cyberbullying and digital abuses. Passwords are frequently too easy to guess, hard to remember, stored on a device or shared with others.’s studies have shown that most teens share their password with at least one other person (typically their boyfriend/girlfriend or best friend). And they rarely use different passwords for different sites or purposes, which means once someone has it for one network, they have it for all networks. 

They need to be reminded that giving your password out is like locking your door, but giving someone the key and burglar alarm code. It’s not very smart.  Teach the teens you work with to make it a hard and fast rule never to share their passwords. 

Too many computer and account intrusions arise just because the password was easy to guess (such as the word “password,” or “12345”) or because it was one of the “20 questions” used to come up with most passwords (such as our pet’s name, our middle name, the street we live on, birthdate or anniversary, the year we graduated or will graduate high school, favorite sports team or rock star).

There are usually three different levels of passwords. Easy (or low risk of loss), medium (a higher level of risk of loss) and very hard (for financial accounts, health information and other very sensitive accounts or data). Think of them as Goldilock’s passwords, you want them not too easy, not too hard but just right. 

Simple passwords that are easy to remember, but not one of the easy to guess choices, are fine for free accounts, such as your local news site or networks that give you free accounts and don’t contain anything that you couldn’t recreate easily. 

Medium levels are for your social networking accounts and other accounts that are important but that could be retrieved if accessed. (Facebook offers a device authentication security feature, where you can verify your devices to prevent others from accessing your account for other devices. This is an easy way to help secure your Facebook accounts.) 

Hard passwords have to be the most secure, and often have to include upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers. These are hard to remember, though, and often stored in text files or on PostIt notes stuck to the computer monitor. That makes them very vulnerable to being accessed by others. 

Suggest that your teens come up with a special sentence for each instance of high security password customized for each network or account. A sentence starts with a capital letter, contains lower case letters and ends with punctuation (a symbol). As long as the sentence also includes a number, it meets the high security requirements. If you include something that you use to describe the network of account (i.e. “FB” for your Facebook account), these are also customized for each account and even harder to guess.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Depression and Cyberbullying - Evidenced Based Research from US NIH

Parry Aftab, WiredSafety’s founder and privacy and security lawyer, hates when she is asked during an interview to contrast the risks of cyberbullying with those of offline bullying. “Both are hurtful and unacceptable,” she responds whenever asked.

While physical bullying involves physical pain and fear, often the protracted nature of a cyberbullying campaign and its persistence long after the cyberbullies have ceased their attacks leads to higher rates of depression for victims. Over the eighteen years since WiredSafety’s volunteers began their work assisting victims of cyberbullying and cyberharassment, the charity had substantial anecdotal evidence of this fact. But until recently, no credible research existed to support this premise.

Reprinted below, with permission from the US Department of Health and Human Services, are  the results of research conducted at the National Institute of Health demonstrating higher depression rates among victims of cyberbullying than with victims of traditional offline bullying.

The research was conducted using survey responses received in 2005/2006. It is important to note that this predated the explosion of social networking use by teens and Facebook’s opening its use to more than university students. Parry Aftab suspects that if this research were conducted with fresher data, the differences between cyberbullying and traditional bullying victims’ depression rates would be even more marked.

Why? There are many reasons why cyberbullying can lead to more depression than offline bullying. And when a campaign involves both offline and cyberbullying, it represents the worst of both worlds. Anonymity is probably the worst culprit, when students feel that they can do things and hide behind the cyber-mask and rarely risk being identified. Another big problem is the lack of digital literacy and digital hygiene skills.

Passwords are easily guessed and frequently shared. Privacy settings are not used effectively or at all. They don’t screen for malware or use firewalls and often share devices. They share too much, don’t think before they click and misinterpret others’ communications. There is no escape. No changing neighborhoods, schools or cliques can avoid it. It follows the victim to grandma’s house and back again, to the mall, the gym, school, home and camp. But there’s more.

When asked to identify the main reasons cyberbullying results in higher incidents and levels of depression, Parry and WiredSafety’s “KidDoc”, pediatrician and Vanderbilt University faculty member, Dr. Deanna Guy agreed:

1. It is persistent. Once posted or shared, digital communications and content have a life of their own. Parry’s most frequently repeated quote, “what you post online stays online – forever” underscores the caching, publication, and viral nature of digital information.
2. Victims tend to revisit the scene of the cybercrime, re-reading text messages, logging in to view hijacked accounts, viewing hurtful images and seeing the latest postings. Each time they do, they are being revictimized. Each time is a renewed hurt.
3. The written or multimedia message has tremendous power. It enables a single post to spread to thousands of students.
4. It brings groups together. Messages among students at the victim’s old school come to the attention of students at the new school. Teens from camp connect with teens from church. What was private to a few becomes public and never-ending.
5. It is credible. After having read and re-read the messages and view and reviewed the images, the victim starts to believe that the cyberbullies have merit.
6. This is especially the case when a “mean girls” cyberbullying campaign gains traction with active posses, bystanders and rumor-mongers joining in. These campaigns persist long after the original cyberbullies have lost interest.
7. Cyberbullying is a renewable resource. New groups or individuals pick up the campaign when the victim comes to their attention, and old cyberbullying campaign members renew it when bored or the victim does something noteworthy.
8. The anonymity of cyberbullying (more than 2/3s of cyberbullying occurs anonymously or through the use of fake accounts or accounts that have been taken over by the cyberbullies) contributes to the problem in two ways – more students cyberbully knowing that there is a limited risk of being exposed and the victims don’t know if the cyberbully is their best friend or worst enemy. They become paranoid about not knowing whom can be trusted. This isolates them further.
9. There is no safe place to escape to; no place to hide from cyberbullies. Offline bullies need offline environments to do their damage - playgrounds, the walks to school, school buses, locker rooms or hallways. The devices and technologies used by teens to cyberbully others are designed to provide access to users 24/7/365. It can come at victims in the middle of the night, on vacation or in the security of their bedroom.
10. Cyberbullies often pose as a trustworthy friend, causing conflict and further isolating the victim from those who could help them address the attacks. Students have told Parry that they don’t know if the cyberbully is their best friend or worst enemy – they become paranoid.
11. Parents are rarely effective in helping students handle offline bullying, largely because it is hidden from them. But even those parents who learn of the cyberbullying are rarely prepared to address cyberbullying.
One student told Parry that she wouldn’t bother telling her parents since they would be “clueless” about the issue and “worthless” in providing help or support.

