In response to a study done by one of its professors that shows that teens are increasingly putting themselves at risk by engaging in questionable activities online, Flinders University in South Australia is developing a program whereby staff from the University will offer courses, free of charge, to teenagers all across the country. Flinders announced the new program in its monthly Flinders Online Journal.
The Journal writes that their decision to take action stems from research conducted by one of its professors, Dr. Mubarak Rahamathulla, who found among other things, that 23% of teens in Australia had added strangers as friends on their Facebook page and that 18% have actually met at least one of those strangers in person and 11% were planning to do so. Just as scary, was that 9% of those polled reported having received unsolicited sexual material. Such statistics Dr. Rahamathulla describes as chilling.
Less threatening perhaps, but still of concern was that his research also showed that 7% of those polled reported being bullied online and 11% had figured out how to access their friend’s accounts.
The Journal adds that in their opinion, such seemingly reckless behavior by teens comes about due to a lack of education about the ramifications of their actions. They say that teens are not being told about the numbers of sexual predators online, nor their targeting techniques, much less what to do if they are contacted. Nor are they being taught about the long term ramifications of their own activities such as posting photo’s of themselves engaging in less than flattering activities.
To combat this lack of education, the University is first setting up a pilot course that will be made available to all teens between the ages of twelve and seventeen (in and around Adelaide) though the public school system, youth groups and other community organizations. As such, the University will be working with those that run those organizations with the goal of making such courses a natural part of every child’s educational process.
In the Journal, Dr. Rahamathulla writes that educating young people about the dangers that exist on the Internet should become as common as educating them to the dangers of crossing the street or touching a hot stove. It’s just common sense.
If successful, it’s likely other educational systems in other countries take note, and children of all ages are finding more of their time is spent online, either directly with a computer, or via the simpler approach of a cell phone.