Digital Safety

Although the internet serves as a valuable learning tool, youth should be educated by both parents and teachers regarding safe internet practices. With over 90% of teenagers engaging in online use, the internet serves as a dominant medium of information gathering and sharing for the vast majority of youth.1 Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, strongly affect the lives of youth. Additionally, with cell phone ownership at over 75% for teens, the manner in which youth communicate with peers has vastly changed in the last decade.1 The ease of internet accessibility for youth lends itself to a continuous online presence, thus potential for subsequent victimization by adults and other peers. Although research suggests incidents of online youth victimization impact a small portion of the population, these dangers still exist and should be addressed.2 Young people often disclose personal contact information on social media profiles, such as full names, facial pictures, and hometown and e-mail addresses.

Until recently, both parent and educator concern for adolescents’ online activities was focused on the use of a computer. With over one-third of teens reportedly sending more than 3,000 text messages a month, it is imperative for parents and educators to consider the mobile communication systems as well.1 Approximately 47 percent of teens report uploading photos, 14 percent post videos of themselves online, 1 and roughly 18 percent have sent or received a “sext” (sexually explicit text message sent on a cell phone).4

Youth often conduct these activities without adult supervision.3 The sending of “sext” messages has generated much concern among parents, educators, and law enforcement. Consequently, sexting laws have been enacted in various states prohibiting this type of behavior. As forms of internet communication evolve, it is the responsibility of youth, parents, and educators to understand the benefits and, when not used appropriately, the risks of using these technologies.5

The Blue Whale Challenge


The "Blue Whale Challenge", is an online interactive phenomenon where an administrator or "curator" assigns 50 tasks to a participating and compliant individual. A task is issued roughly each day, with photos, videos, or some recorded proof of accomplishment sent to the curator. At the end of the 50 days, the final task entails an action that is intended to end the life of the person participating. (Read more…)

Media Literacy for Digital Safety


In a society where media is an increasingly salient part of life, and in which youth media consumption has been consistently rising for decades, digital safety is a prominent concern. Decades of research support the notion that media content can influence consumers' thoughts and behaviors, particularly those of impressionable audiences such as children. Youth are particularly susceptible to safety risks online, since there is no guarantee of accuracy or age-appropriateness of information they may see on the Internet and social media. (Read more…)

Increasing Safety Through the Use of Mobile Applications


With the steady increase of smartphone use on campuses across the nation, many higher education institutions are using this opportunity to increase school safety through the use of mobile devices. For instance, at one campus in Texas, a web-based mobile application (app) known as "EduSafe" was designed to educate faculty, staff, and students on how to respond to emergency situations including chemical spills, natural disasters, violence, and bomb threats. (Read more…)

Promoting Digital Privacy

Best Practices for Educators


In an age of continuous technological innovation, protecting confidential information requires more than an armed guard at the door. Schools are now faced with the task of protecting information and maintaining digital networks through which learning is facilitated. Thus, communicating ideas regarding privacy to children requires an understanding of their perceptions of technology, as it is fully integrated into their lives, as well as a baseline knowledge of popular technology. (Read more…)

Teen Sexting and Prevention Strategies


Over the past decade, technology has altered the way youth communicate and interact with their peers. Over 75% of teenagers own cell phones, and one-third send over 3,000 text messages a month (Lenhart, 2010). Consequently, new forms of electronic communication (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, texting) have created concern among parents, health care professionals, educators, and law enforcement regarding the harmful behaviors youth may engage in as these types of communication become more prevalent (Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2011; Mitchell, Finkelhor, Jones, & Wolak, 2012; Wolak & Finkelhor, 2011). Some of these harmful behaviors include engaging in cyberbullying, publicly posting sexual images, and communicating with or being solicited by prospective sexual predators online. Although there is no consistent legal definition for the term “sexting”, most state laws generally concentrate on images that are transmitted through cell phones. (Read more…)


1Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., & Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social Media and Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults. Washington D.C.: Pew Internet and American Life Project.

2Mitchell, K.J., Finkelhor, D., Jones, L., Wolak, J., Ybarra, M.L., & Turner, H. (2011). Youth internet victimization in a broader victimization context. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48. (2016). Sexting. Retrieved from:

4Strassberg, D.S., McKinnon, R.K., Sustaita, M.A., & Rullo, J. (2013). Sexting by high school students: An exploratory and descriptive study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(1).

5Taraszow, T., Aristodemou, E., Shitta, G., Laouris, Y., & Arsoy, Aysu. (2010). Disclosure of personal and contact information by young people in social networking sites: An analysis using FacebookTM profiles as an example. International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, 6(1), 81-101. doi: 10.1386/macp.6.1.81/1.