Sadly, the same digital communication tools and devices that allow the students to stay in touch and receive support from their friends are now seen as a source of pain.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there are more cyberbullies than bullies.

Cyberbullying attracts equal opportunity offenders. Everyone can be a cyberbully, no matter how small, shy or physically-challenged they are. They can act out their fantasies. They can act on impulse with technologies designed to be used impulsively. They aren’t really mean and nasty students, just playing one online. They can masquerade as others harassing friends of that student, providing two victims for the price of one. It is entertainment. It’s fun. It’s empowering. And it rarely involves serious risk of exposure.

With all of this, the NIH findings are not surprising at all. (the report is copied below)

Depression high among youth victims of school cyber bullying, NIH researchers report
Finding underscores need to monitor, obtain treatment for recipients of cyberbullying
Unlike traditional forms of bullying, youth who are the targets of cyber bullying at school are at greater risk for depression than are the youth who bully them, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
The new finding is in contrast to earlier studies of traditional bullying, which found that the highest depression scores were reported by another category of youth involved in bullying-bully victims. Past studies on traditional bullying show that bully-victims — those who both bully others and are bullied themselves — are more likely to report feelings of depression than are other groups.
Traditional forms of bullying involve physical violence, verbal taunts, or social exclusion. Cyber bullying, or electronic aggression, involves aggressive behaviors communicated over a computer or a cell phone.
"Notably, cyber victims reported higher depression than cyber bullies or bully-victims, which was not found in any other form of bullying," the study authors wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health. "…unlike traditional bullying which usually involves a face-to-face confrontation, cyber victims may not see or identify their harasser; as such, cyber victims may be more likely to feel isolated, dehumanized or helpless at the time of the attack."
The analysis, of 6th through 10th grade students, was conducted by Jing Wang, Ph.D., Tonja R. Nansel, Ph.D., and Ronald J. Iannotti, Ph.D., all of the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Dr. Iannotti noted that, although bullies are less likely to report feelings of depression than are bully-victims or victims, they are more likely to report depression than are youth not involved with any bullying behaviors — either traditional bullying or cyber bullying.
Being bullied interferes with scholastic achievement, development of social skills, and general feelings of well being, explained Dr. Iannotti, the study's senior author. In a study published last year, he and study coauthors reported that the prevalence of bullying is high, with 20.8 percent of U.S. adolescents in school having been bullied physically at least once in the last two months, 53.6 percent having been bullied verbally, and 51.4 percent bullied socially (excluded or ostracized), and 13.6 percent having been bullied electronically (
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration advises parents to encourage children to tell them immediately if they are victims of cyberbullying or other troublesome online behaviors. The agency also lists a number of steps that parents can take to help prevent cyber bullying and how to respond to it, at The site also includes extensive information on preventing and dealing with traditional forms of bullying. The Center for Disease Control also provides information on electronic aggression for parents, educators, and researchers at
In the current study, the research team sought to examine the association between depression and cyber bullying, which has not been studied extensively.
To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed data on American students collected in the 2005/2006 Health Behavior in School-aged Children Study, an international study of adolescents in 43 countries ( The researchers measured depression by gauging responses to six survey items. Students were asked to indicate, if, within the past 30 days, they felt very sad; grouchy or irritable, or in a bad mood; hopeless about the future; felt like not eating or eating more than usual; slept a lot more or a lot less than usual; and had difficulty concentrating on their school work. Students ranked their response according to a five item scale ranging from "never" to "always."
They were also asked to indicate whether they were involved with bullying behaviors, whether as perpetrators or victims. Survey questions were designed to measure the following forms of bullying: physical (hitting), verbal (such as name calling), relational (social isolation and spreading false rumors), and cyber (using computers or cell phones). The researchers classified bullying others or being bullied "two or three times a month" as frequent, and "only once or twice" as occasional. Respondents were further classified as either not involved with bullying (either as bullies or victims), bullies, victims, or bully-victims (who had bullied others and also been bullied themselves).
Compared to students who were not involved with bullying, adolescents who were bullies, bully victims, or victims tended to score higher on the measures of depression. Those frequently involved with physical, verbal, and relational bullying, whether victims or perpetrators, reported higher levels of depression than did students only occasionally involved in these behaviors.

The researchers found that youth who were frequently involved with bullying behaviors, regardless of the type of bullying involved, reported higher depression scores than did youth only occasionally involved with such behaviors.
For physical violence, no differences were found in depression scores among bullies, victims, or bully-victims. For verbal and relational bullying, victims and bully-victims reported higher levels of depression than bullies.
For cyber bullying, however, frequent victims reported significantly higher levels of depression than frequent bullies and marginally higher depression than frequent bully-victims. The finding that victims of cyber bullying reported higher depression scores than bully victims was distinct from traditional forms of bullying and merited further study.

Victims of cyber bullying scored higher for feelings of depression than did bully-victims, a finding not seen with any other category of bullying.
Because of the association between bullying and depression, bullies, bully-victims, and victims are candidates for evaluation by a mental health professional, Dr. Wang said.
Information about depression and its treatment is available from the National Institute of Mental Health, at
Dr. Wang noted that in their earlier study, she and her coworkers had found that students were less likely to bully or to be victimized if they felt they had strong parental support—feeling that their parents helped them as much as they needed, were loving, understood their problems and worries, and helped them to feel better when they were upset.
The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s Web site at
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Losing Control of Your Mobile Phone

At least 1/3 of the ways a cell phone can be used to cyberbully someone involve taking control of someone’s cell phone. They do it by grabbing it when the owner isn’t looking. They reprogram contacts, change speed-dial settings, erase music, photos, videos and games, swap SIM cards, send nasty messages that appear to be from the victim, forwarding private stored images to themselves, buying expensive downloads, prank calling someone or calling China.

