Because good news is so rarely reported, here’s a headline you probably won’t see today: Social Network Funds Grants to Protect Kids Online.
Then again, it’s possible that some reporters will spin that into bad news to make for a flashy headline. For example, last November PEW came out with research on teens’ use of social networks. The Washington Post led its story with, “There’s something about the Internet that can bring out the meanness in teenagers.”
While PEW found that 9 of 10 teens have witnessed bullying online, it went on to report that teens encounter far more bullying in-person and in texting than on social networks. PEW also found many positive benefits to teens’ use of social networks, including the finding that 80% of teens have defended a victim of online bullying.
Reporters could just as well have led with, “There’s something about the Internet that brings out thoughtfulness and friendship in teenagers,” but good news rarely makes for good headlines.
That brings us to today’s good news for social network users. Facebook just announced the winners of $200,000 in grant funding for their Digital Citizenship Research Grant program, which was conceived a year ago with help from the White House.
The program is designed to address online and offline bullying trends; bullying prevention strategies; the role of parents and educators; and outreach strategies to kids.
The program received over 100 applications designed to address four issues: online and offline bullying trends; bullying prevention strategies; the role of parents and educators in developing solutions and messages; and outreach strategies to kids to address bullying.
Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board selected four winners who’ll get $50,000 each, including two American teams, a Canadian program and a European project.
In the US, The Society for Information Tech and Teacher Education and the Association for Advancement of Computers in Education will team up with multiple universities to develop a college-level course to prepare future educators to teach digital citizenship. Their research will create tools that help educators teach principles of safely and responsibly in online communities.
In Boston, the Education Development Center will identify issues and advances in cyber-bullying prevention, explore the role of schools and parents, and recommend potential approaches for reducing negative online experiences and harmful use of social media.
These research programs have the potential to bring empirical data and peer-reviewed recommendations to help keep online engagement safe.
Although the media may not think it’s “news-worthy”, we’re hoping that state and federal lawmakers will hear about these grants and wait on the results before they pursue new legislation.