Keep an eye on your phone! Keeping your cell phone secure is crucial. Leaving it on your lunch tray when you go back for another drink, or  in your jacket pocket draped over your chair make it an easy target for cyberbullies who want to have some fun at your expense. Know where it is at all times. And don’t trust your friends to do it for you. While your friends may be very trustworthy, sometimes the temptation of a “practical joke” or secret resentment may be more than they can handle. And you have made it easy for them to make you this afternoon’s entertainment. Seventy percent of the students polled by Teenangels reported that cyberbullying came from “friends.”

Lock it up! Passwords and auto-locks are a pain sometimes. They slow things down. But if you use them, the extra few seconds will pay off if your phone is lost, stolen or in the hands of a cyberbully trying to use it against you. Most lock codes are limited to numerals (although iPhone will allow numbers and letters now). It’s hard to be secure with four numbers. But if you are careful and don’t use four numbers that are easy to guess or a code everyone knows you use, you can make it much harder to break into your phone. And that little extra bother might make a big difference. Set it to auto-lock if not in use for 1 minute and if your smartphone allows for additional password protections, use them.

Back it up! If your cell phone is lost, stolen or reprogrammed, it can be a disaster. Sometimes cyberbullies will exchange your SIM card with that of another student they are also cyberbullying. Or they reset the defaults and take your phone back to its original settings, erasing all data, content and contacts. Having a backup makes it easy to take back your cell phone life easily. It also works when you leave your cell phone in your soon-to-be-laundered jean’s pocket or lose it at the mall. Many cell phone service providers offer a free backup service. There are some free and low-cost apps for that too. Make it a weekly practice if you do it manually, or an auto-middle of the night setting otherwise. (While you are at it, suggest your parents and other family members back up their phones too.)

Sharing isn’t good! Many students share their cell phones with friends. This is becoming even more common with so many students on unlimited texting, data and calling plans. If you are going to share your cell phone with someone, unlock it yourself and try and keep your code private. Then check the text and call log afterwards. If something goes wrong, you will have to answer to your parents or the authorities. You’re entitled to know what others are doing with your phone. And set rules and let your friends know, in advance, what those rules are. It’s your phone. You’re allowed.

The 4 Ps – Don’t store anything that you don’t want your Parents, Principal, a Predator or the Police to see, read or find on your cell phone. If you have a photo you don’t want others to see, delete it from your phone, or password protect it. If someone sends you a photo you don’t want, delete it (or report it before you do).

we are seeing a growth in offline attacks tied to online threats and provocation in inner cities

I have been working more with inner city schools than ever to address the fiction that cyber risks were not real risks in the urban areas. Years ago this was true. We could all ignore the cyber safety risks in inner city urban and poor schools. Why? Kids were not connected in those homes or even in those schools.
But inner city, urban, ethnic kids use the Internet as often as their more affluent white suburban counterparts, just through their cell phones and gaming devices, not home computers. And we are seeing a trending of physical violence and gang provocation with these kids that will result in murders, not suicides. Don't discount the issue, just understand it.

Sexting and US Legal Approaches (for lawyers, policymakers and child protection professionals)

Sexting is a difficult issue. (Sexting involves images, both still and video. Sexual communications  sent in textual form,  are called “cybering.”)  It is problematic for three special reasons, beyond the obvious of images of nude minors or those engaged in sexual activities:

1. Sexting images are often used to attack those featured in those images by cyberbullies. Those in them are more vulnerable to bullying and cyberbullying.

2. Given the nature of the images and the desire to keep parents from learning about them, many minors are “sextorted” into engaging in sexual acts or sending more images to keep their blackmailer quiet.

3. The minors taking, sending or possessing the sexting images of other minors can be charged with child pornography and sexual exploitation crimes, such as the production, distribution and possession of child pornography, or endangerment of a minor.

Although “sexting” is a more recent trend, given the enhanced ability of cell phones and mobile devices to take and share images, the practice of taking nude or sexually provocative digital images and sharing them with others has been going on for more than 11 years. Parry Aftab worked on her first case of a teen voluntarily sharing a sexual video in 1998.

A young teen, to get the attention of a teen boy she liked, took and shared a digital video with him. It showed her performing mock oral sex and touching herself while nude. The boy received the video, and while he was not interested in seeing her, shared the video with his friends. The video eventually made its way to the Internet and peer-to-peer video sharing sites. Taking a sexual video and sharing it with someone was harder then. Now anyone armed with a video-capable cell phone can take and share the video with the click of a few keys. It can be hosted for free and shared with everyone or a select few or individual. And it is becoming commonplace enough that the shock value no longer exists.

To date, the typical approach to preventing and addressing sexting has been lectures about morals and warnings of the legal risks involved. But when pitched against raging hormones and love, these approaches are not very effective.

While we have to continue to create awareness and improved understanding of the risks involved, Parry Aftab believes we have to consider and adopt new laws or revisions to existing ones to deal with the reality that our young people are taking, sharing and possessing sexual images of their partners, their friends and others they know in the same way they may engage in sexual activities. The registered sex offender laws were never designed to include minors who are engaging, voluntarily, in taking and sharing sexual images of themselves as sex offenders. The child pornography laws were not designed to charge minors engaged in voluntary sexting activities.

Years ago, when the statutory rape laws were amended to reflect the reality of minors engaging in voluntary sexual relations with other minors, we addressed a similar issue. Until then, boyfriend and girlfriend could not legally engage in consensual sexual relations if they were underage. We relied on prosecutorial discretion and law enforcement common sense to prevent injustices before the laws were changed. Now, it is especially ironic that because of the updating of those laws and the existence of older child pornography and sexual exploitation of minors laws, a minor can be charged with taking a picture of a legal sex act, even if it is fully-voluntary. There is one inescapable solution -the child pornography laws should be updated to mirror the statutory rape laws.

Some states have done that, or sought to address it in similar ways. Some states decriminalized voluntary sexting of minors or reduced the severity of charges when the acts are voluntary. Illinois changed their juvenile adjudication laws to include juveniles charged with voluntary sexting offenses, effective January 1, 2011. While the law does not preempt child pornography or other more serious changes, it provides authority for those determining the dispositional orders to mandate counseling or community service. (705 ILCS 405/3-40,, accessed January 13, 2011.)

Others provide a defense if the minor can prove that they did not solicit a sexting image and were intending to delete it or report it. Arizona’s law, adopted in May 2010 does a good job of that. In its early legislative history, it mentions Philip’s case. He was an 18 year old in Florida who broadcast his ex-girlfriend’s nude image to all of her friends and family after a bad breakup. She was still under 18, and he was prosecuted as distributing child pornography. (See the MTV Sexting special When Privates Go Public [insert link].) While the law makes taking the image or sharing it a class 2 misdemeanor, those receiving an image who intend to get rid of it or report it are exempt from the law. (Title 8, Chapter 3, Article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 8-309,, accessed January 13, 2011.)

Vermont’s law, adopted in 2009, expressly exempts minors taking sexting images of themselves from being charged under the child pornography state laws or required to register as a sex offender. It also  prevents those possessing sexting images transmitted to them from the minor who took them of themselves from being charged under those laws or required to register as a sex offender if they took “reasonable steps” to destroy or delete them (whether or not successful). Prosecutions of minors are reserved for the Family Court system and juvenile proceedings. Those convicted will have their records expunged when they reach the age of 18.
Ironically, and probably in reaction to reports of consensual sexting and one of the couple having turned 18 when the actions occurred, adults who have received an image from the minor taking a sext and who have taken reasonable steps to delete or destroy them only face a maximum $300 fine and up to 6 months imprisonment and are exempt from sex offender registry laws. (Note that first offenders are exempt from prosecution under the more serious child pornography laws, but even multiple offenders are exempt from the laws requiring sex offender registration for these acts, unless charged under other sexual exploitation laws.)  Parry Aftab believes that while some of these changes are good, others may have gone too far, especially when adults are involved.

Some states didn’t change the existing laws, but clarified that prosecutors have more discretion when minors are involved with consensual sexting.  Ohio took that tact, and with the assistance and support of Cynthia Logan and Parry Aftab a bill was written and adopted.

And at least one state, NJ, adopted a diversionary program for minors engaged in sexting.  (A “diversionary program” involves minor crimes (typically not felonies), first offenders not likely to reoffend and requires that the accused staying out of trouble for a certain period of time. It is sometimes called “early intervention”, “adjournments pending dismissal” or similar procedural descriptions. If there is no re-offense, the matter is dismissed with prejudice and there is no criminal record or penalty.) (Assembly, No. 4069 , State of New Jersey, 213th Legislature, introduced June 11, 2009, sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt, District 6 (Camden),, accessed January 13, 2011.) This approach combines education with adjudication, a powerful combination.

Parry believes that diversionary problems blend the best of both providing justice and common sense when cyberbullying or sexting laws are implicated. While everyone’s first reaction may be to rescind laws relating to minors taking, sharing or possessing sexual images of each other, we need to be cognizant of the fact that sextortion is a real risk, adults prey on minors using any vulnerability they can discover and that many young people use the sext as a weapon to destroy the reputation of other minors, driving at least three to suicide.
Others may believe that the laws are fine as written, hoping that prosecutorial discretion is a sufficient safeguard against injustice. But we have seen several cases where the prosecutors are part of the problem, not the solution. And the child pornography sentencing guidelines for federal cases are a real problem, even for those of us who believe that child pornography crimes should be strenuously prosecuted and offenders receive stiff penalties worthy of the crime committed.

The importance of state and federal law changes to either provide more discretion or prosecutors or diversionary programs and family court alternatives is highlighted by a quick review of the US federal child pornography sentencing guidelines. While under review based on criticism that the sentencing guidelines established by Congress are over-reaching and excessive, they remain in effect (although may not be binding). Individuals found guilty receive at least 5 years minimum sentence, enhanced for use of the Internet or digital devices, contact with the minor and other factors in common between voluntary sexting among minors and those of sexual predators and child sexual exploitation. (To read more about the history of these guidelines, visit

Child pornography, under the US federal laws, is:

the visual depiction of a person under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 2256(1) and (8). This means that any image of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct is illegal contraband. Notably, the legal definition of sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity. See 18 U.S.C. § 2256(2). A picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive. In addition, for purposes of the child pornography statutes, federal law considers a person under the age of 18 to be a child. See 18 U.S.C. § 2256(1).

It is irrelevant that the age of consent for sexual activity in a given state might be lower than 18. A visual depiction for purposes of the federal child pornography laws includes a photograph or videotape, including undeveloped film or videotape, as well as data stored electronically which can be converted into a visual image. For example, images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct stored on a computer disk are considered visual depictions.

(Quoting the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section’s Citizen's Guide to United States Federal Child Exploitation Laws,, accessed on January 14, 2011)

Sometimes I get so tired...the Dr Phil Tweet and Getting real

Most of us agree on the basics. We don't like bullying, cyberbullying, personal attacks, hate and bigotry. Yet, we too often resort to those actions online. I have been watching the controversy with the Dr. Phil tweet. We are so quick to attack. So quick to take offense. So quick to cast blame on others or think the worst of them.

Dr. Phil has done an extraordinary amount of good. You may not watch him or be one of his fans, but millions do and are. When he covers an issue, people pay attention. And in the post-Oprah void, he is one of the few that can shine the light on important issues, devoting an entire show to a problem.

I first met Dr. Phil three years ago when testifying before Congress on the same panel on cyberbullying. The Girl Scouts, a principal from Texas, Build-A-Bear's CTO and a psychiatrist were also on the panel. The Girl Scouts testified that I had developed the GS's cyberbullying and cybersafety program. The principal testified that I had interceded and helped one of her students over Thanksgiving weekend with a myspace problem. Dave Finnegan, from BaB, created me with helping design the BaB anti-bullying campaign. Dr. Phil probably had no idea who I was before that panel. (His producers had called me several times to do the show, previously.)

But when asked during the questions and answers what people should do when cyberbullied, Dr. Phil said, "It's obvious, call Parry!" To his credit, he did. I did two of his shows back-to-back. Both, sadly, covered cyberbullying-related suicides.

What surprised me the most when working with him was how much he really cared. Before going on the first time, he cautioned me to be gentle and non-judgmental with the young girl who had gotten into trouble online. (He didn't know me well enough to know I am always on the side of kids.) He is driven to stop abuse of young people by others of all ages.

Rehtaeh Parsons is no different. A young teen took her own life after being sexually attacked by teens and having the images of the attack go viral. She lived in Nova Scotia, Canada, a kind and gentle province on the East Coast, not far from where I have my summer cottage and offices. Sadly, an almost identical case occurred in California three weeks later. Two young women, lost to our help. They faced sexual assault, people who didn't believe them and the humiliation of images of their attack circulating widely among their classmates and peers.

I was honored to be asked by the Ministry of Education and of Women and Children to keynote the Speak Up! Nova Scotia conference. It was held to begin fulfilling the action plan outlined by the Nova Scotia Cyberbullying Task Force. Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Delhousie School of Law in NS chaired the task force. He invited me to testify before it on its opening day more than two years ago.

The Task Force was formed following the tragic suicides of two young teens in Nova Scotia following separate cyberbullying campaigns against them. Two years later, Rehtaeh's suicide emphasized the importance of cyberbullying prevention and solutions. And the need to move faster.

Following on the heels of the Nova Scotia conference, we will be hosting one in November, on Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables country), an adjoining province to Nova Scotia. Building on the momentum of Nova Scotia's campaign, young people from across Canada and the US will come together with adult experts, Facebook, Microsoft and Rehtaeh's family to forge a holistic action plan. In a day-long summit, government leaders, industry leaders, students leaders, educational and wellness professionals and the RCMP and victims' rights advocates will join forces to design a strategy to move the ball forward.

When I first met with Rehtaeh's father and step-mother following my keynote address, I was touched by their loss. They shared what am amazing young woman she was. She was passionate about protecting animals, and had dreams of working with the whale conservationists near Japan. She was a wonderful older sister, too.

Rehtaeh's younger sister, mourning her loss, asked their mother for a "Map to Heaven." When Leah asked her why she wanted a "Map to Heaven," she explained that she needed it to get to Rehtaeh in heaven. Glen's recounting of this story brought us all to tears. So we decided that we would remember Rehtaeh for all the things that made her special. I want her remembered for her life, not her tragic victimization or death. So, together with Rehtaeh's friends, family and caring volunteers we are building a new site in her memory. We may not be able to give her little sister a real map to heave, but at she'll be able to see a map of Rehtaeh's life and memories of those who cared for her any time she wants to with the click of the mouse.

Now, back to Dr. Phil. If anyone thinks that he posts all his own tweets, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them at a discount. The tweets are designed to provoke a response or viral promotion. It wasn't smart. It was ill-advised. But it was a tweet, not a disaster. Let it go. If it demonstrated his opinion, or was intentionally offensive, the outrage might be warranted. But it was not.

The good Dr. Phil does and the level of passion he truly has for these issues should be more than enough to allow the mistake to become history. And the energy people are spending attacking him should instead be directed to helping address cyberbullying and sexual violence problems.

We don't have time to waste taking potshots. Let's not become the bullies we oppose.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Great Speak Up! Conference in Halifax Nova Scotia

It was wonderful seeing everyone pulling together at the NS SpeakUp! event. One of the best experiences we encountered was watching the NS Minister of Education interact with students. She was greeted by hugs and seemed to know them all  by name. Wish we had more like her!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bystanders in Cyberbullying - Defining the Roles

“Bystanders” are people who witness actions. In cyberbullying cases they may receive a copy of the cyberbullying message, be asked to vote for the “ugliest girl in school,” view a cyberbullying attack on someone’s Facebook, be a friend of the victim or cyberbullying or hear about an upcoming cyberattack.

Sometimes bystanders are active, such as when they forward a mean message, or pass along the url of a
YouTube harassing video about someone. Sometimes they are passive, such as when they know about
the cyberbullying, might have stumbled on a harassing profile or have received a copy of the message
without forwarding it on.

When cyberbullying is involved, Parry Aftab calls active bystanders “Facilitators.”Most large cyberbullying
campaigns won’t get very far without the assistance of Facilitators. They are used as the grease to speed up the wheels of the cyberbullying campaign – to drive attention to what’s going on and to keep it going.Without
Facilitators, most cyberbullying campaigns fall flat. It’s like hosting a big party when no one comes. Mean girls rely on Facilitators to help them do their dirty work. Sextbullying won’t happen without them.

They do more than merely observe the cyberbullying. They instigate further abuse and create the buzz that every good digital campaign needs. They pass along the instant messages, embarrassing photos and promote others to join in. They may pretend they aren’t involved, but their activities are essential to spreading the abuse online. Facilitators can do this intentionally or be manipulated by the abuser into believing that the victim is in the wrong and serves whatever is happening to them, another example of “cyberbullying-by-proxy. (Read about “Dupes”below.)

The more activeFacilitators are, the bigger part of the problem they become. They become the vehicle for the cyberbullying when they gladly pass along mean messages written by the original cyberbully. Sometimes the Facilitators become cyberbullies themselves. When their actions are more than just “spreading the news” and they become more active by voting for the “ugliest girl” in the mean quiz or for escalating the cyberbullying by adding additional inflammatory facts or rumors they have gone from Facilitator to active cyberbully.

Dealing with Facilitators requires someone to “step in or step up.” Like throwing water on two fighting dogs to get them to “cool down,” someone needs to throw some cold water on the Facilitators’ actions. This can be a third party (“stepping in”) to try and get people to stop the mob behavior or gain perspective. Or it can be someone “stepping up” from the group of Facilitators or passive bystanders to convince everyone to stop.

Most teens are afraid to get involved, fearing that they might become the next victim. This is especially the case when offline bullies, power hungry cyberbullies or mean girl cyberbullies are involved. Using the dog fight example, stepping into the middle of a wild dog fight will risk a serious bite or the dogs turning on you. If you step into a cyberbullying situation without being prepared, you can get hurt just as easily.

Passive bystanders need to recognize when they should do or say something. They have to be taught to identify cyberbullying when they see it , and when to report cyberbullying to the school, parents, the website or to the police. (This applies even more to digital dating abuse. You can read more about that at, the dating abuse program sponsored by Liz Claiborne.) They need to know how to report abuses on the sites they frequent and understand the report abuse process.

Often teens are unwilling to report cyberbullying when they encounter it with themselves or with others. They
have a cultural reluctance to tell adults about anything, fearing it makes them look immature or that they could
be seen as tattling. They also worry that if they are wrong and it wasn’t really cyberbullying (perhaps just an
inside joke) they might get into trouble for making a false report. They worry that the person they are reporting might be told who reported them (they aren’t) and worry about retaliation. What they need to worry about more is the hurt someone is experiencing that they may be able to help stop.

Friends, whether they are best friends or just classmates, neighbors or someone you’ve known since 2nd grade, have a higher obligation than mere bystanders. They know you and should care about you. They are supposed to be supportive and stand by you when you need it. Yet, often friend-bystanders try to avoid getting involved, fearing that the cyberbully will turn on them or that they will somehow get into trouble. So, they often opt to do nothing. They sit by and watch someone they care about get hurt.

Friends don’t always have to report the cyberbullying. They may decide, after talking with their friend who is
being targeted, that reporting it is not the best way to handle that case of cyberbullying. The best thing they cando is stand by and be supportive of their friend. They need to understand how to be supportive of someone theycare about too. (Ask the person what they would like you to do or not do. It’s a good place to start!)

Whatever they decide to do, they have to do something. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Don’t be remembered for your silence.

There are two significant additional types of digital bystanders – 1. strangers who witness the cyberbullying
online and know neither the victim nor the cyberbully and 2. “cybermobs,” ”flamers” or “trolls” and “dupes.”

Cyberbullying usually occurs among people who know each other offline. They are armed with secrets, often with passwords (or can guess them easily) and have a stake in the harassment. They may have been harassed by the victim previously, or believe that the victim “deserves it.” They may be angry, vindictive or jealous. They are often seeking an audience of people who know both them and the victim. They might be bored or looking for entertainment at the cost of another's pain. And they typically try and fuel the cyberbullying fire by getting others to join in.

But because of the nature of online social communities with hundreds of  millions users it is likely that strangers will witness cyberbullying that is posted online or send in viral messages. For example, sexting-related harassment can result in tens of thousands of strangers viewing the nude photo. As a young teen once explained, “In the beginning it’s a shocking picture of someone you know. You have a stake in protecting her or sharing it with others because of who she is. But as it continues to move outside of your school and community, it eventually just becomes a picture of some naked girl.”

Those who receive or view that picture “of some naked girl” are strangers witnessing sextbullying. They can
report it, ignore it, delete it or pass it on. And their choice can make a significant difference in the duration and scope of the sextbullying. And, to the victim trying to contain the harassment, it can make all the difference in the world. Empowering bystanders to report what they see is crucial.

The definitions of the different terms are set forth below.

“Cybermobs,” “Flamers,” and “Trolls” “Cybermobs” are large numbers of people who engage in mob behavior online by hacking, harassing, attacking and spreading nasty messages. “Flamers” tend to act alone in their attacks and are highly opinionated, attacking anyone with other opinions or their actions if they find them offensive in any way. “Trolls” like to stir up trouble online and see what happens. A juicy digital dating abuse campaign can “feed the trolls,” giving them the attention they crave, especially in virtual worlds and interactive games.

”Cybermobs” don’t know or care who the victim is, instead feeding on the vulnerability of the victim. There may be strategic positioning of the digital abuse to make the victim appear to be the bad guy. These often involve cyberbullying-by-proxy staging when someone manipulates others into doing their dirty work for them, causing those third parties to believe their actions are righteous and that they are seeking justice. The victim is revictimized as the focus of their mean comments and vicious attacks. The only way, generally, to stop a cybermob is to wait it out. The best way to address it is to prevent it from happening in the first place or stopping it very early in its evolution before it takes on a life of its own.

“Flamers” and “flaming”: nasty comments, insults and rude communications posted online for various purposes, including anyone holding opposing opinions or doing things they don’t approve. “Flamers” tend to act alone in their attacks and are highly opinionated, attacking anyone with other opinions or if they find them offensive in any way.

“Trolls”: are people who like to stir up trouble online and see what happens. A juicy rumor campaign can “feed the trolls,” allowing them to act out and giving them the attention they crave, especially in virtual worlds and interactive games.

“Dupes”: are people who engage in harassment or cyberbullying activities after being convinced that they are
doing the right thing, giving someone something they deserve or believe that the person they are targeting
started it by harassing them first. The person is being manipulated by the real cyberbully into falling for this. It’s a cyberbullying-by-proxy campaign designed to get others to do their dirty work and the dupes fall for it.

Don’t Stand By, Stand Up! Stop Cyberbullying!

When people are bullied, there are often witnesses who see, hear or share the incident. These witnesses are called “bystanders.” 

Sometimes they ignore what is going on. Other times they join in, fearing they will be next if they don’t. Maybe they just pass it on. Every time they watch a harassing video, visit a profile designed to attack someone or spread the hate, they fuel the bullying and cruelty.

Cyber-harassment stops fast when bystanders refuse to play along.
Don’t just stand there when you see cyber-harassment and cyberbullying…do something.

Stand up for the victim. Report it – Don’t Support It!

We need to stop standing by and start standing up. Stand up for others who need our help and support. Do it for those who have been hurt by cyberbullies. Do it for those you care about. Do it to make the work a better place. Do what’s right!

I, ___________________, promise not to be a bystander, but to stand up to cruelty, harassment and hate when I encounter it online.
  • 1.     I promise to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • 2.     I won’t reward cyberbullies with the attention they are seeking.
  • 3.     I will learn how to spot harassing behavior online, where to report it and how.
  • 4.     I will not sit by quietly when others are being hurt.
  • 5.     I will report what I see and not support it.

  • I am doing this because it’s right. I hope that, by making this promise, I will (share what you hope to accomplish by taking the pledge): __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I am doing this for (share who you are doing this for - yourself, someone you love, the Internet, victims, etc.):_____________________________________________


Clean Up Your Mess! Restorative Justice and Alternative Judicial Remedies for Cyberbullying Cases

Alternative Judicial and Disciplinary Approaches to Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying responses fall into the “too hot” or “too cold” categories. Schools, parents and the judiciary system must aim for justice and “just right” instead. Prosecutors either decide that there is no case, or none worth prosecuting, or throw the book at the cyberbullies. And, in some cases, the only difference between the two is whether or not the community has faced negative cyberbullying publicity or experienced a cyber-bullycide.

In the Phoebe Prince case, the prosecutor indicted the students under a wide-range of crimes, including civil rights violations and harassment. The last of the six students charged recently entered into a plea bargain that resulted in 100 hours of community service and an order not to profit from the case or Phoebe’s story. While Parry Aftab has been very supportive of the way this case has been handled, she hoped that any “community service” requirement would include work toward stopping cyberbullying.

At a joint speaking engagement in Vermont, Barbara Coloroso (one of the world’s leading experts in bullying and in genocide) explained her take on “restorative justice[1]” to Parry.  Each added their unique perspective to the issue. Parry had been advocating alternative justice avenues and early intervention programs when the cyberbullying violates the law but doesn’t pose a threat of bodily harm or death. Both agreed that the cyberbully should be required to make things right.

Building on Barbara’s teachings, Parry has created a program to require court or official supervised “restitution.” Parry calls this “cleaning up the mess you made.”

Clean Up the Mess You Made (a/k/a “restorative justice” or “restitution”)

Cyberbullying often involves popular students (or those who want the popular ones to like them better) using their social clout to exclude their target or to ruin their reputation. It also involves big tough bullies who intimidate their targets and others physically. Some cyberbullies are hackers, highly skilled in technology and good gamers. 

Others are articulate and understand the concepts of viral “marketing” to spread their messages far and wide. Cyberbullies have more talent, often, than their offline counterparts. Their messages can be more subtle (although just as deadly). They trade in insinuations, rumors and posing as their targets.

If we turned their misused talents to fixing their targets’ reputation, instead of destroying it, and having their posts removed and their texts deleted, while it may not be perfect, it’s an important start. Successful corporations offer reputation clean-up services. But no one can do it as well as a teen, tween or younger cyberbully required to undo the damage they caused.

We teach our children to clean up after themselves. It’s part of learning responsibility and understanding consequences of their behavior. The bigger the mess they make, the harder the clean-up. It makes sense. It serves the greater justice. And, it works.

The same “mean girls” who defamed their target with false rumors about her promiscuity can help turn things around with texts and IMs sent to everyone they sent the original statements to, telling them that what they did was wrong and asking others to delete anything they had and to forward this to others they may have shared the derogatory statements with. Supervision is crucial to make sure that the apology is genuine and this is not used to further the attacks.

The cyberbullies should also be required to apologize. Not just with a simple “I’m sorry,” but with a heartfelt message and a promise not to do it again. The apology should be public, to those who witnessed the cyberbullying. And, the apology must appear to be sincere. Students’ online posts and texts should be monitored for a period of time to make sure that they are not using the apology to further fuel the cyberbullying fire.

The target doesn’t have to accept the apology, but should hear or see it. The goal is not to make them best friends or require the target to do or stop doing anything. The goal is to teach the cyberbully about what is acceptable and what is not.

When criminals are convicted, often the items used in the commission of the crime are seized and forfeited. Jet boats and aircraft, million dollar mansions, motorcycles and sports cars are auctioned off by law enforcement authorities after being seized. Why are students, when they plead “no contest” or “guilty” to the commission of a cyberbullying offense be any different? Why should their XBox accounts or their Facebook profiles remain their own? Cell phones, gaming devices and laptops are the cyberbullying crime equivalent of the mansions, boats and planes. Why not forfeit them?

When students are charged with a crime, their access to justice often falls into one of two camps – those with the funds to hire quality defense counsel and pull strings when necessary and everyone else. Although this is rapidly changing, cyberbullying tends to be higher in more affluent communities. The students have more devices and access to technology, they don’t have to hold down jobs after school to help their parents make the rent (which gives them lots of downtime and the opportunity to seek entertainment at the cost of others when bored) and are more likely to use words as a weapon.

We have seen cases where students from well-connected families can get away with cyberbullying, while others do not. And when cyberbullying is sometimes motivated by economic differences, the brand and condition of clothing worn by the target, who wears hand-me-downs, this can be especially troubling.

Everyone is searching for a silver bullet. There is never one silver bullet solution for any important issue. First you need to examine the issue, understand what is happening, motives and tactics. Only then can you parse it well enough to target the easy issues. Digital hygiene (good passwords, clean machines and privacy settings) can reduce cyberbullying significantly. Teaching digital and information literacy will help students use better judgment in what they do or how they respond to avoid appearing to be a cyberbully accidentally. Giving students the skills to “take it offline” when something said by a friend  hurts their feelings, can help them deal with the confusing nature of digital communications or cyberbullies posing as their friends.

The more we can address the facets of cyberbullying, teach our children to “stop, block and tell” rather than give the cyberbullies the reaction they are seeking, the easier the problem will be. No silver bullet – but ways to reduce the likelihood that students can be easily targeted, students hurting other by accident and students thinking that they can get away with cyberbullying. For justice to apply, the consequences must be clear, consistent and the punishment must fit the crime.

Phoebe Prince’s family was satisfied, apparently, with the sentencing. But for the next case, hopefully we can expect a punishment that better fits the crime and teach all students to clean up after their own mess.

[1] Restorative justice is a term used more outside of the US than within the US. (Barbara spends a great deal of time addressing these issues in Canada and worldwide, and has been preaching restorative justice for years.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baby Monitor Hacker Creeps

Yesterday Good Morning America asked for my expertise on the safety of baby monitors.

A couple in Texas had their baby monitor hacked by a creep who was watching their sleeping two year old and talking to her using lewd language. Luckily, the child is deaf and did not know of the creep's attempts to get her attention. The parents overheard the adult male's voice and ran to her room, to hear it first hand. After ripping the baby monitor from the wall, they decided to go public with their story.

As some of you may know, I am a grandmother. When my son and daughter-in-law decided to install internet-capable baby monitors, I freaked. I understood the desire/need to be able to check on the baby while they are sleeping or in their room, but I also knew far too much about security breaches that could allow creeps to view my grandbaby.

I have a team of security professionals. So, my grandchild has as secure access as possible. But nothing attached to the Internet is fully secure. There are benefits of using a baby monitor - including your being able to make sure your child is safe. But if sloppy installation or careless use puts them at risk, you have defeated the reason for using one.

For those of you who have kids or grandkids and want to be able to monitor them using internet-capable devices make sure you check the following:

  • For wifi devices (those which don't need a computer to access the Internet), make sure they have security enabled, along with strong passwords (easy to remember, but hard to guess). Some allow for direct router authentication, when you push a button on both the router and the device to pair them securely. 
  • For computer tethered devices (those that work through a computer connection to the Internet), make sure the computer itself is secure, all access points to and from the computer are protected with strong passwords and additional authentication, if possible.
  • For cellphone apps, make sure they offer security, promise to keep your personal information secure and you keep the cellphone access secure through the use of passwords. (When losing your cellphone or trading it in, make sure that all apps are removed and access revoked, as well as hard resets done to remove data.
  • When firing people, or ending relationships, make sure all passwords and access are changed and they no longer have access to your monitoring devices.
  • See if your device provider offers the ability to check who has accessed the device stream and when. If they do, use it and use it often.
  • Lock your computers when not in use and make sure that passwords are required to login.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013, Here We Go Again!

New networks and technologies pop up all the time. Some recycle a tried and true business model – allow or encourage hate, cyberbullying, cyberharassment or hype. It might not start out as a strategy, but once the management discovers that negativity is very popular and will draw new users, it becomes the default. We saw it after Murdoch bought MySpace. We saw it with FormSpring and Honesty Box. We saw it with Juicy Campus, and many more. The one thing that management may not understand is that negativity and the network that’s sole draw is allowing negativity to foster have a short shelf life. MySpace is only a sparkle in Tom’s eye. (If you don’t know who “Tom” is, I’ve made my point!) Juicy Campus was shut down for fraud by two attorneys general with our help. FormSpring is abandoned by most users. And Honesty Box died a quick death. The kids find these first. Their business model may be built around honest appraisals of consumer products or allowing someone to be anonymous when asking or answering questions. But once the kids find it and abuse it, the model changes. When most start-ups are funded, risk management is often forgotten. It is always underfunded. And few managers understand how to build a safer network. And with a quick growth (MySpace grew from 6 million users to 50 million users in 6 months!), little time is allowed for managing risk. There is little incentive to clamp down on user-generated-abuses, harassment and cyberbullying, since the ability to misuse the network is the main reason for its popularity and stellar growth. Parents sign petitions. Legislators hold hearings. Consumer and privacy protection agencies investigate. The pattern is clear. But unless the network’s investors or banks or insurance providers insist on the adoption of best practices, or unless we can find a legal hole that allows the network to be shut down or heavily fined for its practice, it merely dies a slow death like all the rest of its kind. is in our crosshairs now. Its management has a choice – do it right or face the same demise as the others before it. Facebook grew based on its not being MySpace. It’s easy to see the difference good risk management makes in long term growth and user-adoption. Here we go again.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Take Some Time Away from the Digital and with the Family in RL

Summer Days - August is traditionally the family vacation month for most of the world. This August, try to take some time off from digital devices, emails, Facebook, Twitter, apps, games, texts and YouTube. Talk instead. Laugh instead. Sing and dance instead. Use your handhelds for recording video and pics to share later on. But don't sacrifice family time for that quick and non-essential digital message or activity. There's always time for the next texts, emails and instagrams after the smores, board games and bonding.

When Do You Start Teaching Cybersafety Skills?

I get emails, hundreds a day. Many ask the same question - "When should we start teaching cybersafety?" The answer is easy. You start as soon as your kids start using digital devices. And that is often earlier than you think. Long before they get their own cell phones or Facebook accounts, they are using digital devices. They use DSi's of different generations, XBox and PS's of different generations, their own or their friend's bearville (Build-a-bear) and Webkinz accounts, Sesame Street and Disney sites and apps,they take and share images and videos and more. In "RL" (real life) safety begins at home. Our kids are taught not to stick forks into outlets (no matter how perfectly they seem to fit) and to hold the railing when walking down stairs. Digital literacy and cybersafety begin at home too. Set rules for when and how devices are used. Teach them that texting is not a dinnertime activity, and computer games should not replace homework. Help them create passwords that are easy to remember but hard to guess. Help them understand how to protect their privacy (especially their passwords) and devices. Digital hygiene tips, like anti-virus programs and not clicking on links, need to be reinforced. Buy insurance for their cellphones and have them check the pockets of their jeans before dropping them into the laundry to avoid testing the water-proofing of their handheld devices. :-) Back up all images from cell phones, just in case. Start early, and keep updating as they get older and get more devices. It's a conversation, not a lecture and important. To learn more, check out to sign up for our wiredparents training